A few weeks back we crossed paths with Amanda “Panda” Nauman while a Gravel event to get her thoughts on gravel and how she got into it. Amanda has begun to make a name for herself in the Gravel scene as she’s a two time winner of the notorious Dirty Kanza 200 and has won the Belgian Waffle Ride as well. Supporting Amanda in this new direction of Gravel are Muscle Monster, Niner Bikes, Orange Seal and SDG Components.
Everybody seems to have a different story on how they moved into the Gravel scene, whats your story?
Well I used to be heavily into Cyclocross so that is where it all began. I never raced on the road. I raced triathlons and then started racing cross once I began working at Felt because my co – workers were into it. The gravel for me kind of just happened because it’s a good transition to do long base miles for cross season during the spring/summer time. It more or less started because I wanted to get long rides in so I would sign up for these longer events and I just started doing well. I was a swimmer growing up so I’ve always had a bit of engine there from a young age with swimmers having to train like crazy. I just fell in love with gravel with the concept of going hard for long periods of time because it reminds me of going hard in the pool and just focusing on the black line at the bottom of the pool.
What types of differences have you noticed going from cross events to gravel events now?
The biggest difference is the mass start. Coming from a women’s side starting with the men on the start is a very big deal. It’s also very different for women because having that mass start it is like a full blown cross race for the first hour. That’s how I really break it down because you almost have a cross race for the first hour and then you basically hang on for the rest of the event and see where you end up. It’s very different but very fun because I enjoy a more steady pace for a longer time.
Looking at your past Gravel events which ones stand out as a highlight for you?
Dirty Kanza first comes to mind because thats basically the most prestigious gravel event in the country. Here at Dirty Reiver in the U.K. this is also a big high lite because it’s my first time traveling international for a Gravel event. The venue and course for Dirty Reiver was beautiful and Gravel takes on so many different forms and every race/ride you do is going to be completely different. Thats one of the great aspects to Gravel riding. There’s dirt, big rocks, small rocks and even Gravel over in a different country is much different. It’s a lot of fun and part of the fun is that your not quite sure what your going to get. There’s always something different and it’s not the same parks for cross or roads for road races. Those types of events more or less have the same courses. There’s always a different challenge when it comes to Gravel.
How do you see the current growth & implosion of Gravel right now?
It’s awesome and it’s very anti USA cycling because it’s very anti “racer.” It’s more just your average Joe who wants to ride and have a great challenge and that’s where Gravel is perfect. The reason why it’s growing is because your not signing up for some dumb criterium where your going to race in circles in an industrial park and the risk level is high because you falling down due to someone else’s mistake is much higher. That’s one thing about Gravel is that if you crash there’s probably a 90% chance that it was your fault. Your in control of the situation and that’s a topic that I’ve talked to a lot of people about where they complain about not liking road racing because of all the crashes which are out of their control. On the Gravel though it’s my responsibility to whatever happens to me and so that is really fun part o fit which I enjoy. I think people enjoy being able to go out and have a good time without having to worry about racing as hard as they can for little in return.