Peter Sagan, Greg van Avermaet, Zdenek Stebar, Alexig Lutsenko, Magnus Kurt Nielsen, Miguel Angel Lopez, Matthew van der Poel.
“I’m afraid of course,” admitted Jasper O’Kelwin, after seeing the starting roster for the World Cup for the first gravel races on Sunday. “Not normal. There are twenty good professionals on the list. And not the least of them either.”
Until Van der Poel announced his participation last week, seasoned gravel pros like O’Kelwyn and Ivar Slick thought they would compete for the first rainbow jersey in the increasingly popular cycling system.
“With road professionals, the question is how seriously they take it,” O’Kelwyn believes. “They have less experience anyway and may also be less motivated than us. For us, this World Cup is just a main objective.”
You can safely call the United States the cradle of gravel racing. Laurens ten Dam paved the (pebbly) road in the American Circle and was followed by Ockeloen, Slik, Piotr Havik and even Thomas Dekker. successfully.
Ockeloen was the best in Gravel Locos this year. Slick won a very tough version of the Unbound gravel race, the toughest and most prestigious race on the calendar. “Dutch Mafia”, that’s what they call it now.
Watch below how Ivar Slik became the first Dutch winner of the Unbound high gravel block. Laurens ten Dam is fourth, and Jasper Ockeloen is in twenty.
“Drilling is a bit old school,” says Slick. “There are no trailers, you have to take care of yourself. In America, you drive a camel with water on your back and you have pockets full of jacks to punch holes in your tire.”
“People don’t buy a ticket to come and watch, but to participate. Before and after the competition is a kind of festival. The UCI competitions have a great sporting atmosphere,” adds O’Kelwin.
Pay among WorldTour riders
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Slick (29) and O’Quilwin (32) explore the World Cup stadium in Veneto, Italy. Men have to travel 190 kilometers from Vicenza via Padua to Citadel.
“The first watch is quite technical, with some altimeters and even a few pieces of one track,” Ockeloen says. “I think that would be pretty cool. It would be a little more crowded with 150 guys, but I believe that. Then it would be simpler and flatter. It might sound like a race road.”
“The course isn’t very difficult,” Slick said. “On the pebbles, you don’t get much use out of driving in the peloton. You just have to switch that power up. Team tactics are complex as well. Usually the strongest stay, but this will be different.”
The US summit is missing
The best American players are precisely the ones missing from the World Cup. Not Ian Boswell or Peter Stetina. Keegan Swenson, Unbound’s second man behind Slick, is also missing in Italy, having unexpectedly started the World Cup on the road in Australia.
“Americans still have to get used to the idea,” Slick thinks. “And Laurens (Ten Dam, ed.) isn’t involved either.”
Judging by the tweet below, Laurens Ten Dam has commitments with his footballing sons on World Cup Day:
“This will be the first world championship on clay,” O’Kelwin adds. “It just exploded last week in terms of publicity and participants. These guys probably underestimated that. I think there will be more next year.”
“I had two big goals this year: Unbound and the Clay World Championship,” says Slick. “When I won Unbound, I really felt how alive it was. If you put on your first rainbow shirt, you’ll be in the books forever.”
Two rainbow shirts under one roof?
Or is it possible that two rainbow shirts will soon be hung in Ockeloen’s house? Reagan Marcus, Dutch road champion and friend of Ockeloen’s, will start on the same men’s track at the Women’s World Championships (139.2km) on Saturday.
“In theory, that would be possible,” laughs O’Kelwin. “But I think winning is not realistic for me. Of course I lose 999 out of 1000 times from van der Poel. I would already be very happy in the top 10. And Riejanne has never driven a gravel race. In fact, tomorrow she will have it.” Her gravel bike. This is a much more enjoyable experience.”
In the first women’s clay court, Marcos meets Elisa Longo Borghini (winner of Paris-Roubaix and Strade Pianche), among others. And what about Pauline Ferran-Privo, who wants to enhance her collection of rainbow jerseys – road, field and mountain bikes in three disciplines.
Whatever happens, Sunday she’ll be standing by the wayside with her boyfriend’s water bottles and gels. Is this also the case in the opposite direction?
“Well, I thought about it,” Ockeloen says sincerely. “I’d like to do it, but it’s so tiring because you’re feeling that nervous. So I don’t think it’s a good preparation. But I will definitely take a look on Saturday.”
Ockeloen won two of 11 games in the UCI World Gravel Series, the series of dirt games that culminates in the World Cup. Goshawk won one and Slik won several honors.
Terpstra is not there
And in Millau, France, Nikki Terpstra was the best. Terpstra was banned from participating in this World Cup. He rides his last race as a professional cyclist on the partially unpaved roads in Paris-Tours.
Then next year? Slick sees it for himself. “Nikki and I live in Bergen and often train with Noord-Hollands Best, a group that also includes Ten Dam, Ramon Sinkeldam and Cees Bol.” I think he contracted the virus. “
“There were even rumors that Tadej Pojjakar would take part in the World Cup,” concludes Okellowen. “But I think he should have been on the starting list by now.” You should feel comfortable.
“Evil tv fanatic. Proud thinker. Wannabe internet trailblazer. Music specialist. Organizer. Hardcore pop culture expert.”