Riding to win, not to just take part: Inside the pioneering Serenissima Gravel pro race

Serenissima Gravel 2021 1st Edition Lido di Jesolo Piazzola sul Brenta 1321 km 15102021 Davide Martinelli ITA Astana Premier Tech photo Roberto BettiniBettiniPhoto2021
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The first sign that the Serenissima Gravel was no ordinary professional race was visible outside the Astana-Premier Tech bus in the team paddock in Lido di Jesolo. Four new Wilier Rave SLR bikes stood on ceremony with tubes of sealant taped around the seat post. All year around, riders simply raise their arms to beckon a wheel change in the event of a puncture. At Serenissima Gravel, with no following team cars and outside support allowed, they would have to carry out any repairs for themselves.

Serenissima Gravel was billed as the first gravel race for professional riders, and as such it offered a point of confluence between the seemingly distant worlds of elite, UCI regulated competition and gravel riding. Some familiar features of the emerging discipline were present – wide-section tyres and race numbers on the handlebars – but so too was the bottom of line of pro racing. Or, as Astana Premier Tech directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli put it: “In the end, we’re here to compete, not to participate.”

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