39 amateurs earned National Titles at the inaugural Gravel National Championships in Gering, Nebraska.

GERING (Sept. 9, 2023) -- The first-ever USA Cycling Gravel National Championships kicked off on Saturday morning in downtown Gering, Nebraska. In total, 41 separate categories competed for the opportunity to earn a gravel national title across four different courses: 131.4 miles, 88 miles, 52.6 miles, and 24.8 miles.

The inaugural event brought top names including Keegan Swenson (Heber City, Utah; Santa Cruz Bicycles/SRAM), Lauren De Crescenzo (Atlanta, Ga.; CINCH Racing), Lance Haidet (San Luis Obispo, Calif.; L39ion of Los Angeles), Lauren Stephens (Dallas, Texas; EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Peter Stetina (Santa Rosa, Calif.; Intergalactic Trash Pandas), Alexis Skarda (Grand Junction, Colo.; Santa Cruz Bicycles), Payson McElveen (Durango, Colo.; Allied Cycle Works) and Alexey Vermeulen (Pinckney, Mich.; Jukebox - ENVE). With the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars in prize money, the elite fields were loaded with top gravel talent.

Elite Men:  The day kicked off with the Elite Men’s race. After a neutral start through town, top riders like Swenson and Stetina had plenty of time to settle in.

Approximately 30 miles into the race, a crash took a handful of riders out of contention. From that point on, it was a race of attrition. Shortly after the crash, and before the race was past the second aid station, Stetina suffered a race ending mechanical, forcing him to withdraw from the already reduced field.

The course conditions were challenging but made for an exciting day, “It was a tough course. It was windy, and the dirt was really soft and loose. It was a strange surface all day,” said Swenson.

A group of nine riders pulled away from the rest of the pack at 60 miles. That group included Swenson, McElveen, Vermeulen, Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz, Calif.; Santa Cruz, SRAM, htSQD), John Borstelmann (San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Ventum/Voler), Brennan Wertz (Mill Valley, Calif.; Mosaic Cycles), Ethan Overson (Superior, Colo.; Scuderia Pinarello), and Daxton Mock (Lake Mills, Wisc.; Bear National Team).

At approximately 100 miles in, the group remained the same except for Vogel, who had dropped off. Over the next 10 miles or so, the group dwindled down to Swenson, Vermeulen, Wertz, and McElveen.

Swenson attacked at mile 126. Vermeulen had his eye on Swenson. 

“We went hard on the climb, with four of us reaching the top together. I told myself not to underestimate Keegan (Swenson), and once again, he snuck through the inside, and we never saw him again until the finish line,” Vermeulen said.

Swenson was able to maintain his lead and finish in a time of 6:00:24, becoming the first-ever Elite Men’s Gravel National Champion. It came down to a group sprint for the remaining podium spots where Vermeulen, Wertz, and McElveen sprinted in for second, third, and fourth, respectively.

McElveen, a fan favorite, understood the significance of this championship for the gravel community.

“It has a certain excitement about it, for sure. It’s been a little while since I raced a national championship. I’ve been lucky enough to know how it can change your career if you win one. It’s been a few years since I did one, but I definitely had that little extra level of butterflies this morning knowing what was on the line,” he said.

Elite Men's Results: 1. Keegan Swenson (Heber City, Utah; Santa Cruz Bicycles/SRAM), 2. Alexey Vermeulen (Pinckney, Mich.; Jukebox - ENVE), 3. Brennan Wertz (Mill Valley, Calif.; Mosaic Cycles), 4. Payson Mcelveen (Durango, Colo.; Allied Cycle Works) and 5. John Borstelmann (San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Ventum / Voler).

Elite Women: With $30,000 on the line, Saturday morning’s event attracted talent from around the country. The women’s race started 15 minutes after the men’s race with a similar neutral start format.

The pace rapidly picked up as soon as riders hit the gravel. While the group stayed together at the beginning, it quickly changed heading into the hills.

A four-rider group consisting of Stephens, Skarda, Crystal Anthony (Bentonville, Ark.; Liv Racing Collective), and Jenna Rinehart (Mankato, Minn.; Nicollet Bike), sped away together as they approached the halfway point of the 131-mile race. Following closely behind was gravel superstar De Crescenzo. Coming off a heavy block of racing, which included a stint at the UCI Road World Championships, Stephens was one to watch if the race came down to the final climb. As racing continued, the group separated, leaving Skarda and Stephens  to battle it out for gold.

After having issues with a slow leak, Stephens had to keep stopping to refill it with air, but Skarda chose to pull to the side to wait, knowing it was better to work together than to be stuck in the wind alone.

