On Saturday, Jenna Rinehart and Brennan Wertz won Elite women’s and men’s categories at the UCI Highlands Gravel Classic in Arkansas, which guarantees each a spot at the UCI Gravel World Championships in Belgium. It was an exciting race over 68 miles (109 km) with more than 7,000 ft (2,100 m) of climbing, and we’re glad that Rene Herse tires played a small part in putting these athletes on the top steps of their respective podiums.

Jenna is having a stellar season, with second-place finishes at Valley of Tears in Texas and at Mid South in Oklahoma—now followed by a well-deserved win in Arkansas. Her race was not without drama. She reported:

“The race started with a combined neutral rollout for the women’s and men’s UCI Elite fields. Just a mile into the race, at the base of the first climb, my chain popped off. I watched the field ride away as I tried to stay calm and get my chain through my chain guide and back on the chainring. By the time I got going, there was no one in sight. I focused on staying positive. The course looked super fun, so I figured in the worst case I would get a good ride in. I pushed hard for 30 minutes or so, but still couldn’t see anyone in front of me.

“Just before the first feed zone, around Mile 19, I started to see a couple women up the road. This gave me hope and a carrot to chase. Eventually I worked my way up to the second-place rider, Maude Farrell, and I found out that Flavia Oliveira Parks was just a little up the road. Maude and I worked together to catch Flavia. The three of us rode together until the last major climb at Mile 52. Maude and I were able to get a gap on Flavia. With about 10 miles to go, I got a bit of a gap on a descent and decided to go for it and see if I could stay away. It was a hard push to the finish, especially after burning some matches early on, but I was just able to hold Maude off for my first Pro gravel win. What a fun and competitive day of racing with really strong women!”

On her Specialized Crux, Jenna ran Rene Herse 700 x 44 mm tires: a Manastash Ridge knobby on the front and a smooth Snoqualmie Pass on the rear, both in the Endurance casing. She reported: “The tires gave me the confidence I needed to open the decisive gap on a descent.” Second-place finisher Maude Farrell concurred: “I just couldn’t quite keep up with her on the descents.”

Jenna’s teammate Marisa Boaz placed 5th, also on Rene Herse Manastash Ridge/Snoqualmie Pass tires. She observed after the race: “The leveling up of the entire women’s field is an amazing thing to see. I respect all of my competitors and am inspired by their strength, dedication and skill. The entire women’s sport world is having not just a ‘moment,’ but a movement, and the women in gravel are definitely a part of it!”

In the men’s race, Brennan Wertz continued his streak of successes in his third race in just over a week. After placing second in the Sea Otter Classic road race and winning the gravel race, he stepped on the top step of the podium again in Arkansas. Three riders broke away 15 miles into the race: Brennan (left), Nicolas Roche (right) and Cobe Freeburn. In the end, Brennan had the legs on the other two and crossed the line first, with Cobe second and Nicolas third.

For the rocky roads of Arkansas, Brennan equipped his Mosaic titanium bike with Rene Herse 700 x 44 Manastash Ridge Endurance Plus tires, inflated to 31 psi (front) and 32 psi (rear) (2.1/2.2 bar). At the finish, his bike was muddy and dusty, but it had performed flawlessly on this rough course.

By winning their categories in this UCI race, Jenna and Brennan automatically qualify for the UCI Gravel World Championships in October in Belgium. Brennan already raced at the worlds in 2023, and he’s excited to head back: “I really enjoyed my experience at the Worlds last year, and I want to focus on more UCI gravel races this season.” Heartfelt congratulations to all the racers who braved the beautiful and challenging course in Arkansas!

Photo credits: Lindsay Harp (women’s) and Joe Harper (men’s, last photo)