What do you get if you cross the Tour Down Under, off-road riding and Formula One? The answer is, apparently, RADL GRVL. As part of the festival of cycling that surrounds the WorldTour race, this year sees the inaugural Australian RADL GRVL event (pronounced Raddle Gravel), founded by cycling-mad F1 driver Valtteri Bottas and his pro-rider partner Tiffany Cromwell, who rides for Canyon-SRAM, as well as Cromwell's fellow pro Amy Charity.
The event take place over Thursday-Saturday Jan 18-20, with the main event being a choice of two competitive rides on the Friday, with a $10,000 AUD prize purse. About 200 riders are expected to compete, including Nathan Haas, Cromwell, Bottas, and Lidl-Trek's Brodie Chapman. Cromwell said she felt "under pressure" such was the strength of the field.
"It will be really competitive," said Alfa Romeo driver Bottas, a 10-time F1 race winner. "We've got some really good riders for both men's and women's races. But it's not only a pro event, it's definitely for everybody.
"We encourage anybody to join if they want to explore, because you can either race or you can take part, you know, or just challenge yourself or just enjoy the route, enjoy the atmosphere.
"The course… I'm sure people are gonna love it," he continued, "because I did most of it last week, and it's stunning, the scenery and the roads and how flowy it is."
Bottas knows exactly what a great gravel race looks like because he has already co-founded his own event back in his native Finland – FNLD GRVL. He loves to ride too, and has done his fair share of racing himself, including finishing on the podium at SBT GRVL. He has also ridden the Belgian Waffle Ride in the US and this year he hopes to qualify for the UCI World Gravel Championship. RADL is the third race from the organisation.
The full three-day RADL GRVL programme starts on Thursday with the free-to-attend 'Budgy Smuggler' Shakeout Ride from the TDU village in the centre of Adelaide; next up on the Friday are the competitive rides, with a choice of a 108km blue event and 72km green event from nearby Onkaparinga; finally on the Saturday there is a recovery ride to the foot of Willunga Hill, followed by a gravel hill-climb up the famous hill. Riders then get to watch the men's Tour Down Under finish atop the climb on that day's stage.
"We were a bit spoilt for choice with RADL GRVL," Cromwell explained. "Naturally, when the opportunity came to be able to create this event through the Tour Down Under we had to really think about where we go.
"There are so many incredible roads we could use, and then dealing with the logistics, we had to be a bit away from the town - McLaren Vale was high up on the list. It made sense to hold it here because we didn't want to be based in the city."
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