The dust is settling on the second edition of the UCI Gravel World Championships, but the debate about the racing, the organisation, and the future of gravel will surely continue into the winter and shape the future of gravel racing as a sport.
The Veneto region of northern Italy hosted the World Championships for a second year, with the event moved from Vicenza to Prosecco Hills near Treviso just seven weeks before the event. The new organisers faced a mammoth task and largely pulled it off, even if the decision not to produce live television coverage of the women’s race was a huge mistake.
The racing, both broadcast globally and seen from the roadside by Cyclingnews was spectacular and gruelling. The WorldTour roadies are perhaps taking over from the privateers and US riders, but gravel racing remains a discipline apart.
If the fatigue in the riders’ legs, the smiles on their faces, and the quantity of beer drunk together at the post-race party were anything to go by, then the spirit of gravel is stronger than ever.
The gravel stars align for Kasia Niewiadoma
Kasia Niewiadoma was definitely a surprise name on the UCI Gravel World Championships start list. Her Canyon-Sram teammate Tiffany Cromwell is a gravel regular and won last weekend at the UEC European Championships Belgium but Niewiadoma’s decision to race in the Veneto was far more instinctive, making her victory far more emotional.
“I looked at the course for and saw an opportunity, so in coordination with the team and with Canyon we decided to go for it,” said Niewiadoma, aware that the 1660m of elevation gain during the 140km and the especially hilly final kilometres suited her perfectly.
It turned out to be a savvy call to target her first gravel race. The course and her attacking style seemed to make it a good match.
Her World Championships victory also meant Niewiadoma ended her run of results, that while strong and consistent, always seemed to just fall short of the top spot.
The gravel world title was the 29-year-old Polish rider’s first victory since 2019 and gave her a rainbow jersey.
Niewiadoma is expected to race in the rainbow stripes for the first time at Big Sugar Gravel, in the US later this month. She will surely combine ore gravel with her road racing in 2024.