We were inspired by the gravel rankings put together by Amanda Nauman and Zachary Schuster on the Groadio Podcast. Their rankings were good (See their rankings below), but we felt they had some blind spots. How could you leave off Sarah Sturm and Ted King, for instance? So we set out to create the definitive USA Gravel Power rankings, based on data and removing subjectivity. Spreadsheets are involved.
As we looked for criteria to select the most prestigious events in gravel, we discovered there was only one criteria that mattered. Size. When you only take the largest events, you do not have to worry about date or location or even quality of the field. The most successful events draw the largest number of riders, and the highest quality of riders. Date, location, and quality of the field are intended to be used in the future as secondary considerations, but for 2019 they were un-necessary. We included every event we could find with a field size of 500 riders or more.
Un-paved percentage: Gravel is a mixed-surface sport. Most gravel rides include at least some paved roads. That said, we need a cutoff. Events must have a minimum of 33% un-paved surfaces to be included in the rankings.
Length: One criteria we intentionally did not consider is length. It is the participants that make a ride easy or hard. With a large field of top-level riders, even a dirt crit is a good measure of a gravel rider’s abilities.
Weighting the events: It would be wrong for Gravel Worlds to be given the same weight as The Dirty Kanza. DK has a larger and more skilled field. To acknowledge this, each event is given a different weight base on the field size of the longest distance. For instance, Dirty Kanza had 2712 participants in 2019, but only 1189 did the DK200, so Dirty Kanza is given a weight of 1189 in the rankings. Wining in a field of 1000 is given twice the weight of winning in a field of 500 riders.
Points: The top-15 riders in each event score points on a scale. We are using there same scale the Tour de France uses for a sprint. (50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2). Points are cumulative. If you rank in the top 15 in more events, you get more points. This rewards riders who engage the gravel circuit more heavily. If you only show up to one or two events a year, you will not rank very high.
What the power ranking measures…
This is an unapologetically populist list. Part of the ethos of gravel riding in America is that anyone can ride. When the pros come out, they ride the same course as the rest of us. You rank at the top of the list by doing well at the most popular events. Simple. If a pro comes out and crushes the field at one event a year, they probably don’t make the top-10. They aren't engaging the gravel scene very heavily, and their power ink will reflect that. The leaders on this list are people who come out and ride with the people all year long.
Barry Roubaix is the largest gravel event in America. It has about 3100 participants, and a $33k purse. The odd thing is that the 100-mile route is new, and only had about 250 participants in 2019, and zero purse. Because of this, the event is not weighted very heavily in the power rankings.
Rasputitsa and Vermont Overland are both short events with a large field. Think 800 people and <44 miles. A big race is a big race so we count them, and they weigh heavily in the rankings, but because of the short distance it looks like relatively few people travel to them and it is a mostly local field.
Gravel Worlds just squeaked into the list with 502 participants. We think SBT GRVL sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. Gravel worlds has moved their 2020 date to Sept.
Rebeccas Private Idaho has the same problem as Barry Roubaix. Over 1000 participants over 3-days, but the Queen’s Stage Race has only 143 competitors making it the least-weighted event in the rankings.
Oregon Trail is a new 350-mile 5-day stage race that looks amazing, but only had 289 takers. Maybe next year.
Rooted Vermont had 442 participants. I expect them to crack the 500 barrier next year, giving the gravel-crazy state of Vermont three events in the power rankings.
Leadville is amazing, but it is a Mountain bike race.