The UCI Gravel World Championships return to the Veneto region of Italy, October 7-8, 2023, and with a title wave of changes. Just one month before the second edition of the battle for rainbow stripes, the UCI announced that Pedali di Marca would take over as organisers for the event, replacing PP Sport Events. Then a completely new course was unveiled for Treviso, with races departing from Lago Le Bandie and including finish circuits at Pieve di Soligo.
Gone were the mostly flat courses from the inaugural season, which saw road tactics play out for sprint finishes in the elite races. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France) took the women’s victory ahead of Sina Frei (Switzerland) and Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium) led a pack of eight other pro road stars across the line for the men’s title.
Significantly more climbing has been added this year for all categories of racing, with elite women covering 140 kilometres on Saturday and elite men riding 169 kilometres on Sunday.
A 50-50 combination of surfaces, from the hard-packed white pebbles to the paved black tarmac, feature nine key climbs for the elite men and eight climbs for the elite women. Though 25 kilometres shorter than the inaugural edition of the men’s race, the course on Sunday has 1,900 metres of elevation gain, more than double from 2022. The women’s route is also hillier, with 1,660 metres of elevation gain.
"These are two very demanding routes, and they are refined down to the smallest detail," said Daniele Pontoni, head coach of Team Italy. "Whoever takes home the rainbow jerseys in the Elite categories will have truly deserved them."
All fields begin with a 5km lap on a dirt road around Lake Le Bandie in Spresiano. The route heads directly north to the first of three passes through the finish line in Pieve di Soligo, situated less than 50km from the start. The opening 30km passes through Grave di Papadopoli which offers terrain for attacks and riders to settle into positions over the longest stretch of dirt road, 21km along the Piave River. This is where the route leads to what Pontoni calls 'the first tricky point'.
"The first tricky point will be the stretch of dirt road that the riders will tackle in the initial section of the course: 21 kilometres that are really demanding. I compared that stretch to the Arenberg Forest at Paris-Roubaix: it is far from the finish line but it will create a first big selection, where it will become clear who cannot win this UCI World Championships," he said after a course preview in late September.
At Ponte della Priula, the route turns away from the river and over the hills of Collalto, the first climb alongside vineyards at 3.8km and a 3.9% average gradient.
Hard-packed white roads then lead to the heart of the Prosecco hills in Pieve di Soligo and the beginning of the first loop, which is approximately 60km for elite men and 45km for elite women. The clockwise circuit begins with an asphalt climb to Arfanta (3.7 km at 4.3%) followed by Nogarolo (700 metres at 11.6%) and Ca' del Poggio (1.2 km at 12.2%) near San Pietro. The men’s route swings wide for extra kilometres just after Arfanta and again before San Pietro, with a climb across Formeniga (1.2km at 6.2%) which is unique for Sunday’s course.
Organisers called a stretch of dirt roads through Val Trippera ‘treacherous’ as the route heads back for a second pass of the finish line and another clockwise circuit for the final 70km. Headed to the west on off-road sectors of Patean and Palù di Sernaglia, the men’s route takes in extra kilometres passing the Isola dei Morti.
"The decisive section to decide the winner will be the final 70 km loop, with 4 very difficult climbs: San Vigilio, Le Serre, Le Tenade, and Collagù. The last difficulty is only 7 km from the finish line in Pieve di Soligo," added Pontoni.
From Colbertaldo, the most challenging part of the route takes in the final four climbs in the final 25km. The ascent of San Vigilio is only 300 metres long but at 16.5% is a stiff challenge. It leads directly to the ascents of Le Serre (3.4 km at 7%) and Le Tenade (900 metres at 3.9%). A short reprieve follows for the final climb, Collagù (3.9 km at 5.1%), and a sharp descent to the finish.
From the descent of San Gallo riders will navigate cobblestone streets that pass the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and finish at Piazza Balbi Valier in Pieve di Soligo.
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