Valley of Tears: 3 of top 5 on Rene Herse

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Uncategorized

Valley of Tears: 3 of top 5 on Rene Herse

Valley of Tears is a new gravel race, and the stars of gravel racing lined up last weekend in Turkey, Texas, as a prelude to next weekend’s Mid South. Ted King described the 115-mile (185 km) course: “The Texas panhandle is true Wild West, and the sand presented quite the challenge.” The event saw fast racing, and the current superstars of gravel, Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez Villafane (above with Jenna Rinehart), put in impressive performances to win the men’s and women’s categories.

Among the women, 3 of the top 5 were on Rene Herse tires. Jenna Rinehart (Mazda Orange Seal) rode a strong race to finish second, after spending much of the day in a break with Sofia and Emily Newsom. Jenna reported: “Sofia put in an attack with 20-ish miles to go, and I was able to grab her wheel. We worked together to stay away from Emily and sprinted it out at the end.”

Jenna’s teammate Marisa Boaz had an eventful race in many ways. Here is her story: “It was a fun and challenging course with sand, rough and rocky rail trails, scenic bridges, smooth hero dirt, and even a tunnel. I had a little bad luck with my electronic shifting not working for a while. Once that was fixed, I was able to catch up to some groups and work on and off with men and my strong teammate Danielle Ravnikar. I ultimately rode the last 65+ miles solo, picking off some riders, and hoping to catch others.” Marisa finished fourth.

For Danielle, it was her first race as a gravel pro. She enjoyed the experience: “I worked with pace lines, bridged gaps, and ended up dropping my group at mile 95 on a short climb. I worked with another woman until mile 103, where I put in a dig to solo to the finish, 5th in the pro women.”

The team—left to right: Danielle, Marisa, Jenna—was planning to ride on 700C x 48 mm Hatcher Pass slick tires, but with rain and mud in the forecast, they were concerned about the limited clearances of their bikes. Most of the team switched to 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Endurance tires, although some kept their 48s on the front.

The men’s field was marked by relentless attacks and fast-paced action. Innokenty (Inno) Zavyalov (above in the center, next to Ted King) reported: “Lots of Rene Herse tires being used at the Valley of Tears. I pre-rode with both the 44s and the 48s. After riding on the sand and on the rocky gravel, it was a pretty clear decision to run the 48s. I had a much better time riding the sand with them. There were a few sand pits early on, and I think the larger volume is what helped me be at the very front of the race at the start. I was with with Chase Wark for a bit; we were in 2nd/3rd behind Keegan. Coming back from a long illness, I didn’t have the fitness yet to keep riding at the front of the race. In the end, I finished 16th. With a stiffer frame like the specialized Crux, it seems like a no-brainer to put on the 48. When I can feel a lot of vibration through the bike, to me that means I’m losing my momentum to rolling resistance inefficiencies.”

Brennan Wertz finished 4th among the stacked field. He reported: “I was able to arrive a few days early and scope out some of the key sectors—super-deep sand and some really rocky and lumpy sections. I decided to run the 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass, so I could float better through the deep sand. I chose the Endurance Plus casing for extra insurance on the really rough and rocky bit. I ran 32 psi in the front and 34 psi in the rear, and I was very happy with that setup.”

Ted King finished 11th, also on Snoqualmie Pass Endurance Plus tires. He seconded Brennan’s opinion: “I wouldn’t change a thing about my tires: Wide for the sand, durable for the sharp rocks, they were great.”

Congrats to all these racers for their excellent rides. And thank you for the valuable feedback they give us as we continue to develop our tires.

Photo credit: Lindsay Harp (Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, 6), Jim Merithew (Photos 7, 8), Jon Harp (Photo 2).

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