The 80th Road World Cycling Championships will, for the first time, be held in and around the city of Florence in Tuscany from 22nd-29th September. Recognised as one of the heartlands of Italian cycling, the races will start in the nearby towns of Lucca, Montecatini Terme and Pistoia, then traverse the undulating hills and jaw-dropping Tuscan scenery before finishing in Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
On roads where Italian greats such as Gino Bartali, Fiorenzo Magni, Alfredo Martini, Gastone Nencini and Franco Ballerini used to train, the organisers estimate there will be well over a million spectators, including 1,500 journalists and 250 broadcasters from 180 different countries.
What kind of races are they?
The championships will begin with the trade team time trial for professional teams, with the men’s and women’s races tomorrow (Sunday). The men’s 57.2 km race starts in Montecatini Terme – Tuscany’s answer to Bath – while the ladies face 42.79 km starting just up the road in Pistoia. Both races end at the Nelson Mandela Sports Forum in Florence.
The ride is pretty flat with only the men facing a small obstacle just after the start en route to Pistoia. They then take a 90 degree turn before heading straight into Florence where there will be a few technical twists and turns on freshly paved roads to the finish line.
There’s an art to team time trials as one of its foremost exponents Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) explains.
What happened last year?
Specialized-Lululemon outpowered Orica-AIS and AA-Drink-Leontien.nl on a challenging and undulating 34.2 km course in Limburg. The winners were just a second ahead of the Australian squad after the first, flatter third of the course but as soon as the climbs kicked in it became clear that the German squad had plenty in reserve to power up the climbs. Despite determined resistance, by the second time-check Orica-AIS were 13 seconds down and reduced to the minimum number of just four riders.
Specialized-Lululemon squad ended up fastest at all the checkpoints and clinched the win by 24 seconds at an average speed of 44kph to become the first ever women’s trade team time trial world champions.
1. Specialized-Lululemon 46:31.63
2. Orica-AIS +0:24
3. AA-Drink-Leontien.nl +1:59
4. Rabobank +2:20
5. Rusvelo +2:30
Omega Pharma-Quick Step rode to victory in an average speed of 50.53kph with a well-organised, fluid display over the lumpy 53.2 km route. The Belgian team beat BMC into second place with Orica-GreenEDGE finishing third.
OPQS was fastest at every time check, finished with all six riders and was in the hot seat while their closest rivals were still out on the road. Unsurprisingly, the race was won and lost on the Cauberg. At the foot of the climb, BMC had narrowed the gap to OPQS to just two seconds but the American team faltered at the top of the climb to finish three seconds down.
1. Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1:03:17
2. BMC +0:03
3. Orica GreenEDGE +0:47
4. Liquigas-Cannondale +1:04
5. Rabobank +1:08
Who to watch
With UCI WorldTour, Pro-Continental and Continental teams eligible, it’s likely to be a WorldTour team atop the podium in both events. Based on their performances in this year’s grand tours and stage races, Sky, BMC, Orica-GreenEDGE, Movistar and defending champions OPQS should be among the favourites for the men’s title. Some teams are known to have set winning this event as one of their key objectives and competition to get into the set-ups has been fierce so expect the line-ups to be star-studded.
In the women’s race, there are fewer teams taking part but defending champions Specialized-Lululemon look particularly strong as do last year’s runners-up, Orica-AIS, but expect teams such as Rabobank, Wiggle Honda and HITEC Products UCK to challenge strongly. However, if we look to the recently held Holland Tour as an indicator of form, Specialized triumphed over Orica, with Rabobank in third place.
The Road World Championships team time trial events take place on Sunday 22nd September. Live coverage and highlights will be shown by the BBC in the UK. For other live coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website
Header image: Florence’s cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.