The Moment The Worlds Were Won

350 metres to go and Alejandro Valverde leads. He opens up the sprint and wins, holding off the challenge by Romain Bardet to stay clear and finally land the gold medal and rainbow jersey that had eluded him.

The day began in glorious autumn sunshine and Innsbruck has been a good host, a model to copy. If only more winter sports destinations could bid for the worlds but for most ski resorts late September is close season with the summer tourists long gone and no snow expected for months. Still there must be more Alpine towns able to host the worlds and put themselves on the map as a cycling destination, think Annecy in France or Bassano del Grappa in Italy. We’ll see what the joint Aigle-Martigny ticket brings in 2020.

The early breakaway went clear and their lead reached 18 minutes at one point. Huge but as the race proceeded up the Inn valley it was inevitable, a lot of heavyset rouleurs were in the move and behind the teams with ambitions for the day hadn’t bought many riders to chase on the flat valley roads. Once the race reached Innsbruck and the Alpine circuit the lead began to fall steadily.

It wasn’t just the lead falling. Warren Barguil and Primož Roglič literally as they crashed, Barguil left the race injured, Roglič chased for 10km and got back on. Others fell out of contention. On the penultimate “Olympic” lap many fell away including pre-race picks Simon Yates, Wout Poels and Michał Kwiatkowski. Much of this was down to the work of the Dutch and Italian teams. In fact there was a long phase of the race where the Italian team were at work, it began with Dario Cataldo’s attack with 66km to go and ended when Vincenzo Nibali was among those dropped later on.

On the last time up the Igls climb there was a flurry of attacks. Peter Kennaugh got a gap but was counted by Denmark’s Michael Valgren who led down the descent with a chase led by Rui Costa ahead of a group of containing Kennaugh, Thibaut Pinot, Ion Izagirre but all with the bunch close by. Valgren though opened up a lead of 30 seconds, it was impressive but he need a lot more as a buffer for the final climb.

Into the final climb billed as “hell” with its 20% pitches and the French team set to work with a mountain train, first Rudy Molard who dropped off to leave a tricolore trio of Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and Julian Alaphilippe, a scene that must have had veteran French team boss Cyrille Guimard purring with delight. Only this would have been short-lived, this was where Alaphilippe was supposed to launched but he misfired like a damp firework leaving Bardet suddenly tasked with “saving the furniture” as they say in French. But in no time the peloton had vanished – partly down to the struggling TV production –  and the contest was quickly reduced to Bardet, Michael Woods, Alejandro Valverde and the brooding presence of Gianni Moscon. Moscon looked like he was in trouble and began to make handling mistakes and trying to get his weight power over the back wheel meant his front wheel veered left and this put him into the rough and if he tried to get going again the effort needed was too much and he was out of the picture. A few seconds behind and Tom Dumoulin was pacing himself in a chase.

On such a steep slope it was near impossible to attack but Bardet had a quick shake but dropped his chain, for a moment he looked to have lost it but was back. All along Valverde was present but not needing to provoke any changes to the scenario: Woods and Bardet for company was surely the dream scenario, little threat to him in the sprint but they needed to keep riding to hold of the chase of Moscon and Tom Dumoulin.

The result seemed inevitable but Valverde launched with over 300 metres to go, a distance where even Alexander Kristoff or Arnaud Démare might hold back. As much as Woods and Bardet seemed to be drawing closer the result was inevitable.

The Verdict
An exciting race to end an enjoyable week. The race came alive in the final hour although it wasn’t total suspense, this was a race of attrition as is often the case with the worlds. The TV production was middling, the KM to go caption went missing towards the end and for long stretches at a time when the action was happening in the final lap we got helicopter shots filmed from on high and little else.

Valverde wins and was delighted, bordering on overwhelmed by the win. There’s usually a swagger about him after a win but this time he was in tears, this wasn’t just another win for him. The win fills the blank on his palmarès, it’s it’s hard to name something else he could win, or at least a race. The one thing he’s yet to do is win over skeptical observers, he comes with as much baggage as Barajas: suspended for blood doping and only after a long chase that finally had him convicted thanks to a DNA match which he protested rather than apologised for. This is old news and has been every time he’s won – which is a lot – but he becomes more of a figurehead with the rainbow jersey on his shoulders. Is he that good, a crafty poker player? Or the second oldest World Champion after Joop Zoetemelk thanks to old habits? You probably don’t know, I don’t know and so guessing will probably say more about you than him.

Romain Bardet and Michael Woods surround Valverde on the podium, deserving rewards for their punch on the final climb, not just to launch the moves but to have the energy in the first place. Bardet didn’t ride the Vuelta but adds another podium this year after the Strade Bianche and Liège, Woods did ride the Vuelta and parleyed a stage win into going the distance for this one day race. A chocolate medal as the Spanish say for Tom Dumoulin, already a star rider with only two wins this year, each a time trial stage win, but second overall in the Giro and Tour and silver in the time trial earlier this week, and still aged 27, so if he’s not go the wins this year it may well be a matter of time.

  • Photo credits: Innsbruck-Tirol 2018 / BettiniPhoto

161 thoughts on “The Moment The Worlds Were Won”

      • Hypocrit.

        Valverde has a shady past and seems quite unapologetic about it all, however I’m curious to see how he will handle the World champions “PR” duties. We have been spoilt by Sagan’s often overexuberance. I can’t quite see Valverde filling in the same role, but it’s a good opportunity for him as a senior in the peloton to step up and provide his opinion a bit more openly?

        Time will tell I suppose.

  1. A slightly unexpected race with so many in contention at the foot of the final climb. I wonder whether the much lauded severity of the race (the hilliest World Championship since 1996) caused a degree of caution; or whether the presence of the remnants of the early break still leading on the last time up the Igls climb left many of the stronger teams unsure on previous laps whether they should be taking the race on from distance to soften up the opposition, or still needing to ride tempo to catch the break?


