Event Preview: Oskar Blues Old Man Winter Rally – Boulder, Colorado

How do you take a traditional gravel event to the next level? Do it in the middle of winter in the Rocky Mountains! Adventure Fit Events in Boulder, Colorado have teamed up with Oskar Blues Brewery to do just that. Entering its 3rd year, the Oskar Blues Old Man Winter Rally brings dirt, sweat, snow and beer to thousands of riders in one adventurous package. Read on to see why this event was voted “Best of the Rockies” by Elevation Outdoors.

Velonews Writer Kristen Legan soaking in the sun in 2015. Photo by Eddie Clak.
Velonews Writer Kristen Legan soaking in the sun in 2015. Photo by Eddie Clark.

The weather is understandably the topic of conversation leading up to the Old Man Winter Rally. Boulder winters are notoriously mild, with bouts of extreme weather peppered in to keep things exciting. For the 2015 Old Man Winter Rally, it was 64 degrees and sunny and riders were in shorts and short sleeves. For the 2016 event, a snowstorm delivered 8 inches of powder to the Front Range the week before, and riders were layered up and preparing for the worst. The course was packed and fast, and some said it was even better than 2015.

Olympic bronze medalist Georgia Gould navigating the wintery terrain with the lead group in 2016. Photo by Ryan Muncy.
Olympic bronze medalist Georgia Gould navigating the wintery terrain with the lead group in 2016. Photo by Ryan Muncy.

Aside from the weather, what really sets the Old Man Winter Rally apart is the course. With a 50k and 100k bike option (also a 10k run course available for the runners out there), variety is the name of the game. The 50k course tackles a stunningly beautiful tour of the foothills from Lyons to Boulder, and challenges riders with some nice rollers and gorgeous gravel roads along the route. Boulder County is known for its incredible gravel riding, and this route showcases some of the finest gravel that there is to offer. To keep things interesting, the ride directors have even added a new category for people who want to take part in the 10k run and the 50k bike.

“Old Man Winter” leads out the run course in 2016. Photo by Ryan Cutler.
“Old Man Winter” leads out the run course in 2016. Photo by Ryan Cutler.
50k Riders take on the flat and rolling roads with Long’s Peak (14,259’) soaring in the background.
50k Riders take on the flat and rolling roads with Long’s Peak (14,259’) soaring in the background.

Also, new for 2017, riders will be headed out towards Oskar Blues’ REEB Ranch, which will serve as the rest stop for both courses. The ranch is riddled with huge dirt jumps and bordered with towering hop trusses, and the route will take riders through a small singletrack tour of the Ranch before reaching the aid station. Look for a party here with music, beer and plenty of food from sponsors CLIF, NUUN and you guessed it, Oskar Blues.

Riders approach the foothills heading out from Lyons towards REEB Ranch. These dirt roads are second to none. Photo by Eddie Clark.
Riders approach the foothills heading out from Lyons towards REEB Ranch. These dirt roads are second to none. Photo by Eddie Clark.

So this is where things get interesting. As the short course riders loop back to Lyons after the stop at REEB Ranch, the long course riders continue on to the world-famous Lefthand Canyon. Lefthand was destroyed by the floods of 2013 and is now open for business, opening up one of the most iconic cycling routes in Boulder. Riders will travel up the canyon for about 8 miles before reaching the unequivocal crux of the course – the Rowena Trail. Rowena is a North-facing, heavily wooded singletrack trail that very few riders ride on a regular basis. At only 2 miles long, it may not seem daunting, but the rough terrain and snowpack make this section a very endearing challenge.

The “secret” Rowena Trail is the most challenging section of the course with a steady grade and rocky, snow covered terrain.
The “secret” Rowena Trail is the most challenging section of the course with a steady grade and rocky, snow covered terrain.
Ryan Petry dismounts and carries his bike through the Rowena Trail in 2016. Photo by Dejan Smaic.
Ryan Petry dismounts and carries his bike through the Rowena Trail in 2016. Photo by Dejan Smaic.
CLIF Bar pro CX rider Brady Kappius enters the Rowena Trail. Most riders were forced to dismount but Kappius put his skills to work and rode it in 2015. Photo by Eddie Clark.
CLIF Bar pro CX rider Brady Kappius enters the Rowena Trail. Most riders were forced to dismount but Kappius put his skills to work and rode it in 2015. Photo by Eddie Clark.

Once riders pass through Rowena, they’re greeted with another aid station before they descend to the City of Boulder via Sunshine Canyon. Dropping about 1,700’ in 6 miles, Sunshine is one of the most fun and well-known descents in Boulder County, and will come as quite the relief after climbing Lefthand and Rowena.

Katie Compton begins the steep and windy descent down Sunshine Canyon where the course enters the City of Boulder. Photo by Dejan Smaic.
Katie Compton begins the steep and windy descent down Sunshine Canyon where the course enters the City of Boulder. Photo by Dejan Smaic.

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Riders will be feeling the first half of the ride as they enter Boulder and prepare to tackle 2 more hard climbs starting with Linden Rd. and descending the dirt down Wagonwheel Gap to the straight grind up Old Stage Rd. The Old Stage Climb is the last of the big elevation change on the course and riders will be pleased with the respite as they descent down Lefthand Canyon, ultimately leading them back to the beautiful dirt roads that take them back towards Lyons.

The climbing is done and dusted, and the scenic dirt roads lead riders back towards the start/finish in Lyons. Photo by Ryan Muncy.
The climbing is done and dusted, and the scenic dirt roads lead riders back towards the start/finish in Lyons. Photo by Ryan Muncy.

The course for the Old Man Winter Rally is undoubtedly one of the most interesting terrain offerings of any gravel grinder in the country. There’s something for everyone, and the weather variables and course conditions make it just that much more interesting. This event truly appeals to every kind of gravel rider, and is quite the notch in the belt, but if you ask any rider that’s participated in the past, it’s not just the ride that makes this event awesome. The after-party for the Old Man Winter Rally is directly across the street from the original Oskar Blues Brewery founded by Dale Katechis in 1997, and these guys pull out all the stops. Participants get free beer and free food from Oskar Blues to enjoy around the campfire with good music, raffles, giveaways and other fun contests and awards. Stick around for the “after-after” party and get down with some bluegrass inside the brewery to cap off one hell of a day.

Free beer & Food from Oskar Blues and a line of other sponsor/vendors to check out at the expo. Photo by Ryan Cutler.
Free beer & Food from Oskar Blues and a line of other sponsor/vendors to check out at the expo. Photo by Ryan Cutler.
The “after-after” party inside the brewery. Get down with Chain Station following the wrap up of the expo and keep the party going. Photo by Westward Magazine.
The “after-after” party inside the brewery. Get down with Chain Station following the wrap up of the expo and keep the party going. Photo by Westward Magazine.

The Old Man Winter Rally is more than just a hard ride, it’s an experience. Sharing a good story and laugh over a beer and a cup of chili with friends is really what it’s all about, and the Rally really encompasses that friendly and fun vibe, while still serving up a big challenge for every kind of rider.

Free Entry?

How will you train for the Oskar Blues Old Man Winter Rally? Post a photo of you showing us how you’ll train for this winter adventure filled with Dirt, Snow, Sweat, and Beer.

Simply do the following for your chance to win one of five free entries:

On Instagram, use hashtag #oldmanwinterbikerally and also name tag / follow @gravelcyclist

On Facebook, tag the @oldmanwinterrally and tag / like @gravelcyclist

The crew at Adventure Fit Events will pick the winners. Good luck!

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