“I was trying to feel out how I felt and how (Lauren Stephens) felt. She was having some issues with her front tire, so I ended up waiting for her a couple times within an hour to go. I knew it might be to my benefit because I didn’t know how close the other girls were behind. So, I didn’t want to be alone in the wind. I knew there was something wrong with her tire, so when we got to that last climb I was like ‘well I’m going to attack her, and see if I can hold it,’ I didn’t quite have that edge for a good attack and she was able to hang on my wheel and then she counter attacked. I was too tired to respond at that point and she just slowly rode away from me,” said Skarda.

Riding into the finish solo, was Stephens who completed her 131.4-mile race in a time of 6:45:33.

When asked about her win she said, “It feels amazing, I had no idea what would happen. I haven’t been racing gravel very much, so I didn’t know very many of the girls. It was an awesome race and having our own start was pretty cool too.” Prior to this race, Stephens had only done one other long gravel race which was last week at an event in Lincoln, Neb.

Skarda, Anthony, De Crescenzo, and Rinehart rounded out the podium finishing in second, third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively. 

“I’m super happy to make the podium and the World’s selection. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m glad they had a separate women’s start and a protected field. We usually get integrated [in with the men], and there is no rule against working together so I knew it would be a very different dynamic. So, I just tried to keep a pretty open mind about how it was going to go. Fortunately, I made the right break. We had four riders and were together most of the race. We worked super well together. Lauren and Alexis were clearly the strongest, so I was happy to hang on for third.” Anthony said in a  post-race interview. 

Elite Women’s Results: 1. Lauren Stephens (Dallas, Texas; EF EDUCATION-TIBCO-SVB), 2. Alexis Skarda (Grand Junction, Colo.; Santa Cruz Bicycles), 3. Crystal Anthony (Bentonville, Ark.; Liv Racing Collective), 4. Lauren De Crescenzo (Atlanta, Ga.; CINCH Racing), and 5. Jenna Rinehart (Mankato, Minn.; Nicollet Bike). 

131.4 Mile Amateur Amateur racers who completed the full 131.4 miles course included participants in the following categories: Men’s and Women’s Singlespeed, 19-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, Para BVI, and Para C5. Earning gold in the Men’s Singlespeed event was Peter Olejniczak (Edina, Minn.; Project Echelon Racing) finishing in a time of 6:40.54.

On the women’s side, Casandra Dickerson (Tulsa, Okla.; Team isocentric) earned the title. In the 19-34 race, Andrew Nicholas (Pittsfield, Mass.; GS Savile Road) and Danielle Estenssoro (Snowmass Village, Colo.; Cinch Cycling) both took the National Titles by over 20 minutes in the men's and women’s races, respectively. In the 35-39 race, Jesse Siemen (Norton Shores, Mich.; Turbo) proved victorious in the men's race, while Ivy Pedersen (Fruita, Colo.; Dirty Kitten Racing) won the women’s event. The Men’s 40-44 race came down to sprint finish, with Jurd Hurd (Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Turbo) edging out three of his competitors for the win. 

Terry Casey (Albuquerque, N.M.; Nero Veloce p/b Michael Thomas Coffee) went on to win the Women’s 40-44 by a margin of 16 minutes. In the 45-49 race, Andrew Knight (Marietta, Ga.; NGCA p/b Tyler Perry Studios) won the National Title in the men’s race, while Mary Breed (Arlington, Va.) claimed victory in women’s race in a photo finish. In the para categories, Michael Murphy (Colorado Springs, Colo.; Team Semper Fi/Gamericas Fund) won the Men’s Blind/Visually Impaired category, and Kyle Pitman (Lafayette, Colo.; Project Echelon Vanguard) won the Men’s C5 category. 

Men's Singlespeed results: 1. Peter Olejniczak (Edina, Minn.; Project Echelon Racing), 2. Sean Kahl (Tulsa, Okla.; SENTIR Racing), 3. Omar Dickenson (Golden, Colo.; Sonic Boom Racing), 4. Jonathan Perez (Port St Lucie, Fla.; Rubinton Simms, PA/The Little Seamstress). 

Women’s Singlespeed Results: 1. Casandra Dickerson (Tulsa, Okla.; Team isocentric) and 2. Heather Romenesko (Littleton, Colo.; Square1Cycling) 

Men’s 19-34 Results: 1. Andrew Nicholas (Pittsfield, Mass.; GS Savile Road), 2. Alex Tenelshof (Caledonia, Mich.; Turbo), 3. Rj Marsan (Kentfield, Calif.; Super Sprinkles p/b Fatcake), 4. Riley Dao (Fullerton, Calif.; Team Dream Team), and 5. Jacob Richards (Ogden, Utah; Two Hoosiers Cyclery). 

