The year’s world championships head to Australia, with a familiar list of contenders to take the rainbow jersey in this weekend’s elite races.
This year’s UCI Road World Championships will be held in Wollongong, Australia. The festivities kicked off on Sunday with the elite individual time trials (won by Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands and Tobias Foss of Norway) and continue throughout the week with events for juniors and under-23s.
But while we love meeting the future stars of the sport, the best races to watch are this weekend’s elite men’s and women’s road races, with the winner of each event earning the right to spend the next calendar year wearing the rainbow shirt as the reigning world. road racing champion
Here is a summary of everything you need to know:
The elite women and men will run 164.3km and 266.9km, respectively, with both events starting in Helensburgh, a small town about 28 miles south of Sydney, followed by a long ride up the coast in Grand Pacific. Drive, the Australian version of California Pacific Coast Highway: to the city of Wollongong.
After crossing the finish line in Wollongong, both teams will lap a 34.2km circuit that will take them to Mount Keira (8.7km at 5%). This is not the toughest climb the riders have faced this season, but it is a long stretch with a steep pass in the middle that goes up to 15 per cent. It could force a selection in the women’s event, especially if the teams deeper in the race have strong pace.
A long descent brings everyone back to Wollongong, where the women will complete 6 laps of a 17.1km “street” circuit. This smaller loop features the shorter but steeper climb of Mount Pleasant (1.1km @ 7%), which should be the strategic focal point of the finish. The riders will reach the top for the last time just 8km from the finish line, making it the perfect place for a late-race attack. The men’s race follows a similar pattern, but increases the distance by covering 12 laps of the Wollongong City Circuit.
While we’ve been wrong before, we don’t expect large groups to race for the win in either event, as Mount Pleasant provides a perfect launch pad for the more aggressive riders to escape. It could all come down to who is attacking and who is responsible for leading the chase. The Dutch women and Belgian men have the strongest teams in their respective events, and if someone makes a move and can’t or won’t put together a cohesive chase, we could see a surprised winner, which is not uncommon at an event. where the cyclists do not compete with their usual commercial teams.
how to watch
If you signed up for FloBikes ($150/year or $12.50/month) during the Spring Classics and never canceled your subscription, you’re in luck – it’s the only legal way to stream the race in the US and Canada. Both the men’s and women’s events will be available live and on-demand through FloBikes.com, the FloSports IOS app, and the FloSports app for Amazon FireTV, Roku, and Apple TV.
With the races taking place in Australia, which is 14 hours ahead of New York City, the timing lends itself to late-night Friday and Saturday night parties, especially if you live on the West Coast. . The women’s race starts at 10:25 p.m. EDT and should finish around 3 a.m. early Saturday morning. The men’s event starts earlier, at 8:15 pm EDT, but ends around the same time on Sunday morning.
We’ll probably watch the start of both races and then go to bed, after turning off our phones to protect ourselves from spoilers sent in by West Coast folks. Before we check our social media the next morning, we’ll make a cup of coffee and turn on the FloBikes replay to see the excitement in the delay.
what happened last year
Last year’s events were held in Flanders, with the road races starting in Antwerp and concluding with a series of circuits in and around Leuven, a university town in the Flemish province of Brabant. On Saturday, Italy’s Elisa Balsamo edged out Marianne Vos of the Netherlands and Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland to win the elite women’s road race. Balsamo’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini tried to attack on the final climb, but after getting caught, she ended up leading Balsamo.
On Sunday, Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe defended his 2020 title, attacking a field of elite riders including pre-race favorite Wout van Aert (Belgium) with 20km to go to score an impressive solo win. . Four riders escaped chasing the Frenchman but finished half a minute down, with the Dutchman Dylan van Baarle edging out the Dane Michael Valgren to take the silver medal.
Alaphilippe is competing in this year’s race, but after a season marred by two serious accidents, he is not expected to challenge for a third successive title.
riders to see
Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) – Van Vleuten, who won the world title in 2019, is once again the top seed. The soon-to-be 40-year-old has had a fantastic season, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Giro Rosa, the Tour de France Femmes and the recent Cerazit Challenge. She’s known for her long-distance attacks, like the one she launched to don the yellow jersey in Stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes, so don’t be surprised if she goes on the offensive early to try and surprise the competition.
Marianne Vos (Netherlands) – We could probably list every one of van Vleuten’s teammates as contenders (the Dutch team is that strong), but we’ll stick with just one: Vos, who has won almost every women’s race of the calendar. her including world titles in 2006, 2012 and 2013. Winner of two stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France Femmes, and four stages at the Tour of Scandinavia in August, her best chance of winning would come in a sprint.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) – Longo Borghini is a classics specialist who is adept at winning one-day races like Strade Bianche, the Alfredo Binda Trophy (twice), and the Tour of Flanders. The winner of this year’s Paris-Roubaix, she is the main non-Dutch contender.
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland) – Were it not for the unfortunate fact that her career coincided with an era of Dutch dominance, Niewiadoma would probably have won almost every race on the women’s calendar by now. Instead, she is often forced to settle for podium places and top-5 finishes, like her bronze medal in last year’s race in Leuven. But she’s always a contender, and if the Dutch and Italian squads spend too much time marking each other, she could escape victory.
Wout van Aert (Belgium) – Perhaps the most talented classics rider in the sport, van Aert has so far fallen short when it comes to winning the biggest events on his bucket list: the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and World’s. After winning three stages, the green jersey and helping his team win the yellow at the Tour de France, the Belgian went back to work, with a win and three top 5 finishes in the four races he took part in to prepare. for the world. The only knock against him is the fact that he is the heavy favorite and no one will cooperate with him in the final.
Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) – The two-time Tour de France champion took time off after finishing second in this year’s Tour, but positioned himself as world favorite by overtaking van Aert to win the recent cycling Grand Prix of Montréal. While he is known for his stage racing prowess, Pogačar is one of the best all-around cyclists in the world and has victories in races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Il Lombardia and Strade Bianche to prove it. And without Primož Roglič in this year’s Slovenian team, Pog has the full support of his teammates.
Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) – After leaving the Tour de France, some questions were raised about the fitness of the Dutch superstar. But the two-time Tour of Flanders winner has won the last three races he has entered and looks set to challenge for the rainbow jersey on a course that is perfect for him.
Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) – After winning the Vuelta a España two weeks ago, we wouldn’t have been surprised if Evenepoel finished the season. But the 22-year-old went straight to Australia and won the bronze medal in the individual time trial. On paper, he runs for van Aert, but we suspect he will be given a freer role and he could take advantage if teams let him get away.
Since getting hooked on pro cycling while watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 US Pro Championships in Philadelphia, long-time Bicycling contributor Whit Yost has raced on Belgian cobblestones, helped build a European pro team and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux as assistant director. sports These days, he lives with his wife and son in Pennsylvania, spending his days serving as a high school assistant principal and his nights playing Dungeons & Dragons.