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The 2021 UCI Road World Championships are set to roll out this weekend, and a new set of rainbow jerseys will be allocated to some strong-legged recipients.
From defending champions Julian Alaphilippe and Anna van der Breggen to red-hot racers Wout van Aert and Annemiek van Vleuten, an all-star cast will be hunting time trial and road race glory in a week of racing through Flanders, the iconic heart of pro cycling.
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Here’s your cheat sheet for this year’s world championships, covering all you need to know from this Sunday’s curtain-raising time trial to the final kilometer of the road race next weekend.
Expect hills, cobbles, narrow streets, and road furniture in this year’s road races. Set deep in Belgium’s classics country, this year’s road championships will be as tough as any of spring’s most savage races.
The men’s race packs 2,500 meters of ascent across more than 40 climbs into its 268-kilometer labyrinthine journey from Antwerp into Leuven. The women’s race brings a similarly harrowing number of hills, accumulating around 1,050m of vert across its 157.7km parcours.
The densely packed ascents and notoriously fiddly Belgian roads will make for furious, uncontrollable racing.
“I think it’s very interesting and it has a little bit of everything. It makes it also very complex because there will be a lot of different scenarios possible,” Marianne Vos told VeloNews. “It’s very difficult to predict.”
Just like in the spring classics, riders well adapted to the battering across repeat short climbs and with knowledge of the cluttered streets could thrive – putting home riders at the front of the pack.
“In theory, it should suit half of Belgium,” forecasted Sep Vanmarcke.
The elite races combine two circuits, a shorter lap of host city Leuven and a longer loop outside of town in the Flandrien countryside. The finals will play out over two and a half laps of the Leuven loop, which is punctuated by four climbs and a grinding uphill to the finish.
The final climb of the Sin Antoniusberg is described by organizers as “short, steep and narrow, partly covered in cobblestones.” Sounds good to us.
The men’s U23 road race is 161km and hilly as heck while the men’s and women’s junior races are 121 and 75km respectively. There still is no U23 women’s road race.
The time trial specialists will be pleased to hear their race in coastal city Brugges is a much more straightforward affair. Playing out on largely wide, straight roads and with barely a bump in sight, the men’s race of 43km and women’s race of 30km are those for the powerhouses.
The U23 men’s time trial is exactly the same as the women’s elite test. The junior men’s and women’s TTs are 22 and 19km long respectively.
Route maps and elevation:
Women’s elite road race:
Men’s elite road race:
Riders to watch
Women’s elite road race: Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Marlen Reusser (Switzerland), Coryn Rivera (USA), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (South Africa), and the whole Dutch team (particularly: Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos, Demi Vollering, and newly crowned European champ Ellen van Dijk).
Men’s elite road race: Wout van Aert (Belgium), Julian Alaphilippe (France), Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglic (both Slovenia), Tom Pidcock (Great Britain), Magnus Cort (Denmark), Bauke Mollema (Netherlands), Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), Quinn Simmons (USA), Matteo Trentin, and this weekend’s Euros winner, Sonny Colbrelli (both Italy).
Uncertainty remains over Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel – but if he’s on the startline, expect him to have a major part to play.
Women’s elite time trial: Amber Neben (USA), Marlen Reusser (Switzerland), Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein (both Germany), Grace Brown (Australia), Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, and Ellen van Dijk (all Netherlands).
American sensation Chloe Dygert will not race due to ongoing injuries.
Men’s elite time trial: Wout van Aert (Belgium), Stefan Küng (Switzerland), Rohan Dennis (Australia), Filippo Ganna (Italy) Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), Lawson Craddock (USA). Tom Dumoulin will be unable to fight for his second TT title after being caught in a training crash earlier this month. Olympic champ Roglič has decided to not race.
- Sunday, September 19 – Elite Men’s Time Trial
- Monday, September 20 – Elite Women and U23 Men’s Time Trials
- Tuesday, September 21 – Junior Women and Junior Men’s Time Trials
- Wednesday, September 22 – Mixed Team Time Trial Relay
- Friday, September 24 – U23 Men and Junior Men’s Road Races
- Saturday, September 25 – Junior Women and Elite Women’s Road Races
- Sunday, September 26 – Elite Men’s Road Race
How to watch:
The full week of racing will be available to watch in the USA on FloBikes. Viewers in Europe and the UK can tune in via GCN / Eurosport.