This weekend, the Trek UCI Gravel World Series travels to the USA for the Highlands Gravel Classic in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This name will certainly ring a bell with cyclocross fans, as Fayetteville hosted the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in 2022 and also featured in the UCI Cyclocross World Cup. Because of these events and of the city’s efforts to develop cycling through programs and infrastructure, it was the first US city to be awarded the title of ‘Bike City’ by the UCI in 2021.
Gravel enthusiasts will find a wealth of tracks to explore in this region characterized by the Boston Mountain Range – known as the Highlands –, part of the Ozark Mountains. Gravel roads that wind through forests and fields, rolling hills, challenging climbs and idyllic streams make for memorable days out on the bike. And for exciting race courses!
The Highlands Gravel Classic is the only qualifier in the USA for the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships and one of two in North America. There will be 350 riders at the start, representing 39 states and 6 countries.
The Highlands course is the official qualifier for men 19-59 and women 19-49. It is 66 miles/106 km long with an elevation of 4,800 ft/1.460 meters.
The Farmlands course is the official qualifier for men 60+ and women 50+. At 52 miles/84 km, it still has 3,600ft/1.100 meters of climbing. It follows the majority of the longer race, with a shortcut near the middle.
Both races start and finish at a private farm just outside of Fayetteville – an ideal setting to get in the mood for a day of gravel, as both courses are 95% offroad! Meanwhile, the Ozarks provide a scenic background for racers and spectators alike.
With rolling terrain and several moderate to steep climbs to tackle, the courses will prove challenging. Wide and winding roads allow for open racing, but the hills may shatter the field. One thing’s for sure: the Highlands will make for exciting races!