    • Stefan Denifl spelled out on our Eurosport, what -although obvious – the most race organisers never seem to learn: Because the race is so hard, nobody will want to invest too much, so we will see a cautious race. He was right. The excitement came not really from the race, but more from the riders, who were expelled by the peloton. Although it was a nice race, as it was a WC, it was only the last kilometers, where it got exciting.

      I wonder, why organisers always go there (oh, the excitement of gradients and gravel!), when in 95% the actual racing of these supertough races turns out underwhelming? Does it pay more to be able to advertise the race beforehand as „exciting“ than it backfires afterwards, when people say: What a boring race? Must be this way, because they do it again and again (and I don‘t think short stages are the answer either. It only is, till the riders figure out how to do them with the smallest effort possible. There is a reason, why Desgrange/the Tour de France tweaked the rukes for the Tour every few years).

      Seeing the WC always makes me long for national teams instead of trade teams doing the big races, as this would almost exclude the factor money and for races without radios (sorry to bring this point up, but I honestly think the riders should make race decisions from their point of view in the race and not getting informations and instructions from someone, who has all the informations, that they don‘t have. Plus, if the rider has to make the decisions, the personality of the riders comes into play. Some are good in making decisions, some not. This would change a lot). One of the first three said, that they didn‘t know, if they would race for gold or if someone was in front of them. That is how it should be: Human beings racing each other with the informations human beings can gather in such a situation.

      • The history of most international sport suggests that national teams hardly “exclude the money factor”, but you could be on to something with the radios.

        • Yes i agree! I think the Eritreans, or for that matter anyone not from the euro powerhouses, might not be too keen on national teams either!

          • Would Sagan make it to many races if it was based on national teams?

            Great for 1 day a year but not every race. I do like it without radios though. If safety is such a concern I don’t see such an issue with a neutral race radio.

      • “Seeing the WC always makes me long for national teams instead of trade teams doing the big races, as this would almost exclude the factor money”

        I’m not convinced – British Cycling, for instance, is well-funded through Lottery money and sponsorship via HSBC (and previously Sky, pre-dating their Pro team). Money is still awash for them and for other Nations too, so I’m not certain that using national teams will improve matters on the “distribution of funding” front.

      • It wouldn’t exclude the money factor at all. There are rich federations and poor ones. Some can finance big teams and pro facilities, others can barely afford the plane ticket and reasonably pro equipment for their one representative.

      • I’ve always been agnostic about it, but I’m starting to agree with the ‘no radios’ argument – there was something brilliantly human about watching Italy chase down their own man in the break!!

      • I’m not sure what you were expecting, there were attacks almost constantly for the last hour, I can’t think of a more exciting\aggressive race this year.

        The men’s elite sport riders are all so evenly matched compared to in the past that’s why they need the steep climbs to force some gaps.

        I agree that no radios would be an improvement.

      • I thought – as the race was going on – they should have not put in the extra final climb and had them doing the same course as everyone else. A 28% climb at the end of a race largely prevents earlier attacks.
        I enjoy national teams in the WC, but wouldn’t want it in racing generally: nationalism is almost always negative, plus why should someone like Sagan be forced to ride for an inferior team? (

  2. What a race to watch! The green valley boys really worked the old 1-2 late on. Höll made that finale some 30mins long, and gripping right down to the ribbon. AV is controversial – as a relic from an era when his crimes were nearer the norm than the exception, albeit being punished after the watershed – but he has always been an instinctively clinical racer and finisher. 7th podium: 1st rainbow, can’t say he came from nowhere or hasn’t earned it.

    • Cleaver racing today: But he is a convicted doper just like S.Yates and shouldnt even be in the pro peloton. Just like the Giro, Vuelta; now the UCI worlds RR has this year ended up with a disgarcefull victor that should have no place in pro cycling…

        • Morten is trolling. Yates has a conviction but it’s like filing your taxes late compared to armed robbery. The time to debate WADA’s rules and ban lengths for various infringements is another day.

          • The use of performance-enhancing asthma treatments cannot be compared to filing our taxes late without incurring in serious trolling. I’m very sorry, but it is so.

          • Reply to Ferdi,

            No, it’s a good analogy. It was an administrative error by Yates’ team, not at all like what Valverde did.

            Valverde is clearly an exceptional rider, but to see him in the rainbow stripes will be, for the next year, an uncomfortable reminder of cycling’s darkest days

          • +1 to INRNG and George Vest.

            The difference between Valverde and guys like Vaughters and Millar seems very clear to me, yes, many riders in “that era” doped, but you could at least apologise for cheating and work hard to make the sport cleaner, not just shrug your shoulders and believe you’ve got nothing to atone for because “everyone did it”. This is why so many of us can’t warm to Valverde, no matter how many attacks he makes and big races he wins.

  3. I disagree.

    Race was won at about 1.4-1,2km before the finishline where Domulin deliberatly did not to latch on the the trio for 6-900m after he had gained contact until a 90 degree right hand turn.
    Valvarde preemted Domulin’s plan to attack from the rear after the right hand 90 degree corner by sprinting out of the corner at the very same time Domulin attemted to time his latch-on / attack.
    After that move by Valverde the win was never i doubt.

    • I thought Doumoulin might have had a better bet if, when he caught them, he had ploughed on, opposite side of the road, with as big a speed differential as he could manage. Just a chance the others might have been caught by surprised, missed his wheel and not made it back on.

      Once they got into the final km, i thought it was inevitable that Valverde would win it. Didn’t stop me jumping off the sofa and yelling at the TV though!

