Putting on the rainbow jersey and seeing your national flag rise as the national anthem starts playing is a moment every athlete dreams about. You stand on the podium, filled with happiness, pride, satisfaction, and a massive sense of accomplishment.
A wild ride with challenging conditions
It’s a shame the race didn’t receive better coverage, though. I truly wish people could have watched us race because, from kilometre zero, there was an incredible dynamic and a high pace set by the Italian team. After only 30km, we were left in a peloton of 25 people. The course was very demanding, technical, and gruelling at the end, with lots of short but steep climbs.
I had a moment of weakness at the beginning of the race, but as some climbs challenged us, I regained my confidence and focused on the last 25 km, which I had reconnoitred the day before. I knew my best chance would be on a 400m climb with a 15% average gradient. I gave it my all there and managed to break away solo. The remaining part of the race was amazing as I received so much support from the people cheering along the road. The last 500m were incredible because I had a big enough gap that allowed me to celebrate the victory without rushing to the finish line.
I was also fortunate to be riding the brand-new Canyon Grail. The bike is now officially released, and I’m happy that the public has access to it. From the moment I got on that bike, I knew I could do magic. It felt so natural and, in some ways, similar to riding a road bike, so the transition didn’t require a lot of adjustment. This bike is very comfortable, easy to handle, stiff, and gives you a sense of lightness and security when going over technical rocky or rooty sections.
A disappointing lack of television coverage
As I said, though, everyone was outraged to a certain extent about the lack of television coverage. It was the only disappointment, but it’s truly disheartening that such an extraordinary event wasn’t more widely seen. Having a TV broadcast is a top priority for us athletes because it’s the only way for our sport to gain the recognition it deserves. It not only allows fans to follow and witness our relentless efforts on such a challenging course but also inspires more people to join the gravel racing community. Inclusion and visibility are essential for the sport’s growth, and we hope for better coverage in the future.
The climbing gods were with me
Nevertheless, I am so glad to put this cherry on top of my season. And I am so happy I followed my instinct to give my body a good rest before this final challenge. I took a break from the rigorous training and the constant travel, allowing my body to recover fully. During those ten days of rest, I had the opportunity to embark on adventure rides with my partner and friends, which not only rejuvenated my physical state but also helped me decompress and rediscover the joy of cycling. Sometimes, it’s the moments of relaxation and the sheer fun of riding that bring out the best results. This time, my refreshed mindset led to an impressive climbing performance at the UCI Gravel World Championships, highlighting the significance of balance in both training and enjoyment.
Those moments at the finish line and during the gold medal press conference are so special because the feelings overflowing your mind and body are beyond any description. You feel incredibly happy, as if you were floating in space. Receiving big smiles and heartfelt hugs makes you understand that all the effort you put into training and all the failures are so worth it.
The future of gravel racing
Gravel racing is similar to road racing in terms of long efforts and time spent focusing on the race, so I naturally took to it. Being good technically and managing your energy intake wisely are vital aspects. I gained that knowledge from all my past failures. I love gravel racing, especially now that I can wear the rainbow jersey, but road racing will remain my priority next year as I aim to win the Olympics and Tour de France. Once I have a relaxed period, I’ll happily return to the gravel roads.
Ultimately, winning the UCI Gravel World Championships was a dream come true. The challenges, emotions, and incredible support I received made it a truly magical moment in my career. Gravel racing has a bright future, and I’m excited to see where it leads. Thank you all for sharing this incredible journey with me!