Gravel Hugger race takes riders through beautiful Shasta Valley

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Participants during last year's race.

The second annual Gravel Hugger Race – which features breathtaking views of Mt. Shasta and takes riders on both gravel and pavement – is set for this Saturday, March 6. The event begins in Montague at Railroad Park and people riders have until midnight tonight to sign up at https://www.gravelhugger.com. There will be no onsite registration. 

Options include a 100 mile or 62 mile race, which will go through majestic roads in the Shasta Valley, said race organizer Ben Brainard. 

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Race organizers received approval from the Siskiyou County Department of Health and are following safety and social distancing guidelines.

Brainard said they have had an incredible response, with about 380 participants signed up as of late Wednesday morning. Last year,128 people signed up for the race in early March, although only 110 actually rode in the race due to cold weather conditions.

"I think there’s a lot of people ready to race,” he said. “There's a pent-up demand with no events for the majority of last year. There's a lot of people ready to go.” 

He said people are coming from all over the region, from Portland, Ore. to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. He hopes the event will gain in popularity over the next few years and people from around the country and world will travel to take part. 

Brainard said each route has breathtaking views of Mt. Shasta and consists of about 50/50 gravel and pavement. The fast pavement sectors connect the 10 challenging gravel sectors, including the infamous "Jeep Road." The race is built like a spring classic, he said, with sectors of Northern California gravel in place of European cobblestones. This course stands out with its rolling wide open roads and two major climbs totaling 4,700 feet of climbing. 

The race is a staggered start with waves of around 50 riders each. Face coverings will be required from the start, until riders reach the first gravel sector (about six miles in), at the feed station, and any time appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained. 

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A number of well-known gravel racers, including Clara Honsinger, Pete Stetina, and Jacob Rathe are expected to participate. 

There will be a Friday number pick up from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Railroad Park in Montague. Packet Pickup on the day of the race starts at 7:30 a.m.  

There will be an aid station at mile 47 and 81 which are available to both distances.  

The 100 mile race begins at 9 a.m., and the 62 mile race at 9:15 a.m. The public is welcome to watch although people need to wear masks and keep a safe social distance from others. 

Riders will need a valid California fishing license or a Land Pass to use the road through the Wildlife Refuge. This can be purchased for $4.89 through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at  https://wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Lands-Pass. Riders must carry the pass with them on race day. Participants can not ride this section except on race day sine it's closed to use without special permit.

This race will be sanctioned by Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA). If you plan on racing several races under OBRA, an annual membership can be purchased for $40. If this is your only race, a single day gravel license is available for $5.

The cost is $70 for all races except the 18 and under fields, which are $35. 

An overview of the 100 mile race route can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLGaD7XE578