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The Spanish world championships next fall will not be nearly as difficult as first expected when Ponferrada, a small city of 80,000 inhabitants, was first awarded the event two years ago.
Tucked in a lush valley surrounded by steep, rugged mountains, Ponferrada was expected by many to deliver up a true climber’s course ideal for its stable of mountain goats, including Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodríguez, and Alejandro Valverde.
But after a first glimpse at the championships’ website on Friday, it seems the courses for the road race and the time trial do not break any new ground.
Both courses fit neatly within the formula of world championship competition over the past several editions, with a mostly flat time trial course for the time trial, and a hilly, but not overly challenging circuit course for the road races.
Instead of tackling the steep climbs ringing Ponferrada that harbor some of Europe’s last wild brown bears, the road race circuit stays well within tradition.
The 18.2km circuit features two climbs each lap, with 306 vertical meters each lap. Neither is terribly long or steep — the first climb is about 4km long with 200 vertical meters, the second 3km with another 100 vertical meters.
That adds up during the 254.8km distance, but hardly will present a chance for the peloton’s pure climbing specialists.
Still, after months of delays and even doubts about its validity, the organizers of the 2014 world championships are getting their act together.
Despite missing out on the traditional presentation for the next year’s world championships, which typically coincides with the current worlds, in this case Tuscany, the Ponferrada worlds look to be on track.
Last month, with the support of the Spanish cycling federation, former MARCA cycling journalist Josu Garai took the reins of the organizing committee.
On Friday, the race organization unveiled its website, and provided the first detailed look at how the road and time trial courses will look for the weeklong event September 21-28.
The 254.8km elite men’s course features 14 laps on the 18.2km circuit, which loops out to a dam and short climb at Bárcena, setting up a duel between attackers and the strong teams.
The course is not nearly as difficult as initially expected when Ponferrada was awarded the worlds.
Rumors that a climbing time trial would be on the menu were shot down when UCI officials visited Ponferrada last month, insisting that the time trial end on the same finishing straight as the road races.
The time trial course follows part of the road race circuit, with the opening 30km flat. The course includes a climb to the Bárcena dam, which will provide a challenge for the pure specialists late in the race. At 47.1km for the elite men, the route includes 458 meters of climbing, with one ramp as steep as 10 percent.
Team time trial
The team time trial course is largely flat, with a short but steep climb at the Villafranca de El Bierzo castle. The 57.1km TTT course opens the competition just a week after the conclusion of the Vuelta a España in nearby Galicia.
Schedule for the 2014 world championships
• Sunday, September 21: Elite team time trial; 36.15km for women, 57.1km for men
• Monday, September 22: Junior women’s time trial, 13.9km; U-23 time trial, 36.15km
• Tuesday, September 23: Junior men’s time trial, 29.5km; elite women’s time trial, 29.5km
• Wednesday, September 24: Elite men’s time trial, 47.1km
• Thursday, September 25: Road race training
• Friday, September 26: Junior women’s road race, 72.8km; U23 road race, 182km
• Saturday, September 27: Junior men’s road race, 127.4km; elite women’s road race, 127.4km
• Sunday, September 28: Elite men’s road race, 254.8km