Rob Britton didn’t actually hang his wheels when he retired from the pro brigade. In fact, he rarely stops turning the crank. After 12 years on a professional road team, the last was Rally Cycling (now Human Powered Health), who just completed his first year as a “one-man show” in the thriving world of the gravel gold rush.
What is it like to be involved in off-road full-time? Britton found the veins of success that helped him complete what he called the “Wirth It project.” A top 10 finisher in the Elite Men’s Division at the inaugural Lifetime Grand Prix, he received part of the $250,000 prize money after finishing 14th at the Big Sugar Gravel. For him, it’s about sharing the wealth, as he has pledged to donate half of his winnings to the WIRTH Hats Consulting Fund, which provides free virtual mental health resources to people around the world.
“Originally, when I stopped road racing, it was for gravel and some adventure. I stopped road racing because I wanted to do more in cycling than just travel around Europe, which is not A bad thing. I’ve achieved a lot and I’m very satisfied,” Britton told bike news in Bentonville.
“I want to do more than just make money for myself and myself. I spend years doing it, like most people do in their careers. So take half of my income It’s been a lot of fun giving back to the WIRTH Consulting Foundation. It’s great to work with them. It’s great to have another purpose besides trying to throw money at yourself.”
WIRTH Hats was established in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Britton lives, in memory of Jakob Wirth, who committed suicide in 2014. Sales of hats and stickers have been a major source of funding for mental health counseling and services since the company’s inception. Outreach programs for individuals and families in need. Britton chose the BC-based foundation on the advice of a friend because “it just made it. Mental health really matters.”
“A bonus is always a nice bonus, it’s never a guarantee. The prize is definitely huge [at Life Time Grand Prix]. I am very happy to get the bonus. “
Britton finished seventh in the final Grand Prix standings, and once the best five of the six events were secured, Britton was tied with Adam Roberg on 109 points. The tiebreaker went to Roberge, who finished third in the final event, the Big Sugar Gravel, 11 places ahead of Britton. But Britton still received a check for $8,000, which represents a $4,000 increase to WIRTH’s donation this year.
“During the 2020 pandemic, I started doing something with them. We raised over $12,000,” he said, referring to the 24-hour ride through the 510-kilometer length of Vancouver Island to start the fundraiser.
With no prize money for many of the ultra-distance chases, Britton added a crowdsourcing program for his 1,000-mile FKT, the fastest known effort at BC Epic. He beat the previous record by seven hours, setting a new best time of 2 days, 9 hours, 24 minutes. His efforts have raised $6,242 to date.
Then came the Grand Prix of Life that Mazda introduced. He must finish in the top 10 of the Pro Men’s Invitational 30 to get paid. His best finish in five events was a fourth-place finish in his first outing at the Unbound Gravel 200.
“This year was just a full-blown experiment, more than anything. And, yes, when I got into the Life Time series, I was super excited, and relatively humble, just because I didn’t expect to actually be in the series at all. So, in many In the race, everything was a first. It was unbelievable,” said the retired road pro.
“They are all completely different. Sea Otter mountain bikes since April, then Unbound 200. At Crusher [in the Tushar] I’m going to die a thousand times. Now in Bentonville, Arkansas in October. It’s been crazy all year. ”
The only event not on his schedule was the 40-mile MTB in Chequamegon, Wisconsin, which collided with BC Cycling. Will he compete in the Life Time series again? Short answer, yes.
“You can see it being validated. I don’t know what the series will look like, if it will reflect this year, or if Life Time will get more games. But yeah, it’s interesting,” he said.
“Like, that part of me really likes being on top of the competition. I love playing against the best. Seeing guys like Keegan [Swenson] and Alexei [Vermeulen], what you see is the best. I still have some work to do, which is very motivating. I still want a balance between all the adventure and non-racing stuff, so finding that balance is really key. “
Swensen took the Pro Men’s overall title at last weekend’s Grand Prix of Life in Bentonville, while Vermulen finished second. Now that Britton’s first year as a private owner is over, he’s looking forward to holding his final race in December and adding a few dollars to the Wirth It project.
“I call it the last ride. It’s all the goodness of the local ‘anti-race’ gravel,” explained the Canadian. “No beginning, no end, showing up, having coffee, finding your way, and ending with good food and beer. We did it for seven or eight years, and it only opened in 2017 with about 50 people. It was another event to raise some money.”