UCI Gravel World Championships: Can Team USA's collective gravel experience beat WorldTour horsepower?

Strong US contingent set to take on European heavy hitters including Van Aert and Mohorič, Wiebes and Vollering

Image shows riders racing gravel on converted road bikes.
(Image credit: Getty Images - MASSIMO FULGENZI)

Teamwork and gravel experience — that is what Team USA hopes will give them the edge over some of the world's strongest road riders at the UCI Gravel World Championships this weekend in Veneto, Italy.

The course is said to be challenging and 'proper technical', and the competition is world-class. Headlining the provisional start list are star riders like former cyclocross world champion Wout van Aert, San Remo winner Matej Mohorič, European gravel champ and top sprinter Lorena Wiebes and Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering.

While the competition will be stiff, Team USA's strength will be in the collective gravel race experience the team boasts.

"I would love to see an American team work together and hopefully be a force against the bigger forces that we all watch every weekend on T.V.," says Alexey Vermeulen, who's coming off a win at last weekend's Rad Dirt Fest and a second place at the U.S. National Gravel Championships before that.

"I want to have that camaraderie team feeling that I haven't had since leaving the road. I'm obviously going well, but I'm all in to ride for Luke [Lamperti] or Keegan [Swenson]," he says.

The second-ever UCI Gravel World Championships promise a unique challenge, with a technical gravel course vastly different from the previous year's race, which was won on a road bike

"No, you would not survive [on a road bike]. It's a lot of riverbed stuff. The course is proper," Vermeulen promises. "It'll be fun to watch."

Describing the course as "Amstel-esque," Vermeulen says the race's intensity begins right from the gun, with a highly technical opening section that will likely see a fast, cyclocross-like start. Vermeulen anticipates a battle to secure a good position within the first 25 kilometers, followed by strategic maneuvering throughout the race.

According to Vermeulen, problem-solving skills will be as crucial as raw power in this demanding race.

"That's where you're going to see the biggest disparity. I think there's going to be moments of this race where you'll see 15 guys drop like flies with flats, and they never come back because they never have to patch tires quickly," Vermeulen predicts. 

"I feel like half of U.S. gravel racing is problem-solving and this will be a true gravel race. I still think we're going to be up against some incredible horsepower here, and that's always tough. It's just exciting to be here and to show what we're doing over in the U.S."

Vermeulen anticipates the main challenge to come from the race dynamics instead of the terrain. 

"Our big fight is going to be getting into the race," he says. "But if the cards fall the right way, we have a really cool team that I think has a lot of abilities. Winning is a crazy thing, and you need some luck, but if you put myself and Keegan or Keegan and Luke in that final group, it's fun odds."

And while the U.S. may be gravel's frontier, Team USA enters the race with little pressure to perform. 

"It's all opportunity. There's no expectation per se, which I think it just makes it fun. I'm very apprehensive, but I'm very excited," says Vermeulen. 

Keegan Swenson surrounded by cameras after winning the 200-mile Unbound Gravel race in 2023.

Keegan Swenson surrounded by cameras after winning the 200-mile Unbound Gravel race in 2023.

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

The Courses

Unlike most gravel races, the UCI races are split by gender and age group with each category given its own race time and course. 

The women’s elite race will therefore not only take place on a different day, the course is shortened as well. 

The women’s elite race takes place on Saturday, October 7, on a 140-kilometer (87-mile) course that starts with a lap around Le Bandie lake, which served as the venue for the 2008 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. This lap is followed by a 30km flat section predominantly composed of gravel before the first hills emerge. The peloton will cross the finish line in Pieve di Soligo for the first time at the 46km mark before starting a second loop that heads northeast and contains more pavement but also a substantial increase in elevation. The loop finishes with another passing across the finish line to start loop number three. The third and final loop heads west and contains a flat, 30km mix of short gravel and road segments before entering a demanding finale. The final 25 kilometers of the race feature two significant climbs. The final climb is particularly steep and simmits just 5 kilometers before the finish line. The total elevation of the race is 1660 meters (5446 feet).

The men’s elite race takes place on Sunday, October 8, on a very similar course that’s been extended in places for a total of 169 kilometers (105 miles) with an elevation gain of 1890 meters (6200 feet).

The first loop is identical to Saturday’s race but the second, northeastern loop includes a broader circuit around Lago di Lago and the addition of the demanding Ca’ del Poggio climb around the 85k mark. The third loop also includes some extra distance, primarily on the flat sections, but maintains the same two challenging climbs as on Saturday.

