Peter Stetina, Christopher Blevins, Kate Courtney and Amity Rockwell are among an all-star cast of pro riders opening the US gravel racing calendar on February 27 when Low Gap opens the Grasshopper Adventure Series in northern California. They will take on a 48-mile course from Todd Grove Park in Ukiah, California, with 6,664 feet of elevation gain, the majority of dirt, or mud, and climbing packed into the final 22 miles.
Stetina, last year’s Low Gap pro men’s winner, will be joined by Blevins, second last year, Tyler Williams (Miami Nights), who was third last year, Ian Lopez de San Roman, fifth last year, and Brennan Wertz (Mosaic Cycles), who was second in 2022. Former WorldTour pro Levi Leipheimer, who lives in Olympic Valley, California, and Canadian cross-country mountain bike rider Geoff Kabush will also make a start with the pro men.
Courtney was the 2023 women’s champion while Rockwell was fourth in 2022. There is a strong field of pro women, all based in California, led by multi-discipline rider and Olympian Katerina Nash, who won the 2021 Belgian Waffle Ride in California. Also expected to start are Six Sigma Hopper winner Flavia Oliveira Parks, Anna Yamauchi, Alison Tetrick (Specialized) and 2023 podium finishers Niky Taylor and Maude Farrell (Pivot / Easton / Pas Normal Studios), second and third, respectively.
Organisers of Low Gap still had spots open for the series at the beginning of the week, with all juniors receiving a customary 50% discount. It is the 27th year for the Grasshopper Series and Sportful returns as a sponsor for a fourth consecutive edition.
The fourth event in the series, Ukiah Mendo Epic on May 11, is one of the races added this season to the global Gravel Earth Series, where Rockwell finished second overall in the elite women’s standings.
Roxo Racing rebrands to Boneshaker Project p/b Orange Seal
Roxo Racing, which began as a domestic elite team for women in 2021, returns for a second season on the Continental level and will rebrand as Boneshaker Project p/b Orange Seal.
While the name of the team changed for the 2024 season, the 12-rider roster will continue to be anchored by Canadian Emily Marcolini. She’ll be supported by returning US riders Marjie Bemis, Jaime Larmer, Jacqueline Larouche and Kira Payer as well as Canadian Ariane Bonhomme, Mexican riders Ana Belen Garza and Romina Hinojosa.
New to the team are Canadians Ngaire Barraclough, who was a two-time U23 ITT national champion, and Kiara Lylyk, who took the bronze in the 2023 Collegiate MTB National Championships. Also joining are three-time Mexican time trial champion Andrea Ramirez and Colombian Karen Villamizar, who had a trio of second-place finishes at last year’s Vuelta Guatemala Femenina and was fourth of GC at both Vuelta Colombia and Vuelta Costa Rica.
The 28-year-old Marcolini had her biggest year in 2022 at DNA Pro Cycling, where she won stages at Redlands Bicycle Classic and Tour of the Gila, was in the top 10 of the GC at both races as well as Joe Martin Stage Race. She crashed out of the Tour of Colombia the last two years and took time off in 2023 to heal completely from various lacerations and a brain injury.
The women’s Boneshaker squad was invited to partner again with US men’s domestic elite-level Voler Factory Racing p/b Schnur squad for a second season of the NCL Cup Series. They plan to begin the 2024 season at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race and the Tucson Bicycle Classic stage race.
Three Canadians join Red Walters at XSpeed United
Red Walters, who earned a stagiaire spot on the Axeon development squad three years ago courtesy of Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, returns for a second season at the Canadian men’s Continental squad, XSpeed United.
In 2021, he hit the spotlight as the top candidate to secure a spot with Hagens Berman Axeon via funding provided by Geoghegan Hart, who began his career with the development team and wanted to increase racial diversity in pro cycling.
Walters, who has twice swept the Grenadian road and time trial national championships, will be joined in 2024 by seven North Americans on the Canadian team as well as seven European riders.
Among the new Canadian riders on the team are 18-year-old road and track rider David Olejniczak, 21-year-old off-road rider Eric Berg and 27-year-old time trialist Declan Kelly. Zak Coleman of Great Britain and Leo Doyle of Ireland have also been added.