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Stacked field for Strade Bianche-inspired gravel race in California

Shasta Gravel Hugger
Views from the Shasta Gravel Hugger (Image credit: Shasta Gravel Hugger)

While the best riders from men’s and women’s WorldTour teams take on Strade Bianche this weekend, a gravel race tucked away in California will take place and pay homage to the iconic dirt roads of Italy.

The Shasta Gravel Hugger is expecting a stacked field, despite COVID-19 restrictions with US cyclo-cross champion Clara Honsinger and former WorldTour riders Pete Stetina and Jacob Rathe all on the start list for the 100-mile event on Saturday.

The elite names also include Kathy Pruitt, Sebrina Bishop Gordon, Moriah Wilson, Helen Plasschaert, and Jonathan Baker.

"This is hands down the best field we’ve had for the race," race organizer Brian Brainard told Cyclingnews.

"Last year a lot of riders had calendars in place already but over the course of the last 12 months, we’ve recruited and got the attention from a lot of the bigger names. The bottom line is that without much travel going on our race has a regional feel to it but we certainly have a great field. Almost everyone is going to be driving over for it.

"We’ve got Clara and is fresh off finishing fourth in the ‘cross World Championships. She’s from my home town and we also have Pete Stetina, Jacob Rathe. The women’s field is super stacked in terms of names but it’s not as big in terms of numbers as the men’s field."

Over 400 riders are expected to line up in waves as the race respects COVID-19 protocols for mass-participation events, while there are 12 sectors of gravel. For athletes, this event represents a rare chance to race at this point in the year, with a number of events forced to either cancel or postpone to later in the summer.

There is a shorter 100km version for riders wanting to take in something less arduous but Brainard is expecting a mixture of riders looking to relax and enjoy the event as well as hardened athletes hoping to truly compete against each other.

"We’ve got the 100 miles and then a 65-mile race but I put this on originally over the same weekend as Strade Bianche because the roads are very similar.

"The gravel roads are not too technical around here but we have white gravel and it mimics Strade in that sense. We also take a bit from Paris-Roubaix because we give each sector a name and description so the riders know what they might face. Overall the race is about 50-50 split in terms of roads and gravel."