Nathan Haas has told Cyclingnews he would love to take part in a gravel World Championships and fight for a gravel rainbow jersey but warned the UCI not to try to take over the nascent gravel racing scene or take away the "fun and smiles' of what are also mass-participation events.
UCI President David Lappartient revealed that a gravel World Championships is something that is "under discussion and that is possible in the future" with the UCI already talking about how gravel racing could fit under the global governing body's governance, while also appeasing the independent organisers that have forged the gravel scene, especially in the USA.
"I think by joining up, all together, we can for sure be stronger. The goal today is not to fight against anyone, but to bring everyone together. That's the job of the UCI," Lappartient told Cyclingnews and assorted other media during a 24-hour visit to the Tour Down Under.
Some gravel riders and event organisers immediately hit back at Lappartient, claiming they don’t need the UCI and that races such as Dirty Kanza were already unofficial World Championships amongst gravel racers.
Haas raced in mountain bikes before focusing on road racing at WorldTour level. He has a more balanced approach and reaction.
"A lot of of my training is off road, so I'd love to ride a gravel World Championships. I'm now 100 per cent a road racer but if there was a gravel World Championships, I don't think I could keep myself away from it," thee new Cofidis man told Cyclingnews at the Tour Down Under.
"However, it would really depend what it looks like. It'll be important not to lose or take over what is a scene in it's own right, that might want to govern itself.
"We're in the pioneering age of what gravel is going to be. The UCI had a certain legitimacy to every aspect of cycling if people like that or not.
"If we all help develop it into it's own global sport, it's only going to help cycling as a whole, the bike industry and everyone who loves riding a bikes, be that on the road or on gravel."
Haas is convinced a number of WorldTour road racers and cyclo-cross riders would, like him, be keen to rider a gravel World Championships.
The likes of Peter Sagan, Wout Van Aert, Mathieu Van der Poel, Lucinda Brand and Marianne Vos would surely excel in gravel races, while former WorldTour rider such as Pete Stetina, Ian Boswell, Ten King and Laurens ten Dam are already focusing on the burgeoning gravel racing circuit in the USA.
"It depends on each rider, each time and doing it in the right moment," Haas said.
"We should never lose focus on why we're pro cyclists and that's to win the biggest races out there. We have some beautiful crossover events like Strade Bianche, Tro-Bro Léon and now Paris-Tours through the vines. There's even gravel in the Tour de France. I think if it's done well, gravel racing will be great, even in European road races."
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