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World Championships Road Race Preview

After plenty of exciting races this week, the final event and one probably better enjoyed from the sofa or a local pub given the harsh weather forecast and almost 300km from neutralised start to the finish. Mathieu van der Poel is the obvious pick but can he concentrate all day long?

The Route: 280km plus a twenty minute neutralised roll out from Leeds make this a challenger to Milan-Sanremo for the longest race of the year. There’s 180km across the Yorkshire Dales, first north and then back south and often on hard roads that rise, fall, twist and turn and are exposed to the wind. It’s tempting to see all of this as a long transition phase but squads without a house sprinter need to exploit this section to toughen up the race and it contributes plenty to the 3,500m of vertical gain.

A revised course of 261km because of the heavy rain and weather alert, the race still starts in Leeds but cuts out plenty of the Moors section. Then come seven nine laps of a 13.8km circuit around Harrogate. The circuit has two climbs, Harlow Moor (1km at 5.2%) and Otley Road (1.5km at 3.2%) which don’t sound like much but they tighten up at the top with steeper gradients and the whole circuit is lumpy and technical at times. The finish includes a rise in the final kilometre before flattening out to the line.


The Contenders: Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) is the talk of the town. Each time you think of a problem for Sunday, he can show an example of where he’s come out on top. The long distance? See his Amstel Gold Race where he deployed his now infamous long sprint after 265km. The technical circuit, he’s got skills to rival Peter Sagan. He’s in form after winning in several different ways in the Tour of Britain, this versatility gives him options as he needn’t wait for the sprint. TAphe Netherlands bring a team in his service although Niki Terpstra and Mike Teunissen could be cards to play too. Still, he’s far from invincible and if he’s in the mix for the sprint he’ll have competition to the point where the Dutch team will need to work hard to ensure rivals, the pure sprinters, are dropped or just too tired at the finish.


Enjoyed the racing so far this week? Along with Nils Eekhoff – DQ’d after winning the U23 race – someone who might not have is Alexander Kristoff (Norway) because all the attacks and small groups contesting the finish in Harrogate are not his cup of tea. He’d like a bunch sprint from 50 or more riders where he’s still in contention, preferably at the end of a grim day’s riding. Bad weather is likely but so is a lively race although the pros tend to ride a more controlled race and if you’re thinking Yorkshire’s too hilly for him, you could be right but Bergen in 2017 had more climbing metres. In case of a sprint Sam Bennett (Ireland) is an obvious pick too, he’s had a great season and become a very dependable sprinter and he’s versatile too, he can cope with some climbing. A sprint finish? Then Pascal Ackermann is one to watch but it’s up to to rivals to make the race hard and German team mate John Degenkolb is perhaps more versatile for this course but less of a bankable pick.


British hopes rest on Ben Swift. He’s got a low win rate but can pop-up for high finishes in target races like Milan-Sanremo so he’s a contender but a long shot, a possible top-5 but hard to see the win.


Staying with the sprinters brings us to Peter Sagan (Slovakia). He lost out last year… when they designed the course for Innsbruck and now he’s back to a circuit that suits. He’s had a season like others, strong in the classics but short of expectations before a seemingly inevitable green jersey in the Tour. Which means a rainbow jersey seems logical and he’s starting to show form with a good result in the GP Québec. Michael Matthews (Australia) can often do what Sagan does and more. Perhaps it’s just anecdotal but he often seems to thrive in sunny conditions.

Julian Alaphilippe (France) was a big favourite last year but cracked on the final climb. Apparently his late season flourish at the Tour of Slovakia and the Tour of Britain left him rinsed and so this time he’s come to the worlds with less racing of late although after a packed season that started with a win in January, included Milan-Sanremo, Flèche Wallonne and of course, that Tour de France. You’d forgive him for putting his feet up but this means less pressure. But how to win? He says he’s in “perfect” form and is quick out of a small group and can go solo too but needs a hard race but if the bunch shrinks then there’s still plenty of competition. Tony Gallopin and Benoît Cosnefroy are long picks but the team is all for one here.


