Road and gravel tech clashes for first UCI Gravel World Championships | The podium bikes in detail

Road or gravel? You decide...

Gravel worlds

Road and gravel tech clashed for the women’s race at the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championships.


Multi-discipline star Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the current XC, short track and marathon world champion in mountain biking, outsprinted Olympic XC silver medallist Sina Frei to pull on a fourth rainbow jersey of 2022. Italy’s Chiara Teocchi finished third.

And these are the three bikes of the podium finishers: Ferrand-Prévot’s all-new BMC Kaius, Frei’s Specialized Roubaix and  Teocchi’s Specialized Diverge.

With fast conditions on the hard-packed course and only 660m of climbing over 140km, aero-optimised gravel bikes and road bikes shod with gravel tyres were the order of the day in Italy.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the tech from the first gravel worlds.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s BMC Kaius

The podium-topping bike: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s BMC Kaius.
BMC / Phil Gale

The new BMC Kaius was only launched last month, arriving as the Swiss brand’s take on a lightweight, aero-influenced gravel bike.

BMC launched the Kaius in September.
BMC / Phil Gale

If it looks like a BMC Teammachine souped-up for gravel racing, that’s because it is.

The Kaius looks similar to the BMC Teammachine, but with gravel enhancements.
BMC / Phil Gale

The Kaius shares its lines with the Teammachine road bike, notably the angular head tube, chunky down tube and tapered top tube.

The Kaius also has a suitably low claimed weight of 910g and uses BMC’s ICS integrated cockpit, but adds clearance for 44mm tyres and gravel geometry, combining a long reach with a short stem for front-wheel stability and fast steering.

A 1x drivetrain for Ferrand-Prévot on the fast, flat course.
BMC / Phil Gale

Despite its low weight, BMC says the frame has been reinforced in areas where it will be exposed to the rough and tumble of gravel riding.

Beyond the frame and cockpit, the Kaius’ aero enhancements continue with BMC’s Aerocore bottle cages, similar to those found on the Timemachine and Teammachine road bikes, and integrated with the frame to apparently smooth airflow.

Vittoria Terreno Dry TLR tubeless tyres for Ferrand-Prévot.
BMC / Phil Gale

Ferrand-Prévot’s Kaius was equipped with a 1x drivetrain for the gravel worlds, combining a 40-tooth SRAM Red chainring and a Red eTap electronic rear derailleur, with what looks to be a 10-44t SRAM XPLR cassette.

The Kaius has clearance for 44mm tyres.
BMC / Phil Gale

The rolling stock comes from French brand Duke Racing Wheels, shod with 35c Vittoria Terreno Dry TLR tubeless tyres for the fast and flat Vicenza course.

Your world champion.
BMC / Phil Gale

Sina Frei’s Specialized Roubaix

Sina Frei rode the Specialized Roubaix in Vicenza.

Both second-place finisher, Sina Frei, and Chiara Teocchi, who rounded out the podium, were riding Specialized bikes, with the former choosing the Roubaix endurance road bike and the latter riding the Diverge gravel bike.

A road bike in a gravel race? You bet!

With little elevation or technical terrain on the course for this weekend’s inaugural Gravel World Championships, Frei was far from alone in riding a road bike shod with gravel tyres. The same was true of Sunday’s men’s race, which was won by Gianni Vermeersch and featured a number of road stars, including Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan.

With the best endurance bikes now featuring generous tyre clearance, a change in rubber can turn a road bike into a gravel-lite bike.

That’s the case with Frei’s bike, utilising the 33mm (official) clearance of the Roubaix with Specialized Pathfinder Pro gravel rubber, in a new 32mm size, on Roval Rapide CLX II 50mm-deep wheels for an aero advantage.

Like Ferrand-Prévot, the drivetrain components come from SRAM, but Frei’s Roubaix uses a 2x setup with a double crankset.

While the course in Italy threw up none of the ruggedness of some gravel races, such as the 200-mile Unbound, Frei was afforded some additional comfort through the Roubaix’s FutureShock headset, which offers 20mm of suspension.

Chiara Teocchi’s Specialized Diverge

Chiara Teocchi chose a more conventional option for a gravel race: the Specialized Diverge.

Italian Teocchi opted for the more conventional gravel choice in the Specialized stable, the Diverge.

Like the Roubaix, the Diverge uses Specialized’s FutureShock headset system, but gains additional tyre clearance and a more relaxed geometry for gravel riding.

Zipp 303 S wheels and Specialized Pathfinder Pro tyres.

Teocchi was rolling on the Zipp 303 S carbon wheelset, once again wrapped in 32mm Specialized Pathfinder Pro tyres, combining a smooth centre strip with a progressively more aggressive side tread.

An aero race number of sorts.

The Diverge has clearance for tyres up to 47mm-wide, leaving plenty of room to spare on Teocchi’s machine.

Sometimes cable ties are simply the best tool for the job.

While Specialized launched the lightweight S-Works Pathfinder earlier this year, the tougher Pathfinder Pro is typically preferred by gravel racers.

With less support than a road race, Teocchi took precautions with a tubeless sealer/inflator strapped to the Roval Terra seatpost and saddlebag beneath the S-Works Power with Mirror saddle.

This mullet gearing combines a road crankset with a mountain bike rear derailleur and cassette.

As for the drivetrain, it’s back to 1x for Teocchi, but this time in a mullet configuration – business at the front (road components) and party at the rear (MTB components).


That means pairing a 40-tooth SRAM Force crankset with a SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS rear derailleur and huge 10-50t cassette.