      I, for one, am a Valverde fan. I tried to hang on to my anger and hatred after Puerto. It’s makes one feel good, morally superior, to continually complain about convicted cheats. However, in the face of a beautiful racing style, a win-or-bust attitude and a great deal of evidence suggesting he’s a really nice guy, I just found it exhausting, so gave up and accepted that he is the most exciting racer of our times and I love watching him.

      • Dumoulin declared to a number of sources after the race he didn’t have the legs anymore to attack after he managed to bridge to the leadin trio. He tried one move but Valverde reacted immedeately and Dumoulin folded.

        • In hindsight it might have been better if Dumoulin had come back a bit slower. Perhaps he could have saved a bit in the legs to go past the group at speed, closer to the line, when Valverde was slowing things down.

      • I don’t really see the case for “most exciting racer of our times”. A lot of his wins were predicated on knowing he could beat the other riders in his group in a sprint and then sitting on or doing moderate turns before being the fastest in the last 150m. It’s a perfectly legitimate strategy and very effective when you’re as strong as Valverde but in terms of elan it’s not exactly launching a daring solo raid from 60km out.

        • Those in that small group are in the finale by attacking several times and chasing down the attacks of others.

          I guess it depends on how you like your racing but a solo raid from 60km is impressive but exciting? I know many would disagree, I’ve seen what has been said about the women’s RR, but races that are decided with 20 mins still to go don’t really do it for me.

          Most of Valverde’s wins are that nice balance of attacks and counter-attacks throughout the last hour, but suspense right to the finish.

          Not a TT win, not a full bunch sprint, but guile, suspense, drama.

          • Valverde is often involved in races that go down to the wire, I agree with that but I think his wins come from a fantastic ability to be able to stay anonymous for the bulk of a race, to position himself perfectly, to follow or chase down the right attacks (rather than waste energy going after doomed ones) and then to launch at the right time. This takes tremendous skill, strength and no little courage (particularly when it comes to letting certain attacks go) but it’s not the derring do of say Contador’s Paris-Nice offensives and while the races are often close this approach can sometimes mean that a race only comes alive in the final few KM. This isn’t to diminish his abilities or achievements – he’s suited to that kind of victory and he’d be a fool to try a different tactic.

            It’s really just a matter of taste though and I’d certainly agree that Valverde has contributed to a lot of races and been clearly the strongest rider on many occasions.

        • Its easy to make out a race was boring and the outcome was inevitable afterwards but lets not forget the list of classics Valverde has contested this year (and come very close in most) but hasn’t won:
          Strade Bianchi
          Amstel Gold
          Flèche Wallonne
          Liege Bastogne Liege

          2 of which he was very short priced favourite.

  4. Good race capping off a highly enjoyable Worlds. Perhaps a point in favor of those who argue against radios. AV as champ is what it it, but credit due he & Spain played it to perfection. Bardet further confirms his one-day chops – I’d put $ on him winning LBL and/or Strade Bianche before a GT. Good on Woods to stick it out for bronze. 2nd/4th for Tom D still mighty impressive, recalls Spartacus in 2009.

    But my favorite/defining memory of the week, whether he goes on to fulfill his world-potential or not, will definitely be Remco having to chase back and still crushing the field with apparent ease. That was something to see. Great win by Anna VdB, too.

  5. That final climb was so hard that Dumoulin was weaving back and forth; I’m impressed that he managed to get back on, but I guess there was nothing left in his legs. I was rooting for Bardet, but alas…

    • Yes seeing how much Tom D suffered on that climb and to get back on when it was clear he wasn’t happy with something on his back brake. Impressive for him to close that gap but obviously little left to give after

  6. To the organisation of the WC:

    We had one of the organisers on at Eurosport for quite some time and the way he praised themselves was cringeworthy, so I had to mute him. Before that, I heard, that this WC was „20 years in the making“ and with the smallest budget of all WCs, although they like to say „they had the most effective budget of all WCs“ (here I reached for the remote control). Then he was asked, how he justified asking entrance fees from some people. The answer were a bunch of strange things like „merchandising presentation“, „beverage-whatever“ (didn‘t catch it), „event marketing“ and another 5 marketing and event and presentation thingies (I have to add, that this was on german tv, with german talking people for german talking people and I am not translating what he said, he said it that way). This was, when I hit the mute button for good.

    Unfortunately german Eurosport gave them a looong time to market themselves and so it all evolved into a comical episode of me turning it loud, just to hear that guy again, then hitting furiously the mute button again and getting ever more angry (and I know, there is nothing more useless than getting angry at people on television, but sometimes one can‘t help it), which made a friend of mine laugh so hard about me getting honestly and seriously angry about such a stupid thing, that he fell from the sofa, which then made me laugh about him and about myself and forget about all my anger and where was I…oh, ok: so we did miss out on more of the excellent coverage of Jean-Claude Leclercq we could have had instead of half an hour advertisement of tirol (don‘t think they would have done the same with a WC in Kazakhstan for example, it was quite embarassing).

    • But you are aware there would be no Worlds at Innsbruck or elsewhere without such guys, do you? Of course he’s talking business buzzwords too, organizing a WC is very much a business and and politics thing, it’s not a yard sale in your garage or a small gathering with your friends. Have you ever organized even a small bike race, not to speak about closing down the biggest regional town for a whole week?

  7. Something about the “crossroads esq” nature of televising the Worlds that has always appealed. A super slick mega tv production wouldn’t feel right. Lap boards rather than some bellend with a algorithm! Great win by the way by the master! Movistar with the bands…great just great!!

  8. What a race, great outcome for Canadian fans – who would have picked Woods to podium and be one of three to hit the line in the top group?!?!? As a proud Canadian this was amazing, unexpected and overall not surprising though as Woods has proven time and again he can put up a massive result.

