World Championships Road Race Preview

The final race of the World Championships is this Sunday and while some riders haven’t made the journey to Australia, there’s a galactic startlist an open course awaits that offers something for grand tour champions and one day heroes alike.

The Course: 267km plus 7km of neutral start and almost 4,000m of vertical gain. After a procession down the coast it’s inland to climb Mount Keira once, this is a big climb but the summit is 226km from the finish. The comes 12 laps of the 17.1km circuit around Wollongong with plenty of corners but the roads are wide and predictable. It’s got two climbs, the unmarked rise of Dumfries Avenue followed by the official climb of Mount Pleasant. This climb is 1.1km at 7% but irregular and has some steep pitches, 12 times up will do plenty of damage. On the last lap it’s downhill and through some bends to the finish, consensus is that a rider only needs a small gap to stay away.

The Contenders: 4,000m of climbing is comparable to a smaller Alpine stage in a grand tour or a hilly one day classic, making the Wollongong circuit is accessible to many. The defining aspect should the reaction to the circuit and the tactical plans different teams bring, some will want to put a lid on it, others need to blow the race apart.

A year ago the Belgians were schooled on their home course. They had a viable plan to get Wout van Aert to the finish so he could unleash his sprint but others, including Remco Evenepoel, launched very early which shredded the field and made for an uncontrollable day. This can they deploy the same tactic again with van Aert a strong card to play in the finish as he can hope to clean up in a sprint but also go with any attacks, he’s sat out the time trial and is all in for this. Evenepoel can also attack but this time as late as possible, only before the others and as ever his best chance of winning is riding the field off his wheel to to go solo. Belgium have a strong team with the likes of Jasper Stuyven being deployed as a helper but he can always have his say as well.

The Netherlands can try a similar plan with Mathieu van der Poel as the sprint-late move plan and both Bauke Mollema and Dylan van Baarle as late breakaway cards who can attack when others least expect on some unheralded part of the course and leave the chasers in a stand-off behind. Van der Poel can win on this course but it’s towards the top end of his range, he’ll want his team to smother the race before he makes his move and that’s also a risk, that he goes too soon or too big.

Julian Alaphilippe has enjoyed two years in the rainbow jersey and openly talking about how happy he’d be to see a French team mate wear the jersey, both because he would but the topic arises because he’s had a torrid season and is short of form. He’s still an outsider given his punch but Benoît Cosnefroy is a better form pick and Valentin Madouas a long range card to play with Christophe Laporte a sprint card as well but all are outsiders rather than.

Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) can do it all and to win, he almost has to because he hasn’t got a big team even if Tratnik and Polanc can help late into the race. Now he’d prefer laps of Mount Keira rather than Mount Pleasant but still packs a big sprint, especially after a hard race. If he could replay the Ronde again he might well have won it, such is his range.

Biniam Girmay (Eritrea) has an even smaller team than the Slovenians and they can’t shape the race either but they’ll be able to provide ample support, shielding him and fetching supplies. Second in the U23 race last year, he’s versatile but still inexperienced but this is less of an issue for the Worlds which is “just” a circuit race, there’s not the same imperative to learn the lay of the land, young winners often triumph in the Worlds when it can take years to master a Monument classic.

Home hopes rest on Michael Matthews (Australia) who remains a formidable rider and has had this race in mind for a long time. But how to achieve the alchemy of turning bronze into gold, because you can see him placing but if there’s a sprint can he play it cool enough to beat van Aert, if there’s a late attack can outfox Pogačar?

Ethan Hayter (Great Britain) lost out in the time trial thanks to a mechanical and is a versatile rider but untested over such a long distance. Fred Wright keeps making top-10s but would swap all that for a win today but how, it’s like the Tour de France stage to Saint-Etienne when he was powerless to contain Mads Pedersen.

Italy’s got more dark horses than a paddock during a powercut. Andrea Bagioli has a good sprint, Alberto Bettiol can barge clear à la Mollema and Lorenzo Rota is a stealth pick but the Intermarché boys are unstoppable. Against them this is a difficult circuit for sneaky outsider moves with the wide roads and visibility along sections.

Among the others, Magnus Cort (Denmark) is what Australians call a “smokey” and compatriot Mathias Skjelmose is moving well. Spain have Ivan Garcia Cortina and Marc Soler, one to go all in for the sprint from a reduced group, the other to go loco. Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) can do what team mate Feodorov did the U23 race and win by brute force, he won the U23 race himself atop the Cauberg years ago and some liken Mount Pleasant to the Limburg launchpad.

