#GravelFamily: John Borstelmann

To me, #GravelFamily is a way of sharing the inclusivity and camaraderie…

What’s your favorite GW experience?

My favorite GW experience has to be brandishing the sword in front of the podium ceremony crowd in my hometown. It was too fun for me to imagine for a second that Ally and I were real live pirate captains celebrating a great victory in battle with our crew and bringing home the loot.


What’s your funniest Gravel event story (ie never trust a fart)?

My first ever gravel event was the 2017 Omaha Jackrabbit, a 125 mile slog through mid-October fog and rain. About 40 of those miles were over rutted and muddy MMRs, many of which were almost completely unrideable because of the mud. 27 people signed up for the ride, 11 started it (after seeing the rainy forecast), and only 3 finished (over 10 hours later). Despite the insane conditions, I experienced no serious mechanicals until after the finish line, which was about a mile from where I parked. My rear derailleur was stuck in the largest cog, so I attempted to unstick it by gently tapping it with my foot, since I didn’t want to stop again (I had already stopped dozens or maybe even hundreds of times during the race to clear mud from my cleats and tires). After a couple of unsuccessful tries, I kicked it a little harder. Of course, it went right into the spokes, shearing off the derailleur’s arm and breaking multiple spokes, and, somehow, both of my tires went flat at the same time. I had to get a ride back to my car with the generous race directors (who had offered me a ride back in the first place even though I was covered in mud). It’s just ironic that my bike survived almost 130 miles of ridiculously bad conditions, but the one mile of flat smooth road (and perhaps a bit of delirious frustration) basically destroyed the entire setup.

How long have you been riding? Has gravel changed your perspective on riding, and if so, how?

I got into serious road riding around 2014 when I was 23, and started racing the next year. I love road racing, but the gravel scene is such a refreshing alternative to road’s often hyper-competitive, dog-eat-dog atmosphere that I’ve shifted my focus to gravel for 2020. There is better cooperation among riders from different teams, and there is less of the neuroticism about the value of every second and every watt. Gravel races let me expend the total effort of my entire being (type 2 fun, baby), but I get to experience the welcoming camaraderie of the local community in a way that road races usually seem to lack. Nothing like the finish line of a long gravel race to turn exhaustion into elation, no matter your time or placing. There’s always someone there with a high-five at the ready, and always a reason to smile.

Has gravel brought you closer to your community and if so, how?

Riding gravel introduced me to a different side of Lincoln’s cycling community that I hadn’t realized was so vibrant and close-knit. I’m so glad that I got to experience Lincoln’s gravel love before heading out to the west coast, and I’m super excited for Gravel Worlds 2020.

What does #GravelFamily mean to you?

To me, #GravelFamily is a way of sharing the inclusivity and camaraderie of the gravel cycling community. It’s a group of people who love riding bikes and having fun, simple as that.

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