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Bike race showcases beauty of western Nebraska

April 25, 2019 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — If you’re looking for a unique gravel ride that follows part of the trail of emigrants, the Robidoux Quick & Dirty is where it’s at. The gravel trail follows a course of beauty filled with piney woods, high plains grasslands nestled in a bluff system left behind by a retreating sea 70 million years ago, cows, an open range and lots of dirt.

Bicyclists who want to test their mettle on the adventurous ride won’t come away disappointed. Most of the route traverses the Oregon Trail. The race began in 2016 after members of the West Nebraska Bike Club expressed their interest in gravel riding. The first race saw 80 riders participate. Organizers are hoping to reach 200 this year.

The motivation for creating the race was two-fold.

“We want more tourism to come to western Nebraska,” said Matt Hutt, co-promoter. “We also wanted to invite and introduce gravel riding in our area.”

Hutt said the race is a great way to ride a bike that’s safer, is away from traffic and is a pleasant way to exercise and see the area.

“We are in the sweet spot for gravel riding,” Hutt said. “There is something about the scale of elevation and the absence of traffic on rural roads that make it a true gem.”

The 75-mile race runs entirely in Scotts Bluff County. From Wright’s Gap to Stegall Road, over Carter Canyon, down to Summit Ranch, over Rifle Sight Pass, past the Haig School, Mitchell Pass and the final stretch to Five Rocks Amphitheater, riders will have plenty to see while hitting dirt.

Hutt and co-promoter Aaron Raines said after watching their community struggle to grow, they hope the Robidoux Quick & Dirty is a thing that proves to be an asset to western Nebraska.

“We see this as hopefully becoming a tourism engine and economic driver,” Hutt said.

Hutt has already seen the economic impact of the race with riders who have returned later after participating in the event.

“The riders came back because they were blown away by what we have,” Hutt said. “They told us they had no idea this is what Nebraska was about.”

The race is named after Antione Robidoux, who built a trading post here during the 1840s, selling tack and grog to emigrants as they crossed over Robidoux Pass on the way to their demise or Oregon, which ever came first. In later years, emigrants used the more direct Mitchell Pass. Quick & Dirty riders will be traveling through both.

The route travels along fast gravel roads that allow riders to focus on putting power to the pedals. The hilly 75-mile course covers more than 4,000 feet of climbing, consisiting of 88 percent gravel and 12 percent asphalt. The final 5 miles takes riders up over Mitchell Pass and through the Scotts Bluff National Monument.

For recreational riders, there is a 28-mile ride. Though 75 miles may seem a long way for a “quick” race, other gravel races are 200-250 miles long.

About 10-15 years ago, bicycling began to evolve organically. While it has always evolved, this change took place in the Midwest as more cyclists started looking at gravel. Eastern Nebraska and Kansas were the epicenter for this change.

“Topeka might be considered the Vatican of gravel,” Hutt said. “The gravel scene is not something that came from to coast inward and we get some ownership in that.”

The first bikes for riding on gravel were cobbled together. Today there are gravel-dedicated bikes. Hutt said gravel rides are not the stereotypical idea of a brutal, bumpy affair.

“With tire tech today, it’s a smoothe ride,” Hutt said. “Part of the Robidoux Quick & Dirty is to get into the mindset of enjoying the ride.”

For riders who regularly make long rides, it gets tiresome seeing the same roads and features every day. The Robidoux Quick & Dirty is a fun change of scenery.

“When you want to ride 60, 70, 100 miles, it gets boring riding the same thing,” Raines said.

After the race on Saturday night, the public is welcome to attend the Grant Farm concert. The band describes themselves as “cosmic Americana” and has a good mix of many musical styles. Avid Dischord will be opening. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and music begins around 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. Riders who participated in the 75-mile ride get in free.

At the concert, title sponsor Flyover Brewery will be serving their award-winning ales. Other food trucks will be onsite serving a variety of food.

Raines said even if you aren’t into long rides, there are still opportunities for the community to be more involved in the event.

“We still want you to come hang out and enjoy it,” Raines said. “We have beautiful community resources in Five Rocks where you can hear a concert.”

Raines said in addition to attending the concert, the event is also looking for volunteers to help and cheer on riders.

“We want people to come out at the starting line at 9 a.m. to watch the races leave and at the finish line around noon to cheer riders on,” Raines said. “We also need course marshals to protect riders when they cross the two highway crossings.”

The Robidoux Quick & Dirty takes place on Saturday, June 22, at 9 a.m. The 28-mile race is $20. The 75-mile race is $55. Riders are advised to show up early, around 7 a.m.

You can race it and gather a cash prize of $300, $200 or $100 for the fastest three women and men, or you can take your time and make it an adventure ride. Registration for the race is open and can be completed online at https://robidouxquickdirty.wixsite.com/race/registration. For additional information or questions, visit the Robidoux Quick and Dirty Facebook and Instagram pages or email robidouxquickanddirty@gmail.com.