The Competition

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

The UCI Gravel World Championship race categories are broken up into age categories and an ‘open’ Elite category for each gender. 

Only riders belonging to any UCI registered team and/or those who have been selected by their National federations can take part in the open category.

National cycling federations were allowed to send their best men and women elite racers, while amateur racers had the chance to qualify on their own all season long at the UCI Gravel World Series events.

As mentioned above, the competition in the elite races is truly world-class. Formidable European road stars like Wout van Aert, Matej Mohorič, Demi Vollering, Annemiek van Vleuten, Kasia Niewiadoma and Lorena Wiebes will be going head-to-head against some of gravel’s biggest names including Keegan Swenson, Laurens ten Dam, Ivar Slik, Sofia Gomez Villafañe, Tiffany Cromwell and Caroline Schiff.

Both defending champions from the inaugural Gravel Worlds in 2022, Gianni Vermeersch and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, are in the starting lineup, although Ferrand-Prévot's participation remains uncertain after her recent bout of Covid-19.

Start Lists

Men's Start List

Scenes from the 2023 Unbound Gravel

(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

Elite men Gravel World Championships start list

1 Gianni Vermeersch BEL

2 Wout Van Aert BEL

3 Matej Mohoric SLO

4 Cameron Mason GBR

5 Daniel Oss ITA

6 Florian Vermeersch BEL

7 Paul Voss GER

8 Jasper Ockeloen NED

9 Jose Ivan Garcia Cortina ESP

10 Kevin Panhuyzen BEL

11 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte ESP

12 Petr Vakoc CZE

13 Sebastian Schönberger AUT

14 Jan Bakelants BEL

15 Alessandro De Marchi ITA

16 Simone Velasco ITA

17 Tobias Perry GBR

18 Piotr Havik NED

19 Nathan Haas AUS

20 Quinten Hermans BEL

21 Anthony Franquet BEL

22 Sam Culverwell GBR

23 Seppe Rombouts BEL

24 Andreas Stokbro Nielsen DEN

25 Tobias Mørch Kongstad DEN

26 Thomas Bundgaard DEN

27 Connor Swift GBR

28 Pawel Bernas POL

29 Sascha Weber GER

30 Jonas Lindberg DEN

31 Freddy Ovett AUS

32 Nicholas Roche IRL

33 Georg Egger GER

34 Adam Blazevic AUS

35 Ide Schelling NED

36 Coen Vermeltfoort NED

37 Ben Thomas GBR

38 Andreas Schrottenbaum GER

39 Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz ESP

40 Nils Correvon SUI

41 Ryan Christensen NZL

42 Lawrence Naesen BEL

43 Lauri Tamm EST

44 Alberto Losada Alguacil ESP

45 Gustav Frederik Dahl DEN

46 Brent Clé BEL

47 Gert Kivistik EST

48 Pierpaolo Ficara ITA

49 Rasmus Wulff Nørholm Gøtke DEN

50 Matthew Bird AUS

51 Alban Lakata AUT

52 Ivar Slik NED

53 Julian Lino FRA

54 Thomas Joseph BEL

55 Jacob Langham AUS

56 Johan Norén SWE

57 Laurens Ten Dam NED

58 Mads Baadsgaard Rahbek DEN

59 Johannes Rom Dahl DEN

59 Johannes Rom Dahl DEN

60 Connor Sens AUS

61 Frederik Rassmann GER

62 Max Warmerdam FRA

63 Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez ESP

64 Erick Heyns RSA

65 Luca Bockelmann GER

66 Andrew Lydic USA

67 Xavier Jovè Riart AND

68 Travis Bramley GBR

69 Maxime Teuliere FRA

70 Markus Pajur EST

71 Cristian Cominelli ITA

72 Thijs De Lange NED

73 Nick Burki SUI

74 Aurélien Philibert FRA

75 Luke Lamperti USA

76 Matthew Shepherd AUS

77 Mattia De Marchi ITA

78 Antti-Jussi Juntunen FIN

79 Bram Rombouts BEL

80 Dario Gadeo Fernandez ESP

81 Philipp Bachl AUT

82 Zak Coleman GBR

83 Rob Vanden Haesevelde BEL

84 Matevž Govekar SLO

85 Jan Sommer SUI

86 Jules De Cock NED

