At a meeting March 29th at the Peoples Bank in Pratt, Race Director Eric Sutter introduced attendees to information about the Open Range Gravel Race, a 200K (126 miles) and 100K (68 miles) bicycle race to be held April 28th.

Plans are being finalized for an exciting new event to be held in South Central Kansas toward the end of April.

At a meeting March 29th at the Peoples Bank in Pratt, Race Director Eric Sutter introduced attendees to information about the Open Range Gravel Race, a 200K (126 miles) and 100K (68 miles) bicycle race to be held April 28th.

Sutter, who currently lives in Paola, said he considers Pratt to be his home town, as he grew up here and went to Pratt High. His father was minister at the Presbyterian Church for a number of years. Sutter is a military veteran who was representing Kaw Sports LLC, a veteran-owned company that exists ‘to enhance the endurance racing community in Kansas.’

The race will travel through the High Plains and Gyp Hills of South Central Kansas, beginning in Lemon Park, and proceeding through Sun City and Medicine Lodge before returning to Pratt. (100K racers will return to Pratt from Sun City through Lake City without going to Medicine Lodge.)

According to Sutter, the popularity of Gravel (unpaved road) Bicycle Racing has grown exponentially in the past decade. Kansas and the Midwest are well-known in the cycle racing community. One of the most famous examples is the Dirty Kanza race in Emporia that hosts around 2500 racers in four events.

There are upwards of 250 spots reserved so far for the Open Range Race, split roughly evenly between the 200K and 100K events.

According to Sutter, the purpose of the event is to establish an Endurance Gravel Cycle Race that showcases the beauty of the Kansas High Plains and Red Hills (Gyp Hills), brings communities together, promotes the sport of endurance cycling, and gives back to local charities. The primary beneficiary of proceeds from the event will be the Pratt Public School Foundation, but non-profits in the other involved communities will also see some benefit. It is hoped the event can grow to become an annual one.

For participants, the goal is to provide endurance cycle racers with a unique experience that is mentally and physically challenging, and make them eager to race again while supporting a local charity.

Sutter stressed that endurance racing in not just for “professional” bicyclists. “There are all shapes and sizes of people in the field,” he said. “ ‘Average’ people actually make up the majority of the participants.”

In the competitive 200K race, there will be several categories: Men’s open, women’s open, master men (50+), master women (40+), and different bicycle types. Awards will be presented to the top 3 finishers in each class, as well as medals, glasses and T-shirts to all racers.

The 100K is non-competitive, with no prizes being awarded, but medals, glasses and T-shirts will be given to participants.

As far as benefits to the sponsoring communities, Sutter said “Gravel Races are an outstanding way to showcase what the area has to offer. They create citizen involvement and lead to a more fit community by offering a healthy activity people prepare for year round.” And that is in addition to the benefit to the local charities.

“Participants stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants providing an economic boost to the community,” he added. Bicyclists from as far away as Montana and Florida have reserved spots. Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona will be represented as well, so there will definitely be overnighters here spending money.

There are quite a few logistics involved in pulling off an event of this magnitude, and cooperation from City and County law enforcement entities, as well as local civic, economic and community leaders will be required to make the event a success. But the stakeholders assembled at the Thursday Peoples’ Bank meeting seemed confident and cooperative, and it looks like the Open Range Gravel Race should be a big success.

For further clarification, contact information includes www.kawsports.com; www.facebook.com/openrange200k; and www.bikereg.com/openrange .