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The Spin: World Championship Road Race

The Cauberg climb is not long nor steep. Instead it is repetition that multiplies this small hill into something significant and when coupled with the Bemelerberg we have a tough finishing circuit will help select the 2012 world champion.

Philippe Gilbert and Peter Sagan are the obvious picks but neither offer convincing certainty and so this is an open race with many contenders that could become highly tactical in the final hour.

Here’s a preview of the course, the contenders, the weather, TV times and more.

The Route: 100km around the region than 10 laps of a 16.5km circuit containing the Bemelerberg and Cauberg climbs.

The race leaves Maastricht with a 102km “tour” of the Limburg province as the race finds as many hills as possible within the small area, nudging the German and Belgian borders as it spirals round to Valkenberg. There are seven marked climbs to soften the legs but this is an early phase of the race that does not present much difficulty.

The Finishing Circuit: then follows the finishing circuit, 10 laps of 16.5km that make up the majority of the race as the race shuttles backwards and forwards between Valkenburg and Maastricht, in one direction via the Bemelerberg climb and via the Cauberg in the other. With two climbs you might think it is hilly but there is only 150m of vertical gain per lap.

The Cauberg: 1.5km long with an average of just 4.7%, this climb is harder than it sounds thanks to the middle section of 12% which confiscates momentum and goes on for just a bit too long for everyone, the kind of climb where only the best can storm up in the big ring and keep the power turned on over the climb.

Bemelerberg: a steady climb with an S-bend that’s as close as you’ll get to a hairpin bend in this part of the world. It is listed as 1.3km at 3% but you’d need a surveyor to measure this as there’s no obvious start and finish. What is more noticeable is that this is a fast climb with sections of 5-6% but no more and it is shrouded by woodland. The Bergrust Hotel sits midway and should be a focal point for fans. As the “summit” gets nearer the gradient slackens and road is exposed with open farmland. If this is a small sister of the Cauberg it can be just as decisive because it is easier to jump away on this climb and stay away.

Technical roads: The roads are narrow in places with room for two cars to pass in opposite directions but if two trucks or buses appeared they would have to slow and adjust their line, especially on the Bemelerberg with its bends. The road surface is fine in most parts but features several suburban details, for example guttering to collect rainwater made of smooth cobbles, a rider could try to make up ground using this. Altogether this is a tight circuit for a large bunch.

The Scenario
Normally an early breakaway is allowed to get a giant lead. Expect to see some unknown riders in the breakaway mixed with a few established pros playing policeman in an early tactical move. Typically the pace will pick up once the 100km tour section is done and the race reaches the Valkenburg circuit. Here it will get faster and faster every lap and normally the closer to the finish the bigger the attacks whilst others will get dropped.

The long false flat after the Cauberg will eliminate many riders who get dropped on the climb. There is little time to get back if the pace is being driven hard, the road dips and then rises again to the finish line before the descent to Maastricht.

As usual, watch the tactics because if riders are wearing national colours, “money makes the wheels go round” and all riders are salaried by their teams so don’t be surprised to see alliance.

Sprint finish or breakaway? There’s a good chance the winning breakaway goes on the last two laps, probably on the penultimate time up the Bemelerberg. If if the race comes back together at the foot of the Cauberg there won’t really be a bunch sprint as the climb should fragment the field. Unlike the U23 and other races so far we should see the distance take its toll… but there are no guarantees.

The Contenders
Philippe Gilbert Valkenburg
Philippe Gilbert is the pre-race favourite. He is in good form with two stages in the Vuelta and the course is ideal for him, he can profit from the climbs and has a useful sprint after six hours of racing. At the start of the year the worlds looked ideal for him but he’s had a very lean year until his two Vuelta stage wins. All the same, he doesn’t seem head and shoulders above the rest and I’m not sure how much support he’ll get from his team. It’s only an anecdote but when he’s been riding with his Belgian team mates he’s had earphones, as if he prefers music to Tom Boonen or Greg Van Avermaet. Boonen is another card for the Belgian team to play and if you think it’s too hilly you might be right but don’t forget he took the yellow jersey here when the Tour visited in 2006.

It’s hard to know Peter Sagan‘s form. For all we know right now he could be practising his victory salute in front of the mirror but his recent results don’t inspire such confidence. Fourth place in the team time trial was impressive but 12th in the GP de Montréal and 26th in the GP de Québec aren’t what we’re used to and he’s only raced seven times since the Tour de France if you exclude any private criterium races. It’s just he’s so good and the finish is ideal for him that it’s hard to count him out. But he’s tended to win races by brute force when Sunday could be highly tactical.

