Lauren Wins SBT GRVL; Brennan 4thJan Heine
Less than a week after we discussed why ‘too much tire’ isn’t really something we should worry about, Lauren de Crescenzo won SBT GRVL in Steamboat Springs, CO, on 700C x 44 mm tires (above on the left). SBT is known as one of the smoothest gravel races on the calendar, and Lauren is certainly no heavyweight. Wasn’t a 44 ‘too much tire’ for her weight and this course? Apparently not.
“On the first climb, Lauren was dropping everybody, men and women,” noted Brennan Wertz (center), who finished fourth in the men’s race against a veritable Who-is-Who of professional gravel racers. “I was at 450 Watts, and Lauren was pulling away from us.” So much about ‘too much tire’!
Lauren explained: “My strategy was to ride in a position in the peloton where I could mark the first riders.” Lauren made the key selection and then joined a big attack to ride away from the pack with 50 miles to go. She finished more than 13 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher, Whitney Allison. Lauren rode on 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass Endurance tires. Last year, she won the race on the same tires, but chose the Extralight casings. “This year, our Cinch Rise team wanted a bit more protection as the conditions were drier and rougher in some sections than last year,” she told us when asked about her choice of the Endurance casing.
The men’s race saw plenty of drama. Brennan Wertz, who rides for Scuderia Pinarello, tells the story: “I had my chain fall off and lost a bottle, so I had to chase a few times to catch the main group again. Some riders wore hydration packs, so they could skip the aid stations. I don’t find the packs very comfortable, so I carried only bottles and stopped at every feed to refill them. Last year, I got incredibly dehydrated at SBT, and I wanted to prevent that this year. That meant chasing back, but there were always 3 or 4 people to work with, so it wasn’t a big problem. But some racers weren’t happy and started yelling at each other. Pete Stetina thought that carrying a hydration pack wasn’t in the spirit of gravel, but Keegan Swenson replied that he’d been carrying an extra 2 kg of water, and everybody could do the same.”
Meanwhile, a break of three riders was up the road, and Keegan had had enough. Brennan: “He rage-attacked, if there is such a thing, and a few of us got on his wheel. We motored to the base of the main climb, and I was able to stay with them. On top, there was an aid station, but nobody else stopped. Remembering last year’s dehydration, I stopped, filled my bottles, and managed to catch back on. We caught two of the riders from the break, and then Keegan and Payson McElveen rode away from us.”
They caught the last rider from the break, and Keegan Swenson won the sprint, with Freddy Ovett, who had been off the front for almost 100 miles, in second, and Payson McElveen third. Brennan outsprinted his companions in the 3-man chase group to take fourth place.
Brennan was riding 700C x 38 Barlow Pass Endurance tires. Asked about the closely guarded secret of tire pressures, the 6′ 5″ (196 cm) rider admitted: I inflated the front tire to 37 psi (2.5 bar) and the rear to 39 psi (2.7 bar). He added: “The tires worked perfectly with my new Enve SES 4.5 wheels. Once I hit a big rock that had rolled off someone else’s wheel, and I heard the terrible sound of rock hitting carbon. I thought I’d pinched the tire, but nothing happened.” Well done, Brennan!
Photo credits: Linda Guerrette (Photo 1, 3); Cinch Rise (Photo 2)