Baldwin City Recreation Commission hosts Maple Leaf Gravel Grind

On Oct. 23, bicyclists from all over Douglas County came to Baldwin City, Kan. to participate in the 3rd annual Maple Leaf Gravel Grind, an all gravel trail bike race, hosted by the Baldwin City Recreation Commission. Tickets to enter were $40 for the 16 and 35-mile route and $50 for the 70-mile route This event served as a fundraiser to raise money for various organizations. According to Matt McClure, director of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission, about 160 bicyclists signed up and participated in the event.

“We are still sorting through our revenues and expenditures, but it is looking like we will be able to get around $2,000 each to Prairie Paws and our [Baldwin City Recreation Commission] scholarship fund,” McClure said.

According to the Baldwin City Recreation Commission website, three separate routes were offered, a 16, 35, and 70-mile route, that highlighted the fall foliage in and around Baldwin City. The 70-mile race started at 9 a.m. and the 16-mile and 35-mile races followed an hour after.

With the 70-mile route being the longest and most difficult, the top three winners from the men’s and women’s lineup were awarded a cash prize. First place got $100, second place got $75, and third place got $50. For the men’s lineup, Christopher Nugent age 32, got first place, Garrick Valrerde, 31, got second place and Armondo Sanchez, 46, got third place. For the women’s lineup Bryn Stover, 31, took first place, Dorian Logan, 20, got second place and Hannah Tell, 20, came in third place.

The variety of routes made for those with a wide range of biking skills to be able to participate in the event. Many participants had a goal they wished to receive from biking the race of their choice.

“[My group] picked the 16 just because we are not professionals but it’s just fun and we enjoy being out here.” participant Michael Hemme said.

Along with those who were there for fun, other participants cycle consistently, like Luke Anderson. Anderson took the event as an opportunity to get out and practice some more.

“I’m doing a big race next weekend and wanted to do a tapered run because I don’t want to be fried going into next week,” Anderson said. Anderson participated in the 35-mile route race.

Some cyclists took it more competitively, like Dave Wathen, a cyclist sponsored by Cow Town Cycling.

“My teammates and I were racing the 35 and it looks like we got second and third because whoever got third was on an e-bike [electric powered bike] and so that doesn’t count. If this was a sanctioned event I would have protested the finish because an e-bike is an unfair advantage but Cow Town got second and third so it was a good day for us,” Wathen said.

No matter what route a participant entered, they had to cycle up Pork Chop Hill. According to the Baldwin City Signal, Pork Chop Hill is close to the Douglas and Franklin county line and is considered to be the highest point in Franklin County. Cyclists biked a little over 100 feet up in under half a mile, making this leg one of the most difficult parts of the races.

Despite the placement in the races, each participant received a swag bag that contained a t-shirt, a medal and some goodies from the sponsors of the event at the end of the races. The Baldwin City Recreation Commission arranged two food trucks to provide lunch after the race. Participants were happy to enjoy a Saturday morning biking around the Baldwin City area knowing that all proceeds went to charity.

“The proceeds go to charity [so] I’m all good for it,” Wathen said.