Women’s 19-34 Results: 1. Danielle Estenssoro (Snowmass Village, Colo.; Cinch Cycling), 2. Amelia Durst (Avon, Colo.; Flow Formulas I Greppi), 3. Gabrielle Henry (Tulsa, Okla.; Pandemonium), 4. Izabella Slosberg (Ojai, Calif.; Cal Poly Cycling), and 5. Alissa Dent (Prescott Valley, Ariz.; Go4Graham). 

Men’s 35-39 Results: 1. Jesse Siemen (Norton Shores, Mich.; Turbo), 2. Kirill Kim (Miami Beach, Fla.), 3. Spencer Whittier  (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Motor Mile Racing), 4. Jonathan Schreiner (Albuquerque, N.M.; Nero Veloce p/b Michael Thomas Coffee), and 5. Lei Liu (San Jose, Calif.; SJBC). 

Women’s 35-39 Results:  1. Ivy Pedersen (Fruita, Colo.; Dirty Kitten Racing), 2. Danielle Rankin (Miami, Fla.; Coffeepace/Tres Pinas), 3. Ali Whittier (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Motor Mile Racing), 

Men’s 40-44 Results: 1. Jurd Hurd (Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Turbo), 2. Ralph Buckingham (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Turbo Racing), 3. Brian Johnson (Omaha, Neb.; MGrills Race Team), 4. David Sachs (Boulder, Colo.) and 

Women’s 40-44 Results: 1. Terry Casey (Albuquerque, N.M.; Nero Veloce p/b Michael Thomas Coffee), 2. Erin Reedy (Amarillo, Texas; Abundant Energy Cycling), 3. July Hogue (Wickenburg, Ariz.; LikeBike Events), 4. Laura Henderson (Denver, Colo.; Stem Cider) 

Men’s 45-49 Results: 1. Andrew Knight (Marietta, Ga.; NGCA p/b Tyler Perry Studios), 2. Ben Delaney (Boulder, Colo.; The Ride with Ben Delaney), 3. Michael Claudio (Medford, Ore.; ThirstyBear Cycling), 4. Justin Lowe (Dover, Tenn.; Velo Roussillon racing), and 5. Jon Tarkington (Boulder, Colo.; Stages Cycling). 

Women’s 45-49 Results: 1. Mary Breed (Arlington, Va.), 2. Anne Donley (Denver, Colo.; Womens DNA Masters/Excel Sports. 

Men’s Para BVI Results: . 1. Michael Murphy (Colorado Springs, Colo.; Team Semper Fi/Gamericas Fund), and 2. Timothy Hornik (Lawrence, Kan.; Not married). 

Men’s Para C5 Results: 1. Kyle Pitman (Lafayette, Colo.; Project Echelon Vanguard), 2. Mitch Brekke (Hartland, Minn.; Nicollet bike and ski) and 3. Mark Gyulafia (Westwood, Kan.; River City Bicycles).

88 Mile Amateur: The racers taking the 88-mile course consisted of the 17-18 Juniors and the 50-64 Masters. The fastest time for the course was set by the Men’s 17-18 winner, Jonas Woodruff (Redlands, Calif.; Cyclery USA / Shimano / Trek), who completed it in 4:13:47. Just two minutes behind Woodruff was the winner of the Men’s 50-54, Greg Scanlan (Fort Collins, Colo.; Matador Masters Elite). On the Women’s side, Amy Phillips (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Motor Mile Racing) in the Women’s 50-54 event set the fast time on the course with a 4:39:41. Tracey Jacobs (Boulder, Colo.; Groove Subaru/Excel Sports Race Team) was the next fastest women, earning her the national title in the Women’s 55-59. Lauren Weigel (Oronoco, Minn.; Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24 DEVO) won the Women’s 17-18 race, with her sister Ragan Weigel (Oronoco, Minn.; Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24 DEVO) taking silver in the same category. The winners of the Men’s 55-59 and Men’s 60-64 finished together in a sprint, with Victor Sheldon (Vista, Calif.; Specialized/Baghouse/Hammer/Shimano/Fox) winning the younger age group, and Chris Carlson (Mckinney, Texas; Bike Mart/Matrix CC) winning the Men’s 60-64.

Men’s 17-18 Results: 1. Jonas Woodruff (Redlands, Calif.; Cyclery USA / Shimano / Trek), 2. Jacob Huber (Durango, Colo.), 3. Ian Brown (Bend, Ore.; Bear National Team), 4. Landen Stovall (Eagle, Colo.; Bear National Team), 4. Landen Stovall (Eagle, Colo.; Bear National Team), 5. Mats Leckie (San Francisco, Calif.) 

Women’s 17-18 Results: 1. Lauren Weigel (Oronoco, Minn.; Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24 DEVO), 2. Ragan, Weigel (Oronco, Minn.; Virginia's Blue Rige TWENTY24 DEVO),  3. Charlotte Lehmann (Whitefish, Mont.; Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 DEVO), 4. Kindsay Mclaughlin (Warrensburg, Mo.; XCKC DEVO), and 5. Rachel Pellom (Durham, N.C.; First Flight Devo).

