The Pine Island Gravel Odyssey was formerly known as the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder and is rated by Strambecco as one of the best gravel grinders in the Midwest. This is South Dakota’s premier gravel event which operates under a special use permit for the Black Hills National Forest. Four route/event options meet the needs of all rider types. The longest and hardest route is dubbed the Lodgepole Voyage. This is your event if you are looking for more of a self-supported, ultra-endurance, adventure type of race. This race is not for beginners, as it is a very challenging ride. Before registering for this event, you must have completed the Pine Island-Gravel Odyssey or a race of at least 100 miles. It is an ultra 210-mile ride that takes you on a long tour through the Northern and Southern Black Hills of South Dakota.
There is a total of approx. 185-190 miles of gravel, with the rest being pavement. It is a challenging course with about 13,000 ft. of climbing. The gravel in the hills is unique in that there aren’t a lot of rolling hills. You will find long steady climbs and descents on roads that don’t make many 90-degree turns but rather wind their way through the beautiful Black Hills landscape. During the ride, you will enjoy a section of the famed Mickelson Trail, where you will take a “car-free,” winding path through the woods, crossing many bridges and going through 3 tunnels. This is a self-supported race in that there are no aid stations. You are responsible for organizing your support crew to supply you at four specified checkpoints, or you can purchase a Ridge Rider Rescue package to drop supply bags at each of the four checkpoints. They will also give you a ride back to town if you need to abandon the race.
The Ponderosa Escapade is the next most challenging option at 110 miles. This single-loop route will take you through the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The event will be a fun yet challenging endurance gravel race/ride using open public-access gravel and dirt roads through the Black Hills National Forest and into Wyoming. The course consists of mostly gravel, dirt, possible mud, and a bit of pavement while rolling over the open prairie, meandering through beautiful canyons with flowing creeks, exploring the deep forest, and climbing to several spectacular vistas. This race is intended for people familiar with gravel riding that can average a minimum ten mph pace. This is a challenging race with nearly 7,000 ft. of elevation gain.
Rounding out the options are the Limber Escapade at 70 Miles and 4500 feet of elevation gain and the Pine Cone Frolic at 45 miles and 3,800 feet of elevation gain. The shorter options are about fun and the challenge of just finishing. Everyone who makes the cut-offs, makes the check-point, and crosses the finish line will get a finishers award If you are new to gravel riding/racing, these are great events to get started with; however, don’t be fooled; these are still challenging courses.