Doha, Qatar will stage the 2016 UCI Road World Championships, October 9-16, and Cyclingnews will have complete coverage with race news, start lists, previews, start times, rider interviews, features, photography and race reports.
It is the first time in nearly 100 years that the UCI Road World Championships have been staged in the Middle East, with a change in date – the Worlds typically take place in September – owing to the high temperatures in the region.
Despite the calendar shift, a world-class field is expected to descend into the desert for a week of flat, yet unpredictable racing. Defending champions Peter Sagan (Slovakia) and Lizzie Diegnan née Armitstead (Great Britain) are both set to race, while BMC Racing and Canyon-SRAM will look to retain the team time trial crowns they won in Richmond last year.
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Race Schedules and Routes
The team trials lift the curtain on the UCI’s crown jewel event, with the women’s elite trade teams competing over a 40km flat course on the opening Sunday of the championships. The men’s teams follow suit later in the afternoon, and although the field will be depleted due to a dispute with the UCI over finances, the very best in team trialling are expected to bring their A-games to a discipline designed to please title sponsors more than racing fans.
Monday sees the individual time trials begin in earnest, with the junior women taking on a 13.7 kilometre course and the U23 men completing a 28.9 kilometre circuit. Both time trials take place on the Pearl, with technical switchbacks and winds the most important factors.
On the following day, it’s the turn of the junior men (28.km) and the elite women (28.9km), who will compete for another set of rainbow jerseys.
On Wednesday, the Elite men will race over a 40km test. Unlike the previous time trial courses, the men will start further inland, from the Lusail Sports Complex. They then head south, swinging left at the Qatar University and heading out to the Pearl to complete their effort.
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The road races
After the flurry of time trials, the road racing finally gets underway on Thursday with the U23 men (166km); junior women (74.5km) and men (113.5km) on Friday; and the elite women (134.km) on the penultimate day of the championships before the elite men (257.5km) draw the week to a close.
The men’s course has been altered since it was first presented to the world in February 2015. The new course will see the peloton head into the desert for 151km, using part of the route from the Tour of Qatar’s opening stage from this year. The race then returns for several laps of a local circuit.
The start of the men's road race also got a tweak. Rather than leaving from the Seaside resort, the peloton will depart from the Aspire Zone near the Khalifa Stadium and head north to Al Khor and back.
Heat and crosswinds
Along with the length of the race, the main features are set to be the forecast of high temperatures expected to top out at 40 degrees Celsius. The UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol may come into play under such circumstances, with the race officials allowing for the Elite men's route to be considerably cut to just 106 kilometres if needed.
The crosswinds will not affect the race length, but if they pick up then they have the potential to massively alter the race. A number of teams, specifically the Dutch and Belgians, are skilled at riding in such conditions and are likely to look at exploiting any opportunity that arises during any of the road races. With the men’s race coming last in the week, it’s conceivable that a pattern will be set from the earlier races, but riders from weaker teams or not as experienced at racing in such conditions will need to be attentive. The added distance in the desert will only play into the hands of the teams looking to break up the race.
Road Race Favourites
Men’s road race
Like the Copenhagen Worlds from 2011, the startlist reads like a whose-whom of leading sprinters. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel (Germany), Nacer Bouhanni, and Arnaud Demare (France), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff (Norway) and defending champion Peter Sagan (Slovakia) will all line up as part of a sprinters’ glitterati, but as with Copenhagen five years ago, even a bunch sprint at the Worlds can be a difficult task to predict.
Firstly, there’s the distance. Unlike a bunch sprint at the Tour de France, where stages might average out an even 200 kilometres, the Worlds extends for another 57.5 kilometres of racing. Those extra kilometres, and the added 70-90 minutes they take to complete, will stretch out an already tired field with the vast majority of sprinters suffering. This will lead to a sprint between the remaining fastmen with just enough in the tank, and some of the diesels who can generate the needed Watts to stay in contention. It’s why a rider like Fabian Cancellara was a whisker away from a podium place in Copenhagen and why he came close to winning Milan-San more than once in his career.
That said, Cavendish, Greipel – two of the medalists from the last flat Worlds – will start among the favourites.
While Sagan lacks a full-strength team, he demonstrated in Richmond last year, and at the European Championships last month, that he can win from almost any scenario. Rivals will try and isolate him, with the Dutch and Belgians with Greg Van Avermaet and Tom Boonen having options to play with.
Kristoff, so successful in recent Tours of Qatar, and who won a similar stage of the race earlier this season, will lead a strong Norwegian contingent that also includes Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Elia Vivianni and Giacomo Nizzolo lead an Italian team looking for their first rainbow jersey in eight years, while Caleb Ewan, Michael Matthews and the in-form Dylan Groenewegan could all feature.
Women’s road race
The Dutch team showed their strength in depth at the Olympic road race in August with Anna Van Der Breggen taking a well-deserved gold medal.
She will line up alongside Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters, Ellen Van Dijk, Kirsten Wild and Marianne Vos – a team stacked with potential winners regardless if the race ends in a bunch sprint or a small break. They will almost certainly look to make the race too.
Of course the Dutch are not the only team with strong line-ups.
Chloe Hosking has called the Doha circuit a dream course, and the Australian has never had a better chance to win a world road title. Belgium have Jolien D’Hoore, while Great Britain line up with defending champion Diegnan and Hannah Barnes. Italy could also play a part, with former world champions Giorgia Bronzini and Elisa Borghini leading the line.
Time trial stars
Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis are the leading lights in the men’s 40km time trial. The Dutchman disappointed last year after a demanding Vuelta a Espana but has been the dominant force in time trials in recent times. He has yet to win a World title, however, and was edged into second place at the Olympics by a resurgent Fabian Cancellara.
The Swiss rider will not make the trip to Doha, but Rohan Dennis has everything needed to take gold – including superior form in the build up the Worlds. The Australian should have taken a medal at the Olympics but a mechanical saw him finish off the podium and his entire focus since has been on the Worlds.
Tony Martin is also in the running for a medal after winning the time trial at the Tour of Britain, while Jonathan Castroviejo has been on the cusp of a major result at this level for some time.
Women’s defending champion Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) has not made the journey, but Van Der Breggen, Lisa Brennauer, Katrin Garfoot – the rest of the top four from last year – are set to compete. Carmen Small (USA) and Hayley Simmonds (Great Britain) are also set to compete in what is a highly decorated field.
Olympic medalist Olga Zabelinskaya is set to ride, while Van Der Breggen took bronze in Rio ahead of teammate Ellen van Dijk. The flat roads of Doha certainly play to the latter rider's strengths.
How to follow
Cyclingnews will have complete live text coverage from the 2016 UCI Road World Championships. Follow the racing at live.cyclingnews.com for free. (Times are local).
Sunday 9 October
UCI Women’s Team Time Trial 14:10-15:15 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.
UCI Men’s Team Time Trial 15:20-16:40 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.
Monday 10 October
Women Junior Individual Time Trial 09:30-10:40
Men Under 23 Individual Time Trial 11:30-15:50
Tuesday 11 October
Men Junior Individual Time Trial 09:00-12:30
Women Elite Individual Time Trial 13:15-16:30 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.
Wednesday 12 October
Men Elite Individual Time Trial 13:45-16:05 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.
Thursday 13 October
Men Under 23 Road Race 12:00-15:55
Friday 14 October
Women Junior Road Race 08:30-10:30
Men Junior Road Race 13:15-16:30
Saturday 15 October
Women Elite Road Race 12:45-16:20 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.
Sunday 16 October
Men Elite Road Race 10:30-16:35 - - live coverage on Cyclingnews.