The Ghost Gravel Ride August 2021

Becoming a Ghost Gravel Ambassador

I don’t remember who first posted a link on social media to the Ghost Gravel inaugural gravel cycling event looking for ambassadors, but for some reason I was immediately drawn to the event. My adventurous spirit was alive with excitement! The Muskokas and Almaguin regions in Ontario have a special place in my heart. I’m drawn to the region’s beauty, history, lakes, cute villages, and it is in the Muskokas where I first met and fell in love with my wife. So, when I heard of a gravel cycling event in Magnetawan just north of the Muskokas along the old Nipissing road I became anxious with a desire to be part of an inaugural and extraordinary event.

To be honest, I didn’t think I would be accepted as an ambassador. I’m a 50 year old father, full-time employee, husband, and part-time cyclist with around 1000 Instagram followers… so no one special or unique 🙂 . I waited until I completed a 185KM gravel ride over the May long weekend before submitting my candidature to the Ghost Gravel team. I wanted to show proof that I could complete that distance before submitting my desire to become an ambassador. In late June I was elated to receive an email from the Ghost Gravel team accepting me as an ambassador! I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to learn more about how I could contribute and raise awareness of the event.

Within a few weeks, Matt Foulk, the genius behind the event, mailed me an ambassador kit which included stickers, a water bottle, a cycling jersey, and a cycling cap. I placed a number of stickers on my car roof top box and on two of my bikes. The exposure worked! Matt told me during the event on August 21 that one of his neighbours from Toronto saw my car in Sharbot Lake with the Ghost Gravel sticker a week before the event and called him in excitement… Matt figured it was me right away.

Training wasn’t going to be an issue as I normally ride between 150-300kM every week, some weeks more, some weeks less. But what I couldn’t predict was the heat and the humidity… but more about that later.

As the event date arrived, I grew more and more excited about meeting the other ambassadors. I had already connected with many of them on social media apps like Strava and Instagram and had a sense of their personalities. Like me, many of them are weekend warriors, with jobs, families, and other competing responsibilities. However, we all shared a passion for cycling, adventure, fun times, making new friends, and discovering new trails.

The day before the event many of us gathered in Magnetawan to orient ourselves to the start line and the village. I got the opportunity to meet and have dinner with Matt Smith, the CEO of Endurance Tap.

The Day of the Event

I’ll start by saying if you want a VIP gravel cycling event experience then Ghost Gravel must be on your list. Of course, you still need to train, be able to cover 140KM and over 1400 meters of climbing, ride technical ATV trails, do long and short climbs, deal with the heat, and be prepared for mechanical issues. Other than that, the rest of the day is a full VIP experience!

The aid stations were top notch with a huge variety of nutrition and drinks. Stage21 from Toronto was on hand at all the aid stations brewing espressos and coffees for everyone. At one aid station a variety of delicious sandwiches were available… and they couldn’t have come at a better time! I was getting hungry, and the sandwich filled me up so much that I wasn’t hungry when the ride ended 35km later.

The ride itself is a bit of a blur… I simply remember the great comradery, the misty morning, the incredible heat, the laughs, the grind, and the gorgeous scenery. My one poignant memory though is the incredible cramp I got at about 132km. All was going well and then suddenly I couldn’t get my left leg through a revolution and found myself yelling out in extreme pain… luckily, we all stopped to regroup before the final few kilometers into Magnetawan. I refuelled with an Endurance Tap and somehow, the cramp disappeared, and I was able to finish the ride in confidence into Magnetawan. I think the over 30C temperature and humidity depleted more salt and electrolytes than I realized. 

Here is a link to the Strava activity.

Here are some photos that capture the spirit of the day.

The women of Ghost Gravel
The morning was very misty until the sun broke through… turning the day into a sauna
The route!
This is me at the front of the group pointing out a hole in the gravel. Photo: Chris Monette Photograpy

A Little About the Almaguin Area

The Ghost Gravel route traverses the heart of the Anishinaabe territory where Indigenous peoples reside (Ojibway, Chippewa, Odawa, and Pottawatomi, and Mohawk from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy). These lands are now known as Almaguin Highlands.

“The Almaguin Highlands Region (colloquially known as Almaguin, also referred to as ‘the Highlands’) in Ontario, Canada, covers approximately 5,200 km2 comprising the eastern half of Parry Sound District. It is bounded by Muskoka in the south, and by Lake Nipissing and Nipissing District the north. The eastern edge abuts the western boundary of Algonquin Provincial Park, whereas the western boundary of the Almaguin Highlands is generally regarded to be the mid east-west point of Parry Sound District. Originally derived from the words, Algonquin, Magnetawan, and Seguin.” (Wikipedia)

I am honoured and grateful to have ridden in this gorgeous area of Ontario.

Register for the Ghost Gravel in 2022

If you love long undulating gravel roads through gorgeous highlands with incredible vistas, then the Ghost Gravel event is for you. I’m already gathering a crew from Ottawa to descend upon Magnetawan for the event in 2022. I highly encourage you to add your name to the Ghost Gravel email distribution list to receive more details about 2022’s event when available.

A Final Note

Cycling is an escape, but within that escape, there is discovery, beauty, struggle, and incredible rewards. Ghost Gravel delivers on all fronts. I am so grateful to be an ambassador for this incredible event.

6 thoughts on “The Ghost Gravel Ride August 2021

  1. Pingback: 8 Hours of Hurtin’ in Haliburton | Gene Villeneuve

  2. Pingback: Slowest Known Time – My Journey to Completing the Log Driver’s Waltz Bikepacking Route | Gene Villeneuve

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