I did not find last year’s gravel to be super hard. If you rode off the packed tire tracks you were in for some extra work but my 38 mm tires had no trouble handling it. I could easily move over to let all the fast riders on 23s get by me but then going down the next hill I would have to ride my brakes the whole way because they certainly were not going fast on the downhills. I envy you if you found last year’s downhills to be fast. If you found last year’s loop to be super hard you should consider bigger tires. Just because you can do it on 23s doesn’t mean 23s are the best choice.