Anything Goes Event Series

Carter Nieuwesteeg created and operates “Anything Goes Event Series”, a bike event production company that produces the Fernie Gravel Grind and the Cranbrook Gravel Grind.

The Fernie Gravel Grind is happening this July 12 to 14th and will have over 500 participants of all ages and abilities. The event is super fun and raises funds for trails and local organizations, and supports a youth racing program.

Carter is a local Fernie racer with a winning history, and he has turned the “Anything Goes Event Series” into a winning formula.

Anything Goes Event Series

We caught up with Carter, and he answered a few questions about his success as a bike racer, his event company, and the Fernie Gravel Grind.

Q: Can you tell us about your background in bike racing and how you got started in the sport?
C: Born and raised in Fernie BC, I grew up mountain biking on my hometown trails for as long as I can remember. My love for riding on the local trails gradually transformed into a passion for racing and ultimately the cycling community as a whole. Biking has become more than just a part of my life, it’s determined where I chose to pursue my post-secondary education, how I met some of my closest friends, brought me closer with my family, and the reason why I so heavily believe in giving back to my community.

Q: What are some of your most memorable achievements or wins in your racing career?
C: Sweeping the 2023 TransRockies Singletrack 6 with the first two days being at home in Fernie. I recall being a kid at the start line of the original TransRockies events thinking one day I want to do that. Little did 10 year old Carter know that he’d be winning that same race 16 years later.
3 days after winning all 6 days, I would go on to finish second overall at BC Bike Race.
By far the best performance and accomplishment I have done to date.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: How has your experience as a racer influenced your approach to organizing events?
C: Having the privilege of traveling to North America’s best races over the years, you get to see what works and what doesn’t work at events. Over time I developed a pretty good idea of what I thought was the best format for a successful event. I’ve been at the sharp end of the field, but I started from the very back, so I know what everyone from Pro to Joe is looking for when they sign up for an event and AGES reflects just that.

Q: What inspired you to start the “Anything Goes Event Series”?
C: The Fernie Gravel Grind came before Anything Goes Event Series. I started the FGG in 2020 with the goal of creating a gravel race that raises funds for the Fernie Trails Alliance. We all know what happened in 2020, so rather than letting the event fade into cancelations I revamped it into a DIY gravel adventure. Participants would sign up by donation and in return they’d receive a list of my top 12 favourite gravel routes in the area, ranging from a 5km backroad cruise to a 250km adventure. The DIY Fernie Gravel Grind turned out to be a huge success, and from there had momentum for it’s first in-person event in 2021. The FGG’s motto was ‘Anything Goes with Gravel’, meaning any and all cyclists are welcome to join regardless of experience, equipment or age. When the FGG team created the Cranbrook Gravel Grind in 2022, we took the FGG’s motto to create Anything Goes Event Series.

Q: Can you describe the journey of building this series from its inception to its current success?
C: So many learnings, challenges, failures and triumphs that it would be impossible to fully describe the journey of creating AGES. All I can say is that I am forever grateful for the friends, family, community and core brands that believed in what I was doing and supported it through thick and thin.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: What sets “Anything Goes Event Series” apart from other bike event production companies?
C: We let our actions speak for themselves. Nobody believed in our goal to achieve gender parity at our first ever in-person event, but we did it anyways. Events don’t think its possible for to cater to every rider type, well AGES does and does it incredibly well. AGES makes events for anyone and everyone – period. That’s what sets us apart. We are leaders in the cycling industry for what we are doing, but again, I’d rather have you see that firsthand at our events than me tell you about it.

Q: What can participants expect from the Fernie Gravel Grind happening in July?
C: A bucket list gravel cycling experience.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: How has the Fernie Gravel Grind evolved since it first started?
C: The FGG has grown exponentially from a DIY event in 2020 to a +500 participant event within the last 4 years. The FGG is made by riders for riders. But also it’s made for the community. We encourage anyone in the community to come out and enjoy the weekend bike festival at Station Square, downtown Fernie.

