Swenson and Stephens Secure Fifth and Sixth at 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships
October 9, 2023
At the second edition of the UCI Gravel World Championships in Veneto, Italy, National Champions Lauren Stephens and Keegan Swenson were the top American finishers in their respective fields.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – USA Cycling competed in the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships held in Veneto, Italy on October 7-8. In the event’s second year, USA Cycling sent a full team with ambitious goals. The competition witnessed athletes tackling grueling courses and intense competition to secure top finishes among the world’s best gravel racers.
The newly crowned Gravel National Champions delivered outstanding performances with Lauren Stephens (Dallas, Texas; EF EDUCATION-TIBCO-SVB) finishing sixth in the Elite Women’s race on Saturday, and Keegan Swenson (Heber City, Utah; Santa Cruz, SRAM, htSQD) sprinting for fifth in the Elite Men’s race on Sunday.
The race started at Lake Le Bandie where riders would make their way into Pieve di Soligo, and then complete two different loops before returning to Pieve di Soligo. The women’s race covered a total distance of 87 miles with an elevation gain of 5,446 feet, while the men’s race spanned 105 miles with an elevation gain of 6,201 feet. Both courses featured at least eight critical climbs, amplifying the race and adding to the challenge for the competitors.
The race was full throttle from the start, with many of the Americans initially starting in the back. The three-mile start loop around the lake was pivotal before heading out on Italy’s tight, twisty gravel road for the next few hours. While team tactics were part of the strategy, the chaos of many riders trying to navigate the course’s various bottlenecks meant that much of the race ended up being a test of survival and an early battle for position.
The women’s team was trying to work for Stephens on the day. The first selection formed after 40 kilometers where Stephens was in the lead group of 25 racers. In the next 13 kilometers, the next selection was made with 13 riders, and Stephens still holding strong. She would continue to fight through the steep climbs, keeping the leaders in sight. She rode through the finish line at 4 hours and 53 minutes finishing in sixth, bettering last year’s 15th place at the inaugural World Championships. Another returning Worlds team member, Sarah Sturm (Durango, Colo.; Specialized/ Rapha/ Wahoo), was the next American finisher in and received 16th place.
1 – Katarzyna Niewiadoma (POL)
2 – Silvia Persico (ITA)
3 – Demi Vollering (NED)
6 – Lauren Stephens (Dallas, Texas; EF EDUCATION-TIBCO-SVB)
16 – Sarah Sturm (Durango, Colo.; Specialized/ Rapha/ Wahoo)
39 – Paige Onweller (Belleville, Mich.; Trek/WTB/ABUS/HED/SRAM)
43 – Heidi Franz (Seattle, Wash.; DNA Pro Cycling)
44 – Crystal Anthony (Bentonville, Ark.; Liv Racing Collective)
55 – Morgan Aguirre (Seattle, Wash.)
66 – Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.)
76 – Katherine Sheridan (Omaha, Neb.)
The United States came to fight with a stacked team of riders including Swenson, Alexey Vermeulen (Pinckney, Mich.; Jukebox – ENVE), Zach Calton (Salt Lake City), Andy Lydic (Boulder, Colo.; BMC #ItCouldBeMe), Luke Lamperti (Sebastopol, Calif.; Trinity Racing), Payson McElveen (Durango, Colo.; Allied Cycle Works), David Van Orsdel (Minneapolis), Brennan Wertz (Mill Valley, Calif.; Mosaic Cycles), and Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz, Calif.; Santa Cruz, SRAM, htSQD).
The team had a strategy in place and they knew they did not have the best starting positions, proving the start loop to be key. Swenson and Lamperti made their presence known early and found themselves in the front of the race after the initial loop around the lake. It would be a wild few hours of racing where the pace never let up.
Swenson said, “I’m really happy with my ride. Apart from a couple of crashes that I had, it went well. I don’t crash often but when I do I lay myself out pretty good. That’s when I lost the first group and it took about 20 minutes to chase back to the second group. I thought we’d make contact with the first group but the guys in our group were hurting and losing motivation to chase. For a while, the gap was sitting at around 20 or 30 seconds but all of a sudden it was one minute, then two, three, and then four. That’s when everyone started racing for the positions that we had.”
As Swenson made the turn into finish straight, he was fighting for a fourth-place finish against former Road Race World Champion and Vuelta Champion Alejandro Valverde (ESP). The American powerhouse would ultimately finish fifth on the day completing the World Championships in just over five hours.
1 – Matej Mohoric (SLO)
2 – Florian Vermeersch (BEL)
3 – Connor Swift (GBR)
5 – Keegan Swenson (Heber City, Utah; Santa Cruz, SRAM, htSQD)
33 – Alexey Vermeulen (Pinckney, Mich.; Jukebox – ENVE)
35 – Zach Calton (Salt Lake City)
37 – Andy Lydic (Boulder, Colo.; BMC #ItCouldBeMe)
75 – Luke Lamperti (Sebastopol, Calif.; Trinity Racing)
76 – Payson McElveen (Durango, Colo.; Allied Cycle Works)
77 – David Van Orsdel (Minneapolis)
99 – Brennan Wertz (Mill Valley, Calif.; Mosaic Cycles)
110 – Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz, Calif.; Santa Cruz, SRAM, htSQD),
134 – Ian Kutzleb (Durango, Colo.)
In the age group races, the United States captured three World titles from Juergen Eckmann (Men’s 60-64), Tracey Jacobs (Women’s 55-59), and Pam Glenn (Women’s 65-69). Other podium finishers include Amy Phillips (Women’s 50-54) and Susan McDonough (Women’s 60-64) finishing second in their age groups and Victor Sheldon (Men’s 55-59) taking third.
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