WAUSAU – The 3rd annual Red Granite Grinder featured more riders, including women, than ever before. The percentage of women participating climbed from 15% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, and 25% in 2021. Women proved that they can conquer a gritty course, including a trio of women finishing the 144 mile ride within the 12.5 hour cutoff.
As Johanna Ficatier crossed the finish line, she immediately collapsed to the ground. “My mantra through the ride was, ‘Just keep moving,'” said Ficatier. “It is hard, but not impossible and I know more women will come and finish this course probably faster than I did, but I’m really glad to have the honor of being the first ever official finisher.”
At the finish line, not a single racer claimed the event was easy. Riders battled up to 17-mile-per-hour headwinds on the hilly terrain blanketed in fall colors. Coined as “Xtreme Gravel,” the course took riders off roads and into featured sections such as Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau School Forest, Nine Mile Recreation Area, Edgar’s Scotch Creek Woodland Preserve, and several private lands.
Racers came from eleven states, including Matti Rowe from Colorado, the overall 144-mile winner. “IRONBULL’s Red Granite Grinder is the best gravel race in the nation you’ve never heard of,” Rowe said. “Climbs, singletrack, ATV trails and miles and miles of the good red granite every gravel racer dreams of. But the best part is the event itself. Volunteers are amazing, aid stations stocked, and the organization is smooth. I’ve been to all the big gravel events this year and Red Granite Grinder had everything they do and more.”
Racers from far and near found the event appealing. Local Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC) president, Aaron Ruff, had his wife and two young children cheer as he passed his house on the course. “The race is brutal but worth it,” said Ruff. “The route links together some of the most unique and scenic off-road segments in our community. I felt like I was on a grand tour of Marathon County.”
Wausau’s mayor, Katie Rosenberg, started nearly hundreds of riders at dawn in the heart of downtown Wausau, several of whom continued into the evening. Despite two broken chains, Manning Penk continued on into the darkness, ultimately on a borrowed bike from fellow rider Chris Schotz. Although arriving at the 400 Block after the official course close, Penk is still proud of his accomplishment competing in his first ever bike race.
The Red Granite Grinder featured 12, 50, 85, and 144-mile ride options with riders ranging in age from 6 to 75. Many riders such as Penk were new to the sport of gravel bike racing, but got hooked.
IRONBULL’s next event, the Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge – Winter Edition, features more adventure on bikes. Teams of 1 to 4 work together snowshoeing, biking, trekking, and partaking in winter challenges using a map and compass to guide their way through the course in the dead of winter.
High resolution or more pictures may be provided upon request.
Kendall Park rides over one of many bridges at Edgar’s Scotch Creek Woodland Preserve on her way to finishing the 144 mile route. Photo credit: Coates Photography
Racers encountered hills, singletrack, ATV trails, and even a river crossing as part of the Red Granite Grinder. Photo credit: Coates Photography
Johanna Ficatier (left) became the first 144 mile women’s finisher, with 25% of the Red Granite Grinder field women. Photo credit: Coates Photography
Matti Rowe, 144 mile winner, carries his bike on a mile hike-a-bike atop Rib Mountain. Photo credit: Coates Photography
IRONBULL is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that promotes outdoor adventure sports in Central Wisconsin. IRONBULL aims to drive economic development, benefit community organizations, and attract and retain a talented work force through the production of high quality races and events that promote healthy living in our community.