Still one month to go until the first UCI Gravel event in the 2023 UCI Gravel World Series calendar. In the next few weeks, we are going to present the new events leading up to the World Championships later in October in Italy.
A first event will take place in Berja in the Spanish Andalucia region, more specifically in the province of Almeria, a true cycling paradise on the southern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
We had the chance to interview the organizers who can guide us through the courses.
José, if we hear about the Sierra Nevada mountains, we expect a lot of climbing?
“Yes, the race has indeed a lot of climbing, mainly in the beginning of the course as we quickly climb from the start towards a platform of 1,500m to then further climb towards the highest point of the day with over 2,000m.”
Looking at the map, it seems that especially the first 25k are challenging?
“The start is at an elevation of 320 m above the sea and is on paved roads for the first 8 km, but the big majority of what follows is on gravel and indeed goes towards a first peak reached after 25 k with gradients that reach 10-12%. Along the route, you have splendid views over the Sierra Nevada mountains, but also the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. The area is well known for its fruit production and you might also be able to distinguish a lot of greenhouses.”
But it’s not the highest point of the course?
“After 25 k, there is an easier part which still mainly goes up, but less steep and then even a short downhill and flatter part, but after 50 k there is again an 8 km steeper section with gradients from 8-11% towards a peak of 2,077 m which is the highest point of the day reached after 57 km. It’s comparable with the start, but as riders are getting tired, they often see this part as the hardest part on the course.”
Luckily, the second half is again mainly downhill?
“The last 40 km indeed goes down with some short punchy climbs, but never very long. The downhill has been recently updated to have a safer course on wide open tracks and some asphalt sections towards the finish in Berja. Total elevation will be 2,500 m for the 97 km course. The men over 60 and women over 50 make a shortcut, but they also have the first hard section uphill as part of their race”.