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Swiss riders on 2020 worlds course preview — it’s hard

Next season is shaping up to the year of the climber — after Tokyo, the peloton will face a daunting world's course

Everyone’s already talking about how hard the Tokyo Olympic Games elite men’s road race route is.

There’s also growing buzz that the Martigny 2020 road cycling world championship course is equally as daunting. Some are already calling the route for the Swiss race the hardest in years, more challenging than Innsbruck from 2018, and perhaps the most grueling since Sallanches in 1980.

Swiss riders and staff got a close-up view of the route in a training ride Monday. They walked away impressed.

“I don’t remember seeing such a challenging parcours in a world championship,” said Swiss racer Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ) in a Swiss federation release. “The final part of the race will be very selective. The scenario will be unique, with a quick selection in the early stages of the race, and then a big show for the finale.”

The 2020 worlds is already being billed as one for the climbers.

The courses were revealed in September, with the accent on vertical. Though it doesn’t match the 6,000-vertical-meters of the legendary Sallanches course in 1980, it still packs a punch with nearly 4500m during the elite men’s 244m road course. Generating the most talk is the Côte de la Petite Forclaz, with an average grade of 10.2 percent at 4km. The climb is featured midway through each finishing circuit, so the men will hit it seven times.

It’s that sustained climb — in total of about 475 vertical meters per climb with ramps as steep as 14.5 percent — that has everyone buzzing.

“It’s a very beautiful parcours, really difficult. With the difference in altitude on the climb to the Petite Forclaz, it won’t be very fast,” said Michaël Schär (CCC Team). “The race will be very interesting and open. The leaders will be isolated early on.”

The finish is on the flats down in the valley floor at Martigny, assuring some wild dynamics in race tactics that will likely see only the strongest and fleetest of climbers being able to hang on.

“The climb up the Petite Forclaz is really difficult,” said Swiss national coach Marcello Albasini. “A selection will be made there, but the riders will then have to push to the finish line in Martigny.”