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Mar 15, 2022

This week we sit down with rising gravel racing star, Brennan Wertz from the Pinarello Scuderia team. Brennan has been tearing up the Northern California gravel scene in early 2022 with wins at the Grasshopper and Shasta Gravel Hugger.

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

Brennan Wertz - Pinarello

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

Let me start this week with a question. Did you come to gravel, cycling from another sport? This week's guest certainly did.

Brendan worked, spent his high school and collegiate years at the front end of another pack. The USA rowing pack. Brendan road for the national team, as well as Stanford university. But injury led him back to cycling a sport. He discovered in his youth here in the town of mill valley, California. We're going to dive into his background and what's led this pro to be at the front end of the field in 2022.

Before we jump into this week, shall I wanted to extend a big, thank you. And welcome to the feed. A new sponsor here on the gravel ride podcast.

I've been enjoying getting to know the team over in colorado from the feed and have been really impressed by their commitment to bring together not only products but education around this idea of human performance.

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[00:02:27] Craig Dalton: The feed is running a special offer on the feed formula. Right now, you can get your first order at 50% off. By simply visiting the gravel ride. Again that's the gravel ride for special 50% off your first order of feed formula.

With that business behind us, let's jump right in to this week's interview.

brennan, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much

[00:02:53] Brennan Wertz: for having me. It's good to be

[00:02:54] Craig Dalton: here. It's a rare instance that I've got someone in my home in mill valley. So I'm stoked to have this conversation face to face.

[00:03:00] Brennan Wertz: Yeah, me too. No, it's a, it's a real pleasure.

[00:03:02] Craig Dalton: We always jump into the conversation by learning a little bit about your background. So growing up in mill valley, when did you discover the bike and where did it go to from the.

[00:03:12] Brennan Wertz: Uh, really early on, it was a vehicle that I use to get to. And from school, just down the road here, I went to tan valley elementary school.

And I would ride with my parents when I was first getting started and, you know, kindergarten or the early days ride to and from school. And then later on in elementary school, it just became more of a fun toy, something that I could go out and explore with and go with my friends out in the Headlands.

You know, rip around Mount Tam on our mountain bikes. So, uh, pretty quickly I got into mountain biking, more descent oriented, I would say I would go and do Downieville with some friends every once in a while, and even went and did some of the downhill. Shuttle access riding at north star one.

[00:03:49] Craig Dalton: Nice. Did they have the Tam high school mountain bike program at that

[00:03:52] Brennan Wertz: point? They did. Once I got into high school, it was when I was I kind of got swept into rowing and that required my full-time focus.

[00:03:59] Craig Dalton: How did that happen? I'm super curious to dig into your rowing career, because I think as I mentioned to you before I've met so many rowers that came into cycling and with this huge engine.

So I'm just curious to dig in a little bit that, so your freshmen in high school, it sounds like you started. How did that come to pass? I think of rowing as like a European or east coast sport. So out here in the west coast, how did you get drawn into. Yeah.

[00:04:22] Brennan Wertz: I think a lot of people have that traditional view of the sport being very much like east coast, Ivy league or in, you know, England and in central Europe.

But the west coast has produced a lot of really high quality rowing talent. There are a lot of top schools on the west coast here. I went to Stanford. That was a good brewing program. And then there was university of Washington and Cal Berkeley both had very, very good programs. And I think a lot of it just has to do with the climate.

You know, it's the same with riding a bike around here. We can train all year round with rowing. We didn't have to deal with frozen water. So, I think that gives the west coast a big leg up on, on its competition and on the, you know, the, the school. Uh, east but more specifically how I got into it. I, my parents were both rowers in college.

My dad grew up here in Morin as well. Uh, and he wrote for what was Redwood high school back in the day when he was there. And it's now the Marine rowing association. So I rode there and in high school they introduced me to the sport. They definitely. Pressure me to get into rowing. But they just introduced it to me.

And they were actually kind of hesitant for me to get into rowing because it's not the best spectator sport travel, these odd places for this weird, you know, oblong body of water to go and do these races that, I mean, it's kind of like watching a road race. You're standing on the side of the road or on the side of the lake and boom, the race goes by and in an instant it's over.

So, but they were encouraging and I went and, and tried out my freshman year and quickly found some success and found that the mountain bike riding that I had been doing in the years prior had help set myself up for some success there with a lot of leg strength and leg power and just generally good cardio.

And so that was kind of a smooth transition. Like I said earlier, the, the mountain biking I was doing was much more descent oriented. And so I had to kind of put that to the side because I knew the two didn't really compliment each other. I was going out on the weekends and riding my mountain bike and you're trying to do more jumps and just rip down single track.

