Cyclocross

Interview: Amanda Schaper on Grinduro’s Venue Change, September Plans – Cyclocross Magazine

Grinduro, the mixed terrain ride with four timed stages inspired by enduro races, got its start in 2015 in Quincy, California. We were there to take it all in, and have since covered the event as it has continued in California and expanded across the world including as far away as Japan.

Now, the original Grinduro California is moving from Quincy to the shoulders of the fifth-tallest mountain in California, Mount Shasta. The event, currently scheduled for September 12, also the same weekend as the rescheduled DK200, is set to open its registration in two weeks on May 12.

The 2020 Grinduro is moving from Quincy to Mount Shasta.

While many of us are simply excited about the possibility of doing a group ride in the near future, we can dream about future organized events.

To fuel such dreams, we caught up with event promoter Amanda Schaper to learn more about the 2020 venue change and what racers can look forward to come September.

Cyclocross Magazine: How has it been returning to prepare for an event you helped start, in a brand new location, knowing it isn’t quite a sure thing during this crazy time?

Amanda Schaper: Grinduro means so much to me! When I started working at Giro in 2014, and we began planning Grinduro shortly thereafter, I knew I found myself at a pretty special brand. I had been racing gravel for a few years already with the attitude of “if you can’t win the race, win the party,” so clearly Giro was speaking my language with Grinduro’s ultimate party-to-race ratio. My role at the time was focused on event marketing and communications, and it was so fun to work with the incredible team at Giro to bring this event to life.

You can’t imagine how excited I was when I had the opportunity to work on Grinduro again. I went independent in late October with my own events and marketing consulting businesses. Just a few days later, I was approached about Grinduro. I feel so dang lucky that this opportunity came to me at just the right time. Talk about a dream project! It’s a big responsibility to carry the purple torch, and I want to do proud by all of my old colleagues at Giro and everybody who has ever raced Grinduro! For now, I’m just pouring all my positive energy into events being possible come September.

CXM: Grinduro has historically been in the Quincy area as a fundraiser for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. Now it’s by Mount Shasta, in support of the Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance. How did this change come about?

AS: Quincy was such an amazing home for Grinduro for the last five years, and SBTS was, of course, an incredible partner for the event. During Grinduro’s time in Quincy, the small mountain town went from being relatively unknown to becoming a cycling destination. It has always been the plan that Grinduro will move to a new location every few years with the goal of impacting communities in a positive way. When the Grinduro team feels like they’ve achieved a notable positive impact in an area, then the event moves and the process starts again somewhere new. Dain Zaffke, Giro Marketing Director, and Paul Errington, Grinduro Global Manager, scouted a few options for 2020 Grinduro CA, and Mt. Shasta was the lucky winner! After a few years here, Grinduro will pack up and move again. That keeps the event fresh as it engages different communities and supports new organizations.

The Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance [SORA], was a key element that attracted Dain and Paul to Mt. Shasta. They are an amazing nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable outdoor recreation and outdoor recreation access to all, while creating meaningful and responsible connections to the trails, mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and landscapes of the Shasta-Siskiyou region of Northern California. Grinduro CA’s proceeds will support SORA’s newly established Siskiyou Stewardship Fund, which is dedicated to improving recreation infrastructure and access as needed for the community. The initial focus of this program is to fund trail maintenance in the Mt. Shasta area, including maintenance of trails included in the Grinduro CA course.

How cool is it that Grinduro participants are doing so much good while having such a good time?

CXM: What excites you most about the new location?

AS: Mt. Shasta is a magical place that is going to be an incredible home for Grinduro! The fact that the event is going to be watched over by a legendary 14,170’ snow-capped mountain is pretty cool in itself. Mt. Shasta’s surrounding region encompasses rich volcanic history, bio-diverse forests, abundant alpine lakes, wild and scenic rivers, waterfalls, canyons, valleys, and peaks. There is truly no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had.

Who wouldn’t want to ride with such scenery? Mount Shasta in the late summer. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Mt. Shasta is also an up and coming bike mecca. The Grinduro course will take riders through the Gateway Trail network, which is one of the most popular XC rides in the Mt. Shasta area. It was professionally built by mountain bike trail builders, and it’s maintained by the local IMBA group, the Mt. Shasta Mountain Bike Association, and the Mt. Shasta Trail Association. There’s even more trail on the way. Our goal is to leverage Grinduro’s success to accelerate Mt. Shasta’s approved 40+ mile singletrack expansion plan.

Our event venue is also something special. Our host venue is the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, which is a lift access mountain bike park in the summer. All Grinduro and Grindurito riders will get a lift ticket for the weekend with their registration fee! That means they can bring a mountain bike for some park laps, or just take a fun scenic ride up to the mid-mountain grill to grab a drink and get amazing photo-ops of Mt. Shasta. The Ski Park will be open to the public during the Grinduro weekend, so bring friends! They can purchase a lift ticket and do some laps while you’re out riding.

The 2020 Grinduro is moving from Quincy to Mount Shasta.

