Last year, the growing buzz around gravel was unavoidable in early June, with the Dirty Kanza 200 taking over as the story in cycling for a good two weeks.
Following the race, there was also a robust discussion about the future of the discipline and how Elite races should be regulated (or not) in the face of the increasing professionalization of the grassroots discipline.
One point of discussion was the inevitability of professional teams targeting big-time events such as the Dirty Kanza 200.
Well, the inevitable will come to fruition in 2019.
Back in October, Cycling Tips ran a story that included an interview with EF Education First Pro Cycling team director Jonathan Vaughters that suggested the WorldTour team would take a new approach to bike racing in 2019, focusing on “fixed-gear criteriums, ultra-endurance races and mixed-terrain events” in addition to the usual one-day and stage races.
On January 1, EF Education First announced its plans for the upcoming calendar year.
We’re coming back to @LTRaceSeries + lining up at the @DirtyKanza200 and 3 Peaks CycloCross over in the UK. We’re excited to engage with fans, ride + race new roads, and connect with a broader cycling community. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, too. 😉 #exploretheworld pic.twitter.com/O6THpIdJPb
— EF Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) January 1, 2019
The announcement caught our attention because the team’s announced schedule includes the Dirty Kanza 200 gravel race and Three Peaks Cyclocross held in Great Britain in September. The team will also be targeting the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, which also falls under our broad off-road area of interest.
Details about the shape of the team’s impact on the granddaddy of all gravel races will likely take shape leading up to and during the early June event. With gravel continuing to grow in popularity in the U.S., EF Education First’s DK200 adventure could be a first look at the future of bike racing in this country. Then again, the team’s riders could also flat like Sven Nys and so many others and not factor in the Elite race’s results.
We reached out to EF Education First for comment on the decision to race the DK200 and other “non-traditional” races. This will be a storyline we will follow during the upcoming gravel season.
Of course, the team first needs to survive perhaps the toughest challenge of all…
If they get in through the lottery… 😜 https://t.co/KSPu5Mdj70
— Amanda Nauman (@_amanda_panda_) January 2, 2019