We’re back to the Greg Van Avermaet of old, rather than “Golden Greg”, his story this season has been one where he’s shaped races and been in the mix but the wins have been hard. Still he’s just won the GP de Montréal and took a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire too. But he’s still a rider who should feature and it’d be a surprise if he’s not in the top-5 but how to win? There are faster finishers and he rarely goes solo, he needs a very tough race to grind down his rivals but on a circuit it’ll be hard, especially as the Worlds rarely gets lively until the final hour. The same for Philippe Gilbert who wins less these days but is still capable of big results especially by attacking from far out and the Belgians have more cards to play, Oliver Naesen is strong but a loyal team mate while Dylan Teuns is punchy and Tim Wellens often thrives in the rain. Remco Evenepoel is a big interest too and keeps surprising, worth remembering given today is surely the longest ride he’ll do but to cover myself he gets one chainring below… just in case.


Alexey Lutsenko is in form and a tough rider to beat. His problem is his “route 1” strategy, he’s not the craftiest of types nor the best on a technical circuit but for brute force the Kazakh is one to watch.


Alejandro Valverde is an outsider, this isn’t a circuit for him but he’s still capable of winning on multiple terrain and Spanish team mate Ivan Garcia Cortina is a long shot.


Italy bring a strong team with the versatile and efficient Matteo Trentin as their best shot and he’s good at picking off tough races and in form too. Alberto Bettiol will like the long distance too.

Among the others Michael Valgren (Denmark) has had a discreet season but one to watch for the way he can power clear late in the race and Denmark have more options with Magnus Cort and Mads Pedersen. Tanel Kangert (Estonia) is not someone to gift a gap to.

Mathieu van der Poel, Peter Sagan
Julian Alaphilippe, GVA
Trentin, Gilbert, Matthews, Bennett
Evenpoel, Kristoff, Štybar, Lutsenko, Valgren, Swift, Ackermann, Wellens, Colbrelli, Garcia Cortina, Pedersen


The Weather: wet and cold, it will rain throughout the day with a top temperature of 12°C with a northerly wind which could reach 25km/h in the final hour of the race.

TV: live from start to finish, 8.40am t0 3.40pm UK time / 9.40am-3.40pm CEST.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MR TIM MITCHELL Saturday, 28 September 2019, 7:25 pm

    Sorry Mr Ring. I out this question on your previous blog just as you posted this. This is a better place.

    Bit of a question. I went to watch the World’s today – it was a grim ride,but a great day.

    Loads of pro team buses were there. How does that work. Team GB had the Ineos bus,yet Ineos don’t have a female team and the team had riders who ride for other teams, who also had busses there.

    So where does, for instance, a Spanish rider who rides for Ineos go. The Movistar bus which was clearly team Espana, or his trade team bus?

    My head says MVDP, heart JA. Either way I have abandoned a ride to Harrogate for the Train. The forecast is shocking and I am sure this will help pick the winner.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 September 2019, 11:24 am

      The buses are “borrowed” by the national team so a rider tends to go there. There’s nothing in particular on the bus otherwise for them although today some will be thinking whether their national or trade team has the better hot shower and trying to barge in either way.

  • Anand Saturday, 28 September 2019, 7:38 pm

    Kristoff have played it cool,”maybe too hard”, but saying after his recon, the parcours is not at all so hard as some has announced before.

    Trentin and Kristoff to do a Flanders 15-like thing. They are both great sprinters after hard races so it will be exciting, not like Terpstra 15.

    I really hope Evenopoel and MvdP don’t win, not that I dislike them, but it would just be so ridiculous.

    Gilbert from 50K out is my best bet.

    Bennett, really?

  • Hamilton Saturday, 28 September 2019, 8:10 pm

    Mvdp already said who’s the man to mark. Phil Gil. The wallon will sneak way last lap and win solo. Rest of the podium trentin and gva.

