Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) soloed to victory at the second UCI Gravel World Championships, taking the rainbow jersey after attacking over 20km from the finish in Pieve di Soligo ahead of Silvia Persico (Italy) in second and Demi Vollering (Netherlands) in third.
Wins have eluded the Polish talent for a long time, taking her last victory at the 2019 Women’s Tour on the road, but today was her day, ending a four-year drought with a World Title ahead of a stacked field of gravel specialists and the very best women’s road cycling has to offer.
The road specialists dominated the off-road discipline, occupying nine of the top 10 spots on the day, with the Polish rider winning the rainbow jersey in Veneto after nearly five hours of racing, able to lift her bike above her head after the effort.
Persico and Vollering sprinted it out for second place with the Italian coming out on top ahead of the Tour de France Femmes winner from this season, with two more Dutchwomen rounding out the top five behind them in Yara Kastelijn and new European Gravel Champion Lorena Wiebes.
With no TV coverage of the event, the UCI was forced to respond to widespread confusion, informing the public of their regrets that the event wasn't being broadcast with mandatory TV coverage promised for 2024 and beyond.
“This is so sweet! I really don’t have words for it. It’s my first rainbow jersey. I’m just so happy.” said an elated Niewiadoma after the finish.
“On the early climbs, I felt good and could see the others suffering. So when we came closer to the end, I attacked, expecting Demi [Vollering] or someone to join me, and we had a chance to go away together. I didn’t think I would go alone, but I wanted to eliminate some numbers in the group. I knew the final lap from the course recon and that there were some technical parts, so I felt it was a good time for me to go at that moment.”
“After such a long time of not winning a race, it’s so special to win this. I really feel like I had the best equipment today. I learned quickly that gravel racing is so important to have the right gearing and every equipment detail. It was my first gravel race," added Niewiadoma who received advice from her Canyon-SRAM teammate Tiffany Cromwell (Australia). "This win feels so amazing and I’m really grateful for everyone who helped."
The impressive field of over 100 registered riders tackled the 140km course with 1660m elevation gain in in the Veneto region of Italy for the second edition of the UCI Gravel World Championships. Missing from the start was defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France) because of COVID-19.
The first separation came after 40km when a group of 25 which included all the pre-race favorites came to the front led by the Italian quartet of SorayaI Paladin, SorayaI Paladin, Silvia Persico and Gaia Realini.
Passing through the 63km mark, the numbers in the front group has dwindled down to 13 riders with Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland), Simone Boilard (Canada), Niamh Fisher-Black (New Zealand), Lauren Stephens (USA), Tiffany Cromwell (Australia), Sofia Gomez Villafañe (Argentina), Emma Norsgaard (Sweden), a trio from the Netherlands Demi Vollering, Lorena Wiebes and Yara Kastelijn and Italy’s Letizia Borghesi, Elena Cecchini and Gaia Realini.
The front group lost four more riders as they climbed the Ca’ Del Poggio (1.2km at 12.3%) but the chasers were not far away. By kilometre 104, the numbers in the front had swelled back up to 15 strong. The Italian riders continued to set the pace while a chasing group containing the Belgium trio of Sabrina Stultiens, Sanne Cant and Marthe Truyen were over a minute behind.
After climbing the San Vigilio (0.4km at 15.5%), Le Serre (2.4km at 6.3%) with the front group, Niewiadoma attacked on Le Tenade (0.9km at 6.5%) with Persico and Vollering in pursuit.
Four kilometres later, the Polish rider has a 45-second gap on Vollering, Persico and Kastelein. Continuing to press on the pedals, Niewiadoma still had 38 seconds on Vollering and Persico with only one kilometre to go to cross the finish line for her first victory in four years.
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