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Katerina Nash, Ian Lopez de San Roman win mud-caked Huffmaster Hopper

The second event in the off-road Grasshopper Adventure Series was like a "five hour cyclocross race," said race organizer Miguel Crawford.

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Paint stir sticks are becoming the race swag du jour at early season gravel races, and they definitely came in handy at Saturday’s Huffmaster Hopper adventure race in Maxwell, California.

After tight battles in both the women’s and men’s races, it was retired pro cylocrosser Katerina Nash and teen phenom Ian Lopez de San Roman who mashed their way through the mud to the top of the podium.

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Meet Ian Lopez de San Roman, the teenager at the pointy end of gravel

The second race in the Grasshopper Adventure Series, the Huffmaster is normally a clean ride, with an 88.8 mile course of half smooth gravel and half pavement. However, snow and rain in the days leading up to the race made a mess of what can normally be sandy sections and saw many riders walking or running through the mud for extended periods of time.

Maude Farrell, who finished second on the day, had an easy lead for much of the race, going clear of the women’s field at the start. Farrell said she stayed steady through the first climb and was able to pick a good line through the snowy slop.

However, when she reached the eponymous Huffmaster Road section at mile 67, “it was a pit of mud.”

“Talk about hubris,” Farrell said. “I thought ‘this is fine, I’m gonna make it in fine.’ I got off to walk and Katerina was right there. She picked up her bike and started running. She was just trotting along. The fact that she did what she did on a road bike, she’s a legend.”

Nash crossing the line (Photo: Brian Tucker)

Nevertheless, Farrell kept on the gas to finish a mere 11 second behind Nash, with Sarah Flamm coming in third six seconds behind Farrell. Flavia Oliveira Parks and Niky Taylor rounded out the top five.

In the elite men’s race, 19-year-old Lopez de San Roman had some trouble early on, getting dropped on the opening pavement. He worked his way to a minute back approaching the first climb and started trying to rally other riders to work together.

“Eventually I started catching people and then I descended pretty well,” he said.

Lopez de San Ramon echoed Farrell when describing the middle section of the race — “that whole valley was super gnarly,” he said.

“You couldn’t even ride in a group, you just had to pick your line through the mud.”

Meanwhile, Brennan Wertz, who won last year’s Huffmaster with a time 33 minutes faster than this year’s winner, took a solo flyer before the Huffmaster section with around 40 miles to go.

“I had a decent gap I think, then coming into Huffmaster I spun my tires and got stuck in some mud,” he said. “My frame packed up in the fork and I ended up doing a little hiking and packed my road shoes with mud pretty good.”

Lopez de San Ramon on his solo chase (Photo: Brian Tucker)

Second place finisher Harrison Biehl was the first rider to pass Wertz in the mud, but then Lopez de San Ramon — who had been riding solo for nearly 20 miles — caught him before the last paved road section to the finish.

Geoff Kabush, who’s perhaps done more Grasshopper Adventure Series events than anyone in the day’s field, finished fourth on the day, “with a good 10 minute jog in there.”

“Actually, that might go down as most challenging Hopper ever for me,” he said.

Pro women’s results here

  1. Katerina Nash, 5:33:33
  2. Maude Farrell, 5:33:44
  3. Sarah Flamm, 5:33:50
  4. Flavia Oliveira Parks, 5:45:47
  5. Niky Taylor, 6:00:00

Pro men’s results here

  1. Ian Lopez de San Ramon, 4:43:38
  2. Harrison Biehl, 4:44:47
  3. Brennan Wertz, 4:47:42
  4. Geoff Kabush, 4:49:09
  5. Marcis Shelton, 4:53:02

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