The 100th edition of the World Championships for men. To start off, this is how they will take on the route. They start in Antwerp before they head south to Leuven, where they do the Leuven circuit once. It consists of four climbs; Sint Antoniousberg, Keizerberg, Decouxlaan and Wijnpers. This is where most of the racing will be done. The other important sector of this year’s edition is the Flandrien circuit which consists of five climbs: Smeysberg, Terlanen, Taymansstraat, Bekestraat and Veeweidestraat. Time for a closer look at the circuits.
We have 2562 climbing meters.
Planimentry and race profile.
The Leuven Circuit
The Leuven Circuit is to be raced eight times. It is a very technical circuit but climbing wise it is not too difficult. What is important is positioning. Keizerberg and Decouxlaan are not that difficult. Wide roads and not that steep. The two important climbs are Wijnpers and Sint Antoniousberg.
There are rumours about an oil spill near this climb, which is an absolute disaster as the riders take a 120 degrees turn before they start climibing. It is not the hardest climb, but you can really put the pressure on if you are at the front. You can simply dive into the corner (in case that they remove the oil). It’s a really sharp bend – I’ve seen it myself. They do it eight times which adds to the fatigue. The last time is with 6 km left.
Is the last climb of the race. You have probably seen it already. Two lanes with good road surface and cobbles in the middle. If you are boxed in and need to do it on cobbles while others smash it on the better surface, you will just use more energy. It’s that simple. It also comes right after a corner. The last time they do it is with 1.9 km left.
The Flandrien Circuit
The Flandrien circuit is tougher, but they only do it twice. The first time is with 180 km to 158.5 km left. The second time is where it could play a completely different role. It is where the race needs to be lit up, otherwise, it looks like a reduced bunch sprint. It is from 70 km to 48 km left.
Smeysberg is one of the hardest climbs of the entire race. If it had been on cobbles, it would have been a big gamechanger. Unfortunately, it is not. They do it four times. Each time they enter and each time they leave the Flandrien Circuit. The last ascend is with 49 km left.
Is a very demanding cobbled climb. You know the deal. Narrow roads, a big battle for positioning. They are riding in a heavily forested area, which means it almost looks like it’s in the middle of the night on Google Maps. They do it twice, the last time with 66.5 km left.
Another short and steep climb that could play a role in a group forming on the Flandrien circuit. Narrow roads once again. They do it twice, the last time with 57.5 km left.
The last 1.25 km.
When writing this, it looks to be dry. The wind will blow from the south/southwest. This means the riders will have a tailwind from the Flandrien Circuit to the Leuven Circuit. This means it is more likely for a move to get clear and stay away until the technical circuit in Leuven. The wind will not play a huge role in Leuven, only when they go outside the ring which they rarely are.
Can we compare it to any other race on the calender?
It is always more difficult to say anything about team dynamics and tactics when it comes to Worlds. First of all, they race without radios. It makes it way harder to communicate. Different teams have different agendas too. Let’s break it down. We have 2562 climbing meters, which on paper does not sound as much. It isn’t if you compare it to the recent World Championships. We do not have any climbs where it is easy to point out: “Here the difference will be made!” Smeysberg is just too far from the line to be the sole deciding factor. It is worth remembering, we might not have a lot of climbing meters, but we have MANY climbs where they will sprint out of the corners.
It is hard to put it into any category or compare it to any races we have seen this season. If I would have to put it in terms of length and climbing meters, I would say an easier edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen. That’s what I will be going with. The one thing you can compare is the kilometers. It is a long race and in the end the riders will feel that, no matter how easy the route may seem.
Belgium starts with the favorite. Wout van Aert. He is on everyone’s lips down here in Leuven. The word from the Belgium camp is he is the sole leader, which after watching the U23 and Women’s race seems to be a good idea. It just seems difficult to make a big difference on this course. Their goal is to make him win but that does not in any case mean they will just pull the peloton for 260 km. Stuyven and Lampaert would be excellent choices to follow moves early on. They do not need to pull and they sure as hell have a fast sprint from a small group. One part of me hopes Evenepoel launches a long-range attack but we all know by know, he is not fast in a sprint. Let him work for Wout van Aert.
