By AILA BOYD
The fourth annual Gravelocity proceeded as planned on January 13 despite the treacherous weather.
Rob Issem, who serves as the coordinator for the event, explained that the winter weather significantly impacted the turnout for the event. In total, 30 people participated in the ride.
He was anticipating a much higher figure because of the fact that 1,700 people expressed an interest on Facebook. Noting that not everyone who expresses an interest on social media actually follows through and attends events, Issem explained that he used that figure to establish a more concrete estimate.
The estimate he came up with was in the neighborhood of 300.
“If it wasn’t for the ridiculous weather, we were anticipating the biggest cycling event in terms of participation in the history of the Roanoke area,” Issem said.
He said he heard from multiple people who weren’t able to attend the event because they simply weren’t able to get out of their own driveways.
“This year was definitely the worst conditions of all years,” Issem said. “It wasn’t the depth of the snow that was the problem – it was the ice on top of the snow that just made it so hard.”
Despite the lower than expected turnout, Issem said that those who were able to attend the ride had a fun time drudging through the snow and ice.
“It was challenging riding, but incredibly fun,” Issem said.
He noted that people were frequently falling over, but maintained good spirits.
This wasn’t the first time that winter weather occurred during the event. Issem explained that it started snowing shortly before the event was supposed to begin in 2016.
“It was stunning,” Issem said of 2016. “It was totally like magic.”
Instead of being icy like this year, the snow that first year had a more powdery consistency. The Blue Ridge Parkway was also closed, which made riding on it a lot easier.
Not to be deterred by the snow that year, more than 100 people participated in the ride, which “totally stunned” the organizers.
The following year, Issem noted that the weather was more cooperative. In fact, it was so cooperative that he wore shorts.
In 2018, roughly 140 riders took part in Gravelocity.
“It was crazy bitter cold,” Issem recalled, adding that the high for the day was only 20 degrees.
That was also the first year that the participants started gathering at Ballast Point Brewery. In previous years they gathered to Flying Mouse Brewery.
Due to the fact that turnout was lower than expected this year, Issem explained that he’s in the process of planning an additional Gravelocity ride. Although the date hasn’t been set yet, he cited June as being the tentative month.
The event was started by Brian Lang and is sponsored by the Virginia Endurance Series.
The routes for the ride were crafted by Kyle Inman and Jeff Cheng in order to accommodate different endurance levels.
The longest route consisted of 95 miles. On the other hand, the shortest route was only 26 miles long.
“The routes are these beautiful backcountry service roads that climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway,” Issem said.
The event utilized staggered start times so that all of the riders would finish roughly at the same time.
The ride always starts and ends at the home of Wes Wilmer, president of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, on Trinity Road in Troutville.
The tradition of going to Ballast Point Brewery was interrupted this year. Due to the weather conditions, the brewery was not open.
Issem explained that they had to improvise and since the Town Center Tap House in Daleville was open, everyone decided to meet there for a well-deserved meal.