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Former WorldTour pro Nicolas Roche grumbles at UCI Gravel Worlds startline system

Off-road specialists set to start behind road pros at gravel worlds as friction continues ahead of inaugural event.

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The grumbles of discontent continue ahead of the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championships.

Former WorldTour pro Nicolas Roche took to Twitter to rail at the startline system for this weekend’s Veneto races as the friction caused by governing body intrusion in the “wild west” gravel scene continues to throw sparks.

“Breaking news: Order on start line tomorrow. Riders with UCI points (non-gravel) first on start line. Gravel riders start in the back. UCI Cycling, remind me what worlds is it tomorrow again? I am sure the race is called gravel worlds, not road worlds!” Roche wrote Saturday.

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As a UCI-sanctioned event, no “Average Joe” can start this weekend’s races. Riders on a UCI-registered team gain automatic entry, while all others only make the startline via a qualification system or through selection by national federations.

Current road pros like Peter Sagan, Mathieu van der Poel, and Tiffany Cromwell are fitting fatter tires and dipping a toe into gravel for sponsor-pleasing photoshoots and end-of-season thrills.

WorldTour racers will pack out a multi-surface peloton typically dominated by privateers and unaffiliated riders like “monuments of gravel” ace Lauren de Crescenzo or Unbound winner Ivar Slik.

A roadie like Van der Poel – who will race gravel for the first ever time in the men’s event Sunday – will boast a stack of UCI points after racing through a full season of the governing body’s premier road calendar.

Meanwhile, the recently retired Roche and stalwarts of the gravel scene bring minimal points to the party, and so will be relegated to the middle and back of the gravel worlds pack.

“So in UCI cycling MTB worlds, Tom Pidcock had to start at the back as he had ridden enough MTB races. Why are things now different in gravel? It’s OK that riders have a free pass to race but at least let the riders who go through the effort of riding gravel and qualifying start in the front. Or don’t put a single track after 500m,” Roche continued.

“Again in MTB riders have a small but “wide, flat” start then go onto the real deal for safety! Tomorrow we start in a bottle neck! Come on guys!”