A viral video of a rider being charged by a bull in 2022 certainly raised the profile of the BMC Rock Cobbler gravel event. It wasn’t how the race organiser Sam Ames wanted to promote the Bakersfield, California event, but this year they have seen a 73% increase in registrations.
The course for Rock Cobbler 10.0 will still go through the infamous “cow trail of death” but more measures have been put in place to ensure riders won’t happen upon an angry bull again.
“The bull was a surprise feature and one I don’t wanna see happen again,” Ames told another cycling publication. “We can’t contain all the cattle. It’s just not possible but we’re doing everything we can.
“We have met with ranchers and gone through their property extensively this year, hired a few cowboys, and have the ranchers themselves on quads to ensure safety for all participants.”
Ames takes pride in putting on a “stupidly hard” ride that “people sometimes turn into a race”. The organisers go out of their way to include unique features like racing through someone’s house and “tons of on-course shenanigans”.
Mostly, Ames wants every participant to have their own experience in the gruelling 80-plus-mile (128km) ride that tops 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) of climbing, but being gored by a bull isn’t on the list.
“In nine years, we never had a problem with cattle. We passed them every year without incident I think with the growth it was just bad luck, never in a million years would I try to create a shenanigan like that! I’m a little wild and crazy when it comes to this event, but I’m not reckless or want to jeopardize anybody’s safety.”
Now with its 10th edition, the Rock Cobbler will have four start waves on Saturday, randomly assigned with plate numbers provided with ride packets. Call-ups will be at the front of the first wave, and women will be a the front of the second wave. All participants in the half-distance Pebbler will begin in the fourth and final wave.
Leading the contenders for men will be Peter Stetina, who won the overall Cobbler 9.0. John Borstelmann, who was second last year, returns as well as fourth-placed Christopher Blevins. In the women’s field, Anna Yamauchi, who was third last year, will take the course at the front of the second wave, and joined by Rachel Holzer and Monica Tucker.