"I had absolutely no idea what to expect at the Gravel World Championships and that was actually kind of awesome." - Ivy Pedersen
Veneto, Italy (October 2023): I had absolutely no idea what to expect at the Gravel World Championships and that was actually kind of awesome. I didn’t have time to preview the course, and I had no idea who any of my competitors were. I had no expectations, and I was truly just so excited to be there.
It turned out to be quite different from any gravel race that I have ever done and it was a really fun day. The race started a few miles north of Treviso, a really pretty city with lots of canals that is apparently where Tiramisu was invented.
Race morning was nice and cool, but the start time wasn't until 10:30am and it had warmed up quite a bit by then.
When the gun went off, the course started straight up a hill - no neutral roll out! The entire course was closed to traffic and there were course marshals at every single intersection. I was really grateful for that because there were so many turns and nearly every one was a blind corner.
The first part of the course was next to a river and fairly flat. We rode through washes filled with river rocks and down narrow gravel paths lined with trees as we made our way towards Pieve di Soligo, a little town in the foothills of the Dolomites. The race passed through the town and then did several cloverleaf loops out and around until finishing in the city center.
As we got closer to Pieve di Soligo, we rode through perfect vineyard after perfect vineyard. The region of Italy is known for their wine production (they actually gave every racer a bottle of Prosecco at registration!) The hills were not terribly long, but dang they were steep: up to a 20% grade towards the top of most of the climbs!
The fans were incredible - they were lining every climb and every corner yelling “allez allez” and when they saw my jersey, they switched to yelling “go USA!” Fans were handing out bottles, asking if you wanted water poured on you or if you wanted a push up the steepest parts. In one off-camber pathway through a vineyard, a woman was handing up fresh grapes!
In addition to the gravel, there was plenty of pavement and lots of single track. There were amazing mountain views, perfectly adorable villas, and beautiful little towns. It was so fun riding fast through the narrow streets and alleyways past actual castles and elaborate old churches. It was hard for me to focus on the fact that I was racing because there was so much to look at. I kept thinking: “Holy crap, I'm in Italy and this is so awesome!” It was also really cool to be out there riding with people from all over the world. I spent a good portion of the race with riders from Columbia, the Netherlands, Barbados, and the UK.
The finishing shoot had a very enthusiastic atmosphere with grandstands full of spectators and the clock tower chiming away. After I finished, I ate pizza and pastries and then got to ride 25 more beautiful miles back to our Airbnb in Treviso. This was such a unique experience and I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to try out European gravel.
Ivy Pedersen (Fruita, Colorado) - 2023 USA Women's 35-39 Gravel National Champion