As part of the recently announced Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Gravel World Series calendar for professional and amateur gravel racers, the Highlands Gravel Classic on 25 June was the first race in the fourteen race worldwide series to be held in the United States, unfortunately it only had 111 participants.
In fact, it had less than one-third as many competitors as the Opal Wapoo Gravel race (376 competitors) that took place on the same day only 250 miles away in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.
With the United States being the de-facto gravel racing capital of the world, including more gravel events and gravel cyclists than any other country, the UCI and the local organizer expected a much, much larger turnout. Especially, with riders having the opportunity to qualify for the first ever UCI Gravel World Championships taking place in Italy in September.
Nonetheless, in hot and humid conditions with a heat index over 100F, just over 100 cyclists started the event outside Fayetteville, Arkansas (site of the recent 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships) and tackled rural backcountry gravel roads in the Ozark Mountains.
Out of 86 riders who rode the longer 66 mile course, local rider Andrew Evans, 30, finished first in 4:05:30, almost four minutes ahead of Mason McNeill (4:09:24) and over six minutes up on Rane Roatta (4:12:10).
Lenny Ramsel, also a local rider, won the women’s 66 mile race in 4:37:27. Second place went to Stephanie Sydlick (4:43:29) with Danielle Larson (5:00:26) third.
In the 52 mile shorter race for older (50+) competitors, Timothy Borsetti won for the men and Karen Guzman Newton earned the “W” for the women.
Riders finishing in the top 25% of their age/gender category automatically qualify to race in the 2022 UCI Gravel World Championships in Italy.
Complete UCI Highlands Gravel Classic results HERE.
Photos: Highlands Gravel Classic