STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) — If there is one place someone probably would not have to worry about COVID-19, it would have to be here on Payne County Road Number 68.
“We are south and west of Stillwater,” says avid gravel bicyclist Bobby Wintle. “It’s my favorite road of, basically, the roads in all three counties that surround Stillwater.”
Back in 2012, he invited a few friends to ride with him on a 100-mile circuit that would eventually become the Mid-South 100 Race.
It’s an often grueling, but super fun event that could see more than 3,000 participants navigating this kind of terrain over a single weekend in March.
“It’s crazy,” he says. “We’ve blown up. We are now an internationally recognized brand.”
He and his wife own the District Bicycle Shop in downtown Stillwater, a place that specializes in the kind of bikes made for dirt and gravel.
Despite the climate of a health scare and the prospect of a rainy weekend, the city was still preparing to close streets.
Vendors were setting up. We even found participants from as far away as Quebec, Canada already here and unafraid.
“24 hours of driving has brought us to much warmer, clearer weather,” he says. “We’re excited.”
Wintle and his race caught the wave of a new facet of bike riding, which is a cross between mountain paved road disciplines.
Gravel roads tend to carry less traffic. The scenery is pretty. Wintle argues, above all, that it’s inclusive.
“The whole culture behind it is that everyone can do it.”
At Mid-South riders don’t challenge each other so much as the course itself.
Wintle recorded some recent videos of the gnarliest sections. And if the course is muddy, watch out.
He warns, “We push people through some of the nastiest, craziest, red dirt, backcountry, wild, sometimes private roads, and when they get wet they become impassible.”
But ride they will.
The spectator crowds might be way down, and Bobby will have to hold off hugging each and every rider who crosses the finish line.
“This is the first year we are forgoing that,” he admits.
But for healthy people, in the open air, this is one event still ready to take on whatever comes.
The 2020 Mid-South 100 race takes place March 13 and 14.
‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.