Gravel, Grit'n'Grind 2023 was one for the record books

In only it’s second year, Gravel, Grit’n’Grind Halmstad, the UCI World Gravel Tour stage race saw two of the most spectacular wins in European gravel racing. Not only had the best of the best come to test the rolling course here in the forests of western Sweden, but the weather was perfect for the race. There were worries about the 127km wilderness course with the wettest July in history soaking the sharp climbs and technical descents, worries about washout and downed trees were resolved with some amazing late summer weather that Halmstad, the beach capital of Sweden, is known for.

The sun was shining and it was 27c when the 600 elites, veterans and randonneurs took to the start line in the quiet forest village of Simlångsdalen for day 2 of, the queen and World Championships qualifying, day. World class privateers like Jesper Ockeloen, Paul Voss, Laurens Ten Dam and Rosa Maria Klöser took to the line against Nikki Terpstra, most famous for hoisting the cobble of Roubaix above his head, and Marianne Vos, who is famous for being the first rider to come close to threatening Eddie Merckx’s record for all-time professional cycling wins.

The race began with a chaotic start, ‘controlled’ for the first 3 kms before hitting a 10% 1 km climb that helped break up the groups somewhat. A lead group of men of over 100 riders managed to stick together for the first 50 km of rolling terrain, with no major obstacles until the group hit the idyllic village of Torup where the punchy 10-15% 80m climbs that the region is becoming famous for began to divide the groups into hunting wolfpacks of cyclists. The women’s race was more divided, with small groups forming and reforming without a real peloton forming all day. The faster riders jumped from small group of cracked male riders to another as they sped towards the finish.

Nikki Terpstra won the overall men’s with a one minute thirty second gap over a remarkably strong, surging group that included 4th Gustav Frederik Dahl (Den), 3rd Jesper Ockeleon (Ned) and  2nd Paul Voss (Ger). The women’s saw an even more exciting, if possible, finish than the men’s, with Marianne Vos (Ned), one of the greatest sprinters in the history of the sport, doing what she does best. The win was decided with a late attack after 500m of technical single track, at the line against the close second Annika Langvad (Den) and Anna Marie Klöser (Ger). Complete Results here.

The 2024 edition sees a new start in the historic and ecological farm of Wapnö, just north of Halmstad. New to this year is the U19 category. There is no junior world gravel championships, yet, but you can race for the glory here in Halmstad. The three day even includes the famous ITT the first day, covering 18km of highly challenging terrain in and around the lovely coastal city of Halmstad.

Day 2 sees the queen stage, the qualifying stage. This is the big event. We are hoping for 800 or more cyclists lining up against some of the best riders in the world. This stage begins at Wapnö, where there will be beer, food trucks and more for the finishers. Racing over 136 or 82 (age depending) kilometers of some of the most beautiful gravel in the world, racers will get to see why this area is quickly becoming a gravel destination. Endless short, sharp climbs, a shocking variety of gravel roads, paths and trails interspersed with perfectly timed paved sections for a quick feed before blasting back in to combat mode. This route will keep you on the rivets of your saddle!

Day 3 sees a shorter course, begins in the scenic village of Simlångsdalen and then heads into the remarkably remote backcountry around Halmstad. Some riders take this as a riding holiday, where others are desperately fighting at the front of the pack to take home the overall win for the 3 day event. Stage racing is rare in the world of gravel, rarer still in Europe.

Halmstad’s Gravel, Grit’n’Grind is a race to experience. Is this your year?