Jesse Thomas at Rebecca's Private Idaho

September 12, 2019

Jesse Thomas at Rebecca's Private Idaho

Subtract the swim (hallelujah!), swap the TT bike for some wide tires and bars, and do the only running of the day to get to the beer tent at the finish. Gravel racing sure is a change of pace compared to long distance triathlon, which was a welcomed shift for our CEO Jesse Thomas, a pro triathlete currently on an Ironman break.

Rebecca's Private Idaho is called "one of the Top 5 Gravel Events in the world" and for good reason. Watch Jesse's video recap of the race to see what makes it so great, and take a look at the tips and tricks for other gravel first-timers in the Q + A below.



Q + A with the French Fry Champion!

(RPI has three race courses: "Baked Potato" (100mi), "French Fry" (56mi), and "Tater Tot" (20mi))

What does your cycling race day nutrition look like?

2 hour before race: 2 pouches (600+ calories) of Game Set Matcha Performance Oatmeal (the little bit of caffeine helps get things moving...)

During race: Water + NUUN Endurance, one Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar about 60 min in, another at 2 hours

Cool down/recovery: Need for Seed Picky Bar 

How does the culture in gravel racing compare to triathlon?

Way more chill, though it depends on the triathlon. Before the race it was so much more relaxed, but you also aren't worrying about setting up a transition zone and wave starts and everything else. It was a good group of people, some of whom were there to compete, but a lot of whom were there to have fun. It reminded me a little bit of Wildflower because of the overall vibe, and because of a lot of dirt! It's a good scene. Lots of mustaches.  

Rebeccas Private Idaho group Jesse Thomas Recap

Race Director Rebecca Rusch addresses the riders pre-race

You raced in the intermediate/Cat 2/“French fry” race. What was it like stepping out of the expert category?

It was nice, ha! I knew I could probably ride 100 miles (the distance of the expert ("baked potato" race), like physically make it across the finish line, but given how little I've been riding coming back from injury I knew it wouldn't be fun to do that. It was nice to do a ~3 hr hard effort, which was about the most I've ridden this summer. The vibe was really chill at the front of the race, but it was competitive also. People were working hard but respectful. Good times. 

Honestly, did you think there was a chance you would win?

Knowing that the pros and most of the "serious" cyclists would be in the bigger race, I thought there might be a chance. But you never know who's going to show up, and/or what it would be like for me to be riding a gravel bike. The race was actually a lot closer than what the results say, as the only other guy who was with me with 15 miles to go actually flatted and was taken out of the race. Had he not flatted, I think the last climb would have been pretty tough. It was tough alone anyway!

You need a significant less amount of stuff for gravel vs tri. Is that how you forgot your warmups?

Ha, yes. That and when you're traveling with kids in your car to a race you're borrowing a bike for you just don't really feel like you're "racing." It felt more like a group ride or something and I honestly just spaced. But in a pinch jeans are a great solution.

Jesse Thomas Flat Bruce Rebecca's Private Idaho

The necessities for gravel racing (baby optional) - at least 300% less than triathlon!

Any lessons learned for fellow first time gravel racers?

I really enjoyed the vibe of the event, it was a ton of fun. Biggest lesson was that a real gravel bike does actually make a lot of difference. I'd been riding dirt rides on an old cyclocross bike from my Specialized days, and the guys at Niner let me use one of their gravel bikes for the race. The wider tires and handlebars, different geometry and gearing was really nice. It made the day way more comfortable than I thought it would be. 

In ten words or less, why should someone consider doing RPI?

Fun. Social. Challenging. Beautiful. Dirty. Makes you feel good. Beer.



Shop Jesse's Race Day Nutrition:



Pre-race breakfast:

Game, Set, Matcha
Performance Oatmeal


Mid-race fuel:

Smooth Caffeinator
Picky Bar


Post-race recovery snack:

Need for Seed
Picky Bar