WA's fast-expanding gravel cycling scene will see a major new event set among the blooming wildflowers in the rising gravel hotspot in the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu.
Hundreds of riders will hit the roads and trails around Ballidu this Saturday, September 23 as Bike it to Ballidu Gravel slots into the calendar as a major event this year, alongside similar events - Seven in Margaret River and Backroads Gravel in Geraldton/Chapman Valley.
Bike it to Ballidu Gravel will feature four rides of 12 kilometres, 30km, 85km and 155km and will include novelty sections such as a mud pit, fancy dress, a lively event village, all wrapping up with a licensed after party.
Someone who has already checked ou the course is ex-triathlete and road cycling pro Cassia Boglio, who will represent Australia at the Gravel World Championships in Italy next month after placing third in the Gravel Nationals in Tasmania in June.
The 23-year-old will contest the 155km loop, saying it "is going to be a really good hit out before I go overseas but also for everyone here in WA to do another big event - it's pretty exciting".
She said the course was different to anything that was around Perth or down south.
"The terrain's a bit different and the gravel variety they have there is not so common," Ms Boglio said.
"Gravel is super inclusive - it's pretty cool that everyone can race together from pro gravel racers to people doing it for the very first time and just giving it a go."
"And Ballidu is not too far from Perth - it'll be a good day out for everybody involved."
Bike it to Ballidu Gravel has emerged from the Bike it to Ballidu asphalt ride that has run annually between Wongan Hills and Ballidu since 1999 - being under threat due to road safety concerns.
With the support of the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the Ballidu Progress Group and WestCycle, Bike it to Ballidu Gravel was born, utilising some of the 1000 kilometres of gravel roads, firebreaks, sand and clay tracks that exist in the area.
With local farmers getting behind the event, a lot of the courses will be on private farm tracks and roads.
Thornlie MP and keen gravel cyclist Chris Tallentire is backing the event.
"What a great concept - getting people out to our regions and at a time of year where you have canola and wildflowers blooming," Mr Tallentire said.
"Gravel riding is booming and we have the Gravel World Championships coming to WA in 2026 and the investment in gravel is coming along to rival that of mountain biking.
"It's all very exciting for cycling and for the State."
WestCycle chief executive officer Wayne Bradshaw said Bike it to Ballidu Gravel represented the kind of inclusive cycling event that mirrored WestCycle's core mission to have more people riding bikes more often.
"We are excited to be onboard with an event that really does offer something for everyone on roads and trails they may have not ridden before," Mr Bradshaw said.
"E-bikers are welcome too.
"As WA's peak body for cycling, being onboard with gravel deepens our involvement across the bike riding spectrum and we're really looking forward to the weekend."
Two riders giving it a go are long-time tandem cycling buddies Anthony Collier, 65, and 64-year-old Adriana Lepore - who will tackle the 85km ride on their trusty titanium steel steed, the Kerminator.
"All the wildflowers will be out - it'll be fantastic," said Mr Collier who will be steering as Ms Lepore is vision-impaired.
She relies on her other senses - plus Anthony's verbal descriptions - to render the landscapes they pass through.
"We love these events - it's great for the tandem community - it's great for vision-impaired," Ms Lepore said.
It's great to get out there and participate.
"We reckon we might be the first and last tandem across the line," Mr Collier said.
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