    J Evans – was that carlton kirby on the commentary?!?

    • I’d picked Woods to shine yesterday – it was the steepness of the final climb that made me think he’d be a decent podium pick. It was just a shame that with Valverde there with him at the death, it was obvious he wouldn’t win.

    • I watched online two days later and they offered the whole thing without adverts and some other commentator (Ant someone? – not ‘Anddec’) and Rob Hayles – so I was spared Kirby (who was the main Eurosport UK commentator on all the other races).

  9. “….the brooding presence of Gianni Moscon” Really? Really?
    Sadly, your disdain for this Italian is starting to stink up this blog like overcooked garlic.
    I have mixed feelings about Valverde but it was a masterful performance by the ever-Green Bullet and his team.

    • Brooding presence or not, our host got it about right in terms of the race. Moscon was climbing the Hell climb well and holding his own against riders better known as climbers when he went too close to the inside and hit a piece of road best avoided which nearly brought him to a dead stop at 28%. The effort required to keep him moving forward did for him for the remaining few kilometers. Still, he came closer than I had imagined. Yet, once again, it shows what’s under the Moscon hood and he should be a challenger in the hardest races for years to come if he isn’t drummed out of the peloton for offending too many people before then. Its clear he has bags of talent.

      • Talent or not, he needs to sort his attitude out. Just as well he hasn’t tried pulling other rider’s brake levers yet, like that Motorcyclist did.

        It was pretty interesting (and a bit of a shame for the race) that Nibali wasn’t infact bluffing when he said Moscon would be the leader.

  10. Exciting to the very end! Good to see Bardet and Dumoulin in the mix going for the win despite their GT pedigree. You can see that these two are a different breed of GT contenders who don’t need an “armchair” express train to make it up and over a mighty alpine peak. Valverde has been strong all this season, and is no surprise victor. Valgren gave it a thoroughly good go, however, and almost created an alternative universe where a different “Val-” might have taken the gold!

  11. You’re correct to say Inrng that none of us know about what AV is doing or not doing currently. That won’t stop people though of course. There is a lauding and pillorying of him every Ardennes season. The difference now is there’ll be a year of speculation, innuendo and a spotlight on doping because he’ll be wearing the stripes and that’s whether he wins or loses. A constant reminder and to new fans next year, a balding 39 year old who wears the jersey of the ‘best in the world’ will need to somehow be explained.

    • I think we can probably find enough in his tactics and ability to smell the right moves to follow to explain the result. Whether he’s doing something or not, any fan can respect his ability to make the most of his opportunities and as someone said higher up, it’s not like he came from nowhere to win.

      • Personally I don’t think he’s doping now and if he is micro dosing then I’m sure he’s not alone. That wasn’t the point I was trying to make. It’s not even down to solely to AV. Writers and commentators let alone commenters, will rehash the same conversations and arguments about his history on a more regular basis because he’s World Champ. New people into the sport who may already be reticent because of the doping meme that gets brought up in the mainstream sports pages will be wondering what’s going on that a 39 yo (as he’ll be) is the best there is. It’s not what you’d call a great narrative for a sport looking for a clean image. All of that happens whether he’s doping or not, deserved or not, liked or not. Half of this season was full of doping stories in the msm because of the Froome leak. This won’t be as bad for a few obvious reasons but it does mean another year where doping is closer to the foreground than it should be especially seeings as it’s not a new but old story.

      • In fact, the more thought I give this subject, the more I’m convinced that Valverde is the most appropriate World Champion for the evergreen cyclists everywhere.

    • ‘there’ll be a year of speculation, innuendo and a spotlight on doping’ – as with every other year.
      WADA didn’t really help with that with their Froome decision – which will forever be pretty much unexplained.

  12. A very good race, with a famous winner going into tears and all that. We had a good time watching yesterday. I hate flat Worlds, to the extent to consider inappropriate and unacceptable editions like Zolder and Copenhague, but the last very steep climb was equally too much. I think just repeating the normal circuit, with its good Igls climb, from the very start, about 11 or 12 times (up to somewehere between 275 and 300km), would have been much better. It proved enough to crack a few a favourites with only 6 laps.
    The Worlds RR shouldn’t have a lot of variation. A course that’s for sprinters only is as unacceptable as one that’s for 20% slopes specialists only.


    • I suppose they went for the Höll climb for the spectacular effect, these things grab attention and make sure people tune in. It was spectacular but the TV production wasn’t so great. I think the course should reflect the “terroir” of each place, ideally over an Olympic cycle we have a flat circuit, a hilly one and a mountainous one but the UCI is struggling for candidates so it can’t choose as easily.

    • Ferdi, I seem to recall you posting reams and reams of posts about cheater Froome some months back. Now Valverde wins and you are silent? Clearly you save your brick bats for the innocent.

      • I did address Piti’s cheating, extensively, back in the day, laughing at his procedural defense. But I never complained about him getting away with his cheating, it’s true.

  13. Hoell climb IMHO did not make any sense.
    The “standard” path was hard (and interesting) enough to create an fascinating race, where organized teams were trying to prepare the proper terrain for their captains through power and tacticts (yes, I am talking about Italy, but also Netherlands and Spain).
    In such a climb, strength or grimpeur skills do not emerge: it’s rather a matter of luck, concentration and focus on the road itself. I think this is a way to make the race select mountain goats instead of cyclist.
    Anyways: even in this situation, the best rider won, so I guess all in all that was OK.

    • It made perfect sense. It was so selective it really showed who is the best. We all knew the race will be decided on the last climb. Be it die Hölle or the normal circle climb should Hölle not be part of the parcours. Actually should there be no Hölle many would not get dropped or be able to catch up after the last climb and the decisive factor weight would switch much more to the sprint than the climb itself. This WC were about climbs. It took place in Innsbruck for God’s sake!

