UCI president mulls gravel world championships within next few years

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The rapid growth of gravel racing has not gone unnoticed by the UCI.

Cycling’s global governing body may not currently have a deep involvement in the gravel scene, where major events are largely administered independently, but that could soon change, as UCI president David Lappartient explained in a wide-ranging roundtable discussion with media, including CyclingTips, in Adelaide yesterday.

“It’s something we are working on. Last week we had a meeting at the UCI to discuss this,” Lappartient said. “I won’t say too much today but I can tell you that we are working on this at the UCI level as we believe that here is a real future for this… a huge, huge potential [for] development.”

A meeting between Lappartient and L’Eroica founder Giancarlo Brocci made headlines recently, and Lappartient said there have also been internal discussions about how the UCI could get in on the gravel boom. Although he did not go into specifics, Lappartient did answer a question about whether we could see a UCI-run gravel world championships within the next few years.

“I think so,” he said. “This is really something that is under discussion.”

Lappartient noted that the appeal of rougher terrain stretched back to the early days of bike racing.

“First of all, I would say that gravel is in the DNA of cycling since the beginning. At the time the roads were not as they are today,” Lappartient said. “There were more gravel races. You can see that it is very popular worldwide and there is huge potential for development.”

Pointing to Strade Bianche as an example of the popularity of racing on gravel today and the potential for new events to gain traction, Lappartient said he was working to keep the UCI on top of current trends in the world of cycling.

“Sometimes, international federations are like big ships. Quite difficult to move,” he said. “What I try to bring is more flexibility in the UCI, to say, ‘Okay, we have to adapt to the reality of today.’ And we have not only to adapt but also to anticipate what will be the future of our sport.”

One challenge the UCI is sure to face as it pushes to stake out its role in the gravel scene is the prominence of organizers that currently operate independently of national federations. Particularly in the United States, many of the world’s biggest gravel races are run outside the auspices of USA Cycling.

Lappartient acknowledged the current reality of the gravel scene and noted that the goal was not to battle with other stakeholders, but opined that “by joining all together we are stronger, that’s for sure.”

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