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The Real Chase Wark: Kwik Trip Donuts, the Spirit of Gravel, & His Last Minute 2024 Life Time Grand Prix

Chase Wark is a professional cyclist, endurance coach, and race director from Minnesota. He recently became a last minute addition to the 2024 Life Time Grand Prix. Here we pick his brain about Kwik Trip, his cycling goals, and what it was like to go all in on professional cycling.

Follow along with Chase Wark @chasethebiker or learn more about his coaching services and gravel events at Wark's Cycling Service.

Interview with Chase Wark:

How did you become a last minute addition to the 2024 Life Time Grand Prix?

Getting a last minute spot into the Life Time Grand Prix was a bit of a surprise to me. I was standing in line at a Subway and got a call from an unknown Minnesota phone number. I thought it was someone calling to ask a question about one of the gravel events I put on, but when I answered the person said “Hi, this is Bekah from Life Time” and I knew then I was going to get offered a spot.

I don’t know if it was the early season results I got (1st at Rock Cobbler, 2nd at Valley of Tears to Keegan, and 13th at BWR AZ) or if it was my application from 2023 that I submitted that got me the spot. I guess I could probably ask. Getting into the Grand Prix has made me change my schedule a lot. I was going to do a decent amount of local midwest races like I’ve always done, but now I’ll be mostly focused on training for the big races, traveling to them, and then recovering from the travel.

What do you hope to accomplish this year in the Life Time Grand Prix?

I have two goals for my season in the Grand Prix. My first goal is I hope to get a top 10 result at one of the races.

My second goal is I hope to get an invite back for 2025. It would be nice to know months in advance next time so I can plan out my season and my training better.

You're more of a gravel guy, right? How are you enjoying mountain biking and what was Sea Otter like?

I think I’m the most midwest gravel guy out there since I can’t handle a bike unless it’s a 90 degree turn, even then I struggle. Last year I actually bought a mountain bike to work on my skills a bit and so I could go on some fun off-road adventure routes in Winona. I don’t have a power meter on it so it’s a fun way to just enjoy riding with friends.

Going into Sea Otter though I had to practice on actual singletrack at race pace. I only did that for 2 weeks before Sea Otter so my skills were subpar compared to everyone else. I was just happy to not end up dead last out of the LTGP athletes.

Outside of the racing at Sea Otter, the expo was huge! Imagine the MN State Fair, but it’s all bike stuff. It was a fun way to connect with current sponsors and meet new ones!

What was it like quitting your job to pursue full time professional cycling?

Quitting my job was a huge leap of faith that somehow everything would work out. Everyone I talked to and asked for advice from all pretty much said the same thing, and that was that I would regret not chasing my dream. My family, wife, friends, and co-workers were all super supportive when I made the decision.

I feel even more busy nowadays that I don’t have a job.

I coach 30 athletes, run an Airbnb with my wife, and I host Granny’s Gravel Grinder, The Hotdish, plus the new Zinger MTB Race. There’s been a lot of learning from the highs and lows of everything, but I’m glad I made the decision to quit my job to become a full time bike racer.

I've seen some posts about you and the "spirit of gravel". What's that all about?

That’s mostly me just trolling with the folks who get upset that I tend to geek out over aero bike racing equipment.

They think somehow some dude riding a disc wheel is ruining the spirit of gravel, even though they’re getting upset at the event where they paid $300 to register, $1000 for hotel rooms, and had to ask their family to come out to the aid stations since the race doesn’t provide any support.

I only show up to those races since that’s where the big names show up to race. If I wanted to truly experience the spirit of gravel I would have my schedule full of events like Ragnorak, The DAMN, Filthy 50, Granny’s Gravel Grinder, Hungry Bear, and so many more small events that still offer amazing courses and support for a fraction of the price.

You seem like a big Kwik Trip fan. What do you like to get there?

I’m a big Kwik Trip fan and would love it if they sponsored me. I rode 480 miles only stopping at Kwik Trips in one day hoping they would see it and sponsor me, but I only got some stickers and a shirt.

I have two go to items when I stop at Kwik Trip. I usually get a Mega Buddy (44oz fountain drink) , half lemonade and half strawberry flavored mountain dew and I’ll sip some of it and then put the rest in my bottles. I’ll also get 2 glazer donuts. If I eat 3 I get an upset stomach, if I eat 2 I get more hungry for some reason.

Sometimes if I’m with a friend we will buy a box of donuts, eat 3 each, and then ride with upset stomachs for about an hour and regret the decision.

What's your proudest accomplishment on the bike so far?

I don’t have one specific moment that stands out. Most of the time when I’ve won a race I thought I could win going into the event, and I’ve never won a race where I thought I wouldn’t. I would have to say either my 2nd at Valley of Tears or my 2nd at Gravel Worlds last year (use code “Chase” to save $15 for this year’s registration) were my 2 best results.

Winning the DAMn on a road bike is also one of my proudest moments. That’s what made me fall in love with gravel actually.

The following year at The DAMn I proposed to my now wife and that is one of my favorite biking memories.

How did you decide to start your own gravel races and what's it like putting on events that you aren't a participant of?

The ideas came from thinking too much on my bike rides. For several months on my rides all I could think about was hosting events where I grew up and where I live now, and making the gravel events have a fun theme to them.

Before gravel events I hosted cyclocross events at my parents and always knew people loved the grassroots stuff. Gravel events are a lot less physical work than cyclocross events, but there is more planning involved and since we serve food that takes a lot of time to make.

I enjoy putting on the gravel events more because not everyone is racing.

At Granny’s this year we had several people do their first 100 miles and I think that’s super cool since you’ll never forget your first 100 mile ride.

When Life Time Grand Prix announced you, they said that one interesting fact about Chase is that he is from Winona, Minnesota. Is that really the most interesting thing about you?

I don’t know if I was tired when I sent that answer over that an interesting fact about me was that I live in Winona, MN or if they were just scrambling to find something so they added it. I don’t know what interesting fact I would add.

Maybe that my two front teeth are fake or that I’ve drank half a gallon of root beer on a bike ride once??

I don’t really know. I don’t have any special talents or any interests that are too out of the ordinary I feel like.

Maybe I’ll ask my wife what’s quirky about me and I can get it added when they print new cards.




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