Lorena Wiebes: I’m ready to suffer at UCI Gravel Worlds

Dutch team arrives in Italy as favourites but wary of gravel experts

Clock21:00, Friday 6th October 2023
Lorena Wiebes winning the European gravel championships last week in Belgium

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Lorena Wiebes winning the European gravel championships last week in Belgium

Demi Vollering and Lorena Wiebes head into the women’s race at the UCI Gravel World Championships on Saturday as leading contenders for the rainbow jersey. Nevertheless, both Dutch riders are wary of the 136km course that is packed with long stretches of technical gravel and eight major climbs.

With defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot out with COVID, Vollering and Wiebes lead the line, especially among the European contingent of favourites.

Wiebes recently became the European Continental gravel champion, while Vollering has been in incredible form all-season, with unstoppable consistency from March until September. Both riders offer something completely different in terms of their characteristics, but it’s impossible to discount either of them from the list of contenders.

"It will be a challenging course. It will be fast, hard, and there’s going to be a lot of suffering,” Wiebes told a small gathering of media, including GCN, at a press conference on Friday.

“I did the last 35km and the climbs are steep. I also like the downhills and the technical parts, and I’m looking forward to suffering.”

Vollering finishing her career year

Vollering finished 10th at the Europeans last week, but the course in Veneto certainly suits her better. The punishing climbs come thick and fast, and, although she lacks the gravel racing experience that many of her competitors have, her raw power should keep her in contention for the finale.

"I’m curious to see how it will go,” Vollering said as she sat on Wiebes’ right. “The first part will be fast and it’s really long and the end is going to be brutal. You need to be careful and drink a lot because you can really run out of energy quickly. Then the last lap is really technical, so you need to have a lot of coffee with you because a mistake can easily be made."

Although both riders head into the race with limited gravel racing experience, Wiebes and Vollering have spent time off-roading to different levels. Wiebes raced cyclo-cross and Vollering dipped her toes into gravel riding during COVID. That experience should help them when going up against some of the pure gravel racers that will race on Saturday.

"I started gravel riding in 2019 and then in the COVID year I did a lot on the gravel bike and I went bikepacking," Vollering said. "Since then I’ve loved training on gravel and during the winter I spend a lot of time on my gravel bike. This is only my second gravel race though."

And both riders are confident that they have enough in the tank after long seasons on the road.

“It’s a nice finish to the season, I think," Vollering said. "I like to ride gravel in training and I wanted to do a gravel race this season and now that my road season has ended it's a good way to end here.”

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