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Castelli Cycling & the Beginnings of Oregon Gravel

Did you know that Castelli helped create the Pacific Northwest's very first gravel event?  Castelli Cycling has been part of Breakaway Promotions for over eleven years, supporting our riders and production and helping to launch gravel in Oregon. Chad Sperry, known as Bad Chad of Breakaway Promotions, shares the story of how Castelli jumped in to gravel before most knew what gravel was and helped launch the historic Gorge Gravel and Oregon Gravel Series events.


The Story of Castelli and Gorge Gravel

Chad Sperry- CoOwner/Founder of Breakaway Promotions

Race Director, Gorge Gravel Race


Beginning Ideas of Gravel in Oregon

Back in 2012 our company, Breakaway Promotions, was hitting on all cylinders as a prominent operator in the world of cycling.  That particular year we owned and operated the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, which at the time was one of the largest NRC races in the U.S. as well as ran the operations for the Cascade Cycling Classic, Junior/Elite Road Nationals Collegiate Road Nationals, Masters Road Nationals and the US Mt Bike National Championships in Sun Valley.  In a nutshell we had a full plate running some the largest road and mountain bike events in North America. That said something seemed to be missing from our quiver.  Something, that was simply put, pure fun. 


In the fall of 2012, we hatched the idea to create a fun spring event that would be run in our home town of The Dalles, Oregon.  The event would have to be early spring as our schedule was packed with large scale races from May through October.  We came up with a crazy idea (at least crazy for that time) to create something that had the look and feel of the Paris Roubaix and other European spring classic races. 



Of course, we did not have cobbles in our area, but we did have miles and miles of gravel roads.  60% of the roads the surround The Dalles, located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, are gravel.  When our local team trained and raced competitively in the 90’s and early 2000’s, we often grew bored of the same old paved roads, so we learned fun could be had if we installed 28mm tires and ran thorn resistant tubes allowing us to ride gravel without constantly puncturing tubes.  It felt like we were riding on marbles with these road bikes “floating” around under us and our brakes where terrible, but it allowed us the freedom to find new training routes.  The challenge of keeping our bikes upright excited us.  So did the lack of traffic on those remote gravel roads.


The Launch of a New Race Idea Based in Fun

In March of 2013, we launched what we affectionately called the Gorge Roubaix in honor of Paris Roubaix.  At that time the term "Gravel Grinder" was unheard of on the West Coast.  Furthermore, there were no bikes built to be capable of efficiently handling said surfaces.  The idea of the event was it had to be fun


Our first email we sent out to all our cycling friends stated,

“We are putting on a race that has 50% gravel roads.  There is no prize money and we don’t care if anyone comes on as a sponsor or if we only end up with 50 riders.  We are doing it because we think it is a cool idea and the course is beautiful”. 


This was quite the opposite marketing approach we took with our big road events and had no idea what to expect.  Almost immediately I received an email back from Castelli Cycling.  They had offices in Portland, Oregon and somehow received word of the crazy idea we had hatched.  The email stated they LOVED the idea of this event and asked if they could be involved. 



When I reached out to Castelli, I was thinking they may donate some clothing and stuff for prizes.  Much to my amazement they had bigger aspirations and wanted to be the title sponsor!  I was surprised that a company of this size would be willing to take a risk on such an unknown idea, but they had vision and passion. 


With the help of Castelli, we successfully launched the Gorge Roubaix in March of 2013.  250 hearty riders showed up to compete in this crazy race.  Nearly half of them flatted and had their day cut short, but the seed was planted. 




Later that year we were hired to run the operations for a brand new event called Rebecca’s Private Idaho that would later become a “Gravel Monument”.  In 2015 we changed the name from Gorge Roubaix to Gorge Gravel Grinder and even added a second event in Bend, Oregon.  The rest is history.....   


Gravel skyrocketed, bikes were manufactured specifically for gravel riding and where WAY more fun and efficient than our road bikes.  In 2019 we took the opportunity to merge our history with big time road stage races and merged it with gravel to create the Oregon Trail Gravel Race


So many changes have taken place over these past 11 years in the sport of cycling. One thing that has not changed is Castelli’s passion and support for the Gravel and all disciplines of cycling.  Since that first event in March of 2013, Castelli has been the title sponsor of the Gorge Gravel Race


In an industry that has fast turnover of partners and sponsors Castelli has stood by us and helped us grow the Gorge Gravel Race into one of the largest on the West Coast.  Their passion to not only cater to pro and elite cyclist but also those new to the sport trying their very first gravel event, is evident throughout. 


Thanks, Castelli, for 11 years of amazing support.  We could not have done it without you!

 




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