And that wasn't really providing me the cardio benefit that I needed for training for rowing. And it was more of just a risky, fun hobby. So. But that to the side and hung the bike up in the garage for a number of years, what is it

[00:06:28] Craig Dalton: like when, when you get into the sport of rowing what are the workouts look like and how long are the events that you would typically train for?

[00:06:37] Brennan Wertz: The events vary by season? So in the fall, the races are five kilometers long, which is roughly 18 to 20 minute effort. And then in the spring, And that's usually kind of like a time trial where you're racing against the clock and you start on roughly 30 minutes staggers or sorry, 30 seconds staggers in the spring.

You're racing six boats across head to head and it's a 2000 meter, two K race. And that's about five and a half minutes. And so it's. Really a VO two effort. It's really intense. It's just that horrible combination of an extended sprint, basically where you're sprinting out of the gate. And then you settle into your rhythm for a few minutes and then you're sprinting again at the end.

And you're just red line the whole time. So to prepare for that, you spend the winter and fall kind of building your base similar to how you would for cycling, where you're just doing longer, steady state rows. And you're you know, just getting the heart rate in that kind of mid tier zone. And then later in the winter, you start building the intensity in and working that VO two engine a little bit more.

And then as you get into the spring, then it's just sort of fine tuning. But I would say that there's also a really, you know, it's a huge, it's a really important team swore like the team element is huge in the, in the sport of rowing. Not only is the training really important, but also the comradery, but then the technique like matching with your teammates and really being on the same page as you go through the motion of the rowing stroke, you have to be really in synchronized motion for it to click and for it to

[00:08:02] Craig Dalton: work.

Yeah. I've heard that technicality of rowing is just really important. Like you've got to have good technique. You can have all the power on the. And if you don't have synchronicity with your teammates, it's a complete disaster. Yeah, exactly. So going into, you know, what would an endurance rowing workout look like?

Is that like sort of, you know, we think about you probably go out for six hour rides routinely when you were training for rowing, would endurance be an hour long, workout,

[00:08:26] Brennan Wertz: more maybe 90 minutes, two hours. So often what we do, uh, when I was at Stanford, what we would do is we'd go out on the bay in the morning when the water was calm and we'd do maybe two hours on the water we'd mix in some interval.

The nature of the bay is that we had this kind of channel that we would run as a shipping channel in the port of Redwood city, similar to in high school, we wrote in the, of an air Creek. And so you have this. Two kilometer stretch of water. And so you can't ever really get a super long effort in because you're turning the boat.

And so you have to stop and turn the 60 foot boat around in the body of water. And so it takes a minute or two to spend the boat. So you can't really get that super long, extended, steady state effort in unless the water is extremely calm. But I did spend one summer in Hanover, New Hampshire training with the national team there, and that.

An amazing place to train in the summer because we're on the Connecticut river and you could go as far as you want it. So we would just take off and head north for an hour and then spin once and then come all the way back down. And so then it was really, it was really eye opening for me to see the physical benefit you get from that kind of like real long endurance.

So to come back around, I guess I would say that the morning sessions were usually on the water. And then in the afternoon we would do a land session that was either. Some, not usually a ton of weightlifting, but some combination of like indoor bike and rowing machine and just kind of cardio and cardio and or fitness testing.

[00:09:49] Craig Dalton: Cool. Thanks for allowing me to drill into that. Cause as I said, you know, knowing rowers always come out strong now it makes sense. There's a lot of work that goes into it. So you were competing at a pretty high level with USA rowing at the end of your career. What led to you kind of leading the sport of rowing and coming back to the sport of cycling.

[00:10:06] Brennan Wertz: Yeah, most recently I was on the U 23 national team in 2018 and we spent the summer, uh, first the selection camp for the national team was held in Seattle. So we were training in Seattle. Uh, once I made the cut for the national team, then we spent that summer, uh, traveling around Europe racing. We went to Raisa elite world cup.

Uh, we were the U 23 national team, but we were racing up at the elite level at the world cup in Switzerland. We raised that, and that was when I started to have some really challenging rib pain and back pain. So ribbon back injuries are quite common in rowing and effectively. What it is is your ribs are separating and kind of stress fracturing through the rowing motion.

Just that repeated motion over and over again. And it was on my front and back, and it just caused a ton of pain. And, uh, it was really difficult for me to sleep or laugh or cough or sneeze, any of those, those things cause a lot of discomfort. And so from there, I, we had a training camp after we were in Switzerland at the world company, Italy for 10 days, we went on the training camp and I couldn't row it all that entire time.

And so that was meant to be our final tune-up before we had to Poland for world. And I was basically sidelined that entire time and riding this indoor spin bike and the eight man boat was going out with seven guys and there was just like, I could see them out on the water rowing and there's just this one empty spot.

