Matej Mohorič (Slovenia) survived a late crash and soloed to glory at the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships, claiming the rainbow jersey after distancing Florian Vermeersch (Belgium) on the climb to Le Serre, 18.6km from the finish in Pieve de Soligo.
Vermeersch kept the gap tight after being distanced but dropped his chain 14.5km from the finish, forcing him to stop and restring it, losing him a crucial 10 seconds in the process on the Slovenian who was on his way to another World title, adding to his junior and u23 rainbow jerseys from the road.
Mohorič wasn’t certain as he hit the final, brutal climb of the day up the Collagu (1.7km at 11.8%), nervously looking over his shoulder, unbeknownst to the mechanical Vermeersch had suffered and to his now 38-second lead over the fighting Belgian.
The 28-year-old Slovenian would only extend the lead as the finish line and World title awaited him, grinding over the final narrow path past the fans, wrestling his bike for all it’s worth until he crested the top with only a technical descent between him and the finish.
Ever the daredevil, Mohorič crashed in the final 3.5 kilometres as he threw caution to the wind and flew down the descent despite his lead approaching the minute mark, clearly worried about Vermeersch chasing him down, but he would quickly remount and survive to the line.
Mohorič originally got up the road in a trio alongside the Belgian and Connor Swift (Great Britain), and they were clearly the strongest on the day, distancing the rest of the 224-rider field prior to the second time check of the day.
The Slovenian looked the strongest as the trio built an advantage of over four minutes on the chasing pack behind, utilising his expert descending skills to force Vermeersch into wasting energy after Swift had dropped on the San Vigilio climb.
Big favourite Wout van Aert (Belgium) had a disastrous day, suffering untimely mechanicals and a crash in the opening 60 kilometres, which saw him at times over 10 minutes off the pace of Mohorič and Co up front and out of contention for the victory.
Defending champion Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium) struggled on the hillier parcours that completely contrasted the first edition of the Gravel World Championships in 2022, sitting well over seven minutes back on the leaders throughout the day.
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