Four riders from the No Borders Gravel Team head to Veneto, Northern Italy for the second-ever edition of the UCI Cycling Gravel World Championships this coming weekend, 7–8 October. As amateur racers with lives outside of the tapes, Lisa Wörner (NL, 19–34), Henning Bommel (DE, 40-44), Julian Siemons (BE, 19–34) and Daniel Rytz (SE, 45-49) gained selection for their respective age categories at one of the 16 qualification races of the UCI Gravel Cycling World Series during the season.
For both Bommel and Rytz, it will be their second time at this young event. Bommel, the Berlin-based military trainer and former Olympic track cyclist, is looking to prove that last year’s M35 - 40 World Championship victory was not a one-off as he moves up an age category. ‘After a season that feels like it was under the curse of the Rainbow Jersey, I understand how lucky I was last year, with perfect legs and the perfect preparation. I’m equally as motivated for this year’s race and have been working hard since taking a long break in July [By “break”, Bommel is referring to working 18-hour days looking after VIP guests at the Tour de France], but know that I won’t be on the startline with last year’s fitness. It’s going to be a hard battle on an interesting course, so we will see. I’m fresh, motivated, and ready to fight.’
Rytz, a digital product manager and podcaster in Stockholm, is excited for the chance to test himself against the best in his age category. ‘The World Championships is surely the only race this season with separate fields for age categories, which means we have a really level playing field. This is what keeps you sane during training and racing because the elite riders are something else these days.’
Wörner has close to a decade of rainbow stripe experience in rowing but this gravel race will be her first time competing at a Cycling World Championships. The 33-year-old Rotterdam-based orthopaedic surgeon has been working hard to fit in training around her intense work schedule, which often involves night shifts: ‘It’s funny that even though this is my first ever Gravel World Championships, it marks ten years since I took part in my first rowing World Championships in 2013. I’ve been working hard to prove to myself that I can get into my top shape possible for this race. I know that it will be tough but my perspective is that if you’re on the start line you might as well go hard and take it in.’
Belgium’s Julian Siemons will also be racing his first Gravel World Championships after only getting a gravel bike at the start of this season. After a string of good results all year, this talented cyclocross rider will be one to watch: ‘The last few months have been flawless and I feel I am ready to go all-in for the last gravel race of the season. Mid-September’s cyclocross races were a great success as well, and the combination of intervals and longer distance training riders are paying off, so I’m really looking forward to racing and excited for my first-ever Worlds!’
Unfortunately the team will be down one rider after the British rider, Emmie Collinge, the 2016 European Mountain Running Champion who qualified at the UCI Gravel Fondo in Valkenburg earlier this year, is still recovering from a broken wrist sustained on a training ride.
The No Borders Gravel Team was set up by Lisa Wörner in collaboration with BMC, SRAM and Velocio, with a focus on showing how racing at the highest level in gravel is possible, even if you work full time.