In a thrilling display of skill and stamina, Lorena Wiebes of team SD Worx has won the first-ever European Gravel Championship, outpacing her Dutch compatriot Fem van Empel in a dramatic final sprint. Italy’s Elena Cecchini secured the bronze, adding to the roster of celebrated athletes in this groundbreaking event.
Held on Sunday, 1st October in Oud-Heverlee, Belgium, the championship was ingeniously combined with the Belgian Gravel Championship by organisers Golazo. The multi-faceted event presented a unique “race within a race” atmosphere in the scenic Brabantse Wouden. The participant list included a plethora of distinguished names like Fem van Empel, Lorena Wiebes, Yara Kastelijn, Denise Betsema, and Sanne Cant.
The competition commenced at noon, challenging riders to a gruelling 132.5-kilometre course through the Brabant woods. The course is also slated to host next year’s third-ever World Championships in gravel racing. After the initial two laps—each spanning 28.4 kilometres—three riders emerged as leading contenders for the European title.
In the crucial last laps, Wiebes and Van Empel seemed locked in a duel for the European title. They were joined by Australian Tiffany Cromwell and Italy’s Elena Cecchini. Cromwell broke away from the pack in the final stage but being Australian, she wasn’t a contender for the European title. This allowed Wiebes, Van Empel, and Cecchini to focus on their own battle. Eventually, it was Wiebes who, despite a punctured front tyre, triumphed over Van Empel in the last sprint.
Marthe Truyen, representing Fenix-Deceuninck, captured the Belgian Gravel title. The 24-year-old athlete had previously earned a podium finish at this year’s Paris-Roubaix and crossed the line as the first Belgian, solidifying her status within the gravel racing circuit.
European Gravel Championship Top 8
- Lorena Wiebes
- Fem van Empel
- Elena Cecchini
- Barbara Guarischi
- Pauliena Rooijakkers
- Tessa Neefjes
- Giada Borghesi
- Marthe Truyen
Note: Tiffany Cromwell was the first to cross the finish line but, as an Australian, is ineligible for the European title.