Gravel Secrets of the Pros

Gravel Secrets of the Pros

Kasper Asgreen rode his way into the pantheon of greats with his victory at the Tour of Flanders this spring. At 26 years of age, still growing into his profession, he has won one of cycling’s five monuments. There is no substitute for long hours in the saddle, year after year, when chasing victories on the grand stage. There is no easy road. Dedication. Sacrifice. Suffering. Five- and six-hour rides, day after day, year after year, have honed his body into a cobble smashing machine. But even dedication has its limits. Even the most seasoned pro can tire of the endless kilometers in the saddle. That’s why Kasper has a secret weapon—his gravel bike.

Cycling is Kasper’s job, but he’s fallen in love with gravel for all the same reasons the rest of us have—the exploration, the fun, the friends, the thrill. Not coincidentally, a big serving of gravel also happens to be the ideal way to turn five hours in the saddle into a blur of mud, sweat, and good times. We caught up with Kasper recently to get a glimpse inside his head, and ask him about his love of gravel.

Roval: Kasper, what does your training routine look like on the road? How many hours do you spend in the saddle?

Kasper Asgreen: There will be some endurance days where you're just doing your kilometers, five-, six-hour rides. When I'm building up towards my peak shape, usually around 28 to 30 hours in a week. So, it can be some long days out there in the saddle, but you've got to do it.

R: Does it get monotonous on the road, burning so many hours on such long rides?

KA: Yeah. I'm the kind of guy who loves to ride his bike, but I also feel like after two, three, maybe four hours, then I rode my bike that day, you know? But sometimes, that's just not enough. Sometimes after three hours, you're only halfway through, and then you gotta get it done if you want to perform when you reach the big races.

R: Has gravel been something that you gravitated to as a training tool because of this?

KA: Yeah, gravel has really come into my training regimen in the last couple of years. A couple of my friends back home started to ride a lot of gravel. They came from the mountain bike, but they didn't want to take the risk anymore with drops and all that, so they switched to gravel. It’s just a super fun way to mix up the riding and get some of those base kilometers done in a different way than what I've been doing in the last ten years. Right from the beginning, I really liked it, and it's just gotten more and more enjoyable the last couple of years.

R: One of the things riders are loving about gravel is the exploration, finding new roads right in their backyard. Is that a part of it for you?

KA: Yeah, for sure. I've been spending so much time on Strava and making loops, finding little gravel roads. I've been riding the roads around my home for so long. I know every corner of every single tarmac road, but suddenly there's this whole network of roads that opens up. I'm still exploring, like almost every time we're out, we find a new road. “We have to ride here! We have to try this!” We're all looking, and we're always exploring new stuff.

And the technical aspect of it, the surface is a bit more challenging. Like the cobble classics as well, I love riding on more technically challenging surfaces. I found the same in gravel riding. The wheels sliding a little bit. It's good fun, especially with all the mud we have back home in Denmark.

S: Those rides with your friends sound more like fun than business as usual training.

KA: Being out with my gravel group at home, it's really fun because most of them are former professionals. A lot of them used to do mountain bike, cyclocross, stuff like that. They're really skilled off-road. They don't have the same condition anymore, so often when we're just riding, they're on my wheel, but as soon as it gets more technical, then they're flying around my ears because they have that technique, right from when they were little kids, and I've always been on the road. And then I fly past them again once it comes more down to the power. And then, yeah, we're having fun with that, at least the first few hours, then they usually get a bit tired!

Follow along as Kasper chases World Tour glory with Deceuninck-Quick-Step and gravel fun with his friends; check out @k_asgreen on Instagram.

Danish Gravel: Kasper Asgreen Style 

This 70-mile route in Denmark is one of Kasper’s favorites. Two-thirds dirt, with 2180’ of elevation, Kasper and friends knock it out in about four hours. The rest of us can expect to take somewhat longer…

Starting in the city center of Kolding, the ride begins with long, flat gravel sections perfect for pushing big power. At the halfway mark, the route gets a bit more hilly before finishing off with some technical singletrack. 

But it’s a gravel ride, so have no fear; at the halfway mark is a great cafe and bakery at a farmer’s market called "Bindeballe Købmandsgård".  If you ride this loop, you just may see Kasper and friends choosing from the huge selection of cakes and sipping a coffee as they take a break along the route. Pro tip: try one of the  "smørrebrød" - famous Danish open-faced sandwiches - to fuel up for the rest of the ride.

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