87 Rogan Smart RSA

88 Robbe Claeys BEL

89 Luca Cibrario ITA

90 Mihael Stajnar SLO

91 Sam William Andrews GBR

92 Michael Tjulander SWE

94 Eduardo Talavera Fernandez ESP

95 Tim Wollenberg GER

96 Joseph Lupien CAN

97 Siim Kiskonen EST

98 Thijs Zonneveld NED

99 Cristian Bernardi ITA

100 Alexis Roche IRL

101 Tobin Ortenblad USA

102 Daniel Babor CZE

103 Jonas Orset NOR

104 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg RSA

105 Moran Vermeulen AUT

106 Martin Schätzl GER

107 Michal Glanz POL

108 Sampo Malinen FIN

109 Gustas Raugala LTU

110 Simone Pederiva ITA

111 Matthew Stamatis RSA

112 Francesco Bettini ITA

113 Lukas Baum GER

114 Tomas Barta CZE

115 Travis Barrett RSA

116 Patrick Haller GER

117 Ferran Robert Torrens ESP

118 Gregor Matija Cerne SLO

119 Felix James Meo NZL

120 Felix Barker GBR

121 Sean Bero BEL

122 Peter Schermann GER

123 Gleb Karpenko EST

124 Ward Vanhoof BEL

125 Giovanni Carboni ITA

126 Marko Pavlic SLO

127 Eric Pedersen SWE

128 Simen Nordahl Svendsen NOR

129 Frederik Scheske GER

130 Matteo Zurlo ITA

131 Alex Colman BEL

132 Fran Miholjevic CRO

133 Nicola Parenti ITA

134 Alex Lack AUS

135 Vladyslav Makogon FIN

136 Artūras Kazakevičius LTU

137 Andrey Amador Bikkazakova CRC

138 Nicholas Pettina' ITA

139 David Van Orsdel USA

140 Michael Mottram GBR

141 Felix Ritzinger AUT

142 Sebastian Putz AUT

143 Ethan Pauly CAN

144 Kristers Kovgers LAT

145 Tomas Kalojiros CZE

146 Declan Irvine AUS

147 Alexey Vermeulen USA

148 Markus Auvinen FIN

149 Sacha Modolo ITA

150 Julien Bard SUI

151 Tristan Nortje RSA

152 Richard Larsén SWE

153 Simon Daniels BEL

154 Lubomir Petrus CZE

155 Enrique Morcillo Vergara ESP

156 Rossouw Bekker RSA

157 Julen Zubero Aldekoa ESP

158 Jan-Marc Temmen GER

159 Edouard Bonnefoix FRA

160 Wolfgang Brandl GER

161 Nicolaj Amping DEN

162 Paul Wisner HAI

163 Pierre Rosemond HAI

164 Randy Licorish BAR

165 Maurizio Giuseppe Sartori ITA

166 Mattia Penna ITA

167 Alexandru-Ionut Antoniu ROU

168 Filippo Cecchi ITA

169 Luke Mcmullan IRL

170 Metheven Bond GBR

171 Venantas Lašinis LTU

172 Robert Jenko SLO

173 Apolinario Ca GBS

174 Isidro Mengo Da Costa GBS

175 Jadio Gomes GBS

176 Carlos Gaspar Danquem GBS

177 Nelson Mendes GBS

178 Julho Mendes GBS

179 Silvino Da Silva GBS

180 Seco Domingos Mendes GBS

181 Diamantino Dos Santos Co GBS

182 Graciano Diamantino Patrao GBS

183 Dy Co GBS

184 Nickson Joao Mendes GBS

185 Sam Julio Mendes GBS

186 Dabana Cul Iala GBS

187 Paul-Antoine Hagan IRL

188 Bennan Wertz USA

189 Payson Mcelveen USA

190 Artem Schmidt USA

191 Zach Calton USA

192 Paul Buschek AUT

193 Mattia Viel ITA

194 Julius Nowak Dalner DEN

195 Morten Nedergaard Bolby DEN

196 Mathias Busk Sælgen DEN

197 Victor Grue Enggaard DEN

198 Théo Cante FRA

199 Tao Quemere FRA

200 Julien Jamot FRA

201 Kristian Javier Yustre Rodriguez COL

202 Sabatier Thibault FRA

203 Tomas De Neve BEL

204 Laurynas Ropė LTU

205 Franco Nicolas Adaos Alvarez CHI

206 Jasper Huitema NED

207 Christian Rush NZL

209 Lubos Pelanek CZE

210 Michal Dvorak CZE

211 Richard Habermann CZE

212 Adam Zuber POL

213 Jesper Lindahl FIN

214 Joffrey Degueurce FRA

215 Björn Bakker NED

216 Vebjørn Rønning NOR

217 Jan-Frederik Finoulst BEL

218 Adam Jordan SLO

219 Conor Mcgoldrick GBR

220 Oscar Cabanas Quintela AND

221 Sebastiaan Oranje NED

222 Lars Loohuis NED

223 Tom Martin GBR

224 Daniel Gianello ITA

Women's Start List

Demi Vollering in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France Femmes 2023

