Brennan and Lauren at USA Gravel Nationals
Last weekend, the first-ever USA Gravel National Championships were held in Gering, Nebraska. The chance to put their name forever at the top of the list of U.S. gravel champions brought together most of the fastest racers in the U.S. Nobody wanted to miss the chance of putting on that first Stars & Stripes jersey.
Consider that there are more than a dozen brands of gravel tires. And many of the pros are on road teams with tire contracts. We think it’s pretty remarkable that 20% of the podium placings in the top elite/pro category were achieved on Rene Herse tires. Or perhaps not? Racers want to win. Of those who can freely choose their tires, many ride on Rene Herse.
Brennan Wertz took third place after narrowly losing the sprint to Alexey Vermeulen, but beating Payson McElveen (top photo). Keegan Swenson had soloed off the front to take first. Here’s what Brennan said after the big race:
“It was a huge honor to take part in the inaugural USA Gravel National Championships this past weekend in Gering, Nebraska. The field was stacked with the top American gravel racers, and the pace was relentless most of the day. I felt great all day and was able to make the front group and then ultimately hang at the front of the race up the final climb that reduced the peloton to four of us, with about 25 km to the finish.
“As we crested the final climb, I put in a big attack on the sandy tailwind descent, but couldn’t quite get away. As we approached the finish, Keegan Swenson attacked and got a small gap on Alexey Vermeulen, Payson McElveen, and me. The three of us sprinted, and I managed to snag third place.
“My setup for the day was my Mosaic GT-1 AR all-road bike (left, with winner Keegan Swenson). I ran 700C x 38 mm Barlow Pass Endurance tires on my Enve SES 4.5 wheels, with Orange Seal sealant inside. This setup was flawless all day. The roads were mostly either deep and loose sand or washboard gravel. The 38 mm slicks at 31/32 psi (2.1/2.2 bar) provided great traction and comfort over the 131 mile (211 km) course. If I were to do the race again, I wouldn’t change a thing with my setup.“
In the women’s race, Lauren de Crescenzo was a clear favorite, but with sections of deep sand, crashes played a big part in all races. After being held up by a crash, Lauren lost contact with the leaders that included future winner Lauren Stephens, and found herself alone in fifth position. She then spent the next 70 miles chasing into the wind. Lauren de Crescenzo kept increasing the pressure and caught the fourth-placed rider with less than 30 miles to go. She got within a minute of third place by the time she reached the finish line. Considering the circumstances, 4th place is an excellent result. Lauren was riding 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Endurance Plus tires.
Why did all these riders compete on our smooth all-road tires? There was no mud on the course in Nebraska, and plenty of pavement, including the final sprint. There’s no need for knobs on a course like that…
Photo credits: Craig Huffman (Photos 1, 3, 4); Brennan Wertz collection (Photo 2); Cinch Racing (Photo 5)