Q: Can you share any special highlights or unique features of this year’s event?
C: From a racing standpoint, we’ve worked really hard to bring back remnants of the old course that was wiped out in the 2021 November floods. We have supported a project to make River Road more rider friendly by smoothing out the washes and installing adaptive standard bridges along the way.
From a venue standpoint, I am excited to welcome a cast of industry vendors that are excited to be part of the weekend festivities – contributing to the riders experience as well as the overall fun and exciting atmosphere that the FGG offers each year. Aside from vendors, we have two really awesome live performances Friday and Saturday night featuring really talented Canadian artists. Of course, all music and festivities are open to the public, not just the riders.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: How does the Fernie Gravel Grind contribute to the local community and trail development?
C: The FGG and AGS contribute in a variety of ways to the local community. Each event we donate proceeds to local organizations that are essential for our community. By the end of 2024 we’ll have given back over $40,000 to organizations including the Fernie Trails Alliance, Fernie Search and Rescue, Cranbrook Community Forest, Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association, Coal Creek Heritage Society and Elk Valley Suicide Task Force.
Aside from donations, we are on year two of the Launch! Youth Racing Grant in partnership with AGES core brands. Each year the grant provides two aspiring youth racers with a Cannondale gravel bike, 7mesh cycling kit, Lazer helmet, Shimano shoes and glasses, entries into the Fernie and Cranbrook Gravel Grind as well as tech support from Ski Base.
Lastly, AGES attracts many visitors from all over to our events. Wherever we go, so does a large economic benefit. Since our first event, we’ve garnered over a $800,000 economic benefit to the Elk Valley through our visiting riders. Based on our registration analytics and survey feedback, by the end of 2024 we’ll have generated over $1.2M for the area.

Q: Can you talk about the importance of supporting trail maintenance and development through events like yours?
C: The trails around Fernie helped shape me as an athlete and member of the community. I believe good trails bring people together, promote healthier lifestyles and of course allow community events to flourish. Without trail maintenance and development, Fernie would not be the healthy and culturally rich community that it is.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: What feedback have you received from participants and the community about the Fernie Gravel Grind?
C: We work so hard to make sure the rider’s experience is one they’ll never forget (of course for all the right reasons). It’s a little shocking to review feedback surveys and see such positive feedback from riders, volunteers and community members. That being said, we aren’t perfect. While we certainly try to be, no event can ever be 100% perfect. So when we do face criticism, we own it and see it as an opportunity to take one step closer to becoming a perfect event.

Q: What are your future plans for the “Anything Goes Event Series”? Are there any new events or expansions in the works?
C: At this point, I’d give up other aspirations in life such as racing to expand AGES. Either that, or clone myself.

Q: How do you see the series evolving over the next few years and what legacy do you hope to leave within the cycling community?
C: I’d love to see AGES inspire more inclusive, community centered events. Whether that’s more events by AGES or with other events learning from what we are doing and executing it themselves. The rising tide floats all boats, so I expect events are already taking notes on AGES.

Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in organizing these events, and how did you overcome them?
C: Each year there’s always been something we are challenged by, whether that’s navigating the ongoing gathering restrictions in 2021, trying to find a new course in 2022 after our original was washed away in the previous fall to learning how to grow as a team as the FGG hit 500 riders in only it’s 3rd year. Whatever the challenge, I never see it as mission impossible. Any challenge can be overcome if you believe in it. Maybe that’s the stubborn dutch mindset within me, but any problem can be solved.

Anything Goes Event Series

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring event organizers and racers looking to follow in your footsteps?
C: Listen to people throughout the entire cycling community. Don’t get complacent in taking feedback from one group just because it makes your event look good. Get comfortable being uncomfortable by bringing up challenging and thought-provoking conversations with everyone in the cycling community.

Q: Can you share any personal anecdotes or stories from your journey that have had a significant impact on you?
C: Go all in.
Less so anecdote, perhaps more so personal mantra. Whether its hard intervals on the bike, organizing events, spending time with family, partying with your buddies, whatever, go all in. Life is too short not to live it to the fullest, so whatever you do make sure you go all in.

Registration for the Fernie Gravel Grind is open here.

Photos: AGES

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