The curtain rises this Sunday, September 17th, on the 90th edition of the UCI Road World Championships. The event is taking place in Norway for the first time since 1993.
As has become the tradition, the Elite Women’s and Elite Men’s team time trials will kick off competition on the opening day of the Championships, while the road races for Elite Women and Elite Men will take place on the last two days, respectively Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September. A total of 12 separate events will take place over eight days in and around the city of Bergen, a port surrounded by mountains and fjords in south-west Norway, which was founded nearly 1,000 years ago and was once a part of the Hanseatic League trading empire.
After last year’s later-than-usual dates for the 2016 UCI Road World Championships to avoid the height of the Middle East’s autumn heat, the Championships have returned to their usual September dates. Just like eleven months ago in Qatar, the line-up for this year’s edition of the UCI Road World Championships is star-studded both in the individual and team competitions.
On Sunday, the team time trial title holders, Quick-Step Floors and Boels Dolmans Cycling Team will be keen to repeat their 2016 victories in the men’s and women’s races against a host of other top squads. This prestigious opening event will be raced over an undulating 42.5km course which starts in Ravnanger on the Askoy archipelago and runs over the impressively large Askoy suspension bridge to Bergen’s Festplassen finish in the city center.
The individual time trials will be raced from Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th, culminating in the Elite Women’s and Men’s events. Lisa Brennauer (Germany), Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) and, of course, last year’s UCI World Champion Amber Neben (USA) are set to be top protagonists in the women’s event. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands), Chris Froome (Great Britain) and Germany’s Tony Martin, already a multiple winner and the defending champion, are all likely candidates for medals in the Elite Men’s time trial.
However, the Elite Men’s summit finish at the top of Mount Fløyen – as opposed to the usual flat finale – means this race will be anything but predictable. Most tourists in Bergen use the funicular railway to reach the top of this 3.4km ascent which counts over 300 meters of vertical climbing at an average of nine percent, with some sections over 10 percent: participants in the Elite Men’s time trial will climb it the hard way!
All the other time trials will avoid the Mount Fløyen but instead, with the exception of the Junior Women, will tackle the Birkelundsbakken ascent. Placed at the mid-way mark, this climb is much shorter but steeper, with gradients of up to 16 percent, after which the riders speed down to the same finale as the road races at the central Festplassen street.
In sharp contrast to last year’s completely flat road races in Qatar, all the Bergen courses are undulating and feature technical descents, steady climbs, exposed roads and even the odd stretch of cobbles. The finishing circuits of all the road races, for example, are based on a rolling 17.9km loop through the city of Bergen, with the 1.5km ascent of Salmon Hill as its main challenge, 8km from the finish line on Festplassen street.
Double UCI World Champion Peter Sagan and Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen, who has two World Junior titles as well as last year’s Elite victory to her name, will headline in the Elite Men’s and Women’s road races.
Whilst Sagan will face riders of the calibre of former UCI World Champions Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), Rui Costa (Portugal) and Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Dideriksen will have to take on Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain), Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France), Marianne Vos (Netherlands), Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) and Tatiana Guderzo (Italy), all of whom have won the Elite Women’s road race at a UCI Road World Championships at least once in their career: twice in the case of Vos and Bronzini.
The challenges facing riders at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships are very different from those in Qatar in 2016, not least with hilly and rolling courses and far more unpredictable weather. In the road races, this means that rather than the sprinters, as was the case in the Middle East, the all-rounders and breakaway specialists will be at an advantage. But one thing that remains unchanged from year to year, regardless of the location, is the immense prestige of a victory in the UCI Road World Championships and the right to wear the rainbow jersey for the following 12 months.
Full program and maps.
Live timing and results by Tissot.
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