At 258.5 kilometres and featuring 4,670 vertical metres, the road race at the Worlds will be all about survival of the fittest. The riders enter a mountainous circuit after some 90 kilometres and with each round the number of challengers will be less. The circuit is raced seven times and takes in a 7.9 kilometres climb at 5.7%, while the last lap features an extra loop of 7.1 kilometres. This encore is presumably going to be decisive as the riders tackle a 2.8 kilometres climb at 11.5% with steepest ramps of up to 25%. The race ends with a descent of 6 kilometres and a flat run-in to the line of 2 kilometres.
So superb descenders with climbing legs are the men to watch. The likes of Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski, Nibali, and Roglic. The first two riders won the last two editions of the Clásica de San Sebastián, which is played out on a route with a lot of climbs before the finale is a steep hill followed by a descent. There is a crucial difference though, as the Basque classic features 2,750 vertical metres instead of the 4,670 at the Worlds. Nibali took the Tour of Lombardy in 2017 and 2015, both occasions when the race ended with a descent into Como, while the amount of climbing metres was approximately 4,000.
The road race in Innsbruck and the recent Tour de France’s Queen Stage over the Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque are similar to Innsbruck in terms of vertical metres – 4,800 and 4,670. Roglic flew off the front on the descent of the Aubisque and was never going to be caught by the chasers behind him – most notably Thomas, Dumoulin and Froome. Moreover, the Slovenian is in great shape this season. Before his Tour de France stage win he pocketed the GC’s at the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour de Romandie.
One more thing about Kwiatkowski. For Team Sky the Pole is usually on domestique duty, but he certainly is a good climber. In 2014, he won the Worlds title in Ponferrada on a 254.8 kilometres course with 4,284 vertical metres. He attacked just before the last climb and held off the chasers on descent. This season he took the GC at the Tirreno-Adriatico, but his versatile prize list also features victories in Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, Clásica de San Sebastián, E3 Harelbeke and the Amstel Gold Race.
Climbers have to make the race as hard as they possibly can to eliminate strong fast men like Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet. Obviously, the 7.9 kilometres climb at 5.7% is a perfect place to hurt those kind of riders. And if they are still on board in the final lap the 2.8 kilometres hill at 11.5% could do the trick. Yet, Peter Sagan is a special one. Is he able to last until the top of the last climb, the Slovak phenomenon is in pole position to extend his lease on the rainbow jersey for another season. He is a brilliant descender and, obviously, one of the fastest finishers in the peloton. Sagan himself labelled a fourth consecutive world title ‘not impossible’.
Favourites World Championships Road Race
***** Julian Alaphilippe, Michal Kwiatkowski, Vincenzo Nibali, Primoz Roglic
**** Adam Yates, Tom Dumoulin, Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet
*** Gianni Moscon, Tony Gallopin, Daniel Martin, Tim Wellens, Jakob Fuglsang
** Peter Sagan, Rigoberto Uran, Søren Kragh Andersen, Bauke Mollema
* Greg Van Avermaet, Simon Yates, Michael Woods, Matej Mohoric, Wout Poels