One of the most dominant road teams in the US the past two years has been L39ION of Los Angeles, and a pair of their top riders will start the year kicking up gravel and grit.
It’s no surprise that Lance Haidet will line up this weekend at the opening round of the Grasshopper Adventure Series, his quest to move into the top five of the Life Time Grand Prix series. What at first would appear to be a bit off-kilter is seeing Tyler Williams in the queue.
On second glance is the realisation that Williams should not be a surprise. The Sonoma County resident lives and trains in the northern California hills where the Hopper adventures reside, five ‘eclectic’ mixed-terrain events this year in a three-county area with vast gravel, pavé and single-track experiences. Plus, he’s a past winner of the Huffmaster Hopper, this year’s second stop of the series after Low Gap this weekend.
“The Grasshoppers are a staple of the early-season racing,” Williams told Cyclingnews about the local races that have gained national acclaim with the surge in gravel popularity.
“As gravel has grown, the series has as well, so I do try to get out to a few of them because you are getting to test yourself early in the season against some really good competition. I will for sure do Low Gap and Huffmaster this year, they fit nicely into the program for the first part of the year.”
Also on the start line this weekend in Ukiah for the 44-mile Low Gap, which ramps up the climbing with 5,665 feet of elevation gain, are three riders from the top five last year, including runner-up Brennan Wertz and fifth-placed Peter Stetina, who was second in 2020. The 2020 winner Geoff Kabush is back as well. The women’s field is also stacked, with four riders from the top 10 back for more, including runner-up Maude Farrell.
Between the early Hoppers, both Williams and Haidet plan to ride Rock Cobbler in Bakersfield, where the fields continue to grow bigger and stronger as well. Stetina returns as the men’s defending champion for the 80-ish miler and second-placed John Borstelmann.
“I am hoping to get to do a little bit more [off-road] this year, but it’s tough because my priorities still lie on the road end between the stage races and crit calendar. It gets quite busy in the spring and summer. For sure, it is nice to add in some different races to keep the motivation high to train hard and challenge myself in different ways,” Williams said.
Last season Tyler Williams was one of the…
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