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Gravel racing world championships in the pipeline, says UCI chief

David Lappartient confirms governing body's interest in fast-growing format...

UCI president David Lappartient has confirmed that world cycling’s governing body is working on introducing a gravel world championships.

The news follows a meeting earlier this month at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, between Lappartient and other UCI staff with Erioca founder Giancarlo Brocci at which the idea of a gravel racing world series was discussed.

> Eroica founder discussing launch of pro gravel race series with UCI

The UCI president confirmed the governing body’s interest in the fast-growing discipline at a meeting with journalists at the Tour Down Under in South Australia, reports Andrew Hood of VeloNews.

Asked about the prospect of a gravel world championships, he said: “I think so, I think so. This is something that is under discussion and that is possible in the future.

“We had a meeting last week at the UCI, to discuss about this. You can see that it is very popular worldwide and it’s a huge potential.”

With many gravel races especially in the US operated independently of the UCI and relevant national governing body, there is potential for conflict with organisers, but Lappartient was keen to play that down.

He said: “The goal today is not to fight against anyone, but to bring everyone together. I think by joining all together, we are stronger.”

But he added: “We know that in some countries the rules are not the same. If you are US, the rules are not the same in other countries that you cannot organize a race without the federation. It’s always better to be under the umbrella.”

“You can see the fans of cycling love this,” he concluded. “We believe there is a potential opportunity for UCI, so I will not say too much today, but we are working on this at the UCI level because we believe there is a big future of this.”

The clear potential for crossover between road and gravel is demonstrated most clearly by the approach taken by EF Pro Cycling, which is this year continuing its alternative racing programme.

Last year, EF Pro Cycling rider Lachlan Morton won the inaugural GBDuro four-day bikepacking race, while team mate Alex Howes was third at the Dirty Kanza gravel bike race in Kansas.

> EF Pro Cycling to continue to mix road with gravel and mountain biking events in 2020

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Miller | 4 years ago
1 like

Got to agree with above. Can't see how gravel events can be televised in a meaningful way, cross country MTB never has been, and it's what the UCI will want to do to monetize the scene. Cos that's what they mean by 'grow', right.
UCI involvement will suck the joy out of gravel.

crazy-legs | 4 years ago

Thing is though that to form a series, get it televised, get new sponsors, viewers and (ultimately) cash into the sport, it needs a structure and a back-story - something that converts into TV.

Traditional road racing sort of has that but it's an impenetrable mess to most people. How come he won the stage but he's hours behind? How come that guy is winning but he finished 73rd? What does that jersey mean? How come the team doesn't win, why is it just the bloke in yellow?
It's not exactly an "easy introduction to sport"...

Gravel racing, in it's current form, is completely unstructured, impossible to televise, has very little in the way of rules other than "we all promise to be honest", no fixed route... If you want to get more people into the sport and publicise/promote what is going on, you need a set of rules and a structure to it and (like it or not), that's where the UCI come in. I know it's all really fashionable to bash the UCI but they do genuinely do some excellent work for a sport that is extremely difficult to actually promote in a meaningful way. It's not even "a sport", it's about 8 different sports all clustered under something called "cycling". BMX, Road, Track, MTB (XC and DH), CX, Indoor... All with their own arcane sets of rules, regulations, traditions, requirements... And most of them extremely difficult to monetise.

Xenophon2 replied to crazy-legs | 4 years ago
crazy-legs wrote:

Thing is though that to form a series, get it televised, get new sponsors, viewers and (ultimately) cash into the sport, it needs a structure and a back-story - something that converts into TV.


Exactly the point:  who needs any of the above?  Gravel is doing fine in its small, anarchic way just as it is.  

squired | 4 years ago

I see this as nothing other than the UCI thinking this is (a) a potential cash cow and (b) part of their desire to control everything.

Next thing you'd know these events would be saying they can't return because the additional costs due to requirements put on them by the UCI have become too high.

How about the UCI puts its focus on developing the other areas of the sport already under its control, where there is clearly still a huge amount of work to be done?

SNS1938 replied to squired | 4 years ago

@Squired - totally agree. The UCI and big race promoters (RCS?, that the TdF one?) seem to be doing really well, whilst almost all riders and teams see little of the money.

Best way to stop this, I think, is to have a pledge type page where the public say that they'll boycot any company/team that gets involved in a UCI gravel takeover. The other growing part of cycling is bikepacking ... are the UCI going to have a world bikepacking series next?

Xenophon2 | 4 years ago

UCI enters the room talking about getting together. Then they'll lay down rules to develop and expand the competition, draw budgets to themselves, teams will step in and buy the better riders and events like DK and others that -to me- now look interesting because they're relatively grasstroots will become standardized, harmonized and bloody dull. . If they don't join the UCI party they'll simply be bled dry. I say that the UCI can f*ck off and try and develop a new cash cow somewhere else.

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