The first Open Range Gravel Race at Pratt was a resounding success. Race director and former Pratt Resident Eric Sutter was pleased with the 281 registered riders for the 100k and 200k event.

Editor’s note: Eric Sutter, former Pratt resident and race director for the Open Range Gravel Race, provided this story about the event that took place in Pratt on April 28. Sutter is a member of the Army National Guard and planned this event while serving in Kuwait.

By Eric Sutter

Special to the Tribune

Saturday, April 28, 2018 the first Open Range Gravel Race was held in Pratt. As some may know, “gravel racing” is a type of bicycle racing that takes riders on mostly back roads or “B” roads and through some amazing terrain. The 2018 Open Range Gravel Race started in Pratt at 8 a.m. and traveled 200 kilometers (126 miles) from Pratt, through Coats, Sun City, Medicine Lodge, Isabel, and Sawyer before returning to Pratt and the finish line at Lemon Park. The course varied with the majority of the roads a sandy gravel variety.

There were three sections of the course where riders experienced private ranch roads rarely seen by the general public. 281 riders signed up to ride the 200 km and 100 km races. These racers came from 10 different states including: Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Florida, and Kansas, Sutter said.

The date of April 28, 2018 was selected in November 2017 and at the time, we were unaware of any other events on the calendar except for the Skyline reunion. Fast forward a few months and we became aware of the gymnastic and baseball tournaments as well. We knew Pratt would be a busy place but had no doubt the citizens in the area could show our racers the best of Western Kansas and small town hospitality.

To turn this “dream” into a reality was no easy feat and there are many people to thank. Along with the racers who registered, we’d like to thank Legend’s Pub and Grille as the title sponsor. In addition, the sponsorship and volunteer effort put forth from The People’s Bank was incredible. Every time we needed manpower, they came through, Sutter said.

Sutter gave responsibility of organizing the volunteer to the Pratt Public School Foundation who also took care of the overwhelming number of riders that registered for the event.

“I couldn’t have done this without the school foundation and The Peoples Bank,” Sutter said.

Other sponsors and volunteers who supported us were: Pratt Chamber of Commerce, Jordan Clark with Waddell and Reed Financial Advisors, Trek Bicycles, Bikes and More, Doug Reh Chevrolet, Stanion Electric, The Father’s House of Worship, Gyp Hills Guest Ranch, Hammer Nutrition, Chamois Butt’r, Family Food Store, N’Cahoots Coffee, and Ascension Lutheran Church.

“Without these generous sponsors and volunteers, this event wouldn’t have been possible. We also thank Pratt Recreation and Pratt Parks Department for their tremendous effort. We also had live music provided by Fiddlin’ ‘Round, Lane Haas, and Aaron Traffas Band,” Sutter said.

After the race, we had the opportunity to talk to several of the racers and their families. One consistent comment we received was how great our volunteers and the community were. This race was a success because of the hard work of many in the local community. People loved to come to Pratt and many stayed at least one if not two nights in local hotels.

We were able to raise $5,000 towards the Pratt Public School Foundation due to the success of the Open Range Gravel Race. The riders loved the terrain and many have told us they look forward to returning next year. The idea sprouted from a desire I had to ride my bike from Pratt down through the Gyp Hills and back. Once I started to research a route, I realized we could try and turn this into a race for others to enjoy. One of the greatest joys I had was listening to racers tell me about their experience and how they did not know there was terrain like this in Kansas.

“Thank you to all who helped and supported our race. We look forward to providing another great experience next year,” Sutter said.