That was where I was supposed to be sitting. Or they would have an assistant coach fill in who hadn't been rowing in two years. So yeah, it was kind of a grim situation and I had to just patch it together and I had a lot of KT tape and, you know, daily, or, you know, I was meeting with. The team, physical therapist, multiple times a day to get massages and get taped up and everything.

And so really just hanging on by a thread through the end and went to worlds. We had a great team, the program that we were, uh, Uh, part of that year was a very, very high level, a lot of really talented athletes there. And we ended up coming away with the win at worlds and we set a world best time. So on paper, everything was awesome.

But I had even had food poisoning during the event too. So I just kept getting all these, you know, these blows along the way that Just kind of felt like maybe I should take just, you know, take some time on my body, recover from this and heal. And, uh, so I took some time off from the sport and I came back home and was in really good shape, but I wanted to, and I wanted to keep that going.

I wanted to remain fit and exercise, but I needed a break from my body from rowing. And so I grabbed my dad's road bike and just started cruising around Moran a little bit. And. Really quickly, you just found the group rides and found the culture and the scene here in Marin, and really loved going out on those rides.

And when did a couple of rides and had just come back from winning a world championship, I thought I was, you know, in this amazing fitness and everything had been going, going. Training was good. And then I go on my first couple of group rides and I just get obliterated. I get dropped I'm way out the back.

I remember having to almost get off my bike overall. I Alpine down, I'd never really been, been out there and done that loop and had no idea where it was or how much further I had to go. And, uh, it was really humbling and I loved it. I was like, wow, this is just such a cool experience. I get to go out and explore these new places and not to say that rowing training isn't inherently fun.

I dunno, maybe it isn't where the act of riding the bike is just, it's inherently so much fun and it just brings so much joy and you're out seeing these beautiful places. And for me, that really quickly. Pulled me into the sport. So that was, was that 2018? That was, yeah, that was like fall of 2018.

[00:13:28] Craig Dalton: And at some point you must've had to come to the conclusion that your body or your mind, or you just didn't want to do rowing anymore. Was it, was it the body that kind of was telling you, you can't go back to the sport?

[00:13:40] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was the body for sure. But then I also had an insert. I'll have this other voice in my hair.

Like, Hey, look like this alternative is also awesome. Like it's not like you're just walking away from something. Cause I think if I had just left the sport wrong and then had done nothing, it would have been really hard, but I had this other option that was amazing. And I was really enjoying. And at that point in time, the bike wasn't something new to me.

I knew I knew the bike. I had come to appreciate it. I spent, you know, early in, earlier in college I spent a summer living in Germany doing an internship and I brought a mountain bike with me and I took the summer completely off from rowing and. That was the first summer where I rode the bike consistently and actually thought I was training on my bike and I'd go out and I'd just ride.

It was a cross country bike. And I would rip through this, uh, German mountain range in central Germany, near Frankfurt and tons of single track and beautiful gravel roads. Uh, I wasn't racing at all. I wasn't really looking at any numbers. I had Strava on my iPhone. But I wouldn't really, I wasn't geeking out on numbers or data or time or anything.

I would just go out and ride and really enjoyed it. And I had the opportunity to load my bike up a couple of times and go on these bike packing adventures that summer. And so that I knew at that time, I was not in a position where I could just walk away from rowing. Cause I, uh, I was on a scholarship at Stanford.

I knew that I, you know, I wanted to go and sort of see that through. And that was my main sport at the time. But I did always have in the back of my mind, like, Hey, that's summer in Germany, you know, that bike packing trip through the black forest. Like that was pretty amazing. So, kind of the inverse of a lot of people have a lot of people come into to cycling and gravel racing.

You know, it's very common to see people come from the world tour from pro road, racing into gravel and into this adventure side of cycling. But for me, it was actually that's really what got me into cycling and just riding a bike at all in the first place was, was that adventure cycling. Sleeping in my hammock, in the woods and packing all my belongings onto my bike and then riding on to the next town.

And so anyway, that was always in the back of my mind. And then when I, when I had the time sort of the forced time from that injury, then it just became this, you know, it became much more realistic for me to focus more on, on the bike. I

[00:15:42] Craig Dalton: ended up joining the local powerhouse team Mike's bikes eventually, and did a fair, fairly heavy season on the road to pre pandemic.

Is that kind of the way it played out?

[00:15:53] Brennan Wertz: Yeah, I spent that whole summer or that whole, the whole spring seasoned racing as much as I could. I was just totally in love with it. I wanted to get as much experience as possible and then. I made it from CalFire Volvo to cat too. And it was just really enjoying the road scene and decided I wanted to try to go and race in Belgium, uh, just because that seemed like really cool cultural scene.

