The Hutchinson Ranxo Gravel organized by Klassmark was the last round of the UCI World Gravel Series, and the terrain of Lleida, Catalonia, surprised all those who initially underestimated its toughness.
As we previously mentioned, the organizers decided to include this event in the international calendar to show the territory to the rest of the world in the most sustainable way possible. Far from the urban world, the agricultural area of Lleida offers a unique environment for the practice of gravel. Kilometers and kilometers of wide paths run along large extensions of crops and rural villages, which makes it perfect for cycling without distractions.
The name of the event is directly related to Ponts, the starting town. ‘Lo Ranxo’ is the typical dish that is prepared in the town on Carnival Tuesday with food that people donate voluntarily and, although February is still a long way off, all the participants were able to try this delicacy after finishing with their effort.
Being part of the UCI World Gravel Series, this second edition of Hutchinson Ranxo Gravel has raised even more expectations than usual among the well-known Klassmark events. In addition, being the last opportunity to qualify for the Gravel World Championship to be held on October 9 in Veneto, Italy, the starting grid was full of international participants and renowned riders.
The Hutchinson Ranxo Gravel had three distances, being the Large, with 160 km and 2,050 m of positive elevation gain, the one that counted for the UCI Gravel World Series. Looking at the profile, only one initial climb stood out above a mostly flat terrain. Still, at the moment of truth, the participants had to face several ups and downs that, added to the pace imposed at the head of the race, resulted in a major challenge.
The challenge first-hand
We were one of the 550 participants lining up on Sunday, September 18th, and not being totally familiar with the area, we were also surprised by the physical demands of the route. Despite the favorable terrain, which encouraged you to go very fast, you could not let your guard down at any time. The gravel and aridity of the terrain, together with some technical areas where bigger stones accumulated, could jeopardize yor race at any time.
We were able to verify the frenetic pace that was set throughout the race, and the absence of long ascents caused the muscular load to be concentrated in a specific area of the legs. Also, the lack of mountains made the terrain very monotonous at times, especially if you ended up riding alone. As always, the choice of tires and, above all, the air pressure, was one of the decisive aspects to be at the front of the race.
World class pace
As for those who contested the victory, a group of four riders took advantage after the neutralized start and the chasers had to collaborate with each other to close the gap they opened in the initial 5 km of ascent. Carlos Verona, who was one of the escapees, did not calm down once caught by the rest and set a pace that, little by little, left him alone in the lead. The difference in the physical demands of gravel and the highest level of road cycling is not big at all, as reflected by the 345 normalized watts that Carlos needed to win. The men’s podium was populated by the Spanish José María Sánchez and Dani Moreno, all of them finishing the demanding route in just five hours.
After a demanding season in professional road cycling, the Movistar Team rider raised his arms in his first race in this discipline for him. He recently let his followers know that this year he intended to end the season differently in order to liven up his time on the bike. After his victory in Hutchinson Ranxo Gravel, next week he will be at the Sea Otter Europe to take part in the Pirinexus, a 340 km race starting in Girona with a foray into the Pyrenees. Before his well-deserved rest, he will travel to Germany to participate in the Grinduro.
The women’s race started at 7:30, fifteen minutes before the men, and Marta Romeu was the dominator from start to finish. The rider from Spain, experienced in various cycling disciplines, was able to keep up with the pace of the leading pack of men who came from behind and, after riding for a big part of the race with them, reached the finish line twenty minutes ahead of the British Danielle Shrosbree.
As in the rest of the UCI Gravel World Series, in addition to the members of the podium, 25% of the finishers in order of arrival obtained the pass to compete for the rainbow jersey in the World Championships.
In addition to the strictly competitive side of the event, the organization made sure that the weekend was full of activities, encouraging the participants to arrive in advance and not just for the day of the race. One of the biggest novelties was the presentation of the ‘Ranxeras Olympics’ on Saturday in which those registered participated in tests such as bicycle throwing, balance contests, or duels to fix punctures.