Nebraska to host inaugural USA Gravel National Championships in 2023

 Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Rise) leads a group during Unbound Gravel
Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch Rise) leads a group during Unbound Gravel

The first USA Cycling Gravel National Championships will be held in Gering, Nebraska on September 9, 2023, and again in 2024, USA Cycling announced on Thursday.

The small town is close to the borders of Wyoming and Colorado and is situated near the base of the Scotts Bluff National Monument. The elite races will both be 131 miles long with almost 6,000 feet of elevation gain and be 90% gravel roads.

Riders must have an annual USA Cycling licence and register starting July 14 at 10:00 MDT. A gravel bike is not required but the use of aero bars, which have been contentious in the gravel scene, is banned along with e-bikes.

The best racers in the country will compete for a total of $60,000 in the Gravel National Championships, split equally between elite men and women, making it the most lucrative single-day race on the circuit.

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The race will also be a qualifying event for the UCI Gravel World Championships, to be held in Venetia, Italy October 7-8. USA Cycling will support a full team for the Gravel World Championships, sending the top three men and women at the Gravel Nationals to Italy.

In addition to the elite/open races, there will be categories for non-binary, singlespeed, para-cycling, and collegiate races and age group events for men and women: 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, 23-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90+, but the under-23 riders will race with the elite/open field.

Each winner of the age group category will automatically qualify for the UCI Gravel World Championships.

Importantly, USA Cycling said the prize purse will be entirely funded by entry fees and sponsorships and not come from the budget supporting national teams and programmes.

"Over the last five years, the explosive growth of gravel has energized American cycling," Brendan Quirk, USA Cycling CEO said. "Our involvement in the past 18 months has mainly focused on the support of gravel event organizers through sanctioning events such as the Grasshopper Adventure Series, the Rule of Three, and Rasputitsa. We’re now proud to join the list of ever-growing gravel events in the United States."

Lauren De Crescenzo, who finished top 20 at the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championship, called the national championship a 'huge step' toward having an American gravel world champion.

"There’s not much we can take credit for as Americans in the history of cycling. But gravel cycling has its roots deeply embedded here, and because of that, I see the USA Cycling Gravel National Championship as the natural progression in the development of our sport," De Crescenzo said.

"The course has equal distance and prize money and represents what a true American gravel race should be. I would love to see an American win a World Championship, solidifying our place on the world stage, and in the process, grow our sport. A proper qualifier with USA Cycling backing is a huge step in making that happen."