They love cycling there. There's tons of racing opportunity and I just wanted to go there and see if I could make it and see if I could kind of make the cut and figure it out. Unfortunately, got hit by a car the first week I was in Europe for that summer. Uh, and so I was sidelined for that summer and I didn't get to race at all.

That was in 2019. But then when I returned in the. The fall of 2019, I had sort of had a year of like, all right, this is, I really, I'm still loving this. I still really want to focus on the bike. And that was when I got bumped up from the Mike's bikes development team to the elite team and decided I would continue to focus on road cycling, kind of going into what became the pandemic year.

[00:16:48] Craig Dalton: And I believe they gave you a little bit of leeway to try some gravel racing,

[00:16:53] Brennan Wertz: right? Yeah. Yeah. So they, they were, you know, Creative team. It's a creative bunch of guys and they all like riding gravel too. And they, you know, they saw the potential there with a lot of these events. And so they supported me to go to a couple of different gravel events and I went and did BWR with them.

And so, you know, now last year in 2021, I had this awesome opportunity to go attend a few of these big gravel events, both with Mike's bikes. And then also with above category where I had started working. And then that's really. What got my feet wet in the gravel scene in the gravel racing scene, I guess I'd had a gravel bike for a couple of years, or, yeah, I guess a year, two years at that point.

So living in Murren, there's an, there's an awesome amount of gravel riding. It's kind of everywhere. It's really easy to access. So I'd been riding a lot of gravel, but I'd never really done an erasing. And so then I had that opportunity to go do attend some of these races and then just totally fell in love with it.

[00:17:43] Craig Dalton: And as you looked into this season and I presume at some point you had to make a decision, do I want to stay on the road? You know, continue with the Mike's bike squad or look for another deal. Obviously, domestic road racing has its own challenges economically. What was your mindset in terms of choosing the gravel route?

And how'd you come to that decision?

[00:18:02] Brennan Wertz: Yeah, I think last year I had a really amazing learning experience and that the month of June, I spread myself way too thin. I started the month off with Unbound and that was my first big high-profile gravel race. And we built. A very, very specific custom mosaic gravel bike for that event with above category.

And I really enjoyed going through the process of designing this bike specifically for this one event and, and specking it out with all these amazing components. And that was when I really began to see the power of building these relationships with sponsors and working with partners that you really value as an athlete, and that the brands really value as an athlete.

And that there's this really awesome mutual. Respect for one another and understanding that like, Hey, we're going to do something really cool together with this project. And so we put together this amazing bike. I had the opportunity to go out and race. I had a blast building the bike. I had a blast at the event.

I ended up getting a 10th there and that results sort of opened up some doors to go to a few other events throughout the summer

[00:19:00] Craig Dalton: under the MC spikes flag at

[00:19:01] Brennan Wertz: that point still for the most part under the Mike spikes flag, that specific event at Unbound I did as a marketing project with the both category.

And then later on in the summer, I did Steamboat again with above category, but for the most part, yeah, all my other races, it was with my bikes. Gotcha. You had to come back to that month of June. I did Unbound. And then right after Unbound, I went to pro road nationals and race status about 10 days after finishing Unbound, I was on the start line at pro road nationals in the time trial.

And that was an event that I've been preparing pretty specifically for. So I had this sort of weird split in my training where I was doing these epic long endurance rides, going up into Sonoma, Napa riding in the heat to train specifically for the Unbound effort. But I was also during the week doing intervals on my TT by.

Knowing that a week after Unbound I'd be racing the pro nationals time trial. And that was a big, I wanted that to be a big focus of mine, the time trial, but just the way that the calendar worked, it, it just, it was too short of a window for me to recover fully from Unbound and then prepare for the time trial.

So I can remember what I got. I think I got like 15th or 16th and I was, I was pleased with it, but I knew like I could have done so much better. My power target was 50 Watts under my power target and, uh, at pro nationals. The following weekend, I went and raised elite nationals because Mike's bikes is an elite and amateur elite team.

And so we got to race up at the pro road nationals, but then we went to the elite amateur nationals, which is kind of like our national championship at our level. And by that point I felt like I had recovered a little bit more. I made a few minor fit adjustments to my time trial bike felt like I was flying on the TT bike.

Uh, ended up getting second in the TT and nationals by I think, two seconds. So a bit frustrating, but I felt like I, you know, I hit my power target, everything kind of clicked and it all, it all worked. But. I still felt like I left that event. Like, I don't know. I just spent these two weeks doing these, these national championships on the road and the racing superintendents, and it's super fun.

And it's really awesome to push yourself like that and be in that environment around all these, you know, like a pro road nationals, you're racing next to people. You've watched on TV for a number of years and you're like, oh, I'm right here next to them now. So it's a super cool experience, but you know, I finished those races and it just seemed like it was kind of looking around.

