What we know and what we still don’t know about the UCI Gravel World Championships

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As we approach the end of January, most 2022 bike races – from grassroots gravel to WorldTour road – have a date on the calendar.

An interesting exception is the UCI Gravel World Championships.

When the event was announced last September, it sparked healthy debate among athletes and fans. Since then, however, the international federation has remained mum on where or when the race will take place.

Earlier this month, BikeNews spoke with Erwin Vervecken, the off-road and gravel manager of Golazo Sports, the Belgian sports marketing agency that coordinates the UCI Gravel World Series qualifying events. Vervecken said the UCI would likely announce details of the ‘gravel worlds’ and qualifying series after meeting for endorsement meetings at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas later this this month.

Related: What you need to know about the UCI Gravel World Series

Nevertheless, in the absence of information, the rumor turns. In the case of gravel worlds, it’s churning, especially for riders who make their living participating in the off-road discipline.

BikeNews spoke with riders and event promoters about what they heard about the event. The UCI has repeatedly postponed our requests for interviews, and during the last contact a representative from the international governing body said they would “get back to you in early February to schedule an interview”.

Here’s what we currently know, and what we don’t, about gravel worlds.

California was considered

Of all the gravel worlds location rumors, California has emerged as a contender the most. Katerina Nash, the legendary cyclocross and mountain bike racer who is also chair of the UCI Athletes’ Commission, said BikeNews that she was involved in some of the early planning stages of a potential Lake Tahoe site.

“I was aware last summer and potentially helped with some minor details, with the visions,” she said. “But I haven’t participated in any of the meetings between USA Cycling and the UCI since then.”

Nash wouldn’t comment further on whether the Tahoe/Truckee area was ultimately chosen as the location for the event, but she said if it was, she’d like to be at the start line.

“I’m quite curious too,” she says. “I haven’t done tons of work, but I went out and thought about a class. I sincerely hope that will happen, but I don’t know. I hope to know more next week, like everyone else.

Another source, who asked that his name not be recorded, said the Tahoe/Truckee area was indeed to be the host venue, on Oct. 1, until very recently. The source said BikeNews that USA Cycling decided it could not produce a quality event on such a tight schedule with so little guidance from the UCI regarding the rules and regulations of the event.

In response to our interview request, USA Cycling responded that it was “still working with the UCI to finalize key details for the event and was not yet in a position to make any announcements.”

Many gravel pros we spoke to were also under the impression that the event would be held in California.

Laurens ten Dam, former Dutch road professional turned gravel cyclist BikeNews that he heard various rumours.

“I heard several things. I heard it’s going to be Tahoe in August. Then I heard a rumor that it would be in Italy. Then there was another rumor that it was Tahoe but not confirmed yet. Belgium could also be in on it. If it’s not confirmed, it’s not confirmed. Then I heard Tahoe again, October 8th and 9th. So Pete [Stetina] told me Tahoe was the same day as Gravel Locos.

Stetina said BikeNews that he had also heard several dates offered as potential options for gravel worlds. And, while the former WorldTour rider would likely be a strong contender for the gravel rainbow stripes, Stetina said he wouldn’t be making any exceptions for the event at such short notice.

“They’ve been super quiet and if they’re about to announce an entire series and dates, well, you’ve seen my schedule,” he said. “I have been in contact with all these organizers and there are not many open dates. I am proud to be a man of my word and I will not deny any commitment to the organizers. If the date of the World Championships is an open weekend, I will assess the logistics and whatever else is needed. I don’t put it on any pedestal at the moment.

Lauren De Crescenzo, another rainbow jersey contender, recently posted her 2022 schedule on Instagram and listed the UCI Gravel World Championships as a September race. She said BikeNews that she was under the impression that the world gravel championships would take place in Truckee, California, the week before the world road championships in Australia.

As for the potential date of the gravel worlds, it only takes a cursory look at the men’s and women’s WorldTour schedules, as well as the North American gravel schedule, to assume that there aren’t many dates out there. available that do not conflict with another major race. The Life Time Grand Prix Series, which will capture the attention of many North American pros, runs from April through October. The four-race Belgian Waffle Ride series has major events at the end of April, June, September and October.

On the road side, the men’s and women’s WorldTour calendars are aligned this year; however, during the October 1-2 weekend under scrutiny for gravel worlds, the only conflicting races of note are the Giro dell’Emilia and the German National Mountain Bike XC Championships. The following weekend, however, is packed with national road championships – including Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany and Belgium – as well as Il Lombardia. Gravel Worlds is unlikely to win a draw for Wout van Aert et al.

Gravel Locos vs. ‘Gravel Worlds’

Until recently, there were also no major gravel events – read BWR or Life Time – on the calendar on the weekend of October 1-2. However, in early January, Fabian Serralta, the organizer of last year’s successful Gravel Locos event in Texas, announced a new Gravel Locos in Pueblo, Colorado this weekend. Serralta said that when he posted the Pueblo race date on social media, he immediately received calls from athletes who were concerned that Gravel Locos could potentially conflict with the Gravel Worlds date which did not not yet announced.

For an inaugural race, Gravel Locos attracted a large number of professional racers last year. When Serralta announced the new event in Pueblo, many Gravel Locos veterans, including Stetina and ten Dam, declared their commitment. Ian Boswell said BikeNews he would also be at the Pueblo race this year, and Serralta has confirmed that Ted King, Emily Newsom, Adam Roberge, Alison Tetrick, Sam Boardman, Jess Cerra and Colin Strickland will also be on the start line – all runners who could potentially threw their name in the ring for the World Gravel Championships.

Related: Gravel Locos: The Greatest Race You’ve Never Heard Of

Although Boswell said BikeNews he is not interested in the UCI event, no matter when and where it takes place, he sympathized with the athletes who find it difficult to find space in already busy schedules.

“Don’t forget, they have to qualify too,” he said. “So it’s not just a conflict of events, but there’s another weekend that year where you have to qualify for that event. And if you don’t qualify for the event that you hope you move on to another, so that’s potentially two or three weekends at the top of the worlds that you need to plan.

Ten Dam expressed frustration from the perspective of someone considering the UCI event – ​​if they could plan it. The Dutchman already has at least seven transatlantic flights planned for 2022.

“If you have a family and kids at home, you have to do a bit of planning,” he said. “My wife is really supportive but I can’t keep saying a month before, ‘hey, I’m leaving for two weeks.’ I guess I could do it, but I don’t want to do it. Things have to become clear.”

Does Gravel Locos conflict with Gravel Worlds? Where in the world are the gravel worlds? Is it possible we won’t see gravel worlds in 2022?

At this stage, nothing is clear.

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