At Distance To Empty, we've always believed that cycling is a journey beyond the bike – a path to self-discovery, a vehicle for community, and a way to challenge ourselves to achieve the extraordinary. The recent SBT Gravel event encapsulated this ethos perfectly, bringing together cyclists who braved a challenging course, formed deep connections, and uncovered their hidden potential. We are excited to delve into the heart of the Steamboat Gravel experience, sharing community, resilience, and personal growth through the voices of our DTE athletes who lived it.
Heather: Defying the Impossible
"SBT gravel Black Course 141 miles, 10,499ft of climbing, my longest ride yet, on some of the most magnificent champagne gravel in the world. Mile 130-ish, it got hard, seemingly too hard. I thought I was done. The intensity of thinking, feeling, knowing that it is just too hard, too hot, too long - but somehow pushing through and overcoming what you never thought possible. I broke into a deeper level of self-love and unfathomable self-acceptance at this place. And I looked around at the hundreds of riders out there and saw the raw them. I saw them for who they truly are, and they got to see me too".
Anna: Embracing the Journey
"I've dreamed of returning to SBTGRVL since first racing in 2021. The fast, rolling hills grasped my attention and inspired me to race more. The race was scheduled alongside my first week of law school this year, so I felt more disorganized than I would have liked. I allowed myself to let some details slide and trust in the fitness I'd built over the past year.
I started the 141-mile race by holding back, semi-intentionally, hoping for a strong second half once the others had exhausted themselves. The roads were perfect, and I held on to strong groups who kept a fast pace. I found myself leapfrogging back and forth between five women in their twenties for a few hours, which was refreshing and exciting! The landscape was breathtaking, and the non-technical course allowed me to nail my fueling plan for the first time all year.
I had a great race until it got really, really hot (mile 115). At that point, my pace dropped significantly. I had exploded multiple gels on my hands, and everything was sticky. I was eating enough, but no matter how much I drank and splashed water on myself, I couldn't shake the feeling of overheating. The last 25 miles left my tank close to empty, but I was too close not to finish. I knew I'd return to school the next morning and wanted to suck every bit of riding out of the day. After crossing the finish line, I jumped in the creek, telling friends I'd "never do that again" before beginning plans for next year ten minutes later."
Hannah: Mechanical Hurdles and Unbreakable Community
"SBT Gravel Black Course 142 miles achievement not quite unlocked due to a mechanical that took me out of the race. Bummer. But my cup is full of love for this community <3 !!
I went into this weekend feeling pretty anxious about a couple of things: One, I have never ridden 100mi+, and two, I didn't know if I could make the cutoff time at mile 83.6.
I made the cutoff time with time to spare (!!!), and then, everything went downhill. It was very hot & things I tried to eat made me gag. Then my derailleur hanger snapped and got tangled in my back wheel. Welp.
My weird goal of the season was to cry on the bike. I've been very close for a couple of moments, but when I saw my derailleur stuck in my wheel, I cried. The combo of high anxiety/high hopes at a highly anticipated race ended with a mechanical I couldn't fix was a big ass bummer. At mile 98, no less. Mechanicals aside, SBTGRVL was the most community I’ve ever felt at a bike race.
Stay tuned for a 2024 comeback story (?)".
Kate: Overcoming Setbacks with Community
"This was a tough race for me to sit out. SBT was the first race I was invited to join - by the All Bodies on Bikes team in November of 2021. The discomfort of being new to gravel cycling and tackling this epic race prompted me to apply to Distance to Empty in early 2022 to get experience under my belt. Last year, with my DTE teammates and our mentor Starla's support, I learned how to prepare for and participate in gravel races. I learned how to use my computer, fuel my body, manage my hydration, and pace my ride. This time last year, I went to SBT GRVL and completed my longest-ever ride, 60 miles. It was indeed a highlight of an incredible cycling season.
