Flemish cyclist Gianni Vermeersch becomes first ever gravel bike world champion
Gianni Vermeersch has written cycling history on Sunday. The 29-year-old cyclist from West Flanders finished solo and secured the rainbow jersey in the first gravel bike world championship in Veneto, Italy.
Participants had to conquer 194 kilometres from the town of Vicenza to the finish in Cittadella. Around 70 percent of the course was unpaved, but most of it was flat. Moreover, the gravel sections were not of the most demanding kind either. Two high profile racers, Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan, even chose to start on a road bike equipped with gravel tyres.
Early in the race, Gianni Vermeersch and Italian Daniel Oss secured a gap of more than five minutes. The breakaway riders worked together well, and so the battle for the title was fought in the front. Vermeersch won the duel in the final kilometres and rode solo to the world title. At the finish, he was around 45 seconds ahead of Oss. The Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel won the sprint for third place ahead of the Belgian former olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet.
"This feels really good," reacted the 29 year old Vermeersch after the race. "This is a childhood dream. Now I have my world champion jersey. Really nice. Hopefully I will ride some more gravel races. This was my first, and I'm very happy to be the first world champion. I think this is something for the future."
© BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM