The men’s race in the second round of the new UCI Gravel World Series – held in Nannup, Western Australia – came down to a battle between domestically based multi-discipline rider Adam Blazevic and Nathan Haas, who has recently turned his attention from the WorldTour to focus on gravel. The 23-year-old Blazevic struck out on a climb in the final stages of the 125km race, called Seven, dropping Haas to take the victory.
Blazevic, part of the Giant off-road team, had a dig early in the race, and with no one responding went solo early. When it started to become clear he wasn't going to be easily reeled in, Haas made the effort to bridge to Blazevic – not far off the halfway point. The Colnago rider made the catch on the Arcadia climb, just one of the many climbs in the race that at its steepest points delivered gradients of over 20%.
The pair then worked together through much of the race as it wound its way around the Blackwood Valley, clocking over 3,000m of vertical ascent between the start and finish in Nannup, a town 250km south of Perth.
The time check at Lewana, 68km into the race, showed the duo out front together already with a lead of around two minutes to Adelaide rider Matthew Bird and then by the Spur, around 100km in, the gap had edged out just a little further. Then Blazevic decided it was time to make a move.
"I was still feeling pretty good, so I sort of just pushed on up one of the steeper climbs and he [Haas] wasn't able to hang on so I just had to keep pushing then," said Blazevic. "That last 25km was so hard because I knew I had to keep on it because I know how good of a rider Haas is. I wasn't sure if he was coming back, I just kept looking over my shoulder."
There was no rider to be seen in those glances across. Blazevic crossed the line with a time of 4:22:08 to win the fifth edition of the Seven gravel race and second round of the new UCI Gravel World Series, which started in the Philippines last month. Blazevic finished with a gap of nearly two minutes to Haas.
"I definitely came here to win today, but, you know, Adam was just absolutely amazing in the final part of the course," said Haas shortly after the finish. "So I'm super stoked with second. I gave it everything I had and, you know, I felt like I actually had super legs today. But Adam was just on another level. I think he's a bit of a hidden talent."
Focus-Pedla rider Bird crossed the line in third place, a little over eight minutes back from Blazevic, who’s run into the race this month included the 228km National Road Series race, the Grafton to Inverell, where he came 11th.
Blazevic – who was Australian U19 cyclo-cross champion in 2016 and has represented the nation at U23 level at the Cyclo-cross World Championships – now hopes he can carry the good gravel form from Nannup through to Europe. He plans to take on more of the Gravel World Series events there before returning to race the next Australian round, which is in his home state of Victoria, in Beechworth, on September 4.
That means there may well be a continuation of the competition with Haas, who is also just starting his run of Gravel World Series races.
"I'm definitely motivated to get, you know, a little bit further up on the podium in the next races," said Haas. "But it's a great start."
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|9||Johan De Villiers||0:30:36|
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.
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