After the Vuelta many see Alejandro Valverde as the pick of the Spanish team. He’s been at ease in the Ardennes before and unlike Contador, has a fast finish. Oddly he fainted in the team hotel yesterday, the squad said he ate lunch too quickly, we’ll see if he has the appetite for the win. Joaquim Rodriguez is another pick but he might prefer the finish to be on the Cauberg like it is for the Amstel and even then riders sprint in the big chainring.

As you’ll see below even the weather forecast isn’t certain yet but if I must pick a winner then it’s Edvald Boasson Hagen because he is a complete rider in excellent form who can cope well with the course and has a fast finish. But his results are variable, when you count on him to win he flops. As insurance team mate Lars Petter Nordhaug is in great form and will want revenge for April’s Amstel when he was knocked off on the Cauberg. Another in-form rider is Simon Gerrans who probably has less ammunition in his legs but is able to fire like a sniper, dropping his rivals and picking off big wins when it matters and he comes with a dedicated and homogeneous Australian team where maybe we can call Simon Clarke an outsider?

Thomas Voeckler tells L’Equipe he has “a one in a hundred chance of winning” which translates into English as “I’m in supreme condition and ready to storm the Cauberg“. Remember on the morning of the 18 July he told waiting media that he didn’t even know how many points he had in the Tour mountains competition and wasn’t too bothered about the competition. An hour later he was storming up the road to raid the Pyrenees for mountain points and conquer the mountains jersey.

Greg Van Avermaet is a sneaky pick, he was second in the GP Wallonie and has a strong sprint even after the hills but the greatest factor against him is that he almost never wins, instead he is a prolific collector of podium finishes. The same is true for Alexandr Kolobnev who usually appears in fine form at the end of the season with several top-10 places in the worlds and he was strong in the two races in Quebec a fortnight ago.

Beyond these riders there are many others. The rainbow jersey often goes to a surprise winner and if this course has some climbing it is still not fiercely selective. So watch veteran Luca Paolini and neo-pro team mate Moreno Moser as well as stealthy options like Portugal’s Rui Costa or Germany’s Fabian Wegmann.

Wild Pick: 1: Boasson Hagen 2: Kolobnev 3: Gilbert.

Weather: an overcast day with temperatures reaching no more than 15°C (59°F) and a breeze of up to 20km/h meaning a light tailwind over the Cauberg and onto the finish line. There’s a small chance of rain.

TV: live images of the race will start at 11.00am in the morning with the following six hours offering viewing until around 5.00pm. Unlike, say, a mountain stage of the Tour de France this will be less scenic to watch so be sure to watch the last hour but dip in an out during the day in case something is happening.

History: the area held the worlds in 1938 and then again 1948, 1979 and 1998. It’s hosted a stage finish of the Tour de France and above all is the home of the Amstel Gold Race, the spring classic that finishes at the top of the Cauberg. In recent years Valkenburg has been notable for the giant crowds, many of whom have enjoyed a beer or three and roar the riders on.

Local rider: Laurens Ten Dam is one of many. In fact quite a few Dutch riders live in the area… but often just over the border in Belgium where the tax rate is lower.

Great Britain
2 CUMMINGS Stephen
4 FROOME Christopher
5 ROWE Luke
9 WIGGINS Bradley


19 CATALDO Dario
20 GATTO Oscar
21 MARCATO Marco
22 MOSER Moreno
23 NIBALI Vincenzo
24 NOCENTINI Rinaldo
26 TRENTIN Matteo
27 ULISSI Diego

29 DE WEERT Kevin
31 GILBERT Philippe
33 MEERSMAN Gianni

37 CLARKE Simon
38 DAVIS Allan
39 GERRANS Simon
40 HANSEN Adam
41 HAUSSLER Heinrich
42 MATTHEWS Michael
43 PORTE Richie
45 TANNER David

46 BOOM Lars
47 DE KORT Koen
48 GESINK Robert
49 KROON Karsten
50 LINDEMAN Bertjan
51 MOLLEMA Bauke
52 SLAGTER Tom Jelte
53 TEN DAM Laurens

