THE GRAVEL SEASON IS ON – ROCK COBBLER REVIEW

By Zap

While a celebrated run-in between a pissed-off bull and a handful of riders grabbed the biggest post-race headlines, there was still much to talk about following the ninth  annual running of the notoriously tough  Rock Cobbler in Bakersfield, California. Chief among the topics was the  barn burner field that was stacked with top riders including 2021 UCI marathon mountain bike world champion Christopher Blevins who was relying on his fat tired, flat handlebar, full-suspension Specialized to take a sea of proper gravel bikes – ouch!

With just shy of 600 entries, the Rock Cobbler was welcomed with open arms by both those riders who knew full well of how tough the course could be and those new riders simply amazed at the level of rider rewards that came with their entry. From the pre-race day recreational ride (courtesy of Big Wheel Coaching), free race day coffee and breakfast, five on-course sag stops, a delicious post-ride lunch and custom Rock Cobbler beach towels (courtesy of event sponsor Bianchi), the giving never seemed to stop!

Here’s just some of what we saw in during our weekend outing in Bakersfield – Go Drillers!

 

THE ROCK COBBLER GALLERY

It was chilly at the 8:00 am start and blazing hot by the afternoon finish.

 

After 85 miles of fun, fist bumps between the men’s and women’s winner, Peter Stetina (4:49:13) and Moriah Wilson (5:2856).

 

 

 

Race promoter Sam Ames poses with the top three men’s race finishers (L-R): Christopher Blevins, Peter Stetina and John Borstelmann (although the official results had Blevins finishing 4th behind  Brennan Wertz in a photo finish).

 

Although there were some smooth and fast off-road sections of the course, the Rock Cobbler’s renown is based on its variety of truly challenging sections (aka “shenanigans”).

 

Although feeling slightly out-of-place, but not the least bit lacking in enthusiasm was 2021 Individual Pursuit world champion Ashton Lambie. The likeable track star relied on his Lauf True Grit rolling on 650b wheels to help deal with the challenging descents.

 

In addition to the angry bulls, there were some sections of the course that included sheep and cows. As I was shooting photos, this one tracked me for a short time.

 

Former Belgian Waffle Ride  winner and Big Wheel Coaching founder Brian McCulloch looked the part in the old western town as he extolled the virtues of his new Bianchi Arcadex.

 

This is where clutch derailleurs can come in handy.

 

Current UCI mountain bike world champion Christopher Blevins led the race early on through the more technical sections, but once the course hit the pavement, he said his bike just didn’t have enough speed to compete with the taller gears used by Peter Stetina (who runs a Shimano Dura-Ace crank with GRX shifters).

 

Brennan Wertz’s  Above Category backed Pinarello Grevil.

 

This is what one of America’s best gravel racers looks like after giving it his all after 85 miles on a hot California day. Peter Stetina’s first two words after cross the finishing line, “Oh gosh!”

 

Thankfully, it’s true what “they” say that gravel attracts riders of every stripe and variety. This guy said he painted his fork to match the cable housing!

 

DAVID – BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

Few things make David happier in life than being able to race his bike and feast on Chick Fil-A sandwiches…but not necessarily in that order!

 

One thing David said he would do differently next time was to wear shoes with a less stiff sole for all the hike-a-bike sections. He did like his new GoPro 360 camera.

 

Post race David following a nearly seven hour effort.

AND IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

 

 

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