They're just everyone just after the race kind of went, did their own thing. They went their own separate ways and no one was really talking to each other. It wasn't, it just didn't seem like all that much fun. I was like, what's going on here? Like,

[00:21:20] Craig Dalton: that's your Unbound experience where there's a joy at the finish

[00:21:24] Brennan Wertz: line and everybody's celebrating each other and it's this huge party and there's, you know, a barbecue or whatever.

And it just, it's, it's a little bit more of a, of an experience. And so then I'd kind of had those two, those two national championship experience. And then to finish June off, I think it was early July. I went down to San Diego for Belgium wall fluoride. And that was, that was kind of the moment when I was like, I think there's something like this, something really attractive here with gravel.

And I went and did that race and it felt just as professional as pro road nationals, like we had, there was a caravan, there were cars were taking feeds from the, the follow car. We're getting bottles like everyone's you know, riding very professional. But then afterwards, it's this huge party and everyone's having a good time and you're, you're chatting with sponsors and there's this big expo and there's tons and tons of people.

And I just thought like, oh, this is, I think this is much more my speed. And this is really what I'm, what I'm into. I

[00:22:20] Craig Dalton: remember watching some of that coverage and seeing a couple of Mike's bikes jerseys. One, that's just fun to see the local team down there, uh, doing it. And two, I was sort of scratching my head.

I was like, well, who are these guys? So, you know, it's great full circle to, to kind of have you on the podcast now and talk about that journey. Yeah,

[00:22:36] Brennan Wertz: no, that was an amazing moment. And then, and then that really was the turning point. I think for me, where I realized, like, I think there's something here that I need to focus more on and pay more attention to.

And at that point then I started looking at. To all the other gravel races throughout the rest of the season, like what can I get entries to? What can I attend? And from there, I got to go to Steamboat and did the rest of the Belgian waffle ride series. And, uh, ended up coming second in the overall for the Belgium Wolf ride series.

And just really love the, the, the way that that season unfolded and having the opportunity to go to all those races. It was really, uh, really a privilege. Yeah, that's awesome.

[00:23:09] Craig Dalton: So it sounds like, like 20, 22 this year defining your own schedule. Can you talk. One that the team and organization that's supporting you this year, and then two, let's talk about, you know, your first month of racing this year and all the big events you've hit and the successes you've been having, it's been great to watch.

[00:23:27] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. So I signed with Pinarello to be a part of their scooter Rhea Pinarello team. It's an amazing team. Uh, a couple of different, uh, kind of a couple different focuses. Like there I'm part of the, it's like the competitive side of it. And so me and my teammate, Brayden Lang, we're going to be taking on all the biggest gravel races around the world.

I have a packed calendar with races, both in the U S as well as internationally. And then some of the, uh, the other teammates that we have they're there. Community leaders they're really active in their communities. They're inspiring people to get on their bikes. And what I really love about the team is that it's a super supportive atmosphere, similar to what I had back in my rowing days, because there's this whole like gravel, private tier scene.

I think it can be a little bit lonely from time to time. Like you're, you don't have a team network around you. You don't have that kind of base that I've become really accustomed to and really love. And so. Having that network of teammates around me that are supporting me and motivating me and inspiring me with all the stuff that I'm doing and then, you know, vice versa, they're inspiring and motivating their community.

Uh, I think that it's just a really cool combination, so I'm really happy to be a part of.

[00:24:33] Craig Dalton: Are they handling some logistics? Like if you go to Unbound, are they kind of getting a team house together

[00:24:38] Brennan Wertz: and that kind of stuff? Yeah. Yeah. There's some of that as well. Which is nice. I mean, in the race itself, like we won't be doing any like teen tactics or anything like that.

Like it's not that type of team, but it's, it's this really cool collective of individuals that are all. Coming into the sport of gravel for various reasons and are looking to achieve different things in the store and looking to but like at the core of it, the team motto is to motivate and inspire.

And so it's just trying to get more people on bikes and more people to come in and see the joy that we're all experiencing while out on our bikes and want to be a part of it.

[00:25:08] Craig Dalton: Just something I'm curious about in that team, is everybody riding the same equipment or do you. Other sub sponsors, uh, personally to the

[00:25:16] Brennan Wertz: table.

Yes. So everybody's riding a Pinarello frame. And then from there, we kind of, it's up to us. Figuring out how we want to spec it out and, and you know, what relationships we might have to, to kind of fill out the rest of the bike. So for me, for my bikes for my growl bikes specifically, it's the Pinarello Greville or Graebel and I'm working with envy and ceramic speed, and this is all kind of done through above category as well.

