Dirt roads and open space provide perfect setting for a gravel race

Written by Garrett Dvorkin, Titusville Herald Staff Reporter, on Oct 11, 2021

Adam Diem has lived all over the world. As an endurance trainer and competitor, he has raced down roads in Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.S. west coast, the southwest and all along the east coast.

Two bike riders on country gravel road.
Diem rides in the Garmin Unbound in Emporia, Kansas in June, 2021, a 100-mile gravel race.

“I’ve ridden my bikes in 14 or 15 different countries,” said Diem.

No matter where his bike took him, every time he competed in the different wildernesses, Diem couldn’t help but think — “Titusville would be a prime place for races like these.”

Diem is now making that dream a reality, as he plans on bringing a gravel race to the City on May 21, 2022.

Gravel racing has become a popular category of cycling creating a niche in the endurance biking world.

“Gravel racing, in my opinion, is the fastest growing in our sport, both in the U.S. and Europe,” he said. “It has grown to the point where the races are bringing in more than 5,000 people to small towns across the country.”

Diem sees no reason why Titusville couldn’t be the next town to host one of these large races. “Titusville mimics all of those towns well,” he said.

Gravel racing is different from road racing where the course is part of the battle. Diem and his team won’t scour the course looking to fill in potholes or smooth out the gravel roads.

“Part of the fun is the adventure,” he said.

Pictured is the Jamison Run Road between Tionesta and Pleasantville. This road is an example of those that will be used in the Titusville gravel race.

Not only does Titusville have a plethora of these roads, it also has the landscape to back it up.

Diem said that the northwestern Pennsylvania terrain is perfect for a challenging race, with long steep climes, dense forests and winding creeks. One spot that Diem might use for the course, which hasn’t been finalized yet, is the Keyes Road climb. The road is a long climb at gradients around 17 to 20%. “It’s just prime for a race like this,” he said.

Diem wants to set up different loops that take riders on the area gravel roads taking them to oil heritage sites like Drake Well, McLintock Well, and Pithole. The routes, which he is thinking of having 100 miles, 60 miles, 30 miles and even a beginners 10-15 mile loop, would take riders around the region going all the way to Tidioute for the long loop.

Diem wants an endurance race in the area not only because of the roads, scenery and terrain that work so well, he also wants to highlight a place that means a lot to him.

Before going off to college, Diem spent his entire life in the Titusville area and wants to see the region thrive.

“Part of this is bringing something back to where I came from,” he said.

Diem has friends who have run the OC100 ultra-marathon hosted in Titusville. Bringing a bike race to town seemed to him like a logical next step.

“There is no reason Titusville couldn’t be a prime destination for endurance sports,” he said.

Diem is excited to bring the event to the greater Titusville area, but knows the event cannot succeed unless the residents really buy in.

“For the larger gravel events, the communities really get behind it,” he said.

Diem remembers participating in a gravel race in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas. He was out on a rural road, the type where neighbors can be separated by miles, when he saw a rancher at the end of his driveway.

“He looked like he had been standing out there all day,” said Diem. When riders got to the rancher’s driveway he had water, gatorade, fruit, anything they could want.

“I remember him thanking the riders being so grateful that they had come to his state, his little town,” he said. “That is what I want to create here, spirit, a culture.”

To foster some of the community involvement, Diem is letting Titusville have some say in the race. Starting this past Tuesday, Diem opened up a naming competition for his race.

“I’m looking for something that involves our local rich heritage,” said Diem. “I encourage everyone to be creative.”

He wants a name that will jump out and have people thinking “that name is awesome, I want to do that event.”

Diem also wants a short statement on why you feel the name is appropriate and cool. The winner will get a $100 Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce gift card. The runner up will get $50. All entries should be emailed to Oilvalleygravel@gmail.com

Besides the name, the logo will also have a local connection.

Diem has been in contact with Titusville High School. He wants the art students to design a logo for the race. He plans on having the logo designer receive a scholarship for their efforts.

After the logo has been chosen, Diem wants students every year to design the shirts for the event, to keep them involved.

Diem hopes that gravel racing will find a good home in Titusville. He wants the community to embrace the event, and wants the event to highlight the community.

While biking 30, 60 or 100 miles is a long way, Diem wants the community to really feel like this is their event.

Diem wants to create a mini loop for the residents so that they can see how amazing gravel racing is. He hopes that in May, when he gets to the starting line, that he sees lots of familiar faces.

“You don’t need a special bike or anything,” he said. As a coach for athletes, you can take his word for it.

The Titusville Herald website is no longer available. Content courtesy of the Internet Archive.