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Coon Fork 40 Recap & Gallery: The Double Rainbow of Beachside Gravel Adventures

The inaugural Coon Fork 40 recently took place on Aug 26. The beach-to-beach gravel adventure saw perfect weather and a huge turnout of 275 people for our first year. Check out a behind the scenes recap and gallery of photos here.

Learn more at The Coon Fork 40.

Photos by:

Branden Nall: Website and Instagram.

Michael Lundebrek: Website and Instagram.

Taking a Risk On a Unique Style of Gravel Event

The Nxrth got to collaborate on the recent Coon Fork 40 with CORBA Trails and Volume One. We've never had a gravel race and didn't know what to expect plus Eau Claire area gravel isn't widely known as a hotspot. Nick Meyer, founder of Volume One and a CORBA board member, pitched the idea in early summer and the energy in the Eau Claire cycling community started to accelerate.

Nick's vision for a full-northwoods gravel event that was more party than race started to take shape and the idea of a beach-to-beach adventure with two lakeside parties seemed too fun to pass on. I was personally really attracted to it because of Nick's goal to bring everyone out whether or not you have a gravel bike and whether or not racing is your style. He wanted it to be an accessible environment where family and friends could join the fun even if they didn't ride the race.

When I saw the website, photos, and the story he was creating around the event, I knew it was going to be really special. As race day got closer, the forecast for a normally hot August was looking like low 70s with a perfectly light breeze; amazing!

Registrations quickly flew past 100 and it started to look like race day might even see nearly 200 people. During the week leading up to the event, people kept flooding in and with onsite registration, they event saw 275 total people show up en masse putting their trust in this new event ready to cross the hidden waterfall bridge together and join us for the adventure.

CORBA, the local trails organization, was incredible. An army of volunteers came together for several days assembling tents, putting together signs, coordinating food, managing parking, getting the word out, and a whole bunch more. It was amazing to see how much heart our local cycling community put into the event. Without them, the event wouldn't have become what it was.

Enjoy the photos and a little recap of the first year and then add The Coon Fork 40 into your 2024 gravel plan.

The Hidden Waterfall Bridge Rollout

All three distances of 29, 45, and 88 rolled out from the hidden waterfall bridge at their separate times. The weather was just about the best imaginable riding conditions. The highs for the day were in the low 70s with a light breeze throughout the race.

The old wooden bridge greeted all riders with the waterfall on the right side as we approached the start line. After rolling off the bridge with the other Short Course riders, we carved through a grassy path in the woods until we reached the gravel roads and began the 5-mile warmup section along Horse Creek Rd.

Riding Together on 3 Intersecting Courses

My wife and I rode the short course, 29 miles. What I love about riding this area is how much the trees and gravel types change every few miles no matter where you are. We spent 5 miles on Horse Creek road that snakes through towering pines without any major climbs. After connecting on the paved County H, we landed on one of my favorite sections of punch ATV track. It passes through dark, tight forests and log piles before spitting you out on Butler Forest Road.

At that point, you're on 2 lanes of gravel with 7 fun rolling hills. We synced up with some new faces from La Crosse and chatted for a while knowing we were closing in on the Halfway Hang pretty soon in Rock Dam.

Beach 1: The Halfway Hang

It was a blast getting to intersect with all 3 race courses at the Halfway Hang. The start times were staggered so that the beach in Rock Dam was roughly halfway through everybody's course and you got to check in with friends doing other distances.

Eric the Fox from Embark Maple was shoveling their incredible maple syrup out to everyone who needed some good energy. They also had elderberry maple syrup mixed with water on tap where you could use it like an energy drink. Good friends from SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar were also on site with cold press and waffles.

It was a good thing I wasn't racing because I didn't want to leave the Halfway Hang. Friends kept coming and going and it was a beautiful spot to share stories.

Beach 2: The Finish Line Party

After the second leg of the ride, we rolled back through the grassy chute to the hidden waterfall bridge where we started and crossed the finish line. My wife and I hugged it out, cheered on a few other finishers, ran into our friends Kate and Erik and then we slowly rolled together to the finish line party at the second beach.

CORBA rolled out the red carpet at the finish line party. There was a huge tent with tons of food and drinks. There were standing tables to banter with friends, bean bags, merch, and music. Riders hung out for several hours. Non-riding friends and families came to hang out and it was just a perfect picture of the gravel community.

We were all at the lake. Bikes were everywhere. There was unlimited food and drinks. It was a GREAT time.

Keep an eye out for The 2024 Coon Fork 40

With a successful year behind us, we'll be looking to make plans for a 2024 event. Keep an eye on the Coon Fork 40 website and follow CORBA on Facebook to stay updated and join us next year.




Plan a New Gravel Adventure

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