Gravel sectors in road racing

Do off-road/gravel sectors have a place in professional road racing?

  • There should be no gravel in road racing

    Votes: 1 1.2%
  • Specialist races only (eg Strade Bianche)

    Votes: 10 12.2%
  • The occasional stage-race stage with sectors plus specialist races is the right balance

    Votes: 50 61.0%
  • I love it, give me more gravel stages

    Votes: 21 25.6%

  • Total voters
    82
If the argument against gravel sectors is the likelihood of mechanicals, as Bambi and Trentin are saying, I tend to ignore them. If it's unsafe to ride, there is another thing, but if the problem are punctures, Zwift is now a thing and they can join of the many championships available there, providing they have a decent internet connection.

If the specific section can be crossed by a common car then it's fine for cycling. After all, it's called road cycling and not tarmac cycling, and last time I checked besides tarmac roads we have gravel roads, cobbled roads and so on. Afraid of punctures? Work on your skills, get to know your equipment and gear and have in your mind that a puncture can happen either on a gravel road or going on a flat piece of tarmac riding 60 kph and it's a random part of road cycling as much puncturing on a rock garden is on MTB or puncturing due to bad tire pressures on a muddy course are on a cross race.
 
I chose the last option, but was in between that and the third. I don't like gimmicks, but where the line goes isn't obvious. Races should generally reflect the terrain, and not introduce anything too artificial, but where does that leave Koppenberg and Paterberg? Were they gimmicks or artificial? At least not any longer. What about VAM-berg?

We don't see cobbled descents anymore, but we do see some gravel descents (or descending sections of gravel), and as long as it's not too unsafe that is fine.

So a resounding yes to gravel, as long as it is not too aesthetically displeasing (Super PdBF as the worst offender here).
 
I think the best argument against too much gravel in road cycling, for me, is that it usually makes the strongest rider win. That might seem "fair", but since there is so much doping around I am not that interested in the strongest rider anyway, I like the big role that tactics and teams play in road cycling.
That being said, I do like races/ stages with gravel - it asks for bike handling skills and helps to increase the variety of terrain. Just don't make it too much, in stage races for instance it should be the exception, not the rule, and regarding one day races Strade Bianche is enough for me.
There are gravel races and cyclocross for people who want more of this.
 
Reactions: jmdirt and carolina
I am not that interested in the strongest rider anyway, I like the big role that tactics and teams play in road cycling.
I'm not sure I agree that gravel means that there'll be no tactics. I'll say there can be lots of tactics, and team involvement:

Where to place helpers with spare wheels?
Who needs to stay with the captain at all times, as basically a glorified spare-bike-transporter?
 
Reactions: jmdirt
I agree with what Ricco' said; if a car can traverse it, then it's fine to send a peloton across it. Which is why I'm not sure about the narrow 'goat track type' gravel sections. Modern day equipment is so good that it shouldn't be a problem; bikes, tyres, gears, etc are in another league compared to even 10-15 years ago.

I think they can also add another factor into the sport; it shouldn't just be who has the engine, W/Kg....Skills can be shown to good effect; those riders who constantly crash, and can't handle their bike - well, get working on your weaknesses.
 
I'm perfectly fine with gravel stages, as long as a) the rocks aren't too big/sharp (a certain Giro Rosa stage comes to mind) and b) the gravel isn't there mostly or exclusively for gimmick purposes. SPdBF is definitely the worst offender in that regard but Friday's finish belongs to that category as well.

Re: Trentin's comments:
  • gravel sectors absolutely have a purpose in GTs. Even if Trentin feels that the Montalcino stages went too far, surely he can see that the 2005 and 2018 Giros would not have been the same without Finestre?
  • in my opinion, a GT should crown the best overall rider, rather than the 60-70% climbing - 20-30% TT - 10% everything else that is the norm. Descending, echelons, cobbles, sterrato, hills of different shapes and sizes all have their place in a GT (not all of those at the same frequency), to add to the level of all-roundedness. More varied terrain can also enable more unpredictable GC racing - the 2010 Giro is a good example again, as the sterrati set three wild weeks of racing in motion. If what Trentin calls a 'Grand Tour rider' cannot deal with a multitude of those, then perhaps that rider should not be doing GCs in those races.
  • the argument that cobbles and sterrati make a GT too dangerous is moot when all the biggest crashes happen on sprint stages, the first sprint stage of the last Tour should have reminded everyone of that.
I wouldn't like it if the majority of stage races had gravel stages but we certainly haven't reached the point of saturation yet.
 