  14. I admire Valverde for his tactical nous and ability but I don’t like him, not for being a doper but for being an unrepentant one.

  15. Let us open a discussion…Indurain, Merckx, Anquetil, Armstrong, etc. I am more and more of an opinion, that Valverde is the best cyclist ever. Really. The only problem he has is lack of GT and WC victories. If you look at his palmares, these are incredibly remarkable. He is such a complete rider, who managed to win classics and GT races. And at that age…from his generation, already for a few years now, there are only a few guys left. Every year I get reminded that Pelizotti didn’t actually finish his career already 5 years ago, while Valverde is here each and every season and he shines.

    Respect! I’m very happy for him, so deserved!

    • You can’t put anyone above Merkcx. Valverde has won a lot of classics but not as many as Merckx, and that’s without even talking about GT’s.

    • I think Valverde is a great rider but he has one GT and has not won Milan-SanRemo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold race, Giro di Lombardia. In fact the only monument he has won is Liege ! So, clearly not the best in my eyes.

      • Vuelta a España

        General classification (2009)
        Points classification (2012, 2013, 2015, 2018)
        Combination classification (2003, 2009, 2012)
        11 individual stages[N 1]
        2 TTT stages (2012, 2014)

        Stage races

        Critérium du Dauphiné (2008, 2009)
        Volta a Catalunya (2009, 2017, 2018)
        Tour of the Basque Country (2017)
        Abu Dhabi Tour (2018)
        Route d’Occitanie (2018)
        Vuelta a Andalucía (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
        Vuelta a Burgos (2004, 2009)
        Vuelta a Castilla y León (2016)
        Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (2004, 2007, 2018)

        One-day races and Classics

        World Road Race Championships (2018)
        National Road Race Championships (2008, 2015)
        National Time Trial Championships (2014)
        Liège–Bastogne–Liège (2006, 2008, 2015, 2017)
        La Flèche Wallonne (2006, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
        Clásica de San Sebastián (2008, 2014)
        Paris–Camembert (2008)
        Roma Maxima (2014)
        Vuelta a Murcia (2004, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2017)
        GP Miguel Indurain (2014, 2018)


        UCI ProTour (2006, 2008)
        UCI World Tour (2014, 2015)

    • Certainly fair comments. But…we live in different times. With specialisation these days, is it as easy to win many different types of races as it was 40 years ago? Of course we need to look substance over form over here. Just looking at number of victories my assumption doesn’t work.

    • Given his talents he’s probably won everything he could expect to be competitive in and he has been incredibly consistent but even amongst current riders I’d say someone like Nibali has a more impressive palmares.

  16. (missing ‘trial’ in last sentence on Dumoulin – with only two time wins this year)

    he comes with as much baggage as Barajas – great

  17. A great great race!
    It was amazing to see favorites being dropped! And from second to last lap it seemed chaotic at times but great racing!

    Some cool Jerseys as well, with NZ and Eritrea(I guess) being my favorites, France and Italy also quite classy.

    congrats to Bala(dubious past or not) he is an incredible bike rider.

  18. My respect for Dumoulin is immense. Silver in the time trial and just missed the podium yesterday, podium in Giro, podium in Vuelta….what a great and consistent rider. I was amazed when I realised how young he is, surely the star for the next era, though he is shining brightly already ( I am not Dutch).

    Thanks for all the great coverage M. ring. Shame that this BTL is beginning to mirror so many others, with people using it to grind their very own axe instead of contributing to knowledge and stimulating discussion…..

  19. What I didn’t like was the praise Laurent Jalabert gave Valverde after his win: “A great example for all”, “An amazing ambassador for cycling”, “A truly great champion”. Whilst I think Valverde is a very classy bike rider and he has an amazing palmares, I would definitely not call him a great example or amazing ambassador.

    I echo other people’s comments, the last climb did prevent the race from being a tactical race and made it a race of attrition. I was pleasantly surprised by Romain Bardet’s performance, I was expecting Pinot to be up there but struggle on the descent but Bardet was France’s ace card and he did his best.

    Finally, a word on Tom Dumoulin: what a season ! Yet he really doesn’t have much to show for it. He is an incredible talent and people are really going to struggle to find ways of beating him in the future.

    • On the basis of this year’s evidence thats a rather contradictory statement. He had four major targets, 2 grand tours and 2 rainbow jerseys, and in each case someone did find a way to beat him. Dumoulin is very good. But he is beatable, especially when tired.

  20. That was an absolutely perfect example of a slow burn race. For 240km it looked at first glance like nothing much was happening but it was getting whittled down all the time until only the strongest and most bloody minded were left. The perfect repost to those who think everything should be a 90km 2 hour blast. I’ve never been a huge fan of Valverde but I was pleased for him here. He’s such a great incredibly consistent year round rider, regardless of what he might have been up to in the past. A bit like Hushovd though he might be a little bit past his best for his year in the stripes. I was very impressed with Valgren too. He reminds me of early career Gilbert. Always up there and ready to attack on nearly any terrain. I don’t think it’ll be long until he lands a monument, Moscon too. A shout out to Bardet as well. He might never win a Tour but he’s a good fighter and always has a go. Innsbruck was a great host, helped my almost freakishly perfect alpine weather all week. They might get that again in Switzerland in a couple of years but I think it might be a bit different in Yorkshire!

      • Early on in the commentary yesterday before the first climb Chris Boardman said that you could have removed 100kms from the race, had the same finish and you probably wouldn’t have changed the result. He thought this would make the race more of a spectacle than the slog (or “slow burn”) that others have described it as. Next year’s race in Yorkshire is even longer at 284kms. Oh joy.

