Bluenose Gopher 50 Gravel Race

Aug 11, 2021Events

On July 24, 2021 the high temperature of the day was 90 degrees in Granite Falls, MN. It was also the day of the inaugural Bluenose Gopher 50 Gravel Race, organized by the Bluenose Gopher Public House, a cooperative bar and restaurant in downtown Granite Falls. I had a chance to catch up with Luwaina Al-Otaibi, Chief Operating Officer at Bluenose Gopher Public House after the ride, to see how it went.

What was your role with the BNG50?

I assisted in organizing the event, finding volunteers for the day of and ensuring all tasks were getting completed in a timely manner.

Let’s talk numbers. What can you tell me about your riders? 

99 registered, 56 came and 43 brave riders finished. A couple cyclists rode on tandems. Overall, 10 women and 46 men took part in the race. We didn’t ask riders how old they were but there was one rider on a tandem bike with her daughter and the girl was around 10 or 11 years old. Other riders seemed to be anywhere from early 20s to late 60s I would guess.  There seemed to be cyclists of all ages. Within the state we had riders from the Twin Cities, Duluth, New London, Dawson, Hutchinson, Mankato, Alexandria and Granite Falls. Outside of state we had riders from Fargo ND, Sioux Falls SD, Medford, MA, Boise, ID and Oklahoma City, OK. 

Who came in first at what time?

First place went to Cameron Moore from Saint Peter, MN.  He crossed the finish line at 10:49 AM. The official race start time was 8:12 AM. That makes his winning time for the 50 miles 2:37.

How did it go? Any issues? 

It was a wonderful day that went very smoothly.  It was a very warm day, so there were riders who were unable to finish the race. There was also fresh gravel on the roads that made the route extra challenging for the riders. We’re very grateful that we had a wonderful volunteer drive their vehicle behind the riders for their safety.

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What were some comments from riders? 

They loved the route and thought it was challenging, scenic and fun.  There were comments about some of the challenging hills and the fresh loose gravel.  Riders felt the event was well organized and they appreciated the multiple water stations along the route.  Both longer and shorter routes were mentioned as well as the need for some basic bike repair supplies in the safety vehicle.

Any comments from locals or city and county officials? 

The city was very supportive and seemed to enjoy having the race here.  The mayor and city manager actually helped plan the event.  All of the locals and volunteers that I talked to about the race thought it was an awesome event.

How many volunteers did it take? 

We had approximately 15 volunteers help make this race happen.

How long did it take to plan? 

We began planning this before the Covid-19 Pandemic started and had to push the event pack a year.  It took about seven months of meeting up with our planning committee to plan this race.

Does your group feel this was a successful event?

Absolutely! We wanted to bring something different and exciting to Granite Falls that would show the natural beauty this area has to offer.  Seeing people come to Granite Falls from all over the state and country was wonderful.  All of the riders were very fun and friendly people so they were a great group to have in our community.

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Are you doing it again next year?

Yes! We hope to continue to grow this race and have it be an annual event.

Are you making any changes?

Yes. I think we’ll be making some changes to how we do things next year. We have not yet met as a group and discussed in detail what changes we want to make. 

What makes the Granite Falls area great for gravel riding? 

Granite Falls is a rural community in the Minnesota River Valley with an abundance of gravel roads. The surrounding landscape is very unique to the area with rolling hills, beautiful outcrops and scenic views. Cycling our gravel roads is a great way to really take in all the beauty this area has to offer.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Hosting an event like this was truly special. I have never organized anything like this and seeing all the cyclists ride out of town in a group was great. After the race I could hear all the riders excitedly compare stories of their experience on the route with each other. It was cool to see that sense of community and pride between the riders.  This may have been one of my favorite events I have planned so far while here at Bluenose.

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I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.

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