UCI World Championships Preview
First, a quick apology for the fact that the Criterium Cycles blog has been a little quiet these last three weeks. Paul says he has had a serious bout of Man Flu, a condition so serious that it was apparently close to being life threatening. Rosie, his long suffering wife, suggested that if she found him moping around the house for much longer, that of itself was likely to be life threatening. That appeared to do the trick though we couldn’t possibly comment. Richard on the other hand claims he has been busy on other pressing matters of an Athletic nature. Either way, they’ve clearly both been slacking but (and in our best Jeremy Clarkson voice), “Good news – we’re back!” We have much to write about over the coming weeks, the first of which is the forthcoming UCI World Championships to be held in the beautiful Tyrolean city of Innsbruck, Austria. And if you found some of the pan flat courses of previous World Champs to be a little yawn inducing, worry no more. This one promises to be an absolute blast.
Innsbruck – the host city
Innsbruck is the capital of the western Austrian state of Tyrol. Perhaps best known for winter sports, the city hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics and the very first Winter Youth Olympics in 2012. It is situated in a broad valley between the high mountains of the Karwendel Alps to the north and the Patscherkofel and Serles to the south. With a beautiful city centre and decent roads not just in the city but in the surrounding region, it’s arguably the perfect location for a really tough, hilly and dramatic UCI World Championships.
The Programme and how to watch on TV
Everything kicks off on 23rd September with the Women’s and Men’s Team Time Trial. The 24th offers junior / U23 individual team trial trials but the first of the individual marquee events is on the 25th, the Women’s Elite Individual TT. The Men’s Elite Individual TT is on the 26th, the Women’s and Men’s junior road races are on the 27th and the Men’s U23 Road Race on the 28th.
Then the crescendo is reached with the Women’s Elite Road Race on Saturday 29th and the Men’s Elite Road Race on Sunday 30th.
The good news is that pretty much everything is live on Eurosport but BBC viewers are catered for as well. For the both the Women’s and Men’s Elite Road Races you can watch variously on BBC Red Button, BBC One and BBC Two. For BBC timings, check out this link to BBC TV Coverage of UCI Road World Championships 2018.
We’ll focus here on the Men’s Elite Road Race course because it’s the longest course but the reality is that all the races are going to be a supreme test and likely to bring out the best in whichever field is contesting them.
First to say it’s going to be a a genuine all rounder who is likely to win the road race. Climbing legs are essential; the Men’s course is 258.5km which is frightening enough but it features almost 4,700m of vertical climb. As the excellent cyclingstage.com website points out, that’s not dissimilar to this year’s Queen Stage on the Tour de France over the Cols of Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. That particular stage comprised 4,800m of climb. Another striking similarity is the finish which involved a fast and technical descent off the Col d’Aubisque as it does here in Innsbruck.
In fact, it is the end of the Innsbruck course that is likely to really sort out the runners and riders, especially in the Men’s Elite Road Race. The riders will set off from Kufstein and race for some 90km with the climb up to Gnadenwald (with its maximum gradient of around 14%) being the stand out moment. They they enter a mountainous circuit of around 23.9km which the women lap 3 times and the men 7. This ‘short’ lap may only be 23.9km but it features a climb that is 7.9 km with a max gradient of 5.7%. Nice.
However it is the last circuit of the Men’s Race that is especially mean. This ‘long’ lap features an additional loop of 7.1 km making it 31km in total and including the Hottinger Holl climb. This is 3.2km in length but has a maximum gradient of 28%. Yep, you read that right – 28%. After the summit, there is then the aforementioned fast descent before a flat run to the line of 2km. So if you want to win, just make sure you can climb better than anyone, descend better than anyone and quite possibly sprint for the line better than anyone. Easy then.
The ones to watch
We really think it’s the climbers who can also descend superbly that will have the distinct advantage. The last 2km is flat but if the climbers can drop the strong men on that Holl climb and then hold them off on the descent, they should have enough in the tank. For us that means Sagan is less likely to be in the mix this year but then again we’re talking about Peter Sagan so don’t write him off yet.
Julian Alaphilippe has to be on most people’s list of favourites having taken the KOM jersey at this year’s Tour and the GC at the Tour of Britain. Then again, Primoz Roglic won the Queen stage (Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque) on this year’s Tour de France doing exactly then what is likely to be need in Innsbruck – smash the climb, nail the descent and hold on so he’s near the top of our list. And of course we’d love to see a Bianchi cross the line first so Primoz get’s our ‘heart’ vote even if Alaphalippe just nicks the ‘head’ vote.
Michal Kwiatkowski and Simon Yates would have been in our ‘hot list’ given their excellent climbing and jolly fine descending skills but Kwiatkowski looked ever so slightly below par at the Vuelta and as for Simon Yates, we would understand if he was feeling a little jaded after his wonderful win. And definitely watch out for Nibali. He may appear to have treated the Vuelta as a 3 week training ride but with the World’s coming up, maybe that was exactly the right thing to do.
So we’re going for one of Alaphilippe, Roglic or Nibali in Group 1 with Yates, Mollema and Bardet in our Group 2. Sagan is a dark horse but only because of that final climb. If he’s there or thereabouts on that, then who knows.
Either way, it’s going to be a cracking race so make sure you tune in on 29th September for the Women’s Elite Road Race (where we can’t really see past either Anna van der Breggen or Annemiek van Vleuten thanks to their climbing abilities but you never know) and the Men’s Elite Road Race on 30th September. And here’s to more World Championships to be held in high mountains.