UCI president David Lappartient has said he is open to introducing a Gravel World Championships in the future, saying it is a discipline that has “a real future and a huge potential”.
The idea had been brought to Lappartient by Giancarlo Brocci, the creator of the world’s most popular mass cycling event L’Eroica, during a meeting at the UCI’s headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.
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Lappartient then told a press conference at the Tour Down Under in Australia that it was a venture the UCI was working on.
“I really think so,” Lappartient said in response to a question on the proposal, reported by adnkronos. “We discussed it and it is something we are working on.
“We are working on this because from within the UCI we believe that in gravel there is a real future and a huge potential.”
With former WorldTour riders such as Ian Boswell, Peter Stetina and Laurens ten Dam changing their focus to gravel and popular events such as Dirty Kanza, SBT GRVL and the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo, Lappartient says he understands that his organisation must adapt to serve fans’ needs as they evolve over time.
“[Gravel] has been in the DNA of cycling since the beginning and has now become extremely popular again. Cycling changes and we must change too,” said Lappartient. “Of course, international federations are a bit like big ships, slow to maneuver but there is an awareness that we must adapt to today’s reality, and not only adapt but also anticipate what the future of our sport will be.”
Italian one-day race Strade Bianche features 63km of gravel roads and is one of the more popular events outside of the Grand Tours and Monuments on the WorldTour calendar. Stage six of the 2019 Tour de France also featured a steep 1km gravel summit finish up La Planche des Belles Filles.
“We already have clay sections in competitions such as the Tour de France, but also look at Strade Bianche. In ten years, this race has become one of the most important competitions on the calendar. It shows that gravel gives cycling a new dimension,” Lappartient explained. “We have already had a global UCI meeting to determine our strategy.”
Alongside supporting gravel racing, the UCI has agreed terms with Zwift to host the first-ever E-Sports World Championships this year.