56 BUSCHE Matthew
57 DUGGAN Timothy
58 EUSER Lucas
59 HORNER Christopher
60 HOWES Alex
61 PHINNEY Taylor
62 TALANSKY Andrew

64 CARDOSO Andre Fernando S. Martins
65 COSTA Rui
66 PAULINHO Sergio
67 PIRES Bruno

69 NORDHAUG Lars Petter
70 RASCH Gabriel

71 BOUET Maxime
72 CHAVANEL Sylvain
73 COPPEL Jerome
74 DELAGE Mickael
76 JEROME Vincent
77 ROY Jeremy
78 VICHOT Arthur
79 VOECKLER Thomas

80 JURCO Matej
81 KOVAC Maros
82 SAGAN Juraj
83 SAGAN Peter
84 VELITS Martin
85 VELITS Peter

88 FROHLINGER Johannes
89 GESCHKE Simon
90 KNEES Christian
92 WEGMANN Fabian

93 ALBASINI Michael
94 FRANK Mathias
96 RAST Gregory
97 SCHÄR Michael
98 ZAUGG Oliver

100 BETANCUR GOMEZ Carlos Alberto
101 DUARTE AREVALO Fabio Andres
102 HENAO MONTOYA Sergio Luis
103 QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander
104 RUBIANO CHAVEZ Miguel Angel
105 URAN URAN Rigoberto

106 HESJEDAL Ryder
107 PARISIEN Francois
108 TUFT Svein
109 VEILLEUX David

110 BOLE Grega
111 BOZIC Borut
113 KOCJAN Jure
114 KOREN Kristijan
115 KUMP Marko
116 MEZGEC Luka

117 FIRSANOV Sergey
118 GUSEV Vladimir
119 ISAICHEV Vladimir
120 KOLOBNEV Alexandr
122 VORGANOV Eduard

123 GOLAS Michal
125 MARYCZ Jaroslaw
126 MORAJKO Jacek
127 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw

129 MONTENEGRO Jorge Martin
130 MOYANO Enzo
131 MULLER Mauricio
132 RICHEZE Maximiliano Ariel

South Africa
135 THOMSON Jay Robert

136 ARASHIRO Yukiya
137 BEPPU Fumiyuki
138 DOI Yukihiro
139 FUKUSHIMA Shinichi
140 HATANAKA Yusuke
141 MIYAZAWA Takashi

142 GIL MARTINEZ Tomas Aurelio
143 MONSALVE Jonathan
144 OCHOA Carlos Jose

145 BUTS Vitaliy
146 GRIVKO Andriy
147 KOSTYUK Denys
148 KRIVTSOV Dmytro
149 POLIVODA Oleksandr
150 POPOVYCH Yaroslav

151 ANDRIATO Rafael

152 BARTA Jan
153 KADLEC Milan
154 KONIG Leopold
155 KOZUBEK Stanislav
157 RABON Frantisek
158 STYBAR Zdenek

159 BRANDLE Matthias
160 DENIFL Stefan
161 SCHORN Daniel

162 BAZAYEV Assan
163 DYACHENKO Alexsandr
164 MURAVYEV Dmitriy

165 CHAABANE Hichem

New Zealand
166 DEAN Julian
167 ROULSTON Hayden
168 SERGENT Jesse

169 BRESCHEL Matti
170 FUGLSANG Jakob
171 SORENSEN Chris Anker


175 LOH Sea Keong
176 RUSLI Amir

177 SARAMOTINS Aleksejs
178 SMUKULIS Gatis

179 KANGERT Tanel
180 MANDRI Rene

Hong Kong
182 YEUNG Ying Hon

183 KESSIAKOFF Fredrik Carl Wilhelm
184 LARSSON Gustav
185 LOVKVIST Thomas

186 DURASEK Kristijan
187 MIHOLJEVIC Vladimir
188 ROGINA Radoslav

189 DIDIER Laurent
190 DRUCKER Jean-Pierre

192 JOVANOVIC Nebojsa

Costa Rica

194 OYARZUN Carlos

195 KUSZTOR Peter

196 PLIUSCHIN Alexandr

198 KUCHYNSKI Aliaksandr
199 PAPOK Siarhei

200 MARTIN Daniel
202 ROCHE Nicolas

203 ASADOV Elchin

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Panda Saturday, 22 September 2012, 3:11 pm

    Great preview, thanks.
    General view in Australia is that Gerrans may lack support at the end because the team’s inexperienced (no O’Grady, Rogers, Evans). So he will have to be very opportunistic.
    Now how many Spaniards think they’re the leader of their team?!
    BTW Lithuania’s listed twice and Latvia is missing…

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 September 2012, 8:24 pm

      Fixed the country mix. Fair point about Gerrans, the Aussies lacked a captain in the Olympics too.

