The 2024 gravel racing has started out with interesting racing in California’s Grasshopper Journey Collection. Previous weekend, the next event of the series, the 88.8-mile (142.9 km) Huffmaster Hopper noticed an all-star field. There was the lengthy-standing, but welcoming, rivalry amongst regional favorites Brennan Wertz and Peter Stetina. Lachlan Morton and Sean Bennett, equally previous environment tour racers, also joined the action in Colusa County Mountains, alongside one another with several potent riders from the NorCal scene.

Following a hotly contested race, Brennan climbed on the top action of the podium. Peter Stetina came second at 41 seconds, outsprinting Sean Bennett by a person 2nd. Brennan established a new file for the Huffmaster, finishing 2:50 minutes more rapidly than Tyler Williams did in 2021. On the women’s aspect, Flavia Oliveira Parks gained in a little field of just 6 pro women (who raced with the adult men).

We caught up with Brennan following the finish:

JH: Congratulations on an additional win at the Huffmaster Hopper. This is your second acquire here, is not it?

BW: It is. In simple fact, this is my fourth time racing the Huffmaster. I received in 2022. Last year, I was in the lead when we hit some peanut butter mud. I was on a bicycle with restricted clearances, and my frame clogged up with mud. That charge me the guide, and I finished 3rd. You could say that I experienced something to demonstrate when I lined up on the start off line this morning.

JH: Convey to us about the race!

BW: Right after months of rain and the threat of a different gnarly mudfest at the Huffmaster Hopper, we were being taken care of to crystal clear skies and a ideal spring day. The racing was speedy all working day. On the to start with significant climb, the peloton break up down to myself, Pete Stetina, and Sean Bennett. We worked very well with each other for the future hour or two, each and every getting options to make the other individuals endure. As we approached the end, I did a big attack when remaining in the saddle on a tough portion of gravel with numerous potholes and washboards. From there, I put my head down and time-trialed to the complete for the gain. It was a really fascinating race to be a section of and a great 1st glimpse of everybody’s type heading into the early-time races.

JH: I imagine choosing the suitable bicycle for the Huffmaster can be difficult, with a training course that consists of quick pavement, but also a gravel climb.

BW: Fully. Previously, the race has been received on an aero street bicycle with 30 mm tires. These days, most riders choose for gravel bikes with 36-38 mm tires and some mild knobs. I rode my Mosaic GT-1 45. It’s the to start with body Mosaic designed for me, back again in 2021, with more-oversized tubes. That bike is so rigid, relaxed and responsiveperfect for a tall rider like me. We put on a new groupset, and I ran further-massive chainrings: 54×40. The 54 furnished a nice big equipment to thrust hard on the flats toward the closing. I was actually considering using my all-highway or even my street bike, as both of those distinct the 35 mm tires I ran. But with the knowledge of very last year’s mud, I didn’t want to choose any dangers.

JH: Which tires did you operate?

BW: For the previous a few yrs, I’ve operate 700C x 35 mm Bon Jon Go Endurance tires at the Huffmaster, on Enve SES rims. For me, that setup felt suitable for this program. In simple fact, my most loved classes are spots in which that set up is effective effectively: superfast, not tremendous-technical, where aerodynamics enjoy a job.

JH: Was there any time when you wished for a distinct set up?

BW: Not really. I realized I’d give up a tiny to other racers as we arrived around the last gravel climb. The descent has loads of rocks and clumps of dried-up mud. Each and every year I have performed the race, I have found any person crash or puncture there, who missing their likelihood at profitable the race. I took it conservatively, and Pete and Sean got a 10- to 15-second hole. With about 25 kilometers of somewhat flat roadways remaining, which include some pavement, I understood I experienced time. At the time we acquired into the closing false flats, I was pretty substantially unstoppable.

JH: How did you make your shift?

BW: I attacked on a area of rough washboard. With the working experience of past races, I come to feel I obtained my tire strain dialed completely for this part. My measurement assisted, much too, to hold my tires planted. I did a tough, seated acceleration, riding easily above the washboard and maintaining traction while pushing 500-600 watts. I quickly went to the other side of the road, so the other people struggled to leap into my draft. I received a gap and place my head down, time-trialing the 6 to 7 kilometers to the finish.

JH: I like it! A approach that performed to your strengths, both as a rider and devices-smart. What’s future on your agenda?

BW: I’m heading to the Valley of the Tears in Texas on March 9. The 7 days just after that is Mid South. So there’ll be two races in two months, as portion of just one huge street excursion. Equally programs fit me properly.

JH: Very best of luck out there!

Image credits: Brian Tucker