Kasia Niewiadoma After Big Sugar Gravel Victory: “Gravel Is Insanely Hard”

By Monica Buck

Freshly crowned gravel world champion, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), rode her rainbow kit to victory at her second-ever gravel race on Saturday, 21 October, at Big Sugar Gravel in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA.

Big Sugar Gravel offers two signature races: the marquee 100-mile course (which was actually 104 miles) through the Ozarks with approximately 7,000 feet of elevation gain, and a fast and scenic 50-mile course.

While Niewiadoma showcased a solo masterclass to the finish line, the men’s event concluded with a tight sprint, with the victory going to Norway’s Torbjørn Andre Røed.

The coveted Life Time Grand Prix series was clinched by U.S. gravel champion Keegan Swenson and the indomitable Sofia Gomez Villafañe, each pocketing a prize of $25,000.

Sofia Gomez Villafañe, an off-road maestro, initiated the race with an assertive early move. Yet, she wasn’t alone—Niewiadoma was right behind her. However, an unfortunate navigational error caused them to momentarily lose their lead to the previous year’s champion, Paige Onweller, who teamed up with Jenna Rinehart and Sarah Sturm.

Upon rejoining the frontrunners, Niewiadoma unleashed a powerful surge, quickly establishing a significant lead that her competitors couldn’t match. She finished a staggering nine minutes ahead of the second-placed Lauren De Crescenzo, followed by Anna Hicks, who secured the third position

“I feel like hearing about gravel beforehand I was like ‘oh, sweet we’ll just ride for long and then relax and have fun’ but it’s insanely hard, and I feel like every single roadie should know that because I know at some points we were like oh, gravel is for people who don’t want want to really race but it might be the opposite,” Niewiadoma commented after the race.

While the racing is different from what she’s used to on the WorldTour circuit, the Canyon-SRAM rider said, “The girls were very strong out there for sure.” She also mentioned, “To be honest, the last five kilometers I was like ‘never again.’ It’s super hard but I feel like yeah, always after winning and after a big suffer fest it feels so satisfying that you want more.”