Zonneveld found himself in the same group as 'scooter' Van Aert during the World Gravel Championships: "Jesus, he was riding fast" Cycling

Zonneveld found himself in the same group as 'scooter' Van Aert during the World Gravel Championships: "Jesus, he was riding fast"

Zonneveld found himself in the same group as 'scooter' Van Aert during the World Gravel Championships: "Jesus, he was riding fast"

The World Gravel Championship in Veneto saw a convincing victory by Matej Mohoric, who left everyone behind in a grueling battle and soloed to a glorious win. AD columnist and BEAT Cycling Club rider, Thijs Zonneveld, also participated in the race in northeastern Italy, finishing in 38th place. IDLProCycling.com, caught up with him at the end of the 169-kilometer race.

Is a top spring ranking in such a competitive field satisfactory for the 43-year-old Zonneveld? "The level was remarkably high. When you're up against such strong riders, aiming to compete with the very best isn't a realistic goal for me. The pace was incredibly fast right from the start, with a cloud of dust engulfing us from the first kilometer," he vividly described the challenging race. "At some point, I hoped the pace might slow down a bit, giving me a chance to break away. But that didn't happen either. It was a tough race."

'Scooter' Van Aert joined Zonneveld's group: "His base pace is simply 400 to 450 watts"

"Just before the first climb, a rider went down right in front of me. I fell over him. He touched my wheel, which caused my quick release to loosen. I had to stop and tighten it, and that took quite some time. By the time I got going again, the group had split into two, and I found myself in the second part. Unfortunately, there was no one strong enough to lead the chase, so I decided to push on by myself. What followed was a race to catch up," Zonneveld explained candidly.

As Zonneveld continued his pursuit, he unexpectedly found himself in the same group as the top favorite, Wout van Aert. The Belgian from Jumbo-Visma had a disastrous day, suffering multiple mechanical failures. He, too, was trying to make up lost ground in his own way. Zonneveld humorously began to narrate an anecdote, saying, "Suddenly, a guy on a moped zooms by... It's not normal how fast that guy is going. His base pace is around 400 to 450 watts. Every time we went into a turn, it was like sprinting to stay on his wheel. At first, I thought it would be relaxed to be in a group with him, but I quickly realized it wasn't relaxed at all. Jesus Christ, how hard that guy was pushing. Initially, there were 20 guys following him, but in no time, it was 19, 18, 17, 16...'' Zonneveld described Van Aert's incredible power.

Read more below the photo!

Zonneveld found himself in the same group as 'scooter' Van Aert during the World Gravel Championships: "Jesus, he was riding fast"
The start of the gravel World Cup

"At a certain point, there were six more guys in his wheel. I was one of them, along with a few other Dutchmen," Zonneveld continued the anecdote. "Then I also realized that I am in good shape, but from a technical standpoint, I have room for improvement. This course is next-level gravel, especially during some descents. I believe that on a course like this, you need to excel not only in terms of conditioning but also in terms of technique."

Zonneveld sings the praises of the (World Gravel Championship) organization

The gravel World Cup made its debut on the cycling calendar in 2022, and Zonneveld expressed his admiration for the way this "young gravel festival" has been organized. He praised the event, contrasting it with traditional road cycling, where a few riders often dominate the field, as seen in races like the Tour of Lombardy with Tadej Pogacar's recent victories. Zonneveld believes that a World Cup gravel race demands something slightly different from riders and has a nostalgic charm reminiscent of cycling's earlier days. It offers challenging terrain with rough surfaces, multiple opportunities to turn back, and a significant element of self-preservation. Such a world championship attracts not only a different kind of rider but also a different kind of spectator.

Zonneveld expressed his understanding of why people are drawn to watch gravel races, emphasizing the grueling nature of these events, with riders often crossing the finish line covered in mud. He finds this epic quality captivating and believes that gravel racing is a significant addition to the cycling world. According to him, the gravel discipline has moved beyond being a mere trend, and even in the future, when the World Championships are held in Belgium, it is expected to be a huge success. These races are becoming massive events, drawing large crowds of spectators. Zonneveld cited examples like the Elfstedenrace in Friesland and Gran Piemonte, where the turnout doesn't match the enthusiastic support seen at gravel races. He believes that gravel racing adds a unique and substantial dimension to cycling, and in the coming years, it will only continue to grow in popularity, attracting even more top-tier riders.

Place comments



More comments

You are currently seeing only the comments you are notified about, if you want to see all comments from this post, click the button below.

Show all comments

More Cycling News