This year, returning to race with the Distance to Empty team again in 2023, I was looking forward to building on my growth from last year and completing my first century at SBT GRVL. I was also looking forward to being able to support this year's cohort of All Bodies on Bikes riders as they faced the challenges of altitude, hills, and the champagne gravel SBT is known for. Instead, blood clots in both lungs brought my summer of cycling to an abrupt halt at the end of July. Instead of working to push my training to meet the 100-mile goal, I was struggling to navigate day-to-day life and manage my pain, energy, and oxygen.
With the support of my family, I decided to still make the trip to Steamboat to support my teammates on both teams - All Bodies on Bikes and Distance to Empty. Over the last two years, I've met people from all over the US, professionals and amateurs, non-traditional athletes (para cyclists, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, large-bodied cyclists, and others), and more traditional cyclists, both my teammates and friends I've met on the course, in Colorado and out of state. I was able to connect with many of these over the weekend. While there was disappointment in not being able to ride and challenge myself as I'd hoped, I realized the value of the community that has grown around the sport and that I have become part of. I was able to fill my cup in different ways: through friendship and camaraderie, watching my friends and teammates push themselves, overcome challenges, face defeat, and be able to cheer them on from the sidelines. I'm grateful for the people who have made my life richer in the last year and a half - thank you.
Next year, I will return to face the SBT GRVL century challenge I set for myself and drink again from the fantastic community surrounding gravel cycling".
Lailah: Finding Strength in Adversity
"I've never had so much fun suffering. It's been a long-time dream of mine to participate in SBTGRVL, so the morning of the race, there was a pit in my stomach from my wild excitement and intense nerves. Unfortunately, the race started on a bad foot. I crashed hard on my right side, re-injuring my ankle that I had broken in February. Luckily, I could still ride, so I kept going. After a few more miles, I quickly realized I would have to drop to the 60-mile Red Course. I cried, I was disappointed, I was in pain, and I wanted to quit. I was at my breaking point and seriously considering puncturing my tire to DNF. But conversations with my teammate's mentors, Starla and Gino, played in my head and convinced me to keep going. I poured ice into my sock every chance to alleviate the swelling and gaslit myself through the pain. I ended up wiping out two more times, but instead of quitting (probably would've been the smarter choice), I channeled my frustration/anger and fought to the finish. I left everything out on the course and was shaking so badly I could barely get off the bike, but I was so happy. I probably looked crazy because I couldn't stop laughing! It wasn't the race I wanted to have, but it was the race I needed. It was the hardest I've ever pushed myself on the bike, mentally and physically, and even when I thought I couldn't keep going, I did. I found my new Distance To Empty and am stronger than I ever thought for it".
Teresa: Thriving Amidst a Welcoming Community
"SBTGRVL is a coveted event, and I was so excited for this race, especially experiencing the beautiful landscape of Steamboat Springs with its champagne gravel. I opted to race the Green Course, which offered fast gravel sectors, some great sustained climbs, and technical sections all packed into a 37-mile route. The aid stations were well-stocked and staffed with amazing volunteers. It was a top-notch event that was executed with great support and planning! They thought of everything. I met so many great people out on course. I loved seeing all the riders from All Bodies on Bikes and the Ride for Racial Justice. SBTGRVL did a superior job of making the event a welcoming environment for everyone. The expo was huge, with many vendors, including DTE partners from BMC, Hunt, and Eliel. It was great to stop by and say hello to Eliel, who manufactured our custom-designed DTE team kits! Such a great experience, and so appreciative of the support from Eliel".
Steam Boat Gravel is more than a race; it embodies DTE's core values – uplifting others, cultivating resilience, and unlocking hidden potential. Through the challenges, camaraderie, and triumphs experienced by these remarkable athletes, we're reminded that cycling transcends physical boundaries. It's a conduit to self-discovery, a place to build community, and a journey that awakens our strength. As DTE continues to partner with events that celebrate these values, we're honored to be part of a community that thrives on pushing the boundaries of what's possible.
Unleashing Potential Through Grit and Gravel: Distance To Empty at Steam Boat Gravel