The event in Boulder, Colorado, returned to its mass-start format after a pandemic-affected edition in 2021, with a 100km route that featured more than a fair share of running.
The race was based on timings across two segments of the route, although they covered almost the entirety of the 100km, with only the treacherous descent of Sunshine Canyon and the short ride through the streets of Boulder omitted in the middle.
Howes, who rides for WorldTour outfit EF Education-EasyPost, clocked a total time of 3:08:41 to take top spot in the men's category. Meanwhile, Winder, who retired from road racing and the end of last year, marked the start of her gravel career with a win, topping the women's category with a time of 3:39:01.
Howes was quickest on the long climb up towards the Rowena trail, finishing with a two-mile track that was covered in thick snow and was largely unrideable. With heavy-duty winter boots on his feet, and a bottle cage taken off his frame, he stole a march, before holding firm in a group on the punchy climbs and muddier flat section back to the finish.
"I hated it but I loved Rowena," Howes said in an interview with the organisers. "For sure we have the slowest time on Rowena ever. You think of it as being relatively short but two miles in deep snow with a bike on your back really slows your down.
"Living up here, I'm not gonna say I have a thousand different ways to say snow but you learn what you can ride and what you can’t, and no one's riding that."
Winder, meanwhile, said she used her "roadie skills" to stay with the first group for much of the climb up towards Rowena, and then again to seal victory on the faster section towards the end of the race. However, the bit in the middle was an experience for someone so new to gravel.
"I haven’t gone this hard since September at the World Championships, but it was fun," she said.
"I was just like 'just make it to Rowena then you just have to hike', but then I’m like 'it’s not easier to hike'. I attempted to ride it but lasted five seconds. I'm not a runner, still not a runner."
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