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The UCI World Championships, the rousing climax to the cycling season, are almost upon us. This year, the cream of international cycling brings the fight for rainbow stripes to Yorkshire, returning to the stage that hosted the fabled Tour de France Grand Départ of 2014.
There’ll be wall-to-wall bike racing from 21st to 29th September, with para-cycling, time trials, road races and a brand new mixed relay to enjoy. The season’s standout riders will turn up in tip-top condition, presenting the cycling world with a kind of highlights reel before winter sets in. Let’s take a look at just some of the stars we’ll be looking out for:
This year’s World Championship route is pretty tough, taking the peloton up and down all day. With a few testing climbs and an undulating finale into Harrogate, it’s a race that will perfectly suit Marianne Vos, or indeed anyone from the formidable Netherlands team. The 32-year-old all-rounder for Team CCC is only a few wins shy of 200 career victories and will be carefully watched aboard her Liv Langma throughout the 150km course. Her compatriot and reigning world champion, Anna van der Breggen of Boels-Dolmans, is also a hot favourite to take the prize.
If motivation were enough, Lizzie Deignan would be the runaway winner already. The route passes through her home town of Otley, and with family, friends and baby daughter Orla - who turns one a few days before the race - waiting at the finish, she’ll be looking for nothing but the best result. Though she’s not long back from giving birth, the big prize is by no means beyond her reach after a consistent season with new team Trek-Segafredo. Let’s not forget that she is a former world champion already …
It is a World Championship event and therefore Peter Sagan will be close to the front of affairs, you can be sure of that. He has spent the latter half of this season in Bora-Hansgrohe colours for the first time ever after appearing to cede the Slovakian national champ’s jersey to his brother - a statement of cool, calm, confident intent? He’ll be riding a custom-painted S-Works frame, just one of many favourites riding Specialized equipment this year.
The big favourite for the long and punishing men’s race on Sunday 29th September is Julian Alaphilippe, the Frenchman who lit up this year’s Tour de France. He is a rider who has been performing at the highest level for a number of years and yet continues to up his game each season. Last year he took the King of the Mountains jersey home from La Grande Boucle and this year he showed what more he was capable of, winning two stages and keeping hold of the yellow jersey until stage 19. It wasn’t a one-time thing either, coming after a spring campaign stacked with results that would have pleased a whole team, let alone a single rider.
Despite his youth and the depth of his national team, one rider we can be fairly confident will make the start is Remco Evenepoel. It’s often a struggle for neo pros to find their feet in the first year or two, but not for Evenepoel. The young Belgian has really shone this season, most notably taking an emphatic solo victory at the Clásica San Sebastián and more recently the elite European individual time trial title. Whether he can win is up for debate, but he’ll definitely be up there in the fight.
Who do you think will be wearing rainbow stripes at the end of the month? Let us know what you think and do stop by one of our stores if you have any questions or just want a chat - we’re always happy to talk bike racing!