Remco Evenepoel’s criticism of an off-road racing segment in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Friday sparked fresh debate over the growing trend to introduce terrato gravel roads in road racing.
After losing race leader to Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) in the uphill finish at Antenas del Maigmó on stage 3, Evenepoel struggled to point out afterwards that Vlasov was a winner. deserving and had taken the lead just and squarely. But he was scathing in his criticism of Valenciana’s unprecedented introduction of a terrato section, saying it was “getting closer to mountain biking” that the race was “hard enough already” and that the terrato contributed nothing to what he described as “a great run”.
Evenepoel also insisted the peloton generally had mixed feelings about the introduction of gravel sections
“Sometimes in the teams and in the peloton there is frustration that we go on such small roads which are, I’m not going to say dangerous, but you can’t win something with it, but you can lose it. You can get a flat tire, so it’s always a risk,” he explained.
At the start of Stage 4 from La Valenciana to Orihuela, the riders and management seemed divided on the wisdom of having terrato during key stages, with some claiming that in multi-day events at least, the possible disadvantages outweighed the advantages.
“I don’t want to see gravel in a stage race,” said Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), whose teammate Juan Ayuso, a GC candidate, had a mechanic on a corner of the gravel sector. Cycling news. “I think we’re going too far, towards a show we don’t need.”
“The Strade Bianche are the Strade Bianche, it’s a race that was born and developed that way. It is also special because of the Tuscan roads which are not the same as all the other gravel roads you can find in Italy.
“Rather than trying to replicate that, maybe it’s better to find something special for this race.”
Regarding the specific downsides of Stage 4’s six-kilometre final climb, which included almost two kilometers of rough gravel, Trentin argued that “it was steep enough already and the surface wasn’t quite enough. good. It was not suitable for road racing. It’s road cycling, not gravel racing.
As for Evenepoel’s comparison, Trentin said: “Perhaps [yesterday] wasn’t mountain biking, but of course it was gravel racing. If you want to find gravel racing, there are tracks for that.
Like Ayuso, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) also had mechanical problems, puncturing on the terrato.
“I don’t think it added value to the race, because the climb was super tough, the stronger guy won. The only thing you have is what happened to people like Ayuso. Ok, a puncture and a technical incident can happen on any surface, but, as I said before, this is road racing.
Trentin extended his point to include the cobbled sections of Paris-Roubaix in the Tour de France, which the race is due to tackle again this summer.
“It’s tough enough as it is and we’ve seen in the past that a lot of GC contenders lose a lot on the cobbled sections. But there is a reason why there are Grand Tour riders and there are Classic riders. You cannot mix the two things.
The experienced Italian rider has worked hard to help with rider safety. He argued that stage races and gravel should not mix for safety reasons.
“You are going to have accidents. We saw it a few years ago on the Tour. There have been more accidents than anything else. I don’t know if that really adds anything or if it’s better to do another one day race.
Trentin even argued that Paris-Tours, which recently added off-road segments to its finale, didn’t need to cross the fields and vineyards of central France to be a good race.
“It’s not a tradition at Paris-Tours, so why are you adding something that’s a bit trendy at the moment? What are you going to do when the next fashion comes along?”
Rik Verbrugghe, former Flèche Wallonne winner and director of Israel Start-Up Nation, agrees with Evenepoel.
“It does not change the general classification. The only risk is to have a flat tire. So sometimes it’s interesting but I think it’s better to keep it in the Strade Bianche and not in the stage races,” he said.
“First because of driver safety, then you can only lose the race because of a puncture or bad luck instead of a real sporting decision.”
“Ok, Remco lost the jersey, and with or without gravel it would be the same result. But Valverde had an apartment. It adds extra pressure for nothing. So it’s good to have gravel in the races, but not in all the races.
For an all-rounder like Chad Haga (Human Powered Health), the gravel sections in a stage race have both upsides and downsides.
“I’m not totally against it, I think it can be a fun element to add sometimes,” said the 33-year-old American. “Especially if it’s a way to connect parts of the course that you couldn’t connect otherwise.”
This was the case, for example, during the Vuelta a España 2019 in the Pyrenees, which used an off-road section to connect between two climbs during the final.
However, “Friday didn’t seem necessary,” Haga explained. “We took a paved path to get to the team buses. So there was literally a paved way that we could have taken.
“It wasn’t necessary, but it wasn’t harmful either. It was just another thorn in the side of an already very difficult day. But in general, I think it’s a nice element to add to races sometimes.
While aware of organizers’ enthusiasm for introducing new elements to their events, Haga – who described Friday’s gravel section as “a bit gnarly at points” – agreed with Trentin that it was best to keep gravel sections in one-day races, not stage races. , was strong.
“One-day races are already an all-or-nothing situation. In a stage race, there is definitely more to lose. But there are arguments on both sides.
He partly confirmed Evenepoel’s assertion of dissatisfaction in the peloton on the terrato segments.
“There is a bit of a bad mood among some riders, but it is also to be expected that we will see more and more of the races, because every organizer wants to find what makes the race exciting and attracts viewers. That’s sport.”