The Dirty Warrny, Australia’s burgeoning gravel race, is gearing up for its second outing. An expanding roster of competitors will see WorldTour road professionals intermingle with a cadre of specialists and an array of riders keen to explore the gravel scene, spanning various cycling disciplines.
A Nod to the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic
The 246km race, inspired by the historic Melbourne to Warrnambool event that dates back to 1895, is set to unfold on Saturday in south-west Victoria. Starting from Geelong and stretching to Warrnambool, the route promises 84% gravel terrain and an ascent exceeding 3,000 meters. The inaugural edition offered a southern hemisphere counterpart to the prestigious lengthy gravel races of the United States, with Courtney Sherwell and Brendan Johnston clinching the wins. The defending champions now face a heightened challenge in the pursuit of retaining their titles.
Johnston and Sens: Titans on the Gravel
Brendan Johnston, the reigning Australian gravel champion, has been honing his skills Stateside, participating in the Life Time Grand Prix series – a circuit embracing the likes of Unbound, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, and Big Sugar Gravel. His efforts culminated in a seventh-place finish on the overall leaderboard. Despite his proven capabilities, a new domestic threat looms large in the form of Connor Sens, aged 24. The Australian champion has made his mark with a win at the Devil’s Cardigan in north-eastern Tasmania and a subsequent victory at the UCI Gravel World Series in Beechworth.
Courtney Sherwell, also victorious at the Gravelista event in Victoria, might find herself in a familiar contest with Matilda Raynolds, who has twice emerged triumphant in the Melbourne to Warrnambool road race. This time they converge at the coastal hub of Warrnambool for another potential face-off.
Challengers Emerge From All Fronts
The battle for supremacy at Dirty Warrny is anything but a two-person affair. Cassia Boglio, runner-up at the UCI Gravel World Series SEVEN race, and Women’s WorldTour cyclist Sarah Gigante, fresh from her European tenure and a stint at Sea Otter Europe which piqued her interest in gravel, are also in contention. Gigante, in a lighthearted social media remark, has stated her readiness for the 246km challenge, with only the small detail of finding her grey socks from Sea Otter Europe to avoid sullying another pair of pristine whites.
Gigante is joined by fellow WorldTour competitors, including Grace Brown of FDJ Suez, who is looking towards the 140km event from Forrest to Warrnambool. Alpecin Deceuninck’s Jensen Plowright, just shy of the podium last year and with a win at the Melbourne to Warrnambool road race in 2021 under his belt, is one to watch in the men’s 246km distance. Likewise, Mark O’Brien, who suffered a puncture at the UCI Gravel World Series round in Beechworth and clinched third place in last year’s Warrnambool race, cannot be overlooked.