The world cycling championships get under way today, with seven days of racing set to produce several new champions as Britain’s Mark Cavendish attempts to defend his road race crown on the final day of the competition on Sept. 23.
The Isle of Man rider, who has racked up 23 stage wins on the Tour de France, and became the first British rider since Tom Simpson in 1965 to triumph on the world stage last year on the roads of Copenhagen, is not one of the outright favorites on a rolling circuit suited more to punchers rather than outright sprinters.
The 267km route will feature the first 100km raced over the streets of several Limburg municpalities and two challenging climbs, before the final 10 laps over a 16.5km circuit and an ascent toward the finish before a slight dip to the line.
The first section of the route is almost identical to that used in the Amstel Gold races and suited to the likes of Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert, who has won the one-day classic in 2010 and last year and will fancy the rolling conditions.
However, Gilbert could only finish sixth during the 2012 Amstel Gold race and has also lost his Belgian road race and time-trial titles in the build-up to the championships, although a win on the ninth stage of the Vuelta a Espana will have boosted his confidence.
Newly crowned Vuelta champion Alberto Contador is part of a strong Spanish team, although the 29-year-old will only race the time-trial, while three-time world champion Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez will be contenders for the podium in the road race.
Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins is part of the British team, but will not attempt to better his silver medal in last year’s time-trial behind Germany’s Tony Martin as he also opts to concentrate on the road race and the Cavendish cause.
“Brad has opted out of riding the time-trial at the worlds. This year’s focus for him has been fully on the Tour de France and the Olympics, so to expect him to hold form going into the worlds is a big ask,” British Cycling director Dave Brailsford said.
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara has declined the opportunity to add to his four time-trial world titles as the 31-year-old continues to recover from a nasty fall during the closing stages of the Olympic road race in London.
The competition begins today with the return of the team time-trial and will feature outfits from the UCI World Tour and not national teams, while there is also a chance for Pro-Continental and Continental teams to qualify. The women will race over 34.2km with two climbs, while the men’s race covers 53.2km and both finish lines appearing after an ascent to the line at Valkenburg.
Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini has won the last two women’s road races, although she had to dig deep last year in Denmark to hold off Dutch legend Marianne Vos, who won gold and relegated Bronzini to fifth in the Olympics as she comes to what can be deemed her home championships as UCI World Tour leader.
Germany’s Judith Arndt is the defending champion in the women’s time-trial while there are also events for under-23 riders and juniors during the seven days of racing that feature 12 events.