'A victory that repays an entire season' – Niewiadoma claims world title at first gravel race

Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) takes gold at the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships ahead of Silvia Persico (Italy) and Demi Vollering (Netherlands)
Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) takes gold at the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships ahead of Silvia Persico (Italy) and Demi Vollering (Netherlands) (Image credit: Bolgan/2023 UCI Gravel World Championships)

Kasia Niewiadoma is one of those riders who is so often up the front when the finish line comes into sight but still rarely gets to throw her arms up in the air in celebration, but the rider from Poland rewrote the normal script on Saturday at the UCI Gravel World Championships when she launched a solo attack.

It was a move that helped the Women's WorldTour rider claim her first UCI victory since 2019 and on a huge stage with Niewiadoma pulling on her first elite rainbow jersey at her opening gravel race.

"I looked at the course for this UCI Gravel World Championships and saw an opportunity, so in coordination with the team and with Canyon we decided to go for it," said Niewiadoma at the post-race media conference.

The course, with its steep climbs delivering 1660m of vertical gain over the 140km, was revealed just three weeks out from the event after a late change of organiser. That meant it was a quick decision for the Canyon-SRAM rider to add the event in at the tail end of the road season, but one that reaped a huge reward.

"From the first climb I knew that today would be a great day," said Niewiadoma in a statement from the race organisers. "It is a victory that repays an entire season where I have always attacked and fought with the strongest athletes but without being able to win as much as I would have liked."

The rider's strong road season included eight stage and overall podium placings and more than 20 top tens and while her first victory of the year came off the road it was against some familiar rivals so Niewiadoma was all to aware of their strength as they attempted to chase her down.

The field had split early, with the technical sections and climbs providing ample opportunities to pour on the pressure, which Niewiadoma did with about 20km to go to shed all her remaining rivals. From then she fought on solo, with second-placed Silvia Persico (Italy) and Demi Vollering (Netherlands), who ultimately came third, chasing all the way to the line.

"The last 10 km were really hard, the final climb of Collagù, as well as the descent, was really difficult, said Niewiadoma. "I was afraid that the group behind could come back."

But this time on the gravel it was Niewiadoma who triumphed over her normal rivals on the road.

"It was my first gravel race and it went really well," was the understated summary from the celebrating newly-crowned World Champion.

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