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Photo by John Watson

Grinduro-get it?” Dain Zaffke, Giro Sport Design marketing director and, now, race organizer, is waving his hands in the air, clearly caught up in the moment. “You see, it’s part enduro mountain bike race and part skinny-tire gravel grinder!”

I’m confused and let him know it, pointing out that, for most people, those two cycling disciplines are mutually exclusive. Like anchovies and butterscotch or coal and clean air.

Zaffke stops evangelizing and smiles, “I know. It’s going to be great!”

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In truth, once you spend a bit of time pondering the idea, the mix of racing formats begins to make more sense. On Saturday, October 10, as many as 450 riders will cover 60 miles of asphalt and dirt roads outside of Quincy, California. And since the course will meander through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, there’ll be climbing involved-nearly 8,000 feet of it. “It’s a serious course,” says Zaffke who pre-rode it himself with a crew of friends and support vehicles a few weeks before our meeting. “We racked up nine flats that day-and two of them were on the trucks.”

Wait-the dirt roads are rough enough to blow out truck tires?

“Yeah,” says Zaffke. “Like I said, it’s going to be great.”

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Photo by John Watson

A CYCLING MASH-UP
So the course will be tough, but that isn’t what makes it novel. What makes Grinduro unique is that the fastest overall rider will not be the one who “wins.” As with mountain bike enduros, there will be four timed sections of the ride, each between five and ten minutes long. Those are what, in a sense, count. Per the event website:

Segment One is a wide-open, practice-your-tuck, high-speed, nontechnical affair.

Segment Two is a flat-out, five-kilometer time trial on flat-to-rolling blacktop.

Segment Three is one mile of leg-searing, punchy climbing.

Segment Four is a section of the twisty, singletrack descent back into Quincy.

The idea for Grinduro began with Joe Parkin, which makes sense when you know his background. These days Parkin earns his keep as the U.S. editor of Enduro Mountainbike Magazine, but he’s probably best known as the author of A Dog In A Hat and Come and Gone, books that chronicled his years as a professional racer. Parkin left America in 1985, at the age of 19, and competed at the highest levels in races such as Paris-Roubaix. He then followed that with a stint as a professional mountain biker. To this day, he’s the only cyclist to have represented the United States at world championships in all three cycling disciplines: road, cyclocross, and mountain. It’s not surprising, then, that his dream event would be a cycling mash-up of sorts.

“Why not take a little bit from the enduro mountain bike scene, a little bit from gravel racing, a little from gran fondos, and create a new type of bike race that’s friendlier, all-inclusive and more exciting for every rider?” explains Parkin on the Grinduro site. “Imagine a competitive event that has you out on the bike all day, but only really suffering for a short period of time. Imagine casual riders and pros, cyclocrossers and criterium specialists-and everything in between-riding and racing on a course designed to award all-around bike riders.”

Parkin floated the Grinduro idea by a number of companies in the cycling industry, hoping one would champion the event. Giro ran with it.

Photo by John Watson

TO SUFFER OR NOT TO SUFFER…
Grinduro, which begins and ends in Quincy, will also include a dinner catered by renowned chef Chris DiMinno (formerly of Clyde Common in Portland), art and bike shows, live music and all the trimmings of a bike festival. In short, it aspires to be much more than a suffer-fest.

While the Grinduro course will not be a walk in the park, Zaffke and Parkin are adamant that the inaugural event is ultimately whatever cyclists want to bring to it. “Some people are going to race the whole thing and really hammer it,” says Zaffke. “Other people are going to just go for a long ride with friends and pin it on the descents. It’s whatever you want it to be. Mainly, it’s just to be a really great day on the bike.”

The event will be capped at 450 riders and registration is now open. The cost for attending the event is $200, which covers race fees, overnight camping and Saturday’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. All proceeds from Grinduro will go to benefit Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a local non-profit trailbuilding and advocacy group. Visit grinduro.com for more.