    • Sean Sunday, 29 September 2019, 7:54 am

      Gilbert was my top pick but now I’ve seen the circuit I don’t think the race will be selective enough. I think a reduced peloton will break up on the last lap but that won’t be early enough for him.

      To me MvdP looks strongest but I don’t think he has the patience. I’m now thinking Sagan is top favorite but mostly because he has the experience. This could be the year he really needed more teammates.

  • Richard S Saturday, 28 September 2019, 8:54 pm

    Don’t underestimate how bad the weather will be and how rough the roads are. The first part of the race through the Dales could be Florence 2013 wet, out into a cold headwind on gravel set in tar. I’m expecting a small group of hard men to contest the finish and an attritional sprint. My favourites are MvdP, Sagan, GVA, Gilbert and Trentin, with Alaphilippe and Valverde as jokers, and Kristoff, Bennet and Ackermann requiring the race of their lives to be in the mix.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 29 September 2019, 5:26 am

      A Spring Classics race in Autumn, minus the Quickstep Wolf Pack.
      The nearest comparable team is the Belgians but can they click like the proprietary flooring?
      I’m not confident that they can.

      MvdP looked imperious in the Tour of Britain, so much so that it was Trentin that looked like the young apprentice.
      So, a Spring Classics race in Autumn minus the Wolf Pack points to, for me, a Sagan that has to be in prime form or MvdP who is.

      The weather and roughcast roads certainly require some Northern Soul and the appropriate sound track for me is always NF Porter’s metronomic standard –

  • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 28 September 2019, 9:00 pm

    Since the Vuelta ive had a feeling that Gilbert will win this.

    • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 29 September 2019, 10:23 am

      Same for me.
      His 2 stage wins were in very different routes, and very convincing too. That hill in Bilbo is not his thing normally. I think he is in very good form. And this guy is a killer, it is very tough to beat him when in a small group.
      Bad weather and wind would also play in his favour.

  • Rb Saturday, 28 September 2019, 10:09 pm

    For me it’s between Trentin and Phil Gil. The weather is going to be shocking.

    Hats off to AVV today, incredible ride.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 28 September 2019, 11:24 pm

    After a series of really exciting races this week, I predict the pro men will make it a dull race, like so often.
    When in every other race the hard climbs in the countryside made a difference, they will slow process over them and come as a peloton to the final circuit. Wake me up if otherwise.

  • Gareth Sunday, 29 September 2019, 12:18 am

    I think a lot of the races have been split up by the winds on top of the climbs.

    Here the climbs aren’t to peaks as such but to moors and plateaus which get whipped by the wind so a tough climb sees the strongest up front and then cross winds or headwinds across the top make it hard for anyone to bridge back to the front.

    I don’t think we’ve yet seen a real bunch make it to Harrogate because I don’t think the circuit is as tough as it’s looked so far. It is technical though so still classics specialists to the fore.

  • piwakawaka Sunday, 29 September 2019, 6:14 am

    Worlds is the perfect race for 3 hours, full gas from the start to finish, vary the courses but race 3 hours, I think you’d see a lot more ‘racing’ and excitement, looking forward to it, sounds grim!

  • Mendip5000 Sunday, 29 September 2019, 7:50 am

    The welcome return of the ‘ring. Good to have your thoughts.

    I was wondering about the trade team busses too, having followed the CCC bus into Harrogate. I had a great day in the sun watching the Women’s Road Race. First time Mrs 5000 has seen a bike race and she enjoyed it, knowing the roads.

    We’ll be at home for the Men’s race, cheering for GVA.

  • Ian Anderson Sunday, 29 September 2019, 8:29 am

    Although 2014 was some time ago now, both Sagan and Kristoff finished in the top 10 of that year’s first TdF stage after a near identical Yorkshire moorland route. It is exposed yes, the weather is due to be ‘biblical’ yes, there are three short steep ramps up on the moors and some following downhill ski runs that will test the nerves but nothing that will challenge any of the classics specialists too much.

