Most people start humming that famous U2 song when they hear the words “Where the streets have no name.” Dutch gravel riders, however, think of something completely different—the famous Where The Streets Have No Name (WTSHNN) gravel event. The once-small gravel event has grown over the last couple of years but despite this growth, the team never lost sight of what a true gravel event should look like (i.e., great riding, like-minded bike lovers, food, and post ride beers by the fire). Not only has the event grown, but now it’s even gone international!
Despite the fact that traveling is still somewhat troublesome, WTSHNN chose to take its famous gravel party to the French Alps, to the town of Puy-Saint-Vincent. The town lies on the sun-covered mountain flanks near Briançon and famous climbs like the Izoard and the Galibier. It was, however, not these two bad boys that we would tackle on our long weekend away from home, but instead, gravel was to be ground (or should that be grinded?) Although, gravel?
The first thing you notice when riding your gravel bike in the Alps is that the terrain is a whole lot different compared to Northern European gravel and forest roads. Even the German Schutter roads of the mountainous Black Forest are smooth sailing in comparison to the rocky French mountain roads we found ourselves riding upon during the first day after we arrived.
Rocky mountain trails and paths are obviously the perfect terrain for mountain bikes. I mean, what’s in a name right? But also #underbiking the terrain on our gravel bikes made for a whole lot of fun! I’ve been riding a Cannondale Topstone Lefty gravel bike for the last couple of months and never before had I felt so happy that I added a 40mm suspension fork to my bike. When going downhill, this little bike tweak made riding so much easier and more fun. It’s funny how gravel bikes have evolved to be really good at basically everything. Riding on smooth gravel or even tarmac? Check! Shredding down a rocky mountain path, tackling singletrack? Also, check!
The event itself was everything we expected from the True Grit organisers—a great stay at the bike-friendly Saint Roch hotel, great food, happy people riding gravel bikes, a beautiful ride (like really beautiful), and obviously post ride beers by the fire, now combined with a fierce game of petanque because…when in France. Despite the main ride only being 65km in length, the climbing and great lunch with a view made up for that smaller number, turning the ride into an all-day affair.
As with a lot of overnight gravel events, there was a hangover ride on Sunday. Together with a small group of people, we rode down the mountain in search of coffee which turned into a Coke at the local boulangerie because of the heat. It was the perfect conclusion to a perfect gravel event in the Alps.