This weekend sees the second ever UCI Gravel World Championships, which this year takes place in Northern Italy. After the women compete on Saturday, three Bahrain Victorious riders will don their national jerseys for the 169km from Lago Le Bandie and Pieve di Soligo on Sunday.
Matej Mohorič, Fran Miholjević and Matevž Govekar all arrive in Italy fresh from last week’s Cro Race, where Mohorič took victory on the ‘Queen Stage’, while Miholjević & Govekar were prominent in breakaways & sprints respectively. All three are ending what has been a long, arduous season, with something a little different.
“I have no expectations for a result, but I’m still looking forward to racing on the gravel bike,” says Mohorič.
“It’s a new experience for me and I will embrace it and do my best. My shape is still pretty good after a long and successful season, so I’m more than happy to do one last push and see where it gets me!”
The parcour is split roughly 50/50 between tarmac & gravel, with several challenging rough trails. There are 9 climbs, and 1890m of ascending, most of which is on normal roads. Matej comments:
“The course is quite varied: there are some asphalt sections and some gravel but flat. Then there are some parts that are super technical, especially in the final loop, with quite a few short but really sharp climbs. There are single track segments, and plenty with real ‘gravel racing’ characteristics.”
Other than the surface beneath the wheels, another notable difference from our usual race format is at the start, which takes the form of a grid. Each competitor will be assigned a starting position, based on his results in previous gravel races, plus UCI rankings in road, mountain bike & cyclocross.
“I think the riders with more off-road experience will definitely have an advantage,” continues the Slovenian, “they train and race on gravel bikes year round. And it will suit the cyclocross guys too.”
The startlist for the event is long, with over 220 entrants. As well as our boys, the star name from the road is Belgian Wout Van Aert, who lines up alongside his countryman, the defending champion Gianni Vermeersch.
The UCI gravel World Championships elite men’s race starts at 1030 local time in Veneto, Italy.