A group of racers, gravel enthusiasts and race promoters have introduced the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame as a way to preserve the history of gravel cycling.

According to a written release, the hall of fame was “established to recognize and celebrate those who explore, endure, overcome, and inspire us all in the sport of gravel cycling.”

The organization is dedicated to preserving the stories of those individuals who have been so instrumental in creating an environment that allowed gravel cycling to flourish. In addition to honoring people, there are future plans for a physical museum space to be housed in Emporia.

“This really came out from my time with UNBOUND Gravel and we were always contemplating ways to honor and recognize our event champions; the winners of the race each year,” said LeLan Dains, a member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame advisory board. “You’ve probably seen things like the champions banners that go on the light poles on Commercial Street, there was even talks from some community members about wanting to do some type of a rock sculpture monument that would have a plaque with the names on it.”

Dains said it was almost inevitable that a hall of fame recognizing the early pioneers and innovators in the sport would come into play as gravel continued to grow around the world.

The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame received a founding sponsorship from Shimano and is seeking additional industry sponsors and personal donors. Donations will be used to help honor the 2022 class of inductees and establish a physical museum space in Emporia dedicated to showcasing the history and innovation of gravel cycling.

“Being a founding member on this advisory board for the hall of fame, certainly, it was my prerogative that it’d be here in Emporia,” Dains said. “I’m very fortunate that I don’t think anyone, not the other members of the advisory committee nor anyone in the gravel world, would deny that Emporia was the right home.”

That was the message he heard from “dozens of people” that he spoke with about the venture.

“Of course it needs to be in Emporia,” he said. “Emporia today is already recognized as the gravel capital of the universe. I think everyone was very understanding and accepting. There were no voices saying that it needed to be anywhere else.”

Dains said the goal is to have a physical hall of fame exhibit on display by the 2023 edition of UNBOUND Gravel. Nominations for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame are open to the public, meaning anyone can submit a nomination — with the permission of the nominee.

“It is important that you get the permission of that person or their representatives, if they’re not with us anymore,” Dains said. “The last thing we want is for someone to be nominated and they’re not wanting that on or not wanting to be a part of that.”

Six categories have been established to serve as a guide for the “types of riders and community members” who should be considered for nomination. The categories include promoters, athletes, innovators, volunteers, routeurs and storytellers. Dains said the categories are meant to serve as a guide, but the nominations and inductions are meant to be merit-based.

“We’ve got promoters of the events, the event organizers, were kind of the first innovators of the sport that started to give a platform for this thing called gravel,” Dains said. “Of course, second to that would be the athletes who showed up and participated in those events.”

Innovators, Dains said, are “industry-type people” who helped develop the first modern gravel race bikes.

“In the early days it was all Frankenstein cyclocross bikes and Frankenstein mountain bikes modified to try and work on gravel,” he said.

It makes sense, he said, to honor those who made it possible to have a more comfortable gravel ride.

Volunteers are the “unsung heroes and heroines” of the industry who work behind the scenes to make events happen. Routeurs are those who created courses to ride — some of which have become famous.

Finally, storytellers are the ones who have helped spread the word of gravel cycling.

“We couldn’t have this sport without the people that were instrumental in sharing the stories, creating the books of gravel and the magazine publications,” Dains said. “We’re dedicating more pages to UNBOUND Gravel than to the Tour de France. That was all very instrumental in bringing the attention the awareness to the sport of gravel.”

Submissions will be accepted starting today, Jan. 11 through March 1. Dains said some nominees may fall into more than one category.

Once all submissions are reviewed, an election committee of more than 30 cycling industry and media representatives, event organizers and gravel enthusiasts will make the final selections on inductees. The first class of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame will be announced April 4, 2022, and then inducted at an inaugural banquet in Emporia prior to Unbound Gravel 2022.

Dains said donations are welcome to help with the development of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame’s physical museum. Donations of $250 or more will receive two tickets to the inaugural induction banquet, which will be held prior to UNBOUND Gravel in June. The public will have an opportunity to join a group ride with the 2022 inductees on Friday, June 3.

“I would say to people, to make a donation or contribution and support it and consider attending the induction banquet ceremony which will be right here in Emporia, Kan., the week of UNBOUND Gravel,” Dains aid. “The fine details are yet to be determined but we know it will be some time in that week of UNBOUND Gravel and there will be a banquet and induction ceremony. We’re very excited about that bringing that to town.”

For more information about the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame, the nomination process, how to donate or the advisory board members and selection committee, please visit: www.gravelcyclinghof.com.

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