Wout van Aert, Tadej Pogačar
Remco Evenepoel, Mathieu van der Poel
Girmay, Matthews, Cosnefroy
Bettiol, Madouas, Cort, Bagioli, Stuyven, Alaphilippe

Weather: sunny and a top temperature of 20°C, Sunny. Light SE wind of 15-20 km/h.

TV: live from start to finish, the race begins at 10.15am and finishes around 4.50pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. This is 2.15am-8.50am CEST in Europe and 8.15pm-2.50am EST in the US.

The Worlds is a prestigious race but normally – but not always, see Leuven last year – the race ratchets up lap by lap so you can tune for the final hour or two and usually catch the decisive moves.

34 thoughts on “World Championships Road Race Preview”

    • It’d be nice, he’s on the up and is a dynamic and interesting rider.

      I need to look more into the politics of Eritrea, his team have given him a new frame painted in the Eritrean colours but the country’s a rough place, to put it mildly. Some call it the “North Korea of Africa”. It’s a certainly despotic and tyrannical regime so I’ve got reserves here, but it has a huge diaspora abroad (in part because hundreds of thousands of people have managed to escape at their peril) so separating those who cheer someone else thriving abroad from the Afwerki supporters is hard.

      Anyway, good luck to him tomorrow.

  1. Van der Poel for me, just ‘got a feeling’. Wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Girmay win. Seems bizarre that Pedersen isn’t there. Should be a good race, I’ll set my alarm to watch the last couple of hours.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alaphilippe put his own spin on the way AvV won the women’s race.

    Work all day for a teammate, find himself in a position to surprise a group too busy looking at each other.

    • The weather helped and was extremely scenic, too (apparently, not as much on Sunday), but the last 40 kms at least of the women race were just great. The general level was also very high. A pleasure to watch – once more.

  3. I think the big story pre race is who is not there. Valverde, with seven medals and despite his age, is perfect for the course, sad not to see him bow out with a last ride in his national colours. But no Pidcock, Carapaz, Roglic, Yates, Thomas. Pro cycling stats has a list.

    • Pidcock, Carapaz and to a lesser degree Roglic are losses but neither Yates has ever done anything in a one day race and Thomas more or less goes into hibernation after the Tour.

      • Adam Yates is a decent one day racer, especially in the second half of the year, albeit not a prolific winner of course; anyway, besides winning San Sebastián he’s got several top quality podia and top-5, Monuments included, but, as I noted below, the Worlds still don’t look good for him (a bit like Roglic). However, it’s unfair to say he never did anything in one-day races, which on turn perfectly applies to his brother, surprisingly, in a sense (riders are not trump cards, again…). As it is unfair to say that Simon is a dull racer… which applies to Adam 😛

        Unless he changes his calendar, and it may not be enough, Carapaz definitely isn’t an Autumn rider.

    • Thomas? The Yates? Why not Froomey? I don’t know if G and the twins ever finished three ME Road Races… among the three of them through their whole careers, let alone getting any top 20 or so.
      I appreciate them, but the Worlds aren’t their race, really, as they aren’t Roglic’s or Carapaz’, not for now at least. It’s a mix of factors, evidently, but although on paper one could expect such riders to do reasonably well in a race of these characteristics, well, they simply tend not to (Roglic only once looked to have a vaguely significant finale, in Imola, and he was really really spent). Yeah, Roglic did great in Autumn say at Emilia or other Italian Classics, but then fell relatively short at Lombardia or the Worlds, compared to how strong he had looked in shorter Italian races. Probably he feels more at ease (with his current calendar) just stopping with the Vuelta. Not to speak of Carapaz! Of course he won the Olympics… in August! Riders are not trump card, which is why startlist quality by PCS is a gross tool (their analysis are better, in fact, because they delve into many more combined aspects) and which is also why, say, Italy won’t ever miss Ulissi in a Worlds ME lineup.

      Pidcock is a different story since we just don’t know and he looked quite good in Belgium, but since he himself called for rest, I suspect he wouldn’t be a force.

  4. Would be happy to be proven wrong, but I’m not seeing it for Bini. 4000m is 3x that of Ghent W and this parcours is longer as well. Young riders often sneak a win when the big guns are looking at each other, but Bini has already beaten van Aert and VdP and they definitely respect his finish.

