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Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was the winner of the first UCI Gravel World Championships in Italy on Saturday, the Frenchwoman landing her fourth world title of the season with a confident, methodical display in Veneto, Italy. She outsprinted Sina Frei (Switzerland) to the line after they dropped breakaway companions Chiara Teocci (Italy) and Jade Treffeisen (Germany) inside the final 500 meters.
Barbara Guarischi (Italy) was best of the chasers in fifth, racing in alone several seconds ahead of Tiffany Cromwell (Australia).
Ferrand-Prévot’s success was her fourth world title of the season, adding to three mountain bike gold medals and underlining just how versatile she is. It is the tenth world title of her career.
“I think I did the perfect race,” she said afterward. “At the beginning it was quite fast and technical, so I just tried to stay at the front. After that the Italian girls really rode and they came back. So then I said I need to recover, just to drink, to eat.
“After that they attacked and I tried to go in the break. Finally I could stay at the front in the break. I tried to motivate the girls to ride with me. I knew if it was a sprint finish with a small group I was able to win. So it was just a perfect tactic for me and I can’t believe I won today.”
The 30-year-old has had the most successful career of those in the event and knew she would be closely marked. She did a lot of driving in the break and, in light of that workrate, and was asked if she had any doubts towards the end.
“I was feeling strong and I knew I had also to turn [work] quite good, otherwise the other ones would say, ‘okay, we don’t ride with you,’” she explained. “So I was really trying to motivate them and to just keep pushing. It worked perfectly and in the end I knew I had to be in second position and try to the sprint, and I made it. I can’t believe it, because it was exactly what I waited for.”
Given that she had taken nine previous world titles, was extending that streak important to her?
“I am just happy. I like winning,” she answered. “I take it day by day. I am even not thinking of the previous ones, I just want to enjoy this podium and just enjoy the day.”
How it unfolded:
The women’s gravel world championships started in Vicenza, was 140km in length and featured more than 40 starters.
Ferrand-Prévot was one of the big names to watch, having already won three world titles this season. She was triumphant in cross-country, short track cross-country and marathon cross-country MTB, and was vying to add a fourth title to her list.
The Frenchwoman was previously a multi-disciplinary gold medalist, making history in the 2014/2015 season in becoming the first to simultaneously be world champion on the road, in cyclo-cross and MTB racing.
The race begin with a predicably fast start and with pressure applied by Ferrand-Prévot, the contenders were thinned down considerably. With 120.7 km remaining she was clear with Sina Frei (Switzerland), Chiara Teocci (Italy), Annabel Fisher (Great Britain), Lauren Stephens (USA) and Sofia Gomez Villafrane (Argentina).
Teocci later launched a solo move but was reeled in again by Ferrand-Prévot, Frei, Stephens and Jade Treffeisen (Germany) and with 53 km remaining these five were 40 seconds ahead of a group of chasers.
The tricky, twisting nature of the urban sectors applied pressure to the front group, with some riders needing to expend a lot of energy to keep up with the punchier competitors .
With 42 km remaining the five leaders were 1:33 ahead of a 14-rider chase group, amongst them the USA’s Lauren De Crescenzo, Italy’s Barbara Guarischi and the British duo Annabel Fisher and Hayley Simmonds. Stephens was subsequently dropped, leaving four out front. While the chasers continued to try to close the gap, they were still 1.11 back with 25 km remaining. However they continued to make progress and were just 38 seconds behind with 15km to go.
The leaders responded to the threat, knuckling down further and padding their advantage to put the medals out of reach. They were a minute clear with four kilometers to go and thundered onwards, continuing to work together rather than firing off attacks.
Treffeisen had looked under pressure at times and came to a complete halt inside the final three kilometers going around a barrier, but was strong enough to claw her way back on. However she came under pressure racing past the citadella walls and was put under further pressure on another technical bend.
Frei and Ferrand-Prévot jumped clear inside the final 500 meters. The Swiss rider opened up the sprint but Ferrand-Prévot sped past with 150 meters remaining and landed gold, with Frei netting silver and Teocci beating Treffeisen for bronze.
Barbara Guarischi (Italy) and Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) was best of the rest, each of them leaving the other chasers and netting fifth and sixth.
MTB XCO 🌈
MTB XCC 🌈
MTB Marathon 🌈
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) October 8, 2022
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