“Where once there was The Kootenay Gravel Grinder now there is The Lost Elephant. Welcome aboard.”
So reads the about section on the website of an old race with a new name. The Kootenay Gravel Grinder was given a new moniker this year and has become the Lost Elephant Ultra Race and participants set out on it on July 21 at 7:00 a.m. The route is still the same, a gruelling 507 kilometres through the Kootenay Rockies with a total ascent of nearly 11,000 metres. This route was referred to as the Jumbo edition and a shorter route, nicknamed the Dumbo edition, was added.
READ MORE: The 2017 Kootenay Gravel Grinder
“The reason for the change was because the term gravel grinding within cycling really sort of took on a meaning that actually meant riding smoother gravel roads and so we realized that it was a bit of a misnomer for this event because this event is really rugged,” explained organizer Nathan Siemens. “Like you need a full on mountain bike for this one, so it’s not like road riding on gravel so we decided we needed to come up with a name.”
Anyone familiar with the lore of the City of Cranbrook may have already guessed how they landed on the name Lost Elephant.
“Thought that was a good one because essentially we were running around in the woods like old Cranbrook Ed was back in the day,” Siemens said.
This year they had just shy of 30 riders participate, though official numbers vary, according to Siemens, as a couple people started from Kimberley and weren’t tracking their progress.
“So essentially instead of starting in Cranbrook and finishing in Cranbrook they did the same route but they started in Kimberley and ended in Kimberley.”
The fastest on the Jumbo route was Rob Haine, who did the track in an astonishing 57 hours. Another rider of note is Eric Ross, who did the Jumbo in 65 hours, eight hours behind Haine yes, except Ross did the already challenging route on a single speed bike. The fastest on the Dumbo track was Ryan Hamilton, who did it in 17 hours. Many of these riders competed in the BC Epic 1000 just a few weeks ago.
“Because of the BC Epic both Ryan and I opted down to the Dumbo instead of the Jumbo. But Eric decided to take all the gears off his bike and do the Jumbo with no gears, so take that as you will for who’s toughest of the group,” Siemens said with a laugh.
READ MORE: The BC EPIC 1000
The fact that this year they had 30 participants, up from 13 last year, highlights the positive feedback they received at last year’s Gravel Grinder, and the feedback this year was also overwhelmingly positive. They had riders from Calgary, Canmore, Montana, and numerous others from as far away as Michigan and Merritt, though some wound up backing out due to getting beaten down by the B.C. Epic.
“I just got off an email thread with the guy from Montana and he was just beyond pumped on the terrain,” said Siemens. “He did the Dumbo and he’s hoping to come back for the Jumbo next year. The Canmore and Calgary guys were really excited because it’s a lot more rugged of an event than the other endurance bike packing events that happen this area.”
Siemens said that some of the highlights included the Wild Horse pass, due to the phenomenal beauty at the top, however he added that one funny thing with this race that happened both this year and last was that it was “smoking hot” during the day and then their water bottles would freeze at night.
“The temperature variances are pretty intense up there,” he said. “The guy from Montana he tried to sleep at the summit and he just couldn’t do it, he had to keep going because he was just too cold. The BC Epic didn’t really get cold at night because you didn’t go that high, unless you camped at the top of Gray Creek pass, thats the interesting thing about these events, they’re not one in the same.”
Siemens said he is grateful to High Country Sports and Hot Shots Cafe who helped out quite a bit, with the former providing numerous prizes and the latter helping to cover some of the website costs.