On August 21st 2021 our Ambassadors gathered in Magnetawan for a 140km test event in the Almaguin Highlands of Ontario.
The sun struggled to pierce the thick mist that hung heavily - a prelude to the oppressive heat to come. Riders took on refreshments from the Ghost Gravel coffee trailer as they introduced themselves, the excitement palpable.
After short speeches from Founder Matt Foulk and David Grey from Almaguin Community Economic Development including a land acknowledgement, final words came from Pastor Curtis who blessed the riders and the settlers buried along the route. It was time to roll out.
Over the first 34km the riders worked hard together as asphalt turned to gravel and eventually loose rocks, north up the former Colonization Road pushing into ever thicker boreal forest. Traces of former settlement were spied. A schoolhouse obscured by forest, foundations of abandoned log cabins and cemeteries scattered alongside the trail. A mechanical at Bummer’s Roost swiftly addressed by Parry Sound Bikes.
Disgorged onto King Lake by Jerusalem Road the riders were greeted by Stage 21, their vibrant van in contrast with the surrounding wilderness. Espressos and pastries were soon devoured as the riders celebrated putting the most technical part of the course behind them.
Pressing on along endless and quiet gravel, past shimmering lakes until South River and its eponymous brewery came into view. By now the temperature was already over 35c and supplies of Sapsucker were sought out. Gravel dust coating every limb displayed with pride.
Next stop Eagle Lake Narrows but first a tour around historic Lake Bernard. Several punchy climbs surprised and separated the riders briefly and led to an impromptu water stop. The well at Sundridge providing welcome respite.
Sustenance from Endurance Tap, Handfuel and Di Casa Foods, in combination with the lake breeze reenergized the peloton one last time at 107km. All that remained was undulating gravel around historic farms until finally the Magnetawan finish came into view.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and donations to our cause partner CAMH continue to arrive. We have lots to consider as we plan for 2022 but in the meantime thank you to all those who made this event possible. We’re excited for what’s to come.