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The Dutch star said this will be his first gravel race, but didn’t want to miss the chance to compete.
“We are writing a bit of history on Sunday,” Van der Poel said Monday. “For me this will be my very first gravel race in my career, although it is not completely new. I trained on the gravel bike for the first time today and it feels like something between road racing and cyclo-cross. The adaptation on the bike wasn’t too bad.”
Dutch journalist Thijs Zonnenveld first posted a message on Twitter hinting at the news Monday afternoon. Sources later confirmed to VeloNews that the Dutch multi-discipline star will race.
Van der Poel played down expectations Monday in an official press release to confirm his participation.
“It’s mainly fun to be there. And if the feeling is OK on Sunday, we will obviously do our best to get the best possible result,” he said.
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It will be his first event since his controversial exit from the Wollongong UCI Road World Championships.
Van der Poel was questioned by police, fined, and later banned from returning to Australia for three years following a run-in with teenage girls who were disturbing his sleep the night before the elite men’s road race.
Van der Poel apologized following the high-profile incident.
Some other elite men’s WorldTour pros will also be racing in the first UCI-sanctioned world championships for gravel.
Others include Greg Van Avermaet, Gianni Vermeersch, Zdenek Stybar, Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss.
Some top names for the elite women’s field include Lauren Stephens and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot.
UCI-sanctioned gravel worlds this weekend in Italy
Gravel worlds is scheduled to take place on the white gravel roads of Italy’s Veneto region over the October 8-9 weekend.
The history-rich routes start in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vicenza, passes closely by the city of Padua, and finish at the medieval walled city of Cittadella, 25 km northeast of Vicenza.
The gravel worlds courses will be about three-quarters typical Italian white gravel sections – similar to those found in Strade Bianche – and cobbled sections. The remaining quarter will be made up of asphalt roads.
Elite women, women’s age group, and men’s 50+ categories will race on Saturday, October 8 on a 140-kilometer course with 69 percent gravel and 700 meters of elevation gain.
On Sunday, elite men and under-49 age group categories race on the same route, with the addition of a 25-kilometer final circuit. Age-group riders will complete the circuit once for a total of 165 kilometers and 750 meters of altitude gain, while elite men complete it twice, for a total of 190 kilometers and 800 meters of altitude gain and a total of 73 percent gravel.