#thisismyride UCI Gravel World Series Blåvand with Luise Valentin

Danish rider Luise Valentin had to brave the elements and really pushed herself in the gruelling first edition of the 160km long Gravel Challenge Blåvandshuk – the first ever UCI Gravel Word Series race on Danish soil.

The race was held in and around the military training ground near Blåvand - the western most point in Denmark - a beautiful area along the west coast of Jutland, with wide sandy beaches, dunes, deserted plantations and marshlands. It is also an unforgiving area when the weather takes a turn for the worst. The participants got a taste of it in this year’s race. They were met with mud, sand, rain, lots of wind, and temperatures around 5o Celsius - making it a real test of endurance and grit. ⁠

Many participants had to withdraw due to the difficult conditions. But not Luise Valentin who, despite the conditions, had a big smile on her face when she crossed the finish line in 8th position; unfortunately, 7 seconds shy of qualifying for the UCI Gravel Word Championships later this year.

After the race, we sat down with Luise Valentin and had a chat with her about her experience.

Argon 18: What were your expectations coming into the race?

Luise Valentin: I didn’t know what expect. I heard it was going to be flat. Somewhat technical and sandy. I knew there would be some very strong women attending. Most of all, I knew it would be a fast race, because of the flat terrain. I also knew it would be very different from what I’ve done before, given that I have mostly been racing in the mountains and on the road.

Argon 18: The race seemed to be the total opposite of The Traka 200k in Girona, where you took third on the 200k. How did it feel to race for 160 km in wet, cold and windy weather?

Luise Valentin: It was definitely very, very different from The Traka. Denmark was wet, cold and very windy while at The Traka, it was 27 degrees, sunny, super dusty, with no wind at all. But to be honest, on the bike, the weather itself didn’t matter too much. Maybe the way it affected the terrain was more important – riding through mud and wet sand is very different from riding on dry, dusty roads.

The overall feeling on the bike was not that much about the conditions, but more about the feel of the race itself. In Blåvand it felt much more like racing in the pack and more technical. The Traka started out with a big climb, that really split up the field, so we were riding in smaller packs. So, there was less elbowing, and squeezing in than in Blåvand.

Argon 18: Gravel racing is fairly new to you. You are primarily a road cyclist with an impressive palmares of Gran Fondo podiums in 2021 and 2022. After this weekend’s race, are you still hungry for more gravel races?

Luise Valentin: This race was memorable, and tuff in many ways, but it won’t deter me from gravel racing at all. You can get bad weather everywhere, even on the road, it is what it is.

I’m new to gravel, and I feel that I have so much to explore. Blåvand and Traka were two very different experiences, and it makes it clear to me, that I still have a lot to learn about gravel. I’ve only experienced bits and pieces. It’s a big spectrum. So, I’m still super hungry for more – both for racing and training. Exploring new roads and places, even around my home in Switzerland, that I haven’t seen before. I’m really excited about exploring more of that.

Argon 18: You missed the qualification for the World’s by one place with your 8th place finish. Do you still aim for a qualification?

Luise Valentin: I missed the qualification by 7 seconds on race that lasted almost 6 hours. It was a real bummer. I was oversprinting for 7th place at the finish line, but it turned out, that she crossed the start line 7 seconds before me, so she had head start on me. When the leaderboard came up, I realized that she did actually beat me… I would love to qualify and will try again at a later event. I’m still new to the sport, so I’m not exactly sure I can do it. But it’s worth the shot, fingers crossed.

Argon 18: You are member of Legacy Cycling, the Danish gravel team. Can you tell us a little more about the team?

Luise Valentin: Legacy Cycling is an international gravel team consisting of four strong guys and me. The team is all about riding gravel bikes, being excited, being dedicated and having a really good time, starting a party wherever we show up. Enjoying the sport and the community. Of course, we want to do good in the races, but most of all, the important thing is to have a great time and foster a community. They’re such great guys with loads of knowledge about the sport, tech, racing etc. So, I think people can learn a lot from following us.

Follow Luise’s and Legacy Cycling’s next gravel adventures:

Photos: Arne Mathiesen