  • Shawn Saturday, 22 September 2012, 3:18 pm

    Many have commented that the final 1.5 km has been into headwind all week and this could likely snuff out a small break. It will be interesting to see how the women’s race plays out today on that count but everything seems to be a larger group finish so far this week. If this true, maybe Freier should be watched or maybe Boonen has a better chance than you suggest? Regardless, I prefer this sort of course to last year’s Cav coronation.

  • Michael Saturday, 22 September 2012, 4:13 pm

    I don’t know what their personal relationship is like, but could the fact that Gilbert is a French-speaking Walloon, while Van Avermaet and Boonen are Flemish speakers. have anything to do with Gilbert’s earbud attitude? Belgians from the two linguistic groups often don’t have much time for each other. These three can all speak at least some English, but it’s not the same thing as your mother tongue.

    • Maarten Saturday, 22 September 2012, 4:41 pm

      Gilbert speaks a reasonable amount of Dutch as well, but perhaps Flemish vs Walloons can become a problem during the race.

      IMO not as bad as different nationalities on the same team though.

    • Julian Sunday, 23 September 2012, 3:38 am

      The Belgian linguistic border is not an issue. However, there remains an issue regarding superhuman exploits from the previous season that is still being discussed in the peleton.

      • Michael Sunday, 23 September 2012, 8:39 am

        You make an interesting point, Julian, but it implies that either almost everyone else is clean now or that Gilbert’s 2011 season was so good that even the other dopers thought they were being cheated. Your link is to the Tb500 manufacturer’s website (no discussion of cycling, of course, only horse racing) so I also looked for other stories. It seems that the Omega team driver Wim Vansevanant was caught with a bunch of this stuff a few years ago. Gilbert was on the team at the time. Now with BMC, he hasn’t done so well. So what do we conclude? This is all supposition and guesswork. Do you have a link specifically about Gilbert?

  • Bundle Saturday, 22 September 2012, 4:19 pm

    Good preview. Should be a fun Worlds. Still, how many GT and tough classics podium achievers have achieved the podium in the Worlds in the last 15 years? Not many… Let’s hope we have a quality podium and a quality, hard race this year for a change. The Cauberg is there, but it could well be not enough, especially if we have to wait for the last lap to see some real action.

  • Marty J Saturday, 22 September 2012, 5:13 pm

    It seems that the same USA riders missing from the Olympics are also missing from the World’s. Has there been a sanction that has not been made public?

    • Big Mikey Monday, 24 September 2012, 1:38 am

      There might be something to that. I suspect the plea deals will come out at the end of the season and we’ll find out the details.

  • Steve Saturday, 22 September 2012, 6:21 pm

    Inring, nice preview, thanks as always.

    Marty J not sure who you want?

    US team seems balanced, young, and motivated. I would not be surprised to seem them go out very fast
    ( as Garmin did in Colorado) and try and hurl TJ and Phinney into a small break with the hope they can hold on till the last climb. Problem is the quality of the chase is lots better then Colorado.

  • Marco in SoCal Saturday, 22 September 2012, 6:22 pm

    As always, great read and insight! No love for the Colombians? If anything, they’ll mix it up with the best in the world and will play a role in the final selection as they have all year long, think Olympics.

    • StevhanTI Saturday, 22 September 2012, 9:10 pm

      Right on. I’m Belgian but will watch out for Betancur, Henao, Quintana or Uran. All class acts on two wheels and used to racing under stress since they’re on big teams. Yeah don’t underestimate the colombian squad.

      BTW did anybody else notice that the winners of LBL and Amstel are both absent?

  • vimes Saturday, 22 September 2012, 8:18 pm

    Boasson Hagen after 260 km? Good luck with that.

    Not mentioning Nibali is a crime, by the way.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 September 2012, 8:38 pm

      Nibali seems to be in form but has only done a few races since the Tour de France. I can’t list everyone. As for Boasson Hagen, we’ll see if he can do the distance but he managed the 243km of Plouay well, riding away from the entire bunch in nonchalant style. But my pick is only a wild guess, forecasting bike races is so hard and the enjoyment (my enjoyment at least) is watching events unfold on the road. Run the worlds ten times and you would probably get 4-8 different winners.

