The very first edition of the new UCI Gravel event in Valkenburg has been very successful even before the first rider has started as the event has reached its maximum number of 1000 riders end of February and is sold out.
Organizer Stefan Duizings from The PEPr Company who also organizes the Amstel Gold race two weeks earlier: “We were also surprised that it went so quickly when we decided to put a maximum number of participants as we wanted to see how we could handle the startwaves and make sure that all riders had a great experience without ending up in a traffic jam on the course. In the next few years, we might open for more riders if all would go well for this first edition.”
Your course can be considered as the Amstel Gold race for Gravel with all the iconic climbs and landscape in Southern Limburg?
“Yes, we have the famous Cauberg right after the start as we think this might spread up the peloton in different smaller groups before entering the local 33.8km lap where the course gets smaller from time to time.”
The Cauberg is the ideal way to make sure all best riders are positioned in front?
“It’s a wide-open road of 1,2 kilometres at 6% average, but especially the first half is steep with a peak up to 12% where the better riders will automatically come to the front. After the Cauberg, we follow the Mathieu van der Poel Allee towards the local lap in reverse direction as used in the final of the Amstel Gold Race.”
A 33.8km lap which has to be done twice or three times depending on the age groups?
“Yes, all men over 60 and women over 50 have to do two laps while all younger riders turn towards the finish after having done three.”
What are the main challenges on that lap?
“The race is varying from an altitude of 60 to 70m at the start and in the valley next to the Geul river where we go down a few times to a maximum height of 170m on top of the plateau. The first half of the lap is most challenging as a first downhill brings us to a first climb on the Schinderweg, a 1.5km uphill offroad section at 4.3% average and 9% maximum. Right afterwards, there is another smaller climb before going down to the foot of the famous Keutenberg.”
The Keutenberg is taken on the road?
“Yes, but it will be challenging as the steepest part of 22% comes right after the 180 degrees turn where riders come down from a great gravel downhill but then must shift into their smallest gear to overtake the steep 1.2km climb. The rest of the lap is more undulating and easier than the first part.”
After the two or three laps, riders turn back to Valkenburg where the finish is located at the Shimano Experience center?
“From the local lap, we enter the 6.1km finish loop over the Mathieu van der Poel Allee towards Cadier and Keer where the final kilometres go downhill through the “Meertensgroeve” before entering the final paved kilometre to the finish.”
When can we expect the courses to be published?
“We have scheduled a webinar on the 4th of April in which we will release the courses. Half of our participants have already signed up for this online presentation and courses will also be published on our website the next day.”
We look forward to it!