So that's another one of my main sponsors local shop here. In Marin county and they're taking care of all the builds, making sure that the bikes are always super dialed and I'll take my bikes there to Robert, the mechanic for service. But yeah, envy wheels, ceramic speed for all the bearings. Uh, I've got Garmin for all the, the data and the analytics and everything, uh, Ceram road components for everything, uh, Rene her's tires.

So yeah, it's really. Special build. And it's been really fun to be a part of the process of putting together all those various sponsorships and, and building this incredible bike that I get to now spend the season racing

[00:26:13] Craig Dalton: in the show notes for a picture of your bike, as it is a beauty. Top end across the board.

It's real. It's just a beautiful machine to look at for sure.

[00:26:22] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Very feeling, very fortunate to have the opportunity to ride such an incredible machine.

[00:26:27] Craig Dalton: Yeah. So you've, you've come out in 2022, just smashing, not only like super busy and hitting a lot of races, but having amazing success thus far.

Remember, as we were trying to schedule this, it's kind of like I'm racing every weekend. I have like a kind of two day window between traveling to the next thing. So you've done some grasshopper. Want to grass opera this year already. And just this past weekend you won the Shasta gravel hugger.

[00:26:53] Brennan Wertz: Yeah.

Yeah. It's been really, really fun to get out and hit these early season races hard. And you know, I've, I've been very blessed with incredible weather all winter, and it's been sad from an environmental standpoint that we haven't got the rain that we really need. In terms of training and preparing for the race season, it has been, it has been really, you know, the weather has been incredible for that.

So I've been riding a ton and just really excited to come, come into a big season ahead. I think this next weekend, I'm going out to Oklahoma for mid south, and then I'll take a little. Mid-season break. So we'll take a few days off and just rest and reset and talk to my coach. Kind of look, look at the plan, assess where we are, and then begin to build up to some of the bigger races later in the season.

Like the Belgium waffle rides and, and Unbound.

[00:27:37] Craig Dalton: Well, yeah, you know, it's interesting having talked to you and learned a little bit more specifically about your background specifically, that focus on time trials that you had kind of as a, as a road race. Watching some of the imagery come across social media.

I think both of the events where I've seen you, it's just like Brennan on a time trial, you know, unafraid to just kind of take off and hit it on your own. You want it? Can you talk just a little bit about your mentality in this races and if it's helpful. To kind of talk about the Shasta race specifically, like how it broke down, because I know ultimately you ended up out there with Adam road there.

So yeah, just, just curious, like what your mentality is and where you think your strengths are and how you try to break these races up.

[00:28:20] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. I think what's been really fun for me in these early races is that if you look at all the courses that I have raised, they've been very, very different. So. Uh, I did a little low gap hopper, which was, it started out with a 20 minute climb and it was an eight or 9% and you've got Pete stepped into there.

And so for me, when I look at these early season races, I look at trying to find just this really cool mix of diverse courses so that I can try different things out. And, you know, the effort at each one of these races was so different. And so for me, I know that. Uh, race like the Shasta gravel hugger.

That's kinda my, that type of course is sort of more of my bread and butter. It's rolling the elements of that. So like not a ton of climbing. I mean, I can climb when I need to, but it's not my favorite thing to do. You know, living here in Marine county, we've got tons and tons of climbing. You can't really go anywhere without climbing, but I do really love these fast rolling courses, uh, where you can just paddle all day long.

So Shasta was very much that, and same with Huff master hopper the week before. And for Shasta specifically, I know, you know, Adam wrote bears was there. I think that was his first race of the season. And I had a ton of really good battles with him last year. And a lot of respect for him. He's, you know, he's definitely at the top of his game.

And, uh, he showed up to the start line of it had been snowing the night before and he shows up with no legwarmers, no shoe covers. Some are gloves, short finger gloves, and, you know, I'm bundled up, I'm wearing tights and shoe covers and thermal based layers and hat. And you know, all this warm gear and he's from Canada.

He's been riding his fat bike all winter. So I get it like he's, he's been riding in the snow, so it's nothing new for him. I don't have that opportunity. I don't get to ride in the snow all that often, but I kind of, I saw that. I know. Okay. He's probably, he's trying to, he's trying to hit it hard early if he's coming here, dressed like that.

And so I was keeping my eye on him and I was actually way in the back of the pack, having a quick chat with Pete stetting about his recent trip to Columbia, and we were just catching up and then the corner of my eyes, see Adam just take off from the front and like Pete and I kind of rolled her eyes, but like really already, you know, this is early in the race.

I, I knew exactly when he, when he attacked, like I had to be right there, otherwise he would get away and that could be the end of it right there. So I had to blast up the gutter kind of along the side of this dirt road. And I think we're 20 minutes into the race or something. And, uh, at that point I was able to catch up to him.

