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CEDAR CITY, Utah (VN) — The latest European road pro to jump into U.S. gravel racing flew so far under the radar that Peter Stetina himself had to point him out.
German rider Paul Voss wasn’t on anyone’s shortlist to win Saturday’s Belgian Waffle Ride Utah. After Voss finished third place overall, four minutes down on Stetina, the American called out Voss’ accolades to the few media gathered at the finish line.
“This is a good podium to see,” Stetina said. “Paul and me, we go back to the WorldTour together. We’ve known each other for a while, and he rode with good panache today.”
Indeed, Voss, 35, spent a decade racing professionally in Europe, starting seven grand tours during his career that included stints at Milram, Endura Racing, and Bora-Argon 18. His final year in the pro road was 2016 with Bora-Argon 18, the year before that squad added Peter Sagan and became WorldTour team Bora-Hansgrohe.
Along the way Voss wore the Tour’s polka dot jersey for a stage in 2016 and even scored a WorldTour time trial victory at the Volta Catalunya in 2010, beating Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden. And prior to racing pro road, Voss was a rising star in the German cyclocross scene.
“I used to ride gravel all the time,” Voss told VeloNews. “Back then, we called it cyclocross.”
Voss gave up racing for four years, and said he was drawn to the burgeoning U.S. gravel racing scene after reading about it online. In recent years he’s worked as a director sportif for the Wiggins squad; he’s also done German commentating on cycling, coached, and operated a cycling podcast.
Gravel grabbed his attention, he said, due to a mix of individual competition and camaraderie.
“I saw it as more individual and with these unwritten rules you follow, so everyone is riding for themselves but also as a collective,” he said. “And it’s true. I crashed today and everyone was asking if I was OK, and so on. It’s not just like in a road race where everyone is trying to flick each other. It’s more about proper sportsmanship. ”
Voss made the first round of splits in the men’s elite race, eventually riding alongside Stetina and Griffin Easter into the final climb of the race. While Voss couldn’t hold the pace of the two, he managed to keep them in sight, and even caught Easter on a technical stretch of singletrack after the American suffered a flat tire.
Easter eventually caught and passed Voss in the final five miles. Voss said the Utah race suited him better than his first foray into gravel racing, which came earlier this year at the Belgian Waffle Ride event in San Marcos, California.
“That was a bit of a weird race — going fast, slowing down, and then everyone comes back,” Voss said. “I wanted a constant hard speed, with the group getting as small as possible. Today was very hard — I knew I was going to get dropped from Pete on the final climb. So I’m happy to get third.”
Up next for Voss is Barry Roubaix, which will conclude his U.S. gravel tour for 2021. For 2022 Voss has amassed a collection of sponsors, and he intends to return to the U.S. to take on the full domestic gravel scene, from the Belgian Waffle Ride events, to Unbound Gravel, to SBT GRVL and the Leadville 100 MTB.
Like all gravel racers, Voss has had to contemplate what the near future holds with the UCI announcing its plans to launch a gravel series and gravel world championships. Voss said he will wait to see how the UCI series shakes out before passing judgment.
Whether he’d prefer to win a UCI gravel world championship or Unbound Gravel, Voss said the choice is simple.
“For sure Unbound,” he said. “That is the Paris-Roubaix of gravel racing, and I would like to win that instead of any UCI gravel race. And winning Belgian Waffle Ride means more than winning any UCI gravel race, for now anyway.”