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Moriah Wilson, Brennan Wertz win Grasshopper Adventure Series’ Huffmaster Hopper

The NorCal series continues to foreshadow the upcoming gravel season with stunning performances by California-based pros.

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Round two of the 2022 Grasshopper Adventure Series is in the books, and Moriah Wilson (Specialized) and Brennan Wertz (Scuderia Pinarello) came home with the wins.

On Sunday, the pros raced the Huffmaster Hopper’s 89 mile, 4,800 foot route. According to race director Miguel Crawford, the Huffmaster has “a more traditional gravel feel” than other Hoppers. The course was equal parts pavement and dirt road.

Related: Kate Courtney, Luke Lamperti take Grasshopper Adventure Series season-opener wins

Both Wilson and Wertz have come blazing into the 2022 gravel season. Two weeks ago, Wilson rode to a dominant victory at the Rock Cobbler. There, Wertz placed fourth, and a week before that he won Gravel Miami.

The men’s podium was rounded out by Sandy Floren (Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee) and Skyler Taylor of San Francisco. Flavia Oliveira and Maude Farrell finished second and third in the women’s race.

How the race went down

The first 40 miles of the Huffmaster course are on gravel and thus favored roadie tactics and dynamics. The first 25 miles are flat while the subsequent 15 trend gently upward.

Wilson described those first 40 miles as “kind-of chill and boring with a lot of yo-yo’ing and surging.”

Strong groups formed and pushed the pace until the first significant climb (gravel) at mile 40. This is where Wilson decided to make a move.

“I remember last year I kinda put the hammer down on the first climb, and I was feeling pretty good so I decided to do that again this year,” she said. “I’m more of a climber, so I figured if I was going to put a gap on anyone that would be the place to do it. I was able to put a little bit of a gap in and rode with one guy through the first aid station.”

After the first aid station at mile 45, the course continues on a mix of pavement and gravel through undulating terrain. At mile 68, there is a short climb on Huffmaster Road, followed by a gravel descent. About six miles before the Huffmaster climb, Oliveira and the group she was with caught Wilson.

Oliveira chose a road bike on the day. (Photo: Brian Tucker)

“I rode a bit with Flavia which was fun to go back and forth with another woman, Wilson said. “Then I dropped her on the Huffmaster climb. Luckily I had some 42 Pathfinder tires that really helped me on the descent so I flew down that as fast as I could til the finish.”

Oliveira was on a road bike and said she didn’t want to take any risks on the descent.

Geoff Kabush, who finished 10th on the day, said that his day shifted at the second feed zone, around mile 68.

“I missed the lead group of four guys by about 30 meters out of the feed zone,” he said. “I went all in two or three minutes and couldn’t get on the group, so I went solo then was with four guys, then after Huffmaster eight or nine guys. I think we got within a couple minutes of Sandy and Brennan.”

Wertz’s win wasn’t guaranteed until the finish line. After riding in front all day, his group whittled down to four approaching Huffmaster Road. Then, it was just he and Floren for the last 15 or so miles of the race.

“One guy dropped on the road, then we were three, then Alex [Wild] flatted on the descent,” he said. “We got to the bottom and he wasn’t there anymore. Then it was Sandy and I. I tried to attack him a couple of times but he was on right on my wheel every single time. We’re very similar riders so it was fun trying to battle with him a little bit. I couldn’t get away from him and we had a little sprint battle and I just kinda nicked him at the line.”

Wertz noted that he thought he had the perfect set-up for the Huffmaster — he chose deep ENVE 4.5 AR wheels and 35mm Rene Hearse Bon Jon Pass tires for his Pinarello Grevil.

The Huffmaster Hopper was a fundraiser for the Adventure Therapy Foundation.

Floren leading Wertz. (Photo: Brian Tucker)

Women’s pro results

  1. Moriah Wilson, 4:19:46
  2. Flavia Oliveira, 4:21:42
  3. Maude Farrell, 4:24:38
  4. Katerina Nash, 4:30:59
  5. Caroline Dezendorf, 4:35:09

Men’s pro results

  1. Brennan Wertz, 4:10:43
  2. Sandy Floren, 4:10:44
  3. Skyler Taylor, 4:11: 51
  4. Aria Kiani, 4:11:51
  5. Bradyn Lange, 4:11:52