The Saddle Slingers Take On the Wild Horse Gravel Race
Meet the Saddle Slingers. They are the women of Contender who are heading for the ENVE Grodeo, a 92-mile gravel event in the heart of Utah summer. We'll be following their journey to the event. If you haven't, check out who the Saddle Slingers are! You won't regret it.
See Madi and KJ's gravel ride on Strava.
While it didn't start with an actual wild horse, the season did start with wild cows and calves blocking portions of the course. Spring training has been spotty at best mainly due to the wild weather swings of March and April in Utah. So it is fitting that the Saddle Slinger´s season started on a wild note participating in The Wild Horse circumnavigating Tooele and Salt Lake county while going up and over the Cedar Mountains. The Oquirrh range doesn’t usually pop to mind when thinking of the most picturesque mountain ranges of Utah. Usually, the mountains are lined with pine, fir, and aspen trees in the north, or they are that dazzling combination of red, pink, and maroon colors of Red Rock Country. The Oquirrhs instead are more brown and tan, boring stuff compared to other parts of Utah. But considering the range´s proximity to Salt Lake, its recreational potential is vastly underestimated and underused compared to the Wasatch and Uinta ranges. That might be what makes this event so special, outside of its unbridled ruggedness.
To start the season, Madi and KJ opted for the shorter version of the event to test the legs a bit and gauge their fitness. It was a perfect April day, with just a bit of chilliness at the start of the day before warming to a mild 60 degrees F. Starting with a long, straight westbound road parallel to the highway, the course eventually started to turn upward. This area was called Hastings Cutoff Pass, a small canyon that ended with a beautiful overlook of the Salt Lake Valley. The descent down took us to the finish, but not without a bit of a headwind and a bunch of surprising sand traps along the way.For the most part, everything went well and without a hitch aside from a slight slow down due to grazing cows and calves!
One would think an event geared toward gravel bikes would mean that most people were riding gravel bikes, but about a third of riders were on mountain bikes. Word got around that the course was rough and that others who participated in prior years recommended a mountain bike. Madi rocked her SCOTT Contessa Scale and KJ rallied her Santa Cruz Highball. In their opinion, these two hardtails were the ticket. Once up the canyon, the terrain became quite rough, and riding back into the finish through the sand sections while a lot of folks walked their gravel bikes, Madi and KJ cruised right through sand. Finishing 12th among the women and in the 40s putting them in the top half of the field, they rode away with encouragement about the season ahead and motivation to hit the training hard.
The gravel ride scene continues to impress as an inclusive and encouraging yet still competitive environment. Everyone encouraged each other regardless of how fast one was going. As this was Madi’s first ever bike race, she came in excited yet nervous with the unknown ahead of her. What a great way for Madi to start racing and what a great way for the Saddle Slingers to start the season.
How good was Wild Horse? So good that the Slingers are headed back out to the Oquirrh mountains this week to enjoy the outdoors, hang together, and of course enjoy the ride. More to come this season!