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The first-ever UCI Gravel World Championships route has been revealed, and the inaugural event looks to be fast and flat.
Gravel worlds is scheduled to take place on the white gravel roads of Italy’s Veneto region over the October 8-9 weekend.
The history-rich routes start in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vicenza, passes closely by the city of Padua, and finish at the medieval walled city of Cittadella, 25 km northeast of Vicenza.
The courses were designed by Angelo Furlan and Marco Menin, two former professional road cyclists from Italy who were commissioned by PP Sport Events, the organizer of gravel worlds. Milan-San Remo champ Filippo Pozzato helms the relatively new production company.
The gravel worlds courses will be about three-quarters typical Italian white gravel sections – similar to those found in Strade Bianche – and cobbled sections. The remaining quarter will be made up of asphalt roads.
Elite women, women’s age group, and men’s 50+ categories will race on Saturday, October 8 on a 140-kilometer course with 69 percent gravel and 700 meters of elevation gain.
On Sunday, elite men and under-49 age group categories race on the same route, with the addition of a 25-kilometer final circuit. Age-group riders will complete the circuit once for a total of 165 kilometers and 750 meters of altitude gain, while elite men complete it twice, for a total of 190 kilometers and 800 meters of altitude gain and a total of 73 percent gravel.
According to Erwin Vervecken, the three-time cyclocross world champ from Belgium who organized the UCI Gravel World Series qualifying series, the gravel worlds course will see fast, tactical action, more akin to road racing than off-road.
“From a tactical point of view, it will be interesting for riders,” he said. “The first 20k is real hard gravel with a 1k steep uphill start on gravel, then a very technical descent, which is wide enough but still you want to be in front.
“After 20k, to me, it looks like the full peloton will be spread out in small groups because it’s been up and down. Then it’s totally flat.”
Vervecken, who has long helmed the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, organized the 12-race UCI Gravel World Series this year. The 12-race series began in the Philippines in April and concludes the weekend of September 17-18 with races in the Netherlands and Spain. Riders who finished in the top 25 percent of their age category and gender qualified for worlds.
National federations were also issued 20 wild card slots for riders who were not able to qualify in a world series race.
Vervecken said that, compared to the qualifiers, the gravel worlds course is “most familiar to road, so it’s interesting.”
“In the middle part tactics are going to be very exciting,” he said. “If you decide to go full speed in the start, you might end up with 4-5 in the lead, but a group of 30 with the benefit of wheels coming back could change the whole race.
“It’s a very technical final, the last k is full gravel and then a sprint into the city center with the last 200k in asphalt.”