The UCI Road World Championships started on Thursday morning and will continue through into Sunday in Imola, Italy after the Switzerland event was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
It may be a quick turnaround from the Tour de France and Giro Rosa, but the time trial and road race are set to have some big names, including Geraint Thomas, Lizzie Deignan and Tour winner Tadej Pogacar.
However, the UCI has announced that the junior and under-23 Worlds will be pushed back to 2021, with the reigning champions in those categories holding onto their rainbow jerseys for another year. This leaves just four races across the four days.
All the events will start and finish on the iconic Imola racing circuit, but the road races will travel around the Emilia-Romagna region, featuring plenty of climbing.
Today will see the elite women’s time trial open proceedings before the elite men tackle the same 31.7km course the following day. As a flat and fast course, the winning average speed should be more than 50kph.
The road race will be one for the endurance climbers following a 28.8km circuit including two major climbs; the Mazzolano and the Cima Gallisterna, with stretches of up to 14% gradient. The men will cover nine laps of the circuit and five for the women.
Belgian Wout van Aert is the overwhelming favourite for the men’s road race that seems to be tailored to his talents. Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar is also set to race, while runner-up Primoz Roglic is also on the Slovenian team’s long list. Other Tour de France riders including third-place finisher Riche Porte, Julian Alaphilippe and Michal Kwiatkowski will be competing for the rainbow jersey. Italians Vincenzo Nibali and Diego Ulissi will be hoping to take a win in their home country, whilst Tom Pidcock is lining out for the British team alongside Geraint Thomas.
Annemiek van Vleuten is considering defending her world championship jersey on a fractured wrist in the road race but it is yet to be confirmed. The Dutch squad still includes former world champions Marianne Vos, Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak and Anna van der Breggen. 2015 World Championship winner Lizzie Deignan will be competing with teammate Lizzy Banks, whilst the Giro Rosa second-place finisher Katarzyna Niewiadoma and home challenger Elisa Longo Borghini will also be contending.
The men’s time trial will feature Stefan Kung who withdrew from the Tour to prepare for the Worlds, while reigning champion Rohan Dennis will be eager to defend his title after just three outings in the rainbow skinsuit in 2020.
In the women’s, reigning champion Chloe Dygert’s lack of racing in 2020 will do little to diminish her status as favourite in the 31km test. It remains to be seen if Van Vleuten can line out, but the presence of Van der Breggen and Ellen van Dijk means that a Dutch win is on the cards.