Last edited:
  1. You only know if u try it out
  2. If it is not per ur characteristic, u have the option not to contest. I donot see the sprinters demanding the mountains be cut out of GTs because mountains belong to mountain biking. Cipo would have won all Giros plus another 40 stages. Also many GT contenders lose GTs by crashing in sprints
  3. When a Top contender like Remco fails spectacularly, then it is always good publicity plus it increases the unpredictability which is good for the viewers.
 
I think the best argument against too much gravel in road cycling, for me, is that it usually makes the strongest rider win. That might seem "fair", but since there is so much doping around I am not that interested in the strongest rider anyway, I like the big role that tactics and teams play in road cycling.
Does it, though? Pogacar is nearly invincible in a conventional stage race these days. However, remember that he lost to Bernal in Strade Bianche, before destroying him (and everyone else) in the Tirreno just a week after. That suggests Pogacar may be more vulnerable in a GT if it features a hard sterrato stage, thereby making it less likely that the strongest rider wins/dominates.
 
Reactions: jmdirt
I'm perfectly fine with gravel stages, as long as a) the rocks aren't too big/sharp (a certain Giro Rosa stage comes to mind) and b) the gravel isn't there mostly or exclusively for gimmick purposes. SPdBF is definitely the worst offender in that regard but Friday's finish belongs to that category as well.
Completely agree with that. Gravel (or cobbled) sections are ok, if they add something to the race. Finestre does, last years sterrato stage did, that section in Valencia didn't.
 
Reactions: jmdirt
I've never understood why they argue against gravel but not cobbles.
This.

Although "gimmick" gravel stages like "super" PDBF -- and gimmick stages in general, ie double Ventoux -- ought to be abolished. There are enough real roads in Europe for a thousand years of GTs.

Back in the day before wide road tires, I used to ride lots of gravel/dirt roads on 23s at 110 psi. It was a challenge to find traction and avoid pinch flats etc. So I appreciate the occasional gravel or dirt section, as well as the new, improved Paris-Tours and Tro Bro Leon. Those are the kinds or roads/paths I ride once in a while.
 
I voted for "Specialist races" option. For "General races" i feel that gravel has no place there. Road bikes are not made for gravel. You shouldn't in my opinion prove anything on gravel. To be considered an overall good road cyclist. The road offers enough excitement by itself.

Bottom line if you like gravel then specialize for gravel and just do that instead.
 
There are probably more gravel roads in the world, than "real roads".

Not saying they should put gravel roads in the route of races and stages all the time, but considering how many gravel roads that are used in every day life we see them very rarely when it comes to cycling.

Cycling and the society has of course progressed and evolved, but historically they rode a lot on gravel. Modern cycling is of course very different, but the occasional section shouldnt be frowned upon I think.
 
Last edited:
Indeed there are a lot of gravel roads in the world. Just like a lot of other terrains people ride bikes on. In comparison F1 nor MotoGP have gravel sections. Elite pro road cycling in some general term hence should not hold on to some relic of the past. The equipment and cyclist in general is/are not made for it anymore.

P.S. Saying it is a right thing Evenepoel lost a race. Due to the gravel section. It's basically wrong that he lost a race in such way. Nothing memorable in it for him or GC lead.
 
I dont think you can compare F1 and MotoGP to cycling.

If a stage race over +1000 km has 3km on gravel at some point in the race, I really dont see the issue.

Also, I think I was pretty clear on it not to be incorporated a lot.

The amount of gravel roads was just a fact and the history about what they used to race on back in the day, wasnt to say they should race on it more now. There is a reason roads have been paved.
 
Last edited:
Indeed there are a lot of gravel roads in the world. Just like a lot of other terrains people ride bikes on. In comparison F1 nor MotoGP have gravel sections. Elite pro road cycling in some general term hence should not hold on to some relic of the past. The equipment and cyclist in general is/are not made for it anymore.

P.S. Saying it is a right thing Evenepoel lost a race. Due to the gravel section. It's basically wrong that he lost a race in such way. Nothing memorable in it for him or GC lead.
Cyclists aren't made for it anymore? lmao. What is this, slowtwitch? Anyone who can't handle taking their road bike off sealed roads every now and then probably doesn't belong in a professional peloton anyway skills wise. Also in terms of being able to handle gravel, retired road pros don't seem to have much trouble beating experienced gravel cyclists.
 
@Salvarani

Sure you can compare them. This are all elite modern sports. In this regard gravel is in my opinion considered to be off-road.
I simply disagree. Think it is a really bad comparison.

Off-road is riding in the forest and trails for me.

They are gravel roads and are a part of the roads in our road-system that we use every day. Surely a road-cyclist should be able to handle a couple of kms every now and then.

Just a question. Would you class cobbles as "off-road" too?
 
Reactions: jmdirt

ASK THE COMMUNITY