We had a few people on our wheel for just a brief moment, but then it very quickly became just the two of us. And it was clear that he was, he was there to work and he was there to ride hard. We settled into a rhythm and he's also at a time trial list. That's sort of his background on the road. And basically it was just like, all right, how long you want to rotate for two minutes?

All right, let's go. And then just 400 wallets for two minutes and then switch and then do it again. And again and again. And then two hours later, we're still doing it. And it took about two or three hours for us to get any sort of time gap. And then we got a time gap about three minutes, and then, then it started to get a little bit more spicy.

There was some attacking and some cat and mouse But I've been doing a lot of training recently where I'd go out and do these five to seven hour rides, really working specifically on the last hour or two and doing all my intervals and the really hard stuff in that last hour, so that, you know, when it comes to that point in the race, that that's what I'm prepared for.

And it's very, very different from any of the rowing training I've been doing. You know, you have this basically five-hour warmup to get yourself nice and softened up. Dehydrated and sweaty and everything. And, and then you, you really hit the intervals at the end of the end of the session. So I felt like I had been doing a lot of that in training.

So I knew that going into that last hour, I would be in a, in a pretty good place and I was feeling good. So, I knew that the course was changing direction. We were coming out of a long headwind section into more of a crosswind cross tailwind section. And so I attacked him over the crest of a. Got into the descent and I'm a little bit bigger than him.

And so I was kinda able to just really put the hammer down on this descent. That was a pretty fast, but a peddling descent. And then once it flattened out, then it was just kind of Tom trial mode and basically put the head down for 40, 45 minutes and ride as hard as I could back to 10.

[00:32:16] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Amazing.

Congrats on that victory. Thank you. You must feel good. Now going into, I feel like mid south is going to be the big test because obviously. The Northern California seam is the scene is all was cracking this time a year. And for me, I encourage anybody who's interested in seeing who's going to be at the front end of the field to look at those grasshopper results.

Because the last few years running the side from the pandemic, you could always see who was coming out and with really good form, going to mid south. Obviously you're going to get athletes from different parts of the country. You know, sort of unofficially one of the bigger openers of the season, how you feeling about that course.

There may. It's certainly going to be cold. So you had a little bit of Shasta. It could potentially be more. Are you changing your setup on the bike? You changing how you're thinking about that race? Yeah,

[00:33:02] Brennan Wertz: I would say the only thing I'm flirting, the only equipment I'd probably change is going to be my tires.

Everything else is going to be the same. And to be honest with you, I haven't even decided what tires I'm going to run. It's kind of one of those things I'm going out there with one setup. I'll probably have my, uh, Renee has 38 C Barlow pass licks on and cross my fingers that it's dry. But yeah, it does look like there's snow on the forecast for Friday.

So the day before the race. So we'll see what happens there. I will bring definitely a spare set of novels just in case it does get really nasty and muddy, but I'm crossing my fingers for a fast, dry race. I think that would, that would suit me a little bit better. But with that being said, a crazy mud Fest, it's one of those things where it could be an epic experience.

You never know what's going to happen. And I would also embrace that wholeheartedly.

[00:33:45] Craig Dalton: I really enjoyed watching. Pace and battle Pete stat know that one year. And it was interesting as someone with a mountain bike background, I saw how Pete was treating his bike versus how paisan was treating his bike.

And it just seemed to me that at some point Pete's bike is going to fall apart because he was just not babying it, it wasn't cleaning it in the same way pace and was, and so it was interesting to see, kind of play out in that, in that respect. I do. I mean, I tend to hope for the, all the racers sake that it turns out to be a dry year and hopefully.

The snow cold, snow hard pack. And I'll be a fast, fast a day. Cause I think that'll be an interesting race to, yeah,

[00:34:23] Brennan Wertz: I'm really excited. I was messaging a little bit earlier today with both pacing and Ted king and we've been talking about, you know, setups and everything and it's going to be a good one.

I think, I think a lot of the top contenders are going to be there. It'll be our first big showdown of this, this season. Hi, I couldn't be more excited to be kind of lining up against the top of the whole world's gravel seen at the, yeah. Yeah.

[00:34:44] Craig Dalton: It feels like, I mean, obviously last year we had a bunch of races go off, but it didn't feel like with what had happened in 2020 with the pandemic, it didn't feel like it was full throttle and everybody didn't have the same choices and opportunities.

And I feel like 20, 22 is a clean slate. Like everybody's getting to where they want to get to the races are going off and it's just going to be. To see all these talented athletes just kind of attacking this. Yeah.

[00:35:08] Brennan Wertz: And I think it'll be interesting too, to see like what people have been up to in the off season.

Like my off season was very brief. You know, all, I took a month completely off the bike, but then pretty quickly got into riding quite a bit. And then, you know, like I said, we had amazing weather, so I was training a lot. I did the coast ride all the way down to San Diego with Ted king and a bunch of others.