        • A great time trialist Boardman may have been but a great commentator, and general commenter on cycling matters, he is not. I’m not sure how much I paid for his autobiography but it was a total waste even if it was 1p. A 150km race with a steep hill at the end is just a Vuelta stage. The BBC commentary was a joke. ‘There’s an attack from a Danish rider. It looks like Fuglsang, yes it’s Fuglsang.’ I can’t think of a more distinctive looking easy to spot cyclist than Michael Valgren.
          Do you like chocolate? I’m just interested if there is anything that we agree on?

        • I think that there is a mistake with the 284kms for 2018 which is stated in the text but which is inconsistent with the profile graph where the distance looks more like 260.

  21. Interesting that the TV production left fans wanting (again) although not as dramatic as the utter fiasco of the final km in Bergen.
    The flemish TV commentators said that the production was directed by someone who produced the races for sporza. When I first heard this I thought this was a change, however I seem to read a lot of criticism towards the final product. Maybe not entire team and resources was made available due to budget?

    • There’s always someone knowing better than tv professionals, how to broadcast anything. If we have 4 camera motos in the last lap, people would complain about the motos and the drafts and the wrong place they were. If we have more heli shots, cause they reduced the moto numbers, people complain about the lack of moto cams.
      Now let the drone folks arrive, who never flew a professional camera drone in their life, know nothing about how long a storage battery work and how difficult the are to handle, but just know dep down in their gut, they are the future to replace helis and motos all together.

  22. Ten long years for Italy – and more to come? – since Alessandro Ballan’s and Damiano Cunego’s 1-2 in 2008.

    A French rider on the podium after more than a decade long absence, i.e. not since a 25-year old rider with two minor pro victories Anthoiny Geslin finished third in 2005 – after Tom Boonen and a certain Alejandro Valverde.

  23. I am really glad I watched that on BBC. Chris Boardman and Rachel Gilmore discussing crank lengths and frame sizes beats Kirby’s inane jokes any day.

  24. In terms of the overall TV production, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I’m not sure why there were no motorbikes on the descent when Valgren was or wasn’t going to get away. Part of me wondered if it was because the trees would have blocked the signal. If that’s the case, then course planners need to take that into account when they design routes. Relying solely on helicopter shots with everyone stuggling to see who the riders actually are, is not great.

    The directing at times in this Worlds was off. I forget who it was, but during the time trial, the cameras covered a rider coming in despite the fact that in the distance, we could see the next rider, who was on a flyer and would be troubling the scorers. The director only cut back as they literally crossed the line.
    That kind of thing should be easy to get right, as there are lots of timings available – even on the (quite average) Tissot website.

    Despite my complaints, there were some nice shots from a Swiss rider’s bike in the women’s race from her onboard camera. Whether she was chosen as being a rider who’d be aggressive, I don’t know, but she got in small breaks a couple of times, and the pictures from those were good.

    I suspect that the real problem with end of the men’s race was a lack of motos, and them being in the wrong place, perhaps also unable to get past the peleton at times. When the race finally exploded, we had no idea where anyone beyond Dumoulin was.

  25. A good race to watch on an interesting course. Despite the commentary team carrying on as if every move was going to be the decisive one, it was clear that the final climb was where the race would be won or lost. I was surprised to see only Valverde, Bardet and Woods left out in front as everyone else faded, but thrilled that the three of them kept their lead and took the medals. Once they were inside the final kilometre, Valverde was never going to come anywhere but first. The win clearly meant so much to him and his Spanish teammates, it was great to see. Sagan presenting Valverde with his winner’s medal was a wonderful touch, too.

    I just wish the quality of the broadcast matched up to the prestige of the event. The camerawork and graphics should have been better, and we had to suffer through the D-grade commentary on SBS here in Australia.

  26. Valverde at the Worlds will unfortunately always make me think of his tactical mistake in 2013 that let poor Joaquim Rodriguez’ best chance of a WC slip away and handed it to Rui Costa. I miss Purito!

    • Had AV not ballsed that up – deliberately, I still suspect, despite him saying he didn’t have the legs to go with Movistar team mate Rui Costa – the likely winner would have been AV.

  27. Given their abysmal record with national champions’ kits, I wonder just how badly Movistar will manage to ruin the world champ jersey.

  28. A pretty good race (4 stars out of 5) but did it really need to be 260 km? Having seen how they ‘raced’ the first couple of hours I doubt it had much effect on the outcome of the race. With the exception of the Giro the other Grand Tours are moving towards shorter hillier stages but the WC seems to be going in the opposite direction with next year’s course in Yorkshire a whooping 285 km.

    Apart from the moderate TV production I was disappointed to see the lack of barriers on the Igls climb. If Glasgow can mange to barrier the whole 14 km of the European RR course I couldn’t see why they didn’t barrier off 4 or 5 km of this climb. Instead they seem to have concentrated their barrier allocation in Innsbruck even in areas where there were hardly any spectators.

    • The distance is one of pro cycling’s big selling point, it’s what differentiates it from other sports. Now watching all live coverage on TV from start to finish is asking for boredom but otherwise the long course helps to select the strongest riders. Presumably most people tune in for the last 90 minutes?

      If it was shorter many would say Paris-Tours or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne etc were harder races because they’re longer, the Worlds has to match the Monuments for the sake of its status. Short stages can be fun in grand tours.

      • I’m still not convinced; a case of tradition over thinking about what is suitable for today’s needs.

        With a shorter course (say ~220 km) the racing would have started earlier and the riders would have been just a tired by the end. With 260 km + 4,500 m ascent riders were rightly fearfully of racing too early. I was surprised there were so few attacks in the last 50-60 km & surprised there were so many finishers (53).

