For many lining up that morning, Mid South Gravel marked the unofficial beginning of the 2022 race season. But for others, including myself, that cold, 20 degree day marked the end - the end of a long wait since 2020 for a chance to experience everything that Mid South has to offer - a challenging course through the plains of Oklahoma, a gathering of like-minded individuals celebrating the gravel community with a weekend of beer, music and, of course, cycling, and the inspiring and motivating sheer energy from one, Bobby Wintle - race founder and director. And while it is never a good idea to go into any situation with high expectations, I did exactly that, and am happy to say, Mid South exceeded those expectations in every way.
Labeled by VeloNews as one of the “Monuments of Gravel”, Mid South out of Stillwater, Oklahoma exists as somewhat of an anomaly in today’s gravel cycling spectrum - one of the largest, most popular races in the country pulling in a wide range of participants from first time beginners to some of the biggest names in gravel racing while simultaneously holding on to their grass-root origins that it evolved from, remaining fully independent from promotion giants (such as LifeTime Fitness). And despite the size and popularity, it was that grass-roots feel that permeated the vibe of the entire weekend.
A lot of stress and overthinking preceded race day. Notorious for being unforgivingly muddy when wet, the course conditions were on everyone’s mind, especially with a couple inches of snowfall the day before. Thankfully we all were met with a dry day and a fast course. The full sun and pristine orange roads of Oklahoma made the ride experience particularly enjoyable, even when battling with the miles of headwind. But it was everything that happened after I rolled through the finish banner that will remain the most memorable from the weekend adventure - starting with the famous Bobby Wintle hug and ending with us all celebrating at the finish line, beers in hand, waiting to cheer on the final finisher of the day.
Hear more about the Mid South Gravel experience on Episode 70 of the Dirty Chain Podcast
Photos by 241 Photography