Men’s 50-54 Results: 1. Greg Scanlan (Fort Collins, Colo.; Matador Masters Elite), 2. David Richter (Georgetown, Ky.; Fount Cycling Guild), 3. John Rokke (Lincoln, Neb.; Monkey Wrench Cycles), 4. Matthew Skrdla (Fort Collins, Colo.) and 5. Tim Doelman (Glencoe, Ill.; Fairlife).

Women’s 50-54 Results: 1. Amy Phillips (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Motor Mile Racing), 2. Jessica Rockson (Bella Vista, Ark.; U.S. Military Endurance Sports/Maxxis/Bike School Bentonville),  3. Rachel Massey (Colorado Springs, Colo.), and 4. Julie Fisher (Castle Rock, Colo.; CINCH Cycling).

Men’s 55-59 Results: 1. Victor Sheldon (Vista, Calif.; Specialized/Baghouse/Hammer/Shimano/Fox), 2. Brad Rampelberg (San Jose, Calif.; SJBC), 3. Mike Unruh (Gallatin Gateway, Mont.; Cinch), 4. Shannon Wery (Seattle, Wash.) and 5. Rob Arena (Boulder, Colo.; Groove Subaru Excel Sports Cycling Team).

Women’s 55-59 Results:  1. Tracey Jacobs (Boulder, Colo.; Groove Subaru/Excel Sports Race Team), 2. Denise Esposito (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.; Bikeway/Endurance WERX),  3. Jenner Yaeso (Gallatin Gateway, Mont.), 4. Katie Lindquist (Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Steamboat Velo), and 5. Kelly Parcell (Boulder, Colo.; KUHL). 

Men’s 60-64 Results: 1. Chris Carlson (Mckinney, Texas; Bike Mart/Matrix CC), 2. Juergen Eckmann (Boulder, Colo.; Cuore of Switzerland), 3. Craig Hofer (Littleton, Colo.; Groove Subaru/Excel sports), 4. Jim Copeland (Denver, Colo.; Medtronic/Quest Cycling Team), 5. Steve Parcell (Boulder, Colo.).

Women’s 60-64 Results: 1. Mary Jimenez (Shreveport, La.; Team La'Sport), 2. Tamara Bessette (Missoula, Mont.; MTCX), 3. Trish Heisdorffer (Frisco, Colo.; Sonic Boom Racing / Sonic Boom Racing Team), 4. Susan McDonough (York, Maine; Salty Women Off Road RaceTeam), and 5. Lauri Lewis (San Diego, Calif.).

52.6 Mile Amateur: The first riders of the day to cross the finish line included a group of four riders in the Men’s 15-16 led by Oliver Welcker (Boise, Idaho; Bear National Team), with a blistering time of 2:40:03. 

Welcker narrowly outsprinted his rivals with Carter Lembke  (Columbia, Mo.; CycleX Racing), Ethan Shirey (Draper, Utah), and Beckam Drake (Amarillo, Texas; Team ANB) rounding out the top four. Maddex Thiel (Austin, Texas; Orange Seal) rolled in 2:23 back to take fifth. In the Women’s 15-16, Kylie De Jager (Yucaipa, Calif.; Baghouse) rode to a five-minute lead going into the first checkpoint. 

De Jager lost a couple of minutes by the finish, but it was enough for her to hold on to her lead and take the Stars and Stripes jersey. Frank Winters (Susanville, Calif.; Clean Power Cycling) and Stephen Crowley (Castle Pines, Colo.; Groove Suburu Excel Sports) broke away in the Men’s 65-69 field, gaining over seven minutes by the first checkpoint.

Winters would overtake Crowley in the sprint to become national champion. Grace Plager (Naples, Fl.; Naples Cyclery) went solo early in the Women’s 65-69 putting nearly 20 minutes into second and third place by the finish.

Three riders would go clear and stick together to the finish in the Men’s 70-74 category. It came down to a photo finish between George Heagerty (San Antonio, Texas; Geri Atrix/US Military Endurance Sports), Steven Johnson (Larkspur, Colo.; COS Racing), Steven Worley (Boulder, Colo.; Boulder Centre for Orthopedics & Spine). The trio crossed the finish in that order, with Heagerty earning gold. In the Men’s 75-79, Tom Groves (Centennial, Colo.; Racer X Cycling/ColoBikeLaw) was solo for much of the race, putting over 25 minutes into second place finisher, Whitney Fanning (Waco, Texas; Geri Atrix). Frederic Schmid (Waco, Texas; Geri Atrix), added another national championship jersey to his collection, his fourth of 2023. Schmid was the oldest athlete, competing in the Men’s 90+ category in the inaugural event.