        • If you went out cycling with a bunch of mates and after 100 miles one of them was still banging on as if you’d just set off you would be impressed wouldn’t you? You’d think ‘god, what a beast he is. I wish he’d ease off I’m shagged’. More impressed than you would be by your other mate who turned back after 25 miles. That’s the point. The Worlds is to find the hardest bastard out there who can still summon a sprint after 7 hours of racing. If you knock it down to 200km to fit it on tv so that a few people eating crisps can be ‘entertained’ it’s just a grand tour stage and no different to any other bike race. One of the things I hate most about cycling, nay life, is people complaining about bike races being too long. I wonder if there is a snooker forum anywhere where someone is suggesting right now ‘for fucks sake why do we have to watch the world championship final for 2 days, why don’t they just make it best of 3 frames so I can put Eastenders on’. I doubt it. It seems to be a cycling specific thing.

          • The hardest bastard out there who can still summon a sprint after 7 hours of racing.

            Right you are, that’s what you get the rainbow bands for and it’s always been that way.
            Say you took out 150km of Milan-Sanremo you wouldn’t get the same top 10 at all.

          • It’s not just cycling, several other sports are trying to speed things up. Cycling can try but it surely won’t win because even an abbreviated race would be longer than a football match. Cycling is the distance sport, it’s majestic, the road race in the Olympics takes three times as long as the marathon.

          • Couldn’t agree more. Also just to clarify if it was half the distance then it would have produce a different result as Alaphillipe and others wouldn’t have cramped on the final climb having only done 2500m total elevation rather than 5000m.

            If the complaint about bike races is that they are boring then why don’t people vote with their feet and tune into the more exciting ones such as Paris Roubaix, Flanders etc but instead the biggest cycling event on TV is the TDF which is flawed by design as for logistical and traditional reasons it has to include a large number of pan flat sprint stages.

            If you don’t want to tune into the first few hours then simply don’t tune in.

          • “I wonder if there is a snooker forum anywhere where someone is suggesting right now ‘for fucks sake why do we have to watch the world championship final for 2 days, why don’t they just make it best of 3 frames so I can put Eastenders on’. I doubt it. It seems to be a cycling specific thing.”

            With Snooker it strikes me that it’s the organisers mulling over changes rather than being specifically fan-led. They’ve left the WC alone but theres been changes in other tournaments – shot-clocks and other such gimmicks, all with the aim of speeding it up to catch the “casual fan”. “People loved Big Break. Why don’t we make all of snooker like it?”

            See also, Cricket: 90 overs a day for five days of a test was too much – so we got 50-overs-each One Day matches (There was a 40-over domestic tournament for a bit but that’s gone.)

            50 overs was still too long, too little excitement, so we ended up with Twenty20. Which the England & Wales Cricket Board has decided is still too long (120 balls each) so now we are soon to have The Hundred – 15 overs of the usual 6 balls each, plus one of 10 balls. Why? F*ck knows.

            Tinker, tinker, tinker.

            I love a Test Match, the way it builds over the course of a few days, the narrative. Delayed gratification. Periods of not much happening, then bursts of excitement. I’m growing increasingly alienated by the rest of the game – the quest to abbreviate it to cater for an audience that I’m not entirely sure exists.

            I love cycling for similar reasons – everything about it is “long form”, when you think about it. Classics and Monuments build over the course of the day and distance. Grand Tours build over the space of three weeks, each Stage a race-within-a-race.

            I can’t be sure that shortening anything will help matters – you may end up with a broader range of potential winners, but I think at the end of the day the winner will still be the person who’s expended their energy the most carefully. The aim is to do the minimum needed to win, after all.

      • and long may it remain…. I’m with Richard S – what are we looking for here? – a worthy world champ, or 90 mins of cheap and easy entertainment.

        the epic races are epic because they are relatively rare, if we manufactured them every week they would become dull after a while…

        • +100 for Richard S!

          The length is essential for the World Champs; the distance increases the chance that a true ‘champion’ wins and makes the feat that much more impressive.

          I’d personally like to see the odd longer, attritional stage in the GTs too, but that might just be me.

          • As much as I like it in such races and monuments, in current GT culture overlong stages add nothing. It works in a one day race, but in GTs it only leads to dull stages, everyone then agrees to ride slowly and save energy for much worthier decisive stages.

          • Yet the facts don’t back that statement up most of the time. The norm is if there’s 3 tough mountain stages in a row, the first two are ridden more conservatively though there are exceptions like Froome at the Giro. When it does happen though, there’s not any correlation between the length of the stage as to attacking racing. In other words, if the last of the 3 stages is short there’ll most likely be more attacking but it also will happen if it’s a long stage and a previous stage was short and ridden conservatively.

      • BenW – I’m with you about Tetst matches, snooker and cycling but weirdly I do like Twenty20 for the innovation, the sheer power and yes sometimes it fits nicely into a few hours.

  29. I enjoyed the race but must admit the first five hours were pretty dull and only once valgren attacked did I get fully engaged and excited by the drama. The scenery and weather made up somewhat for a low key start, what a beautiful part of the world and such pure crystal blue light really looked magical on tv. As far as the winner goes, anyone who wasn’t moved by his emotions on display at the finish must have a heart of stone. As to the accusations and suspicions, personally I have been to all four points of the compass as far as skepticism and belief go over thirty years following the sport. I know he has a past but I doubt Valverde is doing anything that at least some others arent doing too. Obsessing about that just ruins any potential enjoyment of a beautiful sport for me. I enjoy the entertainment a lot more when I am able to just shrug my shoulders and say I just don’t know, and anyway what can I do about it. I find it odd that some of the very best riders get a free pass because they display panache or seem like nice guys and interview well, whereas others are seen as enfant terrible and persona non grata. It seems to me that cycling is working to become a cleaner sport and in spite of occassional setbacks and slow progress I am optimistic. Thats just my view.

