The circuit that will decide tomorrow’s elite men’s UCI Road World Championship will be as hard as the peloton chooses to make it, according to the women who medalled on the course today. Debate has raged since the route’s announcement over one year ago as to whether the course would suit a sprinter or whether the climbs would prove too difficult.
After Italian coach Paolo Bettini visited the course last month, consensus leant toward a breakaway victory. However, with both the Under 23 and elite women’s races being decided in sprints, the door is now firmly open to riders like Mark Cavendish.
Women’s champion Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) believes the course can go either way, meaning that it will come down to how the peloton rides tomorrow’s race. With two opening laps void of action followed by a solo breakaway in the women’s event, only the final three laps of the course were at high intensity, which allowed a pure sprinter like Bronzini to survive.
“The hardness of the lap depends on what the teams do in the race,” said the Italian. “If they go strong for the whole lap, for sure for the sprinter it’s impossible to stay in the front.
“The girl today who did five laps so easy was good for me,” Brozini added. “Only three laps for me were hard, but not so hard that I didn’t stay at the front.”
Sweden’s Emma Johannson, who finished third in the women’s race, said the descent between the 15.9 kilometre course’s two climbs and a long run to the uphill start/finish straight gave plenty of reprieve to riders more suited to pure sprint courses. Johannson was one of the women’s events’ most aggressive riders on the climb but her attempts to break the race apart failed.
“We thought it would be harder in the race,” she said. “The climb is hard but then with the descent and the part after the descent, it’s a long way to go to the finish.”
Simon Gerrans (Australia) is one rider expecting a more intense race in the elite men’s category. He expects that the race will break apart, and it will need to if Australia has a hope of securing back-to-back titles, given that sprinters like Robbie McEwen and Mark Renshaw were left off the squad.
“I don’t think we’ll see such a big group together at the finish for us,” said Gerrans. “It’s quite often that in the under-23 race, they’ll come together [in] quite a decent-sized group, whereas in a professional race or the elite men it will break up a bit more. I’m expecting a much smaller group at the finish on Sunday.”
The elite men’s race will start in Melbourne, with the peloton covering 83 kilometres of road between that location and the start of the Geelong circuit. Once on the 15.9 kilometre Geelong circuit they will contest 11 laps of the circuit, one more than the U23 men’s event won by Australia’s Michael Matthews.