    I suspect a lot of folk from warmer climates will be in the bus home fairly early but we should see a reasonable group of contenders arrive together for the circuit and those seven laps will hurt after the moorland ‘warm up’ (that was the TdF stage in 2014). The circuit on its own is manageable but with the sap drawn by the 200km before and seven times round the digs and twists of this 14km loop… well I for one am very much looking forward to a great race indeed best experienced from the sofa.

  • RQS Sunday, 29 September 2019, 8:30 am

    Kudos to Van Vleuten for going at 100km out and winning, but I actually feel a bit disappointed (if not angry) that the rest of the women could not drag her back that far out. There’s something of the 1996 Paris Roubaix about the win if they could not keep her dangled on a string before closing the gap.

    Any how the WC races always seem a little odd because the National teams just aren’t as big and as strong as the trade teams. You get a sense of what smaller teams might mean for the TdF. None of them have the ability to reel in breaks if they get a critical mass. And, very often once riders are off the back and the peloton loses touch it’s game over as there is very little collusion between countries to close down breaks. We’ve seen teams work extremely hard to give their rider a shot, and then they barely place. The Dutch seem to have it nailed so MVDP it is.

  • IAN ANDERSON Sunday, 29 September 2019, 8:35 am

    Route change just announced! Nine laps now and missing out all the climbs except Kidstones.

    • DJW Sunday, 29 September 2019, 9:39 am

      That’s unfortunate, and I was just going to suggest that it was, with the rain, distance and difficult terrain, much more a survival of the toughest rather than the fittest and fastest route. Now considerably more tame and surely a boost for Bennett, Trentin, Kristoff, or even Ackermann.

  • Okatzz Sunday, 29 September 2019, 8:55 am
  • Jonys Sunday, 29 September 2019, 9:04 am

    Did you ever hear about the name Zdenek Stybar???

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 September 2019, 10:16 am

      When I looked the other day he wasn’t on the start list. A chainring for him today, a contender who can get some big wins but he’s an inferquent winner, the same for Colbrelli who gets added above too.

  • Larry T Sunday, 29 September 2019, 9:15 am

    Excellent preview, thanks! We’ll check on things this morning, then ride our own damn bikes for an hour or two before coming back for the finale, including the winning moves (we hope).
    Our big-screen TV didn’t make it here in time 🙁 but we still have a day left on our apartment rental so we’ll stream it there on a decent-sized screen. Forza Azzurri!!!

  • Sheff Sunday, 29 September 2019, 10:47 am

    Good write up. Pedantic little comment: they don’t go through the Moors, but the Yorkshire Dales. North York Moors is a national park East of York near the coast (often used in the Tour de Yorkshire)

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 29 September 2019, 11:21 am

      Thanks, and fixed for the next reader.

      • Sheff Sunday, 29 September 2019, 11:04 pm

        It’s an easy mistake to make, as many of the hills in the Yorkshire Dales or further south in the Peak District are called ‘moor’

  • Anonymous Sunday, 29 September 2019, 12:24 pm

    I think a lesser known rider who thrives in these conditions may win. Don’t know which one.

  • KevinR Sunday, 29 September 2019, 3:23 pm

    I’m watching in England and the BBC commentator is crap. Each rider he talks about is discussed in terms of grand tour stages and wins.
    This is going to be about survival of the strongest. Could well have a surprise winner.

  • Morten Reippuert Sunday, 29 September 2019, 5:03 pm


    • Sean Sunday, 29 September 2019, 5:20 pm

      You’re mad

  • Mad Black Monday, 30 September 2019, 3:02 am

    A tip of the hat to you Mr.Rng for including Pederson with one chain ring. Exceptional display of inside cycling knowledge.
    Great to have you back, too!