CXM: The event is one of the major gravel events on the calendar and has attracted some top DK200 racers in the past. What was your reaction when you learned DK200 is rescheduled for the same weekend?

AS: Every single event promoter is in such a challenging spot at the moment. With so many spring and summer events getting rescheduled, it’s inevitable that there will be conflicts. In the current situation, I support events rescheduling if they can rather than canceling because I know how much time and money goes into an event well before the event happens. Canceling something you’ve poured so much effort and heart into would be soul-crushing!

The promoters of DK200 were very thoughtful. They contacted me when it looked like their new date would conflict with Grinduro because they, of course, tried to avoid that. However, finding a date to reschedule an event isn’t as easy as just picking a weekend where there isn’t another big gravel event. All of the key vendors, services, sponsors, land managers, and staff have to be available on the new date. It’s a real challenge to find a date where all the pieces line up. It just so happened that September 12 was that date for DK200.

Considering that every major gravel race sells out in minutes, I’m confident there are enough gravel lovers to go around. Plus, DK200 and Grinduro are very different events, so while some racers will need to make a tough decision, I think we appeal to different types of gravel riders. If riders are looking for the perfect party-to-race ratio, they know they’ll find it in Mt. Shasta!

CXM: The past event featured four timed stages, with a hill climb, a fire road descent, a time trial and then a technical descent. Should 2020 racers expect a similar format?

AS: Grinduro wouldn’t be Grinduro without four timed stages in the midst of a 65-mile gravel route! I can’t share the course map or stage details yet, but I can say that it will be about 65 miles and 7,800-feet of elevation gain. The stages will include a fun mix of fire roads and singletrack. Nope, no paved stages! The singletrack won’t be quite as rowdy as it has been in the past. The Gateway Trails combine smooth berms and swoopy singletrack with slightly techy rock gardens, so these trails are a mega-fun on drop bars!

The 2020 Grinduro is moving from Quincy to Mount Shasta.

Lunch will be in downtown Mt. Shasta, and along the way, we’ll have some great aid stations offering a mid-ride party. Word on the street is that two of our aid station sponsors, Abbey Bike Tools and Robert Axle Project, are already facing off on who can create the best Grinduro aid station…

CXM: You’re busy as the organizer, but what are the chances of you and Scott competing on your tandem?

Kermit and Miss Piggy (Scott Chapin and Amanda Schaper) on their tandem were a crowd favorite at the 2016 Surf City Cyclo-X Series, Aptos High. © Jeff Vander Stucken

AS: Scott and I will certainly be working in tandem at Grinduro this year, but it won’t be on the bike. Scott is working on the event with me! He’s managing all race operations, which he’s done for Old Cabin Classic and Old Growth Classic the past couple of years. Scott is a real pro at ensuring that race ops run efficiently, so I’m glad to have his help with that side of things.

That being said… I did insist on adding an official tandem category this year! How could I be planning Grinduro and have the tandem category still be considered an “untimed fun ride”? Tandemonium racers, I’m counting on you to represent!

CXM: News, research, policy and stats related to COVID-19 keep changing each week which must present a challenge for you. Based on what you know now, do you think racing, whether it’s local cyclocross, or an event the size of Grinduro, is likely this September?

Amanda Schaper, when not promoting events, races cyclocross and gravel. At the 2018 Cyclocross Nationals she finished sixth, behind her doppelganger in name, Amanda Schaap. Masters Women 35-39. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

AS: It is certainly a challenging time to be an event organizer. There are so many unknowns, and there is simply no way to predict. Our strategy is to continue planning while paying close attention to all developing health guidelines and restrictions. Our goal is to of course bring the best Grinduro possible to Mt. Shasta, so we are remaining optimistic that we will be able to proceed as planned. We certainly don’t want to put anybody at risk, so we will only host Grinduro CA if it is deemed safe to do so by the appropriate authorities. We plan to reassess and make a final decision in mid-July, about two months prior to the event.

Race registration opens on May 12, and we are making an exception to our no refund policy in the event of cancellation due to COVID-19. Should the event need to be canceled, we will give the option to defer registration by one year, or receive a refund of the full registration fee, minus processing fees.

Ultimately, I am just focused on creating an event that gives everybody something positive to look forward to. I know people are eager to reunite with their gravel tribe for some good times together in the woods. Fingers crossed that we can do that in Mt. Shasta on September 12. Seriously everybody, cross your fingers, cross your toes, even cross your chains if it’ll help!

CXM: Grinduro has grown in popularity and expanded internationally. How many different events are there now, and anything exciting in the pipeline?

AS: It’s amazing how Grinduro has turned into this global phenomenon! When we started the event back in 2015, I don’t think any of us expected that Grinduro would be on multiple continents just a few years later. In 2020, there are six Grinduros around the world in Switzerland, Wales, Canada, USA, Japan, and Australia. I wish I could go to them all!

And heck yeah there is something exciting in the pipeline… Grinduro CA in Mt. Shasta!

CXM: Thanks for taking the time. 

AS: Thank you!

More info: grinduro.com/california