Best shot: WvA
Italy is in my opinion the second strongest team here. They just have a wierd team to be honest. It does not look like they will go for a bunch sprint. I doubt they can win it with confidence. On the other hand, Colbrelli, Trentin, Ulissi, Moscon and Bagioli all seem to be excellent choices if they want to ride offensively. They could perhaps save Nizzolo for the sprint but I think it migth be too hard for him. A rider, flying under the radar, might be Ballerini. I do not think it will be too hard for him. Whatsoever, I think the Italians wants to light things up. All their riders have a fast sprint and it would be ideal for them to attack from afar.
Best shot: Trentin from a reduced group
Denmark is in the next tier of teams. With so many in form riders; Cort, Asgreen, Valgren, Honoré and Mads P it is hard to rule them out. Mads Pedersen has to be the man for the sprint. Cort always seems to find the correct groups to join, Asgreen has one of the biggest engine in the entire peloton which could come in handy with a late attack. Valgren is flying – and if you do not know by now, he is always in perfect shape at Worlds. Honoré is a dark-horse. He does not have a lot of experience at such a long distance. A team like the Italians. Offensive is the best defence.
Best shot: Mads Pedersen, if he has found great legs after Benelux Tour.
Netherlands brings a strong set of riders. None knows the correct shape of MvdP. If he is in form, he is just a tough rider to beat or distance in any case. Dylan van Baarle and Mike Teunissen make up a nice pair to follow early moves. The former was flying in the spring classics but left the Vuelta with knee problems. Teunissen has been flying after coming back with top results in Denmark, Norway and Benelux Tour. If MvdP is in form, it will be all for him, but the race will decide that tomorrow – none knows.
Best shot: MvdP
France is the last team in this category. Alaphillipe might find the route too easy but that will not stop him from trying. Senechal is flying at the moment and is faster than most assume. Turgis had a minor breakthrough in the spring classics, especially at Ronde van Vlaanderen where he looked to be the fourth strongest for a long time. Laporte is by no means a rider to write off either. He is in good shape but often has problems at the hardest climbs. I expect Cavagna to be working for the team.
Best shot: Alaphilippe from a reduced group
Great Britain is here with Pidcock and Hayter. Two young and promising riders. I think their biggest obstacle will be the distance. Hayter seems to be one of the strongest and most in-form riders at the moment while Pidcock had a chill Vuelta a Espana which he used to get in to better shape after Tokyo. Do not forget, both of them are quick and punchy. Pidcock almost beat WvA in a sprint in Amstel.
Best shot: Hayter if he can cope with the distance.
Slovenia brings a good set of riders. I hear people talk about Pogacar and Roglic. I must be honest, the route does not suit them the slightest. I think their best option is Mohoric but he will be a marked man tomorrow. I expect him to attack on the Flandrien circuit. It is in his nature.
Best shot: Mohoric from a reduced group.
Switzerland has a few strong riders too. Küng is always a good rider in long races but I think the race will be too explosive for him. Bissegger is in good shape but I think the race is too long for him. Hirschi is finally, after a terrible first half of the season, starting to look very, very good. He was very, very good in the Ardennes Classics last year and at Worlds. It is a different course this year but he will be tough to distance. He is not as quick as he used too.
Best shot: Hirschi from a reduced group.
Sagan is not a man to rule out on a course like this. He has not been the same for some years now, but he looked sharp on homesoil a few weeks ago. He is on his own as usual but he does not need guidance to be at the right spot.
Matthews should be a contender for this type of WC. He just falls short way too often.
Garcia Cortina fits the criteria to get a good result. I just think he will be overmatched.
Schachmann is a good one-day racer but I doubt he can win it solo.
Almeida is flying. He is not slow in a sprint but would have loved a harder finish.
Who will win?
Wout van Aert
I think it will be a nice win for the homecrowd. Everything is pointing towards him. I doubt the race will be as hard as most people say.