Even before the start lists for the UCI Gravel World Championships were being prepared it was clear from early announcements that the 2023 edition was going to feature a number of key heavy-hitters. Now the depth in the field has also become clear with names such as new European gravel champion Lorena Wiebes, Kasia Niewiadoma and Matej Mohorič among the additions to the powerful list of those already confirmed.
It had previously been revealed through a series of team and individual announcements that men’s race on October 8 would include some new key contenders for the second edition including Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and US gravel powerhouse Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz). While in the women’s race on October 7 2023 Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering (SD Worx), the retiring Annemiek van Vleuten and Unbound winner Carolin Schiff (Canyon-CLLCTV) were named as among those set to line up alongside defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos Grenadiers), Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) and Life Time Grand Prix leader Sofia Gomez Villafañe (Specialized).
The release of the start list has revealed that this was far from the limit of the key names in cycling that would be in Spresiano to take part in the contest.
Not only were new European gravel champion Wiebes and Polish Canyon-SRAM rider Niewiadoma welcome additions for the 140km women’s race in Italy’s Veneto, but also UAE Team ADQ rider Silvia Persico, Lidl-Trek’s Gaia Realini plus Emma Noorsgard (Movistar) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal-QuickStep).
New Zealand’s Niamh Fisher-Black is also taking on the race to Pieve di Soligo along with a number of other SD Worx teammates including Barbara Guarischi and Elena Cecchini. Then there is also Pauliena Rooijakkers (Jumbo-Visma) and 2017, 2018 and 2019 world cyclocross champion Sanne Cant. Jade Treffeisen, Tessa Neefjes and Svenja Betz, all key players in the Gravel World Series, will also be racing.
Saturday’s Il Lombardia may be drawing the attention of many of the road professionals in the men’s field however alongside Milan-Sanremo winner Mohorič and Van Aert, Belgium’s Gianni Vermeersch will be lining up to try and defend his title while 2022’s second-placed Daniel Oss (TotalEnergies) will again be on the Italian team. Jayco-AlUla’s Alessandro De Marchi will join him on the home squad for the 169km men’s race, alongside his gravel specialist cousin Mattia De Marchi, who has powerful results in gravel, including a Traka record, but favours the longer distances.
Connor Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), who won The Gralloch Gravel World Series race earlier this year, is racing for Great Britain and then there are also a long list of powerful gravel specialists to take on the road contingent. These include Piotr Havik and Nathan Haas as well as Paul Voß and Petr Vakoc, who both placed in the top ten at the European Gravel Championships.
The winner of the first Continental Gravel Championships, Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), is among those who will not be racing, instead turning back to the road, nor is second-placed Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep).
There were also some other surprising omissions from the elite start lists, with US Champions Swenson and Lauren Stephens – who were named to lead their national team – not on the list when it was initially released. Though expectations are that this will change as all indications are that this is a clerical issue rather than any indication that they will not be taking part.