The Gravel Worlds were ridden on a range of surfaces that included approximately 40% bitumen and varying levels of gravel, dirt and forest trails. Image: Alpecin Cycling.

Inaugural Gravel World Champions Crowned, But Was It Really Gravel?

Cycling has two new World Champions after the UCI’s inaugural Gravel Worlds held in Italy over the weekend. 

Cyclocross and WorldTour rider Gianni Vermeersch of Belgium and France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot score Rainbow Jersey’s, Pauline – a multiple MTB world champion – winning her first-ever gravel race.

But was it really gravel, does it really count, and will this new jersey be taken as seriously as other rainbow bands?

Of the top 10 males on the leaderboard, all were WorldTour professionals with names such as Daniel Oss (2nd) Mathieu van der Poel (3rd), Greg van Avermaet (4th) and new U23 road champion Yevgeniy Fedorov placing 5th. 

Gravel World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot, with Sina Frei and Chiara Teocchi on the podium after winning the inaugural race in Italy over the weekend. Image: UCI.

But many enthusiasts are saying the UCI’s specially chosen 190km ‘gravel’ course was not exactly true to the meaning of the G word. The course was made up of 40% sealed roads with a mixture of varying levels of light gravel, a scattering of cobbles and a few forests trails. The race concluded with three final circuits – on asphalt – around around the walled city of Cittadella. Opinion only, but Paris-Roubaix and the Strade Bianche are clearly far more exciting and challenging races to watch.

Isn’t Unbound The Gravel Worlds?

‘Gravel’ has typically enjoyed as loose and varied a description as the surface it is ridden upon.

Gravel cycling has boomed over recent years, with many saying the popularity is due to road racing’s rules, rigidity and regime imposed by the UCI.

Gravel World Champion Gianni Vermeersch with Daniel Oss and Mathieu Van der Poel after Sunday’s inaugural Gravel World Championships. Image: UCI

For many, gravel is about wearing whatever you feel like you want to wear, and that might be anything from a road jersey to a blue singlet to a flannelette shirt. It’s about cramming absolutely anything you like into a handlebar bag – and if that’s a Mars bar and a harmonica that’s perfectly fine. Feel like filling a water bottle with whisky, not problems at all!

So were the weekends UCI World Gravel Championships really this planet’s premier gravel races of 2022? Many online comments suggest not, with Unbound Gravel aka the legendary ’Dirty Kanza’ being firmly established as the real, albeit unofficial, ‘Gravel Worlds’.

And it seems gravel aficionados the world over agree, with online comments including –

‘Shaved legs ? —> DSQ

No beard ? —> DSQ

No coffee stop ? —> DSQ

No bike packing ? —> DSQ’

‘That was not a gravel race!’

‘Was basically a road classic stage not a gravel race!’

‘It was more of a road course than gravel. They need to take lessons from the big events in the US.’

Perhaps the final word should go to Unbound, who say ‘In Gravel We Roam … To be unbound is to be untethered and unrestrained.’

Over to you, your thoughts on the UCI’s inaugural Gravel Worlds?


What do you think?

194 Points
Upvote Downvote

1000km Ride To Raise Funds For Motor Neurone Disease, And How You Can Help

2022 Bowral Classic Crit & Grand Fondo This Weekend