Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma clinched her maiden rainbow jersey, winning the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships in Pieve di Soligo, Italy. A key player for the Canyon SRAM team, Niewiadoma seized her opportunity with about 20 kilometres left, forging ahead solo and maintaining her lead till the finish line.
“Words fail me. This is my first rainbow jersey, and the joy is indescribable,” an ecstatic Niewiadoma remarked post-race.
The race was marked by an early breakaway group that Niewiadoma was instrumental in forming. Following the gruelling ascent on Ca’ de Poggio, 78 kilometres into the 141-kilometre course, it became apparent that Niewiadoma was a frontrunner for the coveted title. The pack then expanded to 15 riders but was later whittled down, allowing Niewiadoma to capitalise on her early gains.
Speaking about her strategy, Niewiadoma revealed, “On the initial climbs, I sensed my competitors struggling. So, as the race approached its denouement, I launched my attack, half-expecting Demi [Vollering] or another strong contender to join me. The aim was to thin the crowd a bit. I knew the course well and sensed it was the opportune moment to make my move.”
Niewiadoma was full of praise for her equipment and team support. “This win is particularly special because it’s been a while since I tasted victory. Everything from the right gear to support from Canyon and SRAM made a difference,” she added.
Her teammate, Tiffany Cromwell, secured a respectable tenth place, marking her second top-ten finish in consecutive Gravel World Championships.
The championship, now in its second year, witnessed a stellar lineup of women cyclists, featuring Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering, European gravel champion Lorena Wiebes, and Unbound winners Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Caroline Schiff, among others.
However, this year’s women’s race was marred by a significant broadcasting hiccup. Despite global interest and a packed field of star talent, the UCI confirmed on the morning of the event that the race would not be televised due to “no TV production,” urging fans to follow the race via social media. This decision drew considerable ire online, especially given that the men’s race was scheduled to receive 90 minutes of live coverage the following day.
Finishing behind Niewiadoma, Italian cyclocross specialist Silvia Persico clinched silver while Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering took home bronze. The victory holds special meaning for Niewiadoma, adding a long-awaited rainbow jersey to her illustrious career and signalling a triumphant entry into the world of gravel racing. With her sublime performance in Pieve di Soligo, Niewiadoma has firmly established herself as a force to be reckoned with in this increasingly popular cycling discipline of gravel racing.
2023 Women’s Gravel World Championships result
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Main photo credit: Twila Muzzi