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Kate Courtney overcame a late flat to successfully defend the women’s title at Low Gap gravel race in Ukiah, California, while Christopher Blevins (Specialized) held off a charge by last year’s winner Peter Stetina (GRVL PRVTRS) for the men’s victory.
It rained for days in northern California leading to the opening round of the Grasshopper Adventure Series, now in its 27th year. Organisers confirmed that the soil would not be “too gooey”, with all the off-road challenges packed between miles 22 and 46 on the 48-mile route. This year featured a new start venue hosted by the City of Ukiah, the riders were led out by a police escort before turning onto the 48-mile mixed-terrain course that included roughly 6,400 feet of climbing.
The first climb came fast after the first 3.5 miles from Ukiah, with pavement on the first half of the event and one-third of the total elevation gain on the opening nine miles. Once at the first hydration and nutrition stop at mile 22, the gravel and more climbing took over at Low Gap Road. Once past the second feed area at mile 31, the dirt turned to thick clay on Miller Ridge, grabbing tyres and components.
Even with a puncture to her front tyre, Courtney coasted on the final one mile of tarmac into Ukiah for back-to-back wins. Flavia Oliveira Parks secured second place by outsprinting Katerina Nash to complete the podium, the pair finishing more than seven minutes behind Courtney.
“I managed to make it within one mile of the finish without flatting and coasted across the line,” she said about the non-sprint finish with a laugh after the race on the Grasshopper Instagram video. “I especially like to mix it up with the men a little bit. We always have good, respectful battles out there.”
Her time of 2:52:02 was three minutes slower than last year, but fast enough to put her in the overall top 25 of all pros.
“It was a blast. These races are always such a great way to start the season. We always say it’s like training, it’s January, but you know, it’s a bike race. There’s a start line, there’s a finish line and we work really hard all winter, so it’s fun…