UK Gravel Races
Where are all the UK Gravel Races?
Gravel racing is becoming a big thing with international series like Gravel Earth Series and the UCI Gravel World Series. There are also various non-series races in other countries, but what have we got here in the UK? While the list of sportive style and enduro events is quite large and runs all year, races are rare. So where are all the UK Gravel Races?
Why so few races in the UK? Partly it’s down to land access. We’re a small island with a good network of footpaths and bridleways; which you can’t race on. Riding on bridleways is fine, but you can’t race on them. So finding a decent route, away from traffic is difficult. Organisers can look to private land, such as county showgrounds or private estates as an alternative. These will be ok for shorter multi-lap races, but makes longer single lap races difficult to organise. Despite that we do have two rounds of the UCI Gravel Series in the UK. 2024 will see the second running of Scotland’s the Gralloch and hopefully, the first of Wales’ Brwydr y Graean.
The Gralloch is a 110 kilometre race in the Galloway Forest Park in South-West Scotland. I rode the first edition and loved the big open country that the route went through. The wide gravel roads are not something you see outside of Forestry Commission down south where I live. The riding was tough, but the people and the weather were good!
With the event based in the small town of Gatehouse of Fleet, there was a real festival feel about the event. Tables covered the main street and the beer and burgers flowed! For those that stayed overnight there was plenty of time to sample the local’s hospitality, both before and after the race. Was this the famous ‘Spirit of Gravel’?
Brwydr y Graean – Battle on the Gravel
The Brwydr y Graean is a new race that is still in the planning stage and will take place in Ruthin, North Wales. The organisers, Glorious Gravel have been organising gravel sportives in the UK and internationally for many years. They actually run one of their sportives in this region, so we can assume they know the terrain pretty well. There’s currently limited information available at the moment. What we do know is there will be a 106Km and a 47km course. Riders on the long route will cover one and a half laps of a 60km circuit, with a 7km lead in and out. For the shorter event, riders will only do the first 40km, before turning back to the start.
So those are the two ‘big’ races that are happening in the UK, but what else is there? There is a small, but growing race scene growing over here, but it is early days. Organisers are searching hard for venues and sponsors, as well as the riders to take part. So if you do see an event you’d like to try, get that entry in. Without your entry, the race won’t happen and our young gravel race scene may disappear, before it’s had a chance.
UK gravel races
Exeter Gravel Race – 25 February
The Exeter Gravel Race is a new event this year, being organised by the Sportiva Events group. This is a multi-lap course on mainly gravel fire-roads, so suitable for MTB or ‘cross/gravel bikes. There’s two races one for those sixteen and over and one for the youngsters who are twelve and over. The older rides will race for 90 minutes, while the youngsters do 50.
The event has chip timing, so even if you’re lapped you’ll get placed. Winners will get to strut their stuff on the podium and photographers will capture your effort. All the usual amenities will be available, so you can park, eat and go to the loo. If it get’s really bad professional first-aiders will be present and the event has public liability insurance.
Battle on the Beach – 7 April
Battle on the Beach is an odd one, is it a gravel race? There’s bunched racing on the windswept sand of the Pembrokeshire coast and single track racing on the inland forest tracks. Which bike is best? Probably an unanswerable one that, but a gravel bike will be fine. Run on the weekend of a low tide, the five kilometre sandy beach is exposed for mad-cap racing. Pro beach racers from the Netherlands come to show the plucky Brits how it’s done, but all are welcome. As usual the race is sold out this year, but keep an eye out for next year’s edition. My advice? Get plenty of practise riding into a headwind!
The Gralloch – 18 May
The Gralloch is the tenth race in the twenty-five round UCI Gravel World Series. Racing takes place in the South West of Scotland over a single lap of a 110km circuit. Men and women of all ages will race the same distance, which is unusual. There will also be a race for juniors, who will also cover the same distance. They won’t get to qualify for the world championships, as there isn’t a category for juniors, yet.
BMCR ‘Griterium’ racing – various dates
What’s a Griterium I hear you ask? Well it’s something that has been dreamed up by the wise old heads at British Masters Cycle Racing. Here’s what they say on their website, oh and I’m afraid it’s for the over 40s only!
This event is part of a series of events organised by different organisers at different venues. The idea of the racing is a no frill all welcome fun and safe event. Circuits will be short distance and numerous laps on varied surfaces, road, gravel, path, grass and tracks. Multiple laps will ensure a fast and grouped race for around 60-70 minutes. The idea is that a competitor will not need to dismount for obstacles or any technical sections, it will be all rideable as long as you can get up a small incline (where neccessary).
The choice of bicycle is open to all sorts such as a gravel bike, cyclo cross bike, mountain bike, winter hack bike or road bike with grippy tyres. Flat handlebars are allowed. The only exceptions are electric bikes and fixed wheel bikes.
The races are intended to attract a crowd of fun loving cyclists who prefer not to race on an open road.
25th May – Leicestershire
16th June – Leicestershire
23rd June – Burton Upon Trent
13th July – Milton Keynes
So join the BMCR if you’d like to take part in this new form of racing, it sounds like a lot of fun.
Brwydr y Graean – 6 July
Now onto round eighteen of the UCI Gravel World Series, Brwydr y Graean. This is a new race and details are scarce at the moment, although we should know more by March. What we do know is that the race will be based around Ruthin in north west Wales. The 110km route is on 68% gravel and has 2064 metres of climbing, while the shorter 47km route has 1068 metres. Once we have more details we’ll let you know.
Kings Cup, British Gravel Championships – 15 September
While gravel racing is still young and not yet recognised by British Cycling, we do have a national championship race; the Kings Cup. I rode the first event back in 2021 and loved it. While it wasn’t the most challenging of courses, the racing was fast and furious. With championship jerseys up for grabs, nobody was stopping to look at the view!
Since then the event has gone from strength to strength and brings in big names like Cameron Mason, Connor Swift and Alister Brownlee. Organised by the same people who bring you the Gralloch and Raiders, Red On Sports, it feels like a proper national championships.
Raiders Gravel – 29 August-1 September
To finish off we have a stage race, the Raiders Gravel. Organised and by and in the same area as the Gralloch, Raiders Gravel looks to be a mighty challenge. The three stages are based around Gatehouse of Fleet, which makes logistics a lot simpler. It also means the organises can create a festival feel, with talks, music and social activities; marshmallow toasting anyone?
Riders can ride as fast or easy as they want over the three stages, but if you are racing, be prepared for a tough parcours. Stage one, the Grannoch is 76Km with 1145 metres of climbing. Stage two, the Clatteringshaws looks to be a beast at 101Km and 1564 metres of climbing. After Stage two, stage three, the Skerrow will be easy with only 69Km and 995 metres for those tired legs.
So there we have our list of UK gravel races, a small but hopefully growing list that will encourage you to get out and race! I hope to see you at one of them, if you do say hello. Even better, give me a push!