And So, yeah, I'm just really curious to see like how everyone's recovered from last season. Cause that season did go pretty long and I think people got really excited and hit it super hard for a long period of time going way late into end of October. And so I'm just super excited to see like where, where everyone's at and get this kind of first, first barometer first opportunity to gauge everyone's form.

And, and then, you know, we'll take it from there.

[00:35:47] Craig Dalton: Yeah. You mentioned you've, we've got obviously a lot of gravel athletes coming from the world tour who have had long careers and I've come to group. You're kind of at the beginning of your career coming in and charging, how are you intimidated when you get on the line against some of these names that you've, you know, you've seen in the pro tour?

[00:36:04] Brennan Wertz: I think I was a little bit last year. But at the same time, like I didn't grow up watching cycling, like I didn't, you know, we'd watch the tour de France every once in a while. And that was cool to see. To be honest, like, I didn't really know who these people were anyway. Like, you know, as I've come into the sport of cycling, I've done my, I feel like I've done my due diligence to watch as much road racing as I can.

And I love watching road racing. I love watching the classics, especially. But yeah, I think, I think that's only really become something that I've come to appreciate in the last year or two is. The having the opportunity to align up against these guys that have come from this incredible background in the sport and someone like Lawrence 10 damn.

Who's been at the top of the road cycling scene for so many years. And now to get to line up with him at the start line and Unbound or at any of these gravel races is a huge honor. So yeah, I think, yeah, it's it's, it was, I was nervous last year. And now I think I view it really more as an honor, and I'm just excited to get to line up against all these fierce competitor.

I have a, have a solid battle.

[00:37:03] Craig Dalton: Yeah. It sounds like you're willing to put it on the line for the win no matter who's

[00:37:07] Brennan Wertz: there. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you know, it's, it's also part of the, I think part of the sport, you have to be really focused on, on your equipment, on your own, your own race. Like you can't just go out there and ride as hard as you can for the first hour or two, knowing that you're going to explode and pay the price for that an hour 8, 9, 10, whatever.

So you have to. Self-aware you have to know where your fitness is, what you're capable of at that moment in time, and then also manage your bike and your equipment and know that you're not digging yourself into a hole you can't get out of,

[00:37:37] Craig Dalton: particularly in these ultra distance races like Unbound, you know, it's a different story, right.

You know, I've heard from other pros that, you know, the first 30 miles is super intense and there's a lot of jockeying and then it'll shake out a little bit. It'll settle in and then kind of realizes like, you know, we're going to be on the bike for, I don't know, 10 hours. It's a, there's certain amount of miles.

We just need to cover a little more tranquil and just get through it and then we'll attack each other later.

[00:38:01] Brennan Wertz: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. It was very much what it was even this past weekend with Adam, you know, there was three hours or two to three hours where we were just working super well together. It was basically a team time trial.

We're just rotating knowing that Pete Stetson and a few others are behind chasing and the harder we're riding together. Now just putting us further and further ahead of them. That'll pay off in the long run. So yeah, it's a, it's a really fun way to race a race. You

[00:38:23] Craig Dalton: mentioned sort of some of the high points for the rest of your year.

And correct me if I'm wrong, you're doing an Unbound and the BWR series.

[00:38:29] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. So I decided not to apply for the lifetime grand Prix this year. I'd already kind of set up my calendar. A few of those races didn't quite suit me. And I'm really excited about Steamboat two and coming from C-level I think going up and wanting to prioritize Steamboat is one of my big races for the year, but then doing Leadville the day before, just sort of felt like I'm was probably shooting myself in the foot.

So I'm super excited to watch that whole lifetime grand Prix shake out and see, you know, fall out from season, start to end. Yeah. Couldn't be more excited to follow it. But for me, for my calendar, I'll be focusing more on Unbound Steamboat big sugar at the end of the year. And then throughout all that, I'll have the BWR series going as well.

So I'll try to do, uh, as well as I can in the overall. They're nice.

[00:39:14] Craig Dalton: Well, it sounds like you got an exciting season ahead of you.

[00:39:17] Brennan Wertz: Yeah. Yeah. I couldn't be more

[00:39:18] Craig Dalton: thrilled. Yeah. That's awesome. Well, thank you. So we're coming by and talking about it. It's great to get connected with you. You know, I'll be rooting from, from the hometown.

[00:39:26] Brennan Wertz: Definitely. Thank you so much. Really? It's been a pleasure.


[00:39:29] Craig Dalton: So that's going to do it for this week's broadcast big. Thanks to Brennan for joining the show and huge thank you to the feed for joining us. Remember to get that 50% off the feed formula. Simply visit the gravel ride.

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