Andrew ‘Andy’ Lydic refers to himself as the ‘U23 Gravel World Champion’, and while that title is unofficial it is authentic. He raced both editions of the UCI Gravel World Championships with the elite men’s squad for Team USA and was indeed the best rider under the age of 23 who was not in the 19-34 age category.
Stepping up at the Worlds to race among the elite category turned out to be the highlight of a tumultuous 2022 season for Lydic, who moved to Spain that year to pursue a professional road career and realised that gravel could create an unconventional new path to a career in cycling.
“My whole mission is to use gravel as a platform to professional cycling. I want to get into a professional team or WorldTour team, from gravel-based results,” Lydic told Cyclingnews on his birthday in January about his planned career path, still only 22 years old.
“My whole gravel project is a pathway. I’d love to be able to create a stairstep behind me for guys who came into the sport and had a poor experience with amateur teams. Not to say I don’t love racing road, but I think there’s an untapped market. And I get to race gravel, I have fun.”
It was two seasons ago the unknown 20-year-old was added to the Team USA elite men’s roster at the UCI Gravel World Championships. He had finished 24th overall on the long course at Ranxo Gravel, so he qualified for the 19-34 age category at Worlds and used a petition process with USA Cycling to move on the elite roster at the inaugural Worlds, making him the third-youngest rider in that division.
“I wanted to race with the elites, and I was like, wow, this is a fantastic experience. I got to line up with Peter Sagan and Mathieu van der Poel. Superheroes – I got to race them. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” Lydic cheerfully stated. “I had a terrible race. I didn’t finish. Shortly after, I [realised] I had COVID.”
He returned to the 2023 Worlds in the elite field and finished among the leading 25% of the riders in 37th position.
“You get to step into these [gravel] races with the best racers in the world – the best cyclocross racers, the best mountain bike racers, and the best road racers all at once. So if you can show yourself as a young guy, I think there’s a lot of value that I can create for my name and my personal brand. I’m hoping that they [UCI] recognize in the future, even an under-23 jersey for this upcoming year. I’m still eligible for U23.”
He started a full 2024 schedule of…