British podium place earns Culverwell shot at Gravel World Championships

Sam Culverwell is ‘super excited’ to be representing Great Britain at the elite Gravel World Championships next month.

The 22-year-old Sarnian is fresh from a tremendous third-place finish in last weekend’s British Gravel Championships at King’s Forest, Suffolk.

The Dolan Ellesse representative finished 2min. 13sec. behind Team Inspire’s triumphant Joe Blackmore and Ineos man Connor Swift, having outsprinted British cyclocross champion Cameron Mason for the last podium spot.

‘Those guys in the front were the stronger riders, so I was very happy with third,’ he said.

‘It was the best result I could have got.’

This career-high Nationals placing and his GB berth at the coming Worlds, which take place in Belgium on 8 October, have brightened up an otherwise rather rocky season for Culverwell.

Six months ago his AT85 Pro Cycling team folded, and after bouncing back to excel at the home Island Games, he spent weeks shaking off a stubborn illness.

He recently had a promising-looking performance at a major Belgian gravel race derailed by punctures, but he showed his class by taking an early lead in Suffolk.

All smiles... Sam Culverwell (right) on the podium at the British Gravel Championships. (Picture from Kings Cup Gravel Festival, 32542591)

Although that lead lasted only 10min., it helped break up the field on an otherwise undemanding course.

After the first of five 15.3km laps, he was in a three-man break with Ben Thomas and Joe Griffiths, nearly 30sec. clear of their classy chasers.

Blackmore and Swift were both among a group of four that reeled them in over the next half lap.

Swift’s attacks whittled it down to four and then to just him and Blackmore, with Culverwell instead enjoying a good race against familiar rival and former Trinity teammate Cameron Mason.

In the final lap, a misplaced branch jammed up Culverwell’s bike and a stop to resolve the issue left him lagging 30sec. behind Mason.

But he used all his strength to catch Mason and later outsprinted him. It is this ‘full gas’ nature he appreciates about gravel racing.

‘Gravel is pretty "full gas" all the time, which is the sort of race I like,’ he said.

‘I like the road races where it’s hard all day, attritional.’

Indeed, he has not taken his eye off the road, where he hopes to return to Continental level next season.

‘Next year I’m hoping to have a “Conti” team to race on the road.

‘I am still planning on mixing in some gravel racing because I have really enjoyed it and I have done quite well in a couple of the events I have done this year.

‘It could be a good discipline to pursue.’

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