Ride Report: unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley 2020

Ride Report: unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley 2020 – by Guitar Ted

The Fall colors were on display for the 2020 unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley 2020. Image by Abe Landes

The season of races and rides for 2020 was set to be an exciting one back when the calendar turned from ’19 to ’20. Many events looked forward to a bigger, better year than 2019 turned out to be. The unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley was no exception. Looking toward its third running of the event, race director Dave Pryor and his crew were excited to bring the event to another level. However; as we all know, his event, and many others, were affected by an unforeseen global pandemic. Races were postponed, then cancelled. However; after several modifications with the aim to make the event safe, yet retain a modicum of fun, the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley did take place.

Two riders on a rural road
Image by Abe Landes

Readers may remember that we had Dave Pryor of the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley on as a guest of the “Riding Gravel Radio Ranch“. (Episode #53) At that time, in July, Pryor was hopeful that things would hold for them to get the event in. He told us about several changes and protocols set in place. But as time went on, changes continued to have to be made, reportedly as late as up to four days out from the October 11th date. However; the event did happen on the date set for it. Pryor reported to us that now, after several weeks after the event, they have had no COVID related cases traced back to this event. So, in that sense the event was successful.

Of course, the original plans had to be scrapped. No longer would there be any pre-event socialization or post-event festivities. The roster was reduced to 200 maximum. The several options for the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley courses had to be reduced to a single, 120 mile choice. Flights of riders were sent out at intervals from 7:30am – 9:00am. The course had several short timed sections interspersed with long neutral sections versus the traditional full timed course competition. Aid station protocols were introduced so there was no touch water resupply and pre-packaged nutrition was distributed to reduce contact. Riders were encouraged to be self-sufficient via the use of drop bags and hand washing and mask wearing were mandatory.

Three riders on a rural road by Abe Landes
Riders enjoyed the day and were appreciative of the protocols put in place. Image by Abe Landes

Had we told you in 2019 that an event with these protocols could be called a ‘success’, you may have sneered at such draconian measures being seen in that light. However; the event ended up being one of the very few high profile gravel events happening at all in 2020. Who knew? That the staff and leadership of the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley were so creative and flexible in regard to the event formatting is a testament to their desire to provide a diversion to all the pandemic craziness that has been much of 2020. In the end, all in attendance won, not just the front-runners in the field.

And the people that were fortunate enough to have taken part in the event were treated to peak Fall color and great weather. One of the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley event sponsors, Stan’s NoTubes, was onsite, and Drew Esherick , Stan’s NoTubes’ Events Manager had the following to say about the day, “Since it is local to us, we had the opportunity to head out on course and set up at the start of some very challenging riding. I saw a lot of smiling faces (even after finishing some big climbs), happy to be out participating, and happy to see the Stan’s van out there in the forest. Super glad that the fine folks were able to pull off a great event, even if it was in a slightly more limited fashion. Looking forward to what 2021 brings to unPAved.”

Lone rider on a rural road by Abe Landes
Image by Abe Landes

And that pretty much sums up the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley event for 2020. Subdued, but not cancelled, the event happened, which is saying a lot this year, and everyone involved was kept safe. The day of the event was beautiful and people got to ride bicycles. Congratulations to all those who took part and especially to the folks behind the scenes at the event and its sponsors.

While no date has been set for 2021, it is everyone’s hope that the event will be allowed to return to its original flavor and provide a more free and open experience. For more details on the unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley and any 2021 event news, see their site here: https://www.unpavedpennsylvania.com/

Note: Information and photos used in this report were provided by unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley. All images credited to Abe Landes


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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