    Of the long shots I think Cosnefroy is interesting. Placed in Amstel and Brabantse Pijl, and of course won in Quebec so his form is good. And (if his form is good) everyone will be looking at Alaphilippe.

    Actually I think the best sprinter after 270 km and 4000m of climbing is Pogacar. As long as there’s no heat wave!

  5. In a strange twist of fate the event is being held in australia and i can’t actually watch it. In a normal year it held in europe and we can watch all the broadcast.
    Channel 9 is the host broadcaster and they are not interested in cycling so i have no idea why they would bid for it. We will probably get the last 90 minutes or so of the race with 50% adds and i presume some commentary team which will probably contain a token cyclist and an over the top commentator who practically never watches cycling but is very good at promoting other channel 9 programming. When add free GCN does not have a race its immediately a let down.

    • SBS didn’t even bid for the rights 🙁

      Kind of the reverse of the Tour de France situation where SBS lock it down and we aren’t allowed to choose an alternative like GCN+

    • visiting oz myself to watch, er see family. took out a month free trial with Stan to watch live, but all races also available in full on catch-up.

  6. I am no less than disgusted at the likes of Ineos, Cofidis and Movistar not letting their riders do the Worlds. Unacceptable. Also shows what a bad idea it is to hold the Championship outside of Europe.

      • And it really is only occasionally, the last time having been 6 years ago in Qatar.

        Increasing it to once every 3-4 on average might help the European federations do a more competent job with the logistics, instead of having to re-learn it all.
        – planning ahead to share the cost of sending a container of freight by sea rather than taking everything on passenger flights.
        – coordinating some of the shipping with trade teams which will contest pro races in the region (i.e. have a bunch of bikes/wheels etc shipped to Adelaide for the 2023 TDU, not back to Europe) or plan on not bringing much of it home by selling it on to local domestic teams (or Pacific Island nations in the case of an Australian edition).
        – booking suitable accommodation, not at a notorious party spot in another city 100km away and next to an airport runway.

  7. Teams are thinking of star riders getting as many UCI WT points as possible and we’ll be having this same conversation in 3 years time. If the UCI really want the best riders at the top races then they’ll have to start looking at their system.

      • Yes, the UCI owning the Worlds mean they can award a huge amount of points to their race. I think this year the location had an impact, it was not just releasing riders for a race but the approach before to avoid jetlag and now the return phase too.

        In an interview over the weekend UCI President Lappartient said they’d look again at the points scale. Yes a Tour stage win is huge but given it much more points has consequences, it’ll be interesting to see how they work this out.

    • Pressure and media excitement will build up even more after this. Cue months of the Belgian media speculating that both De Ronde and the Tour in the same season is on the cards.

    • Yes congrats to remco. At the beginning of the year of was skeptical because the hype was way past his results but he has truly followed through.

      Sidenote. You are probably aware of what happened under the Belgium King and the congo so maybe not in the best taste to mention it so.

    • I am quite afraid for remco coming months : he had so good season this year. He won almost everything he could have hopes! How can he improve that? How to find the motivation? The tour?
      Next to that he is getting married this winter. And he is still a kid who needs guidance.
      He will be granted with awards this winter, many sollicitations, … and all the flemish press behind him.
      Frankly I would not be too surprised to see a dip, hopefully it is a dip à la MvdP, who still lands the ronde this year!
      Anyway, it is probably too soon to discuss this just after a big victory. big congrats. What a rider.

  8. I dragged my family along to this. I thought it was a pretty good effort from a country that generally dislikes cyclists. Course and location seemed pretty good which is hard to admit because I generally don’t rate The Gong.

    My kids were punching on as Evenpoel went across the line so I suspect I haven’t sparked anything there but you never know.

  9. Mollema and Dylan Groenewegen as the men to try and make it happen. Van der Poel can win from any situation, even a sprint but he’s also been winning by attacking hard on the climbs and then soloing to the finish, as he did in the Amstel Gold Race. The Dutch also have a strong team with the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk able to help out and also having a say in the outcome.

    France have a number of cards to play with Julian Alaphilippe the obvious one. He can try and solo away on the climbs or even attack from distance but he’s also got a fast finish. Thibaut Pinot is their other big name but he’s had a trying season, he was going well in the Vuelta but then got sick and had to abandon. If he’s on a good day he can win from a group but he’

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