Serenissima Gravel: Florian Vermeersch sprints to victory in close finale

A battle of the two Vermeerschs went down to the wire on a dusty and draining day in Veneto

Clock19:59, Friday 13th October 2023
Florian Vermeersch outsprints Gianni Vermeersch at the Serenissima Gravel

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Florian Vermeersch outsprints Gianni Vermeersch at the Serenissima Gravel

Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Dstny) edged out his namesake and compatriot Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in a close-fought battle at the Serenissima Gravel in Veneto.

The Belgian duo pushed on from an eight-rider group in the final kilometre, with the Lotto Dstny man proving too strong in the final 100m.

Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Pro Cycling) rounded out the podium on a day where there were just 25 finishers of the gruelling gravel course.

The Vermeersch name clearly clearly offers good fortune on Italy's white gravel roads, as Florian achieved a second-place finish at this year's UCI Gravel World Championships, a year on from Gianni taking the inaugural title.

Speaking to GCN at the finish, the victorious Vermeersch said: "Gianni started really early and I had a target in front of me, which is always good if it is a long sprint."

The 24-year-old went on to admit that the variety of bike technology used on the day created an extra, and unexpected, dynamic.

"I was surprised that the guys from Arkéa didn't puncture as they were on road tyres. I thought it was really impressive that they were still there, it made our lives harder, especially on the road sections where they really had an advantage on us. But the last kilometre was technical and on gravel which worked out in our favour."

Read more:

Florian Vermeersch triumphs on wacky races-style day

The 86-strong field, made up of a combination of WorldTour, ProTeam and Continental level teams tackled four laps of a 37km-long circuit around the walled city of Cittadella.

Despite the largely gravel route, a number of WorldTour teams arrived at the start line on road bike setups - much to the humour of some of their colleagues in the bunch. However, a relatively flat parcours meant a fast pace, little room for punctures and, notably, a chance for road bikes to capitalise when the smooth terrain did appear. This extra layer complicated tactics as the race went on.

By the time three out of four of the laps were complete, a group of eight riders had created an insurmountable gap. Alongside the Vermeersch duo and Dversnes, Anthony Delaplace, Matîs Louvel (Arkéa-Samsic), Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan), Filippo Fiorelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Mark Donovan (Q36.5 Pro Cycling) had made the move.

The temporary sections of asphalt saw both Delaplace and Louvel - both riding road bikes - try to catch their rivals out. However, it would ultimately come down to the final kilometre for the race to be decided, with Lotto Dstny's top gravel talent timing his sprint the best after a dusty and draining day in the saddle.

Britain's Mike Donovan rolled over the line in seventh after two punctures and a tyre change.

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