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Italy questions the UCI’s idea to shorten worlds

Concerned about the potential for extreme temperatures, the UCI is considering shortening the worlds road race to just 106.4 kilometers

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The UCI’s plan to slash the world championship road race by 150 kilometers in the case of extreme heat would be like moving the goalposts minutes before a match, and the Italian team isn’t happy about the potential change.

The UCI said Friday that it could cut out the first point-to-point section of the road race and leave only the seven 15.2km circuits on the Pearl island. The expected 95F-degree heat is a concern for the governing body. Team Italy says, even with the heat concern in Qatar, it needs to know in advance.

“It’d be good to know all of this beforehand,” Italy’s team director, Davide Cassani told Tutto Bici.

“I’ve made my team selection based on a certain type of course, and it’d be good to know as soon as possible if they really would reduce the race to [106.4] kilometers.”

Reducing the race from 257.5km to 106.4km would make a kermesse out of a world championship title race. It could become one of the shortest races in the UCI’s history, since it first started hosting worlds in 1927 when Alfredo Binda won.

The mercury is expected to rise only to 95°F next Sunday so the UCI may not need to act. But last year around the same time, for example, heat in nearby Abu Dhabi zapped the peloton and reduced it to a snail’s pace. If the winds do not change in the Persian Gulf, worlds may go ahead without a hitch. Otherwise, the UCI will step in.

“A four-member group of experts will examine the weather forecast before each road race,” the UCI said in a press release Friday. “Daily checks of the temperature will be conducted by two UCI representatives using thermal stress indicators.

“The UCI will take decisions after consulting this group of experts, the President of the Athletes’ Commission Bobbie Traksel and the President of the Commissaires’ Panel Ingo Rees.

“The following measures may be decided in the event of high temperatures: for the men’s elite road race, to reduce the 150km initial distance, for all other road races, to reduce the number of laps of the circuit.”

Only the men’s race starts with a run north along the coast and back south Doha. The women’s and under-23’s races will run on the Pearl circuit, but the number of laps could be cut if the experts believe necessary.

Many fans hope for wind — not heat — to play its hand. As in the Tour of Qatar, it could blow the peloton into echelons and allow classics riders like Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step) to take advantage. Otherwise, a sprint is expected among the high rises on the island that Qatar built at an estimated $15 billion.

“Personally, I hope that we don’t end up racing a worlds of only [100] kilometers,” added Cassani. “We are going to just have to wait and see.”

Italy selected a team led by Elia Viviani (Sky), winner of the Omnium on the track at the Olympics, and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo). Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) will lead the U.S. team.

John Lelangue, the national federation’s director of sport, said that he and the local organizers created a challenging circuit for the UCI’s first Worlds in the Middle East. He explained the wind and constant change of direction will help decide the rainbow jersey wearer.

“We can expect some surprises,” Lelangue said. “It is a very technical circuit, and even if it is flat – that’s something that we cannot change in Qatar – we cannot guarantee it will be a bunch sprint.”

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won ahead of Brit Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) when the local organizer ran a test event during the Tour of Qatar this February.

“I think it might be a bit easier [than the Copenhagen Worlds in 2011] because the roads aren’t as wide,” said Cavendish, who won in 2011.

“You’ve got in your head that it’s going to be a bowl around and sprint finish, but it’s not. It’s going to be someone who can sprint, but who is quite resilient over that distance. It’s going to take its toll, the distance around there. No matter where you sit in the peloton, it’s going to be gnarly.”