Lawton gravel ride

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Organizers Sarah Newgard and Chip Shea are excited to tell you about the first annual Lawton Loop Gravel Ride scheduled for Saturday, September 12.

“Gravel cycling events have been gaining in popularity all over the world in the past several years and events/races in particular,” said Shea. “I have been doing events around the state this summer and using the beautiful gravel roads around the Lawton area for training. Sarah’s parents live on a farm 20 miles northwest of Lawton, and we have been going there all summer to see them, and I have been riding every weekend we’ve been there and absolutely love it! It made me think we could possibly do an event! I brought it up to Sarah, and she was excited!”

Newgard used to be the director of the Fighting Sioux Club, and planning events was one of her primary responsibilities.

“I knew she would be an amazing asset to the event!” said Shea.

Her parents, Doug and Sandi Newgard, also thought it was a great idea. Everyone was in agreement that Lawton would be a great place to hold the gravel ride because they could start and finish the race at The Bar.

“Larry Legacie, owner of The Bar in Lawton, is a family friend, and we asked him to help with a post-ride meal and to offer bathrooms for the participants,” said Shea. “He agreed to, so we decided to move forward!”

The entry fee is $20, which includes the meal at The Bar at the end of the ride. Registration must be completed and submitted in order to secure your spot. Shea said that they have a Facebook event page that people can join, which can be found by searching The Lawton Loop on Facebook. The waiver that people need to fill out to register and where to send it is on that page. If you aren’t on Facebook you can either email Shea at chipshea@polarcomm.com or call or text him at 218-791-4211, and he will get you the necessary information to register.

The 75-mile ride starts 8:00 a.m. and should take between 5 and 7 hours. The 25-mile ride starts at 11:00 a.m. and will take between 1.5 to 3 hours. The 75-mile loop finishes where the 25-mile loop begins, so experienced gravel bikers can do both for a full 100 miles, taking about 6.5 to 8.5 hours. As of the end of August, there were 34 riders registered for the 25-mile loop, 6 for the 75-mile loop, and 2 for the full 100 miles! The Bar will start serving the meal at 2:00 pm.

Most importantly, no experience is necessary. The 25-mile ride is recommended for beginners. All you need is a helmet (required) and a bike, such as a mountain bike with wide tires or a gravel specific bike. A bicycle with skinny tires is not a good choice for gravel riding. If you’re not sure, you can text or email a picture of your tires to Shea or check with the Ski & Bike Shop or Scheels in Grand Forks. Any type of motorized bike is not allowed on the ride.

Before the race you should make sure your bike is sound and the brakes are functioning properly, the drive train and gears are shifting normally, and the tires are in good shape. On the day of the race you will want to bring water bottles and portable energy (like fruit, nuts, energy gels, protein bars, etc.), and carry them with you in a frame bag or backpack. The course will be well-marked. A .gpx file will be available the week of the ride for those who have on-bike computers. The course will have rolling hills, climbs, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.

If you want to extend your outdoor experience, camping and tenting is available for free in Lawton that weekend. Space for camping with hookups is limited, but tenting space is unlimited. Just reserve your camping site through Shea by calling him or sending an email or text.

“We will be very respectful of social distancing and keeping the event safe,” said Shea, who also noted that the ride is all on gravel so there should not be much traffic, and a vehicle will be making loops to check on riders.

Shea and Newgard hope to make this an annual event, having even more people involved next year.

“We are going to have music playing, cow bells clanging and possibly a school bell ringing!!” said Shea. “It’s going to be a fun-filled day of biking!!”

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