This morning’s start from Le Bandie at 10.30 a.m. already promised that the Elite Women’s Race of the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships would be a real head-to-head battle. Since the first gravel sector, the speeds picked up and the first splits in the group were made. On the first passage under the finish line in Pieve di Soligo, the group of contenders for the rainbow jersey was already very reduced, with the Italian National team in the lead.
The constant ups and downs between the UNESCO heritage hills selected the front group even more.The crucial move was made by Katarzyna Niewiadoma with almost 50 km to go, just after Ca’ del Poggio. From that moment on it was one against all, with the peloton gradually crumbling behind, while in front the determined Polish rider pushed hard. It was only in the last 100 metres that Niewiadoma was able to enjoy the hug of the crowd that had come to Pieve di Soligo today for this first day of the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships.
The Polish rider from the Canyon//SRAM Racing team took the first rainbow jersey of her career. On the road Niewiadoma has always managed to take important placements in every race, in the Monument Classics such as the Tour of Flanders, Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and in the Grand Tours. Among her successes are an Alfredo Binda Trophy and an Amstel Gold Race, plus today’s UCI Gravel World Championships.
“It was my first gravel race – said Niewiadoma during the press conference, while enjoying the rainbow jersey – and it went really well! Competing in a World Championship is always exciting. I looked at the course for this UCI Gravel World Championships and saw an opportunity, so in coordination with the team and with Canyon we decided to go for it. I have to thank Canyon and SRAM for giving me a super performing bike in such a short time”.
“From the first climb – continued the newly crowned World Champion – I knew that today would be a great day. It is a victory that repays an entire season where I have always attacked and fought with the strongest athletes but without being able to win as much as I would have liked. The last 10 km were really hard, the final climb of Collagù, as well as the descent, was really difficult, I was afraid that the group behind could come back”.
The sprint for second place was won by Silvia Persico, beating Dutchwoman Demi Vollering by half a wheel: ”It was one of the hardest race of my life – said Silvia Persico – I have to say a special thank you to my teammates. Right from the first few metres they controlled the race and gave everything they had. After just 25 kilometres I had a puncture, which I quickly repaired with the ‘Fast’ and after another 5 kilometres I found the feed zone with the mechanics. I kept calm all the time because I knew I was fine. I expected to fight for a medal and I have to be happy with what I did because it was my first gravel race”.
“In the end Persico and I went together to close the gap on Niewiadoma – added Vollering -. We did not really sprint for second place. It was a continuous chase where we gave everything we had. Gravel really surprised me in a positive way, ending the season with this experience was the cherry on the cake. Its placement at the end of the WorldTour calendar is appropriate and allows many athletes to try their hand at this new discipline”.