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A Race to Tri: The Jersey Gravel Triathlon

Have dirt, will gravel.


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Each magazine issue, we’ll be highlighting a race you might not know about. This month: the Jersey Gravel Triathlon.

USA Triathlon’s newly-announced gravel triathlon series kicks off just outside of New York this spring with the Jersey Gravel Triathlon—a part of Ready Set Go’s weekend of races. The new gravel tri race takes place May 15 at Wawaynda State Park in New Jersey.

Before you saddle up and hit the dirt, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind: What is gravel triathlon?

What: It’s like a mix of gravel cycling and off-road triathlon. “It’s kind of a marriage of the two,” said David Schwartz, head of Ready Set Go Adventures, which puts on a number of triathlons, gravel cycling events, and now a gravel triathlon.

The main difference when it comes to gravel tri is that the bike leg is far less technical than traditional off-road triathlon, like XTERRA. In Jersey, it’ll be raced over an 8.4-mile loop that’s over 80% unpaved roads and gravel paths. This means athletes can ride road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, gravel bikes, whatever bikes they have—just not time-trial bikes. Aerobars are banned in gravel tri.

Why: Don’t you want to be on the ground floor of something new(ish)? With the growth of gravel cycling, more and more athletes are hitting the relatively safe dirt roads for mixed terrain riding in what’s known as a funky and welcoming atmosphere.

“It really returns to the fun and the challenge and the uniqueness,” said Schwartz, who added gravel cycling events to his roster of races after he and his friends started doing more gravel riding and loved it.

While there have been a few gravel triathlons before, most notably in Michigan, the growth of gravel in the last few years has now seeped into the multisport world. The full USAT gravel triathlon series starts with the Jersey Gravel Tri in May and then includes eight more events in Colorado, Texas, California, Idaho, and Michigan—with a first-ever national championship race in Arkansas. (No qualification required.)

How: The Jersey Gravel Tri will include sprint- and Olympic-distance options, along with aquathlon and duathlon races. And the whole weekend also has off-road and kids’ races, as well as a gravel bike circuit if you just want to get your feet dirty and try gravel cycling.

Outside+ members get a discount on events on TriReg (including the Jersey Gravel Tri).

GET READY: How to Train for Gravel Triathlon