      • Adam Sunday, 23 September 2012, 1:28 am

        Boss Hog is my pick too. I don’t doubt him on the distance; he won Gent Wevelgem at 22, Plouy and has a consistent record in the lumpy Canadian one days. If anything his lack of more Classics results is due to having to work for others.
        While I think that Nibali is a talented stage racer, he’s won very little in his career. Two Giro stages and none in his 2010 Vuelta. That doesn’t make him a bad bike racer, just much like Flecha (who he came to the line with in his Plouy victory) his odds are low unless he’s solo.

  • Darren Saturday, 22 September 2012, 8:47 pm

    Watched the womens race this afternoon! wonderful to watch, what with the regular attacks from the Americans! A lot more active than a lot of the mens races!
    Big cheer for Marianne Vos for her win – she genuinely earned it!
    Was also chuffed to see her teammate, Anna Van Der Breggen get 5th place after helping to create the winning break! She rides for a Belgian womens team, Sengers Ladies Team, which was started a few yrs ago by the daughter of a training partner, Inge Roggemann and her hubby Peter, an ex Omega Pharma prof! The teams bike sponsor 7even Bikes even painted her bike in the Dutch orange! Very happy for the team, which has rose from nothing to World Tour in just 4 yrs!
    Maybe now Marianne can relax and let someone else win something for a change! Then again, if you can see her medal haul over the past 5 yrs or so I do not see her resting up one bit!!!
    Tomorrow after training will plop in the couch and watch the mens war, to the excellent commentary of Michel Wuyts, Jose De Cauwer and Karl Van Nieuwenkerk here in Belgium! So glad it’s not Copenhagen!

  • Ronan Saturday, 22 September 2012, 9:15 pm

    Breschel and Dan Martin are my outside picks on the day. The great thing about the Worlds is that it’s always an open race and outsiders can win.

    I’m also interested to see what GB’s tactic is and who they’ll ride for. Thus don’t seem to have anyone suited to the parcours.

  • Kjetil Saturday, 22 September 2012, 9:23 pm

    A race as spectacular as the womens race today would be too much to ask for.
    And I too am afraid that EBH still cannot do 260 km + on his rice cakes.

  • STB Saturday, 22 September 2012, 10:07 pm

    Quite an open race this year with several favourites. My guess is a break will go on the last lap and stay away as all the favourites (Gilbert, Boonen, Voeckler, Nibali, etc) watch each other and leave it too late to catch.

    Ian Stannard is my pick of the GB riders but will depend on team tactics and orders. I don’t see Froome or Wiggins in the mix at the end.

    My wild card, Rigoberto Uran from Colombia. He proved he can last the distance in the Olympics and might be able to get into a break unnoticed.

    Should be a good race, but not as good as my cyclo-cross race will be. 🙂

  • Dave Saturday, 22 September 2012, 11:29 pm

    “Hungry”? Not really, I had a big lunch.

  • Larry T. Sunday, 23 September 2012, 1:50 am

    I’ll be happy if whoever wins the rainbow jersey tomorrow turns out to be someone who won’t need to hold onto cars to get over the mountains in 2013. Nationality not so important, but a guy generally thought to be clean would be nice too.

    • El Gato de la Cala Sunday, 23 September 2012, 9:12 am

      …the present World Champion has set an amazing record this year being dropped on mountains and smaller hills in most European Countries, wearing the tricot. Starting up at La Primavera in Italy and today he will probably have to let go as well in the Limburger hills. Stick to the diet and stop playing rock star!

      Lyrics The Gambler:
      You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
      Know when to walk away and know when to run.
      You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
      There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

  • Mike Sunday, 23 September 2012, 4:40 am

    Perhaps Degenkolb? He impressed in the Vuelta. Maybe the Cauberg will wear him out, but he’s on great form and can follow a lead-out as well as win in a mass sprint. If he’s in a breakaway and it survives, he’d be very dangerous.

  • Simon Fielder Sunday, 23 September 2012, 9:31 am

    Great preview.

    A potentially good scenario for GB is for Cavendish to get dropped early. This would give Jon Tiernan Locke a green light, hopefully supported by some team mates i.e. Froome.

    He’ll need to be tactically good,going with the right breaks and the lack of experience at this level might go against him in this regard.