The Campagnolo riders who’ll look to make their mark in Flanders.
The 100th edition of the UCI Road World Championships takes place in arguably the epicentre of road cycling, Flanders, between Sunday 19th and Sunday 26th September.
Over eight days, the revered rainbow jersey will be awarded in 11 races.
The racing begins on Sunday 19th September with the men’s 43.3km individual time-trial.
It starts on the North Sea before taking riders through the centre of Knokke-Heist and heading south toward the finish in Bruges.
The rest of the week breaks down as follows: men’s elite U23 individual time-trial and women’s elite individual time-trial, Monday 20th September; women’s junior individual time-trial and men’s junior individual time-trial, Tuesday 21st September; team time-trial mixed relay, Wednesday 22nd September; men’s junior road race and men’s under-23 road race, Friday 24th September; women’s junior road race and women’s elite road race, Saturday 25th September; and, the final event of the competition, the men’s elite road race on Sunday 26th September.
And it’s that final race that we’ll focus on here, picking out the Campagnolo riders who’ll be challenging for gold. (As a reminder, Campagnolo provide world-class wheels and groupsets to UAE Team Emirates, Lotto-Soudal and AG2R Citroen Team, plus groupset only to Cofidis, though Campagnolo riders will be competing for their nations rather than their WorldTour Teams.)
POGACAR AIMING TO WIN FIRST RAINBOW
The men’s elite road race is a gargantuan 268.3km that starts in Antwerp and finishes in Leuven. In that time, the riders face 42 Flandrian climbs for an accumulative 2,562 vertical meters
This is exactly the sort of profile you’d expect of a Belgian one-day classic.
Tadej Pogacar will lead Slovenia’s charge in the road race, using a mix of Campagnolo’s Super Record EPS groupset and Bora Ultra WTO wheels.
Pogacar’s still on cloud nine after retaining his Tour de France title followed by bronze at the Olympic road race.
He’s enjoyed a break since Tokyo so his form remains a mystery.
What we do know is that Pogacar’s growing stronger with each passing year, winning his maiden Monument in April at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which took place over 259.5km – fewer than 10km shy of the Flanders course.
Could this be the season he wins his first rainbow jersey at any level?
HIRSCHI AND COSNEFROY COULD SURPRISE
Marc Hirschi looks set to lead Switzerland’s charge and will aim to go two better than last year when he finished third in Imola, Italy.
Just two years earlier, Hirschi won the under-23 world title in Innsbruck. The 23-year-old’s a super-strong one-day rider and already has La Fleche Wallonne on his palmares.
As for his recent form, it’s good, finishing fifth in August’s Brussels Cycling Classic.
When it comes to the French team, all eyes will be on reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe. But the competition could be blind-sided by AG2R Citroen Team’s Benoit Cosnefroy, who’s coming into form at just the right time.
The 25-year-old’s been a prolific winner in his home country of France but never on the WorldTour. That all changed at the end of August when Cosnefroy outsprinted Alaphilippe to win the Bretagne Classic.
The 251km Bretagne course featured an undulating profile that highlighted Cosnefroy’s ability to race strong on a parcours similar to the one-day spring classics.
And Cosnefroy has history at the worlds, winning the under-23 road-race title back in 2017.
Alaphilippe might be France’s lead rider but if something goes wrong, don’t bet against Cosnefroy capitalising on a change of role.
TRENTIN LOOKING TO GO ONE BETTER
Italy’s Matteo Trentin is one of the strongmen of the peloton, meaning the Leuven course could play into his hands perfectly. The 32-year-old’s twice finished top-five at the Worlds, including second at the rainy 2019 edition in Yorkshire.
In Harrogate, he just lost out in a sprint to Mads Pedersen, meaning he has unfinished business.
“I still have an open account at the World Championships,” the Italian commented at a UAE Team Emirates training camp earlier this year. “I hope to close it this year. I like the Worlds Course. It’s nervy and winding. These are the roads that I like.”
THE DARK HORSES
There are a couple old-hands who could be in the mix, too – namely Alexander Kristoff and Rui Costa.
IThirty-four-year-old Kristoff is one of the finest cyclists ever to come out of Norway and has two Monuments and four Tour de France stage wins to his name. He’s shown in the past couple of seasons he still has speed in his legs, winning stage one of the 2020 Tour de France as well as the points classification at this year’s Arctic Race of Norway.
Third place at the 2020 Tour of Flanders shows he retains the strength, too.
As for Portuguese rider Costa, he finished seventh overall at this year’s Tour de Suisse and second at the Grand Prix of Aargau Canton. He also won his home national championships in 2020.
It’d certainly be a surprise if Costa can reclaim the rainbow jersey he won back in 2013.
But this is road cycling – anything can happen, as it often does at the World Championships.
One thing’s for certain, you won’t be able to keep your eyes off the racing for a minute.