  30. I enjoyed listening to the highs and lows of the French commentary on Eurosport. When Pinot, Alaphillipe and Bardet were at the front for a time on the final time they were beside themselves with excitement, only to be almost overcome with gloom when Alaphillipe cracked.

  31. Slightly tangential, but a genuine question I’ve been meaning to ask the experts on here for a while…. is there any scientific evidence out there that past doping of any kind provides a long term benefit or advantage? No axe to grind; whatever his past, I love Valverde’s adaptability and the way he stays motivated from one season to the next is impressive.

    • There’s been working looking into this so often the answer you will get is “yes” but this was a small study looking at mice, not a proper controlled test with humans for obvious reasons. So nobody knows for sure but the placebo effect could count, then again if you needed doping products to win then trying to win without them could feel harder, no?

      • The one serious study that looked at the effect of EPO use in humans actually concluded that even in the short term it does not enhance performance. I have not looked at this study in depth but it seemed to be set up in a reasonable way and IIRC even the mean of the EPO group was slightly below the control, it wasn’t one of those studies that didn’t find anything because the group was too small and the standard deviation too large to make any sort of conclusion.
        As a scientist who firmly believes in controlled studies over anecdotal evidence, and a cycling fan who saw what happened in the early nineties, I really don’t know what to think anymore.

      • EPO doesn’t have a long-term effect, but steroids and human growth hormone will affect the size and consistency of muscles long after. Principally power output either seems to be improved or maintained. Over time your muscles change from fast twitch to slow twitch and I understand HGH has a role in that. Scientists don’t fully understand how and why fast twitch switch, but these attributes and going to make you a stronger rider moving into your later years as a rider. Might even help you outsprint younger athletes…..

        It’s always disappointing when Valverde wins for that reason.

        Mr Armstrong dabbled in all of the above. His ‘impressive’ ability on his comeback stank for that same reason too.

    • Not sure it can impact stamina on a long-term, however if you ever went to the gym you probably noticed that muscle mass you once built up doesn’t at all completely vanish once you stop going to the gym. On a longer term as well. But, how does that translate to an endurance sport as cycling that is a big question.

    • And, we lack some drama these days like Armstrong – Contador pistollero accusations. Wiggo being promoted to the 2019 TdF co-captain with Froome and Thomas would be an epic one! Cycling alone is interesting but combined with the Big Brother (EGO?) effect makes it fabulous 😀

  32. Bardet must be gutted – these type of chances don’t come very often. Can’t help but think there was a moment or two on the lower slopes of the Höll that Bardet could have done more but was content to follow Woods, thinking Julien was only just behind. Without a radio, how was he to know that Alaphilippe had gone backwards much quicker than anyone expected. Secondly, the chain slip – seemed he had to manually get it onto the big ring and start his attack. Blatantly telegraphing the effort to Piti and Woods.
    Waiting for the sprint was never going to be an ideal option, but with valverde happy to leadout, I think more could have been done by Bardet to grab that second wheel off Woods than be content to try to come past 2 bikes by the line.

    A surprising podium, a curious top 10… but then, when has a Worlds ever gone to script. Kudos to Valgren for that attempt to go from distance.

    • Bardet said he was pulling for Alaphilippe so by the time he saw he was gone he only had a little fuel left in his own words. If anything to stay in the mix after he was planning to sacrifice himself is still impressive.

  33. Given the poor TV coverage and lack radios which teams are so often reliant on, is it worth noting that one of the pelotons most astute tacticians won? Just an observation. Despite the noise of Balas past we can agree he’s a wily old fox.

    • That. The likes of Valverde or a Contador don’t need a radio to know what they’re doing. They read races and rivals. I just hope some of the promising upcoming young guns will be able to develop such skills in some way. Though I fear it may get lost.
      These are the type of riders that keep this sport interesting for me. Not the wired robos controlled by a DS in a car. #BanRadios!

    • Also worth noting he’s won dozens and dozens of races with radios. Spain had simple tactics. Get Valverde to the start of the final climb in a good position. Valverdes tactic was then to stay with the lead group knowing it was extremely unlikely that anyone faster on the line would be able to get over the climb with him. Radios being there or not made not a jot of difference.

    • Woods made the comment that he didn’t know which podium spot the were sprinting for, as some of the break may have still been ahead… Valverde certainly knew when he crossed the line…

  34. My previous post had Woods as a dark horse – should have put an each way bet on.
    Boardman is a total legend, he has done everything in cycling: gold medal, yellow jersey, eloquent safety campaigner, coach to a young brad Wiggins, R&D for British cycling, successful entrepreneur; he deserves respect, BUT/ he is dour and proud of it and I wouldn’t have him on TV. David Miller gives a lot more racer insight.
    Shame about Valverde, I don’t like dopers who can’t ‘fess up. Bardets face was a picture at the end – so gutted, sign of a very steely competitor.

    • ‘I don’t like dopers who can’t ‘fess up’ – most cyclists in history.

      Or is it only the ones who are caught and don’t ‘fess up’?

  35. Thanks for the write up Mr Inrng.

    I really do wish commenters would refrain from the doping chat BS. It’s intensely boring and there is a place for it over on cyclingnews.

    I enjoyed the race – would have liked to see Tom D win but he obvs ran out of gas. He is by far the most accomplished cyclist this year in my opinion – is several 2nd/3rd/4ths in all the big races better than 1 big win?

    Congratulations to Valverde – you could see how much it meant to him just after the finish line. It will be inte3resting to see what kind of race there is in Yorkshire next year. One for the sprinters maybe?

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