(Image credit: Getty)

1 Pauline Ferrand-Prevot FRA

2 Demi Vollering NED

3 Lorena Wiebes NED

4 Silvia Persico ITA

5 Jade Treffeisen GER

6 Tessa Neefjes NED

7 Katarzyna Niewiadoma POL

8 Tiffany Cromwell AUS

9 Riejanne Markus NED

10 Gaia Realini ITA

11 Carolin Schiff GER

12 Rosa Klöser GER

13 Soraya Paladin ITA

14 Sofia Bertizzolo ITA

15 Svenja Betz GER

16 Irina Lützelschwab SUI

17 Pauliena Rooijakkers NED

18 Marthe Truyen BEL

19 Barbara Guarischi ITA

20 Heidi Franz USA

21 Letizia Borghesi ITA

22 Noä Jansen NED

23 Sofia Gomez Villafane ARG

24 Cédrine Kerbaol FRA

25 Janine Schneider GER

26 Sanne Cant BEL

27 Yara Kastelijn NED

28 Rasa Leleivyte LTU

29 Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Bjerg DEN

30 Xan Crees GBR

31 Niamh Fisher-Black NZL

32 Hanna Johansson SWE

33 Simone Boilard CAN

34 Amelia Mitchell GBR

35 Darcie Richards AUS

36 Danielle Shrosbree GBR

37 Cassia Boglio AUS

38 Clara Lundmark SWE

39 Karol-Ann Canuel CAN

40 Debora Piana ITA

41 Crystal Anthony USA

42 Annabel Fisher GBR

43 Jane Barr GBR

44 Giada Borghesi ITA

45 Merili Sirvel EST

46 Marta Romeu Solaz ESP

47 Sabrina Stultiens NED

48 Caroline Livesey GBR

49 Karolina Migon POL

50 Ella Bloor AUS

51 Hayley Simmonds GBR

52 Åshild Tovsrud NOR

53 Maaike Coljé NED

54 Valentina Picca ITA

55 Chloé Schoenenberger FRA

56 Lija Laizane LAT

57 Femke De Vries NED

58 Femke Gort NED

59 Nele Laing GER

60 Elisabeth Ebras EST

61 Finja Smekal GER

62 Jana Gigele AUT

63 Viktoriia Bondarenko UKR

64 Eva Buurman NED

65 Danielle Hinds BAR

66 Klara Sofie Skovgård Hansen DEN

67 Josie Knight GBR

68 Liisa Ehrberg EST

69 Hanna Nilsson SWE

70 Anna Sadowska POL

71 Viltè Kriaučiūnaitė LTU

72 Sarah Sturm USA

73 Lieke Van Zeelst NED

74 Helena Bieber GER

75 Caroline Baur SUI

76 Nele De Vos BEL

77 Laura Lizette Sander EST

78 Amanda Bohlin SWE

79 Madeleine Nutt GBR

80 Sabine Sommer AUT

81 Sam Sandten GER

82 Loes Sels BEL

83 Elena Cecchini ITA

84 Emily Newsom USA

85 Femke Markus NED

86 Natasha Reddy GBR

87 Noëlle Rüetschi SUI

88 Almudena Montalvo Pérez ESP

89 Zahra Rezayee AFG

90 Mie Nordlund Pedersen DEN

91 Romana Slavinec AUT

92 Laura Vainionpää FIN

93 Irene Mendez Melgarejo ESP

94 Paulien Koster NED

95 Arezo Sarwari AFG

96 Maisa Tuliniemi FIN

97 Paige Onweller USA

98 Guayente Minchot Ballarin ESP

99 Ellen Mcdermott IRL

100 Lexius Imonise HAI

101 Noel Wonseca HAI

102 Alexis Skarda USA

103 Kyleigh Spearing USA

104 Morgan Aguirre USA

105 Katherine Sheridan USA

106 Mara Fumagalli ITA

107 Kirstine Frida Rysbjerg DEN

108 Marie Louise Biard FRA

109 Flavia Maria De Oliveira Paparella BRA

110 Ursula Lindén FIN

112 Noelle Ingold SUI

TV Coverage

Neither GCN nor FloBikes have been able to acquire streaming rights this year. We've been told Italy's RAI will air (some of) the men's race on Sunday but no information yet on any English-language feeds or any coverage of the women's race. 

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