Brennan Wertz, Moriah Wilson win Shasta Gravel Hugger
Snow again punctuates the third-year NorCal event.
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Held in Northern California with the spectacular backdrop of Mount Shasta, the Shasta Gravel Hugger is three-for-three for snowy gravel racing in each of its iterations. This year, Californians Brennan Wertz and Moriah Wilson took top hours in the 100-mile ‘Full Hug’ event, doubling down on their wins from last weekend at the Huffmaster Hopper.
“The crazy weather that appears at some point or place in this race showed up for a third year,” said race promoter Ben Brainard. “The 100-mile racers had to contend with some snow for a short bit on a shaded gravel sector. Despite that, we had the best gravel conditions we ever had in the third year of this race.”
On the men’s race, Big Sugar winner Adam Roberge attacked early, about 20 minutes in, and Wertz followed.
“It was initially a group of four but quickly became just Adam and I,” Wertz said. “We worked well together riding a hard tempo for the next few hours.”
By mile 40, the duo has about two minutes on a chase group that included Jonathan Baker, who would go on to finish third ahead of Pete Stetina.
With about 30 miles to go, Roberge and Wertz started attacking each other, but neither could shake the other.
“Then I hit him with a bigger attack over the crest of the last climb knowing there was a fast descent and then a ripping cross/tailwind section back to the finish,” Wertz said. “I got the gap and then TT’d back to the finish, about a 45-minute solo effort.”
In the women’s race, Wilson improved on her second-place finish from last year in a field that included Serena Bishop Gordon (second), Flavia Oliveria (third), and two-time world time trial champion Amber Neben.
“I had a blast coming back to this event this year; it was one of the first races I did last season, and the conditions and course were very memorable,” Wilson said. “It was fun to have a mass start this year, and the pace right off of the start was certainly a bit faster. After 15ish miles of riding in fragmenting groups of various riders, I found myself with Flavia and Serena, and some other men. We settled into a solid but steady pace, and rode together for quite a while.”
“Unfortunately Flavia got taken out by a rider who crashed right in front of me, so then it was only Serena and me for women in our group,” she said. “After the Jeep road section, there was a long section of pavement before some off-road climbing. The headwind in this section was pretty strong, and at some point our group fragmented again and Serena dropped off. I was able to maintain this gap for the rest of the race, which was primarily on dirt. I rode with some other guys at times, but was also solo for quite a bit.”
“I felt confident that my gap was decently strong, so I pulled back a little bit at the end,” she said. “I was able to cruise through the finish at a casual pace — a different experience than the sprint finish we had last year between Clara Honsinger, Maude Farrel, and I!”
Wilson is on a tear in the last few months. After getting second at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, she won Big Sugar in the fall. This spring she has won Rock Cobbler, the Huffmaster Hopper, and now Shasta Gravel Hugger.
2022 Shasta Gravel Hugger
1. Brennan Wertz (Scuderia Pinarello), 4:38:35
2. Adam Roberge (TBA), 4:42:59
3. Jonathan Baker (Lauf Racing-Groove Mazda), 4:46:01
4. Pete Stetina (Let’s Privateer), 4:46:04
5. David Richter (Fount Cycling Guild), 4:50:12
1. Moriah Wilson (Specialized-Meteor), 5:09:40
2. Serena Bishop Gordon (Liv), 5:17:43
3. Flavia Oliveira (Excel Sports), 5:20:34
4. Rebecca Fahringer (Kona-Maxxis-Shimano), 5:37:55
5. Cassie Nelson (Fount Cycling Guild), 5:41:37