Nannup, in the south-west of Western Australia nearly seems prefer it had a pitch for a world-class gravel occasion firmly in thoughts when it was designing its shire web site, with the outstanding placement of the statistic that of its 536km of roads, 387km had been unsealed.
That meant loads of alternative when the race organisers of Seven began to survey the terrain of Blackwood Valley for the gravel occasion which this Sunday May 15 shall be residence to the second spherical of the brand new Trek UCI Gravel World Series. Throw in trails and forestry roads as nicely and the alternatives appeared infinite, with the triangle connecting the townships of Nannup, Bridgetown and Donnybrook estimated to have in extra of 1,000km of rideable roads and trails.
“I remember the first time I went to this area, that we call the highlands of the Margaret River region. It looked like Ireland or Scotland with green pine forests the size of my home region, it was huge, just endless,” Irish Race Director Stephen Gallagher advised Cyclingnews. “There’s just hundreds of hundreds of interesting gravel roads, lots of climbing, really, really well-maintained tracks … I was like, this is gold.”
The rivals thought so too, with the 237 that turned up in the primary 12 months, 2018, rapidly rising to over 1,000 in 2021, although a state border closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic meant riders couldn’t journey from outdoors Western Australia to attend.
“The event came at the sweet spot when gravel was starting to get popular,” said Gallagher, a former professional racer and, among other things, a director at Dig Deep coaching and a performance coach with Canyon-SRAM who is also involved in the Zwift Academy.
“We started to see the inclusion, first of all, in races like the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia of the odd gravel segment, and obviously the United States has a big momentum in gravel. Gravel itself was becoming part of the mainstream, I think because a lot of people were trying to get off the roads.”
That growth, over the last couple of years, had its momentum stymied in some locations in eastern Australia, with cancellations all too regular an occurrence amid the national and state border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Seven maintained its momentum in Western Australia, which had extremely low case numbers.
When the plan for a UCI Gravel World Series was put in train, Seven, was ready and prepared with a strong local support base, a scenic tried and tested course plus the ambition to draw in the growing worldwide contingent of gravel riders to Western Australian shores.
As the second event in the Gravel World Series – and first of two to be held in Australia – there was not exactly a long lead time this year for the Western Australian race to capitalise on its position in the international series, as the announcement came less than two months before the race, plus the state’s border only opened up in March too.
Regardless of this, organisers said they are seeing evidence that riders are travelling to take part in the event which can provide qualification for the UCI Gravel World Championships.
“This year we have already seen growth particularly from the east coast [of Australia], and obviously Southeast Asia as well is one of our big areas for travel accessibility here to Western Australia,” mentioned Gallagher.
Nathan Haas shall be among the many riders travelling to the occasion, kicking off his participation in the World Series at Nannup, with the Australian now having made the change from the World Tour to competing full-time on the gravel circuit.
Awaiting Western Australians and guests alike is a route the connects the townships of Nannup, Bridgetown and Donnybrook because it takes riders throughout 125km with over 3,000m of vertical ascent and 9 checkpoints earlier than the end line. The race begins and finishes in Nannup – a city that’s identify stemmed from a phrase in the Noongar individuals’s language which means stopping place. It is about 250km south of Perth and the shire has a inhabitants of practically 1,300 with about half residing in the township of Nannup.
The course is generally made up unpaved, well-formed roads with a mixture of dust, gravel, hard-packed clay, quartz grit and mica. The organisers mentioned the overwhelming majority is finest described as “parallel single track” with nearly no fireplace trails, solely 2km of vast single monitor and a scant 3km of sealed highway discovered because the race winds out of city in the impartial zone, and in the ultimate 800m.
There are ten main climbs unfold throughout the 125km course, ranging in size from 1.2km to 4.5km with gradients usually touching 20%. After a 7:00 race begin in Nannup on Sunday, with good situations, the primary riders are anticipated to make it again to the end line at round 11.45 native time whereas the ultimate reduce off is 17:00, a mark some riders miss annually on the difficult course.
During that point the riders will move by means of a variety of terrain, shifting by means of every little thing from pine forests, eucalypt dominated roadsides, open farmland and river sides. The diversified terrain – in a state that has every little thing from rugged shoreline and thriving wildflowers to widespread stretches of desert – can also be the place the occasion bought its identify.
The identify, Seven, is drawn from the variety of completely different areas with their very own distinct personalities that the race crosses by means of, which in fact is seven for the 125km occasion, with the 87km occasion named Five and the 48km course referred to as Three.
A World Championship future?
The organisers of Seven had been fast to see the potential of a World Gravel Series when the concept was first floated, with the UCI affiliation and recognition that comes with the sequence serving to to construct up a global group of races.
“A Gravel World Series will hopefully make them more prominent and bring them to that wider audience, enable people to travel from one event to another to qualify [for the Gravel World Championships], but it’s also more than that,” mentioned Gallagher. “Riders have the knowledge, that being a UCI accredited event it has to have a minimum quality of organisation and professionalism.”
“You also feel like you’re part of a new wave of cycling. I think it’s important for us to be at the forefront of that.”
The World Series just isn’t the place the ambitions for the race cease, as organisers hope that it’ll additionally at some stage be residence to the UCI Gravel World Championships, which this 12 months is anticipated to be held in Tuscany.
“We’re trying for the World Championships in the coming years,” mentioned Gallagher. “Obviously, there’s a lot of process to go through but it is a big part of our confidence in the event here, to say that we are able to host a World Championships, and also confidence in the terrain, that people will want to come and ride it.”
Nannup: Finding gravel gold in Western Australia at UCI Gravel World Series & More Latest News Update
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