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Multi-discipline stars dominate inaugural gravel world championships

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Gianni Vermeersch took the elite rainbow jerseys in convincing fashion in Citadella

While gravel may be the latest cycling specialism to enter the UCI’s inner sanctum, it proved the domain of the versatile this weekend, as two of the sport’s multidisciplinary stars, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Gianni Vermeersch, took home the elite rainbow jerseys at the inaugural UCI-sanctioned gravel world championships in Italy’s Veneto region.

In the elite women’s race yesterday, Ferrand-Prévot outsprinted Switzerland’s Sina Frei in the walled city of Citadella after the pair dropped breakaway companions Jade Treffeisen and Chiara Teocci in the tough final kilometre.

Winning rainbow jerseys has become something of a weekly occurrence for Ferrand-Prévot: the gravel worlds was – staggeringly – her fourth world title of the season, after the 30-year-old won the short track, cross country, and marathon races at the mountain bike world championships earlier this summer.

It was the all-terrain superstar’s 13th senior world title of her illustrious career, and in her fourth discipline, following her successes in mountain biking, cyclocross and on the road.

Ferrand-Prévot’s latest world title wasn’t even the end of her winning streak this weekend, as she travelled through the night to compete in, and win, the Roc d’Azur mountain bike race in France. Now that’s versatility.

“I think I did the perfect race,” the French rider, who has been linked with a move to an Ineos-backed team for 2023, said after her rainbow jersey ride over the white roads of the Veneto yesterday.

“At the beginning it was quite fast and technical, so I just tried to stay at the front. After that the Italian girls really rode and they came back. So then I said I need to recover, just to drink, to eat.

“After that they attacked and I tried to go in the break. Finally I could stay at the front in the break. I tried to motivate the girls to ride with me. I knew if it was a sprint finish with a small group I was able to win. So, it was just a perfect tactic for me and I can’t believe I won today.”

Meanwhile, roadie and cyclocross regular Gianni Vermeersch added gravel to his CV in the elite men’s race this afternoon, dropping TotalEnergies’ Daniel Oss in the closing stages to take the first world title of his career.

The Belgian Alpecin-Deceuninck rider broke away with Peter Sagan’s loyal domestique Oss with over 100 kilometres left of a fast and dry course that bridged the divide between off-road racing and the World Tour.

In fact, the presence of significant tarmac sections, cobbles, ‘white roads’, dirt and grass – and a classic Italian late-race loss of television pictures – ensured that the event generally resembled a particularly madcap road classic (except, perhaps, for the incongruous presence of a number of lapped stragglers through Citadella).

To underline that point, another road racer-cum-cyclocrosser-cum-mountain biker Mathieu van der Poel – competing in his first race since his tumultuous and controversial week at the road worlds in Australia last month – outsprinted former Olympic champion and monument winner Greg van Avermaet for the bronze medal.

> “Remind me what worlds is it tomorrow again?”: Nicolas Roche criticises UCI for inaugural Gravel World Championships start line order

“It’s crazy. I think it was one of the biggest chances for me to once become world champion,” an elated Vermeersch said after the finish. “I cannot believe I am going to have the white rainbow jersey, to have it in my house.

“We just went full the whole day, and the moment we had five minutes I knew that we had a big chance to make it to the finish. We just kept going and it was just a man-to-man fight in the last lap.

“I was hesitating a little bit because I knew the final 500 metres were perfect for me. But also, because there was a group coming behind. We heard that the advantage was only 2:30 so I just wanted to go full also on that part for the advantage. And then he was dropped, so I kept going.”

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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