The final details of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships courses were revealed on Thursday, with an examination of the vertical ascent numbers on the Wollongong course likely to be enough to make many sprinters park their dreams of the rainbow bands for another year. Mark Renshaw, however, isn’t willing to concede that all hope is gone for the peloton’s fast finishers.
The recently-retired sprinter, who spent much of his time in the peloton as the valued lead-out man for Mark Cavendish, is now safety manager for the Wollongong Road Worlds, so if anyone knows the course inside out it is him.
“I’ve ridden just about every metre of this course so I can say from the bottom of my heart it’s possible for a sprinter to win,” said Renshaw during the course release media conference. "As an Australian we’ve mentioned Caleb Ewan, I’d love to see Caleb win, but he is going to have to bring his absolute 'A' game.”
Fortunately, the Australian sprinter who has made no secret of his ambitions for a rare home Road World Championships, has been going uphill like never before, though there is no doubt that the extent of the climbing is going to provide a big challenge for even the hardiest of sprinters.
The 266.9km elite men’s course includes 3,945 metres of vertical ascent, while the 164.3km-long combined women’s elite and U23 race has 2,433 metres. The biggest climb for both comes after the field works its way down the coast and onto the Mount Keira circuit, with the ascent the loop is named after cresting at about 42 kilometres into the race and delivering an average gradient of five per cent over 8.7km.
That, though, is far from the end of the ascents as the elite men take on 12 laps of a city circuit, and the women six, and this includes Mount Pleasant. The 1.1km climb, with an average gradient of 7.7 per cent, crests just a little over seven kilometres from the finish line.
“If we wind back from the city circuit that Mount Keira climb, it's difficult,” said Renshaw. “It’s going to give some of our big riders, our climbers, an opportunity to really open up the race which is going to be interesting. But that climb of Mount Pleasant on the city circuit, it is going to be super difficult for a sprinter to get over that. It’s not going to be impossible.”
There is more to the Mount Pleasant climb than the 7.7 per cent gradient, with a section at 14 per cent just 300 metres into the climb, providing an ideal early launching point for those that favour the uphill.
“There is time to come back from that climb. We see directly after Mount Pleasant they turn right. It is a bit of a U shape where they can come back just before they plummet down toward the beach. From the bottom of my heart I’d love to see a sprinter hang on over those 12 laps for the men, six for the women, and come down to Marine Parade.”
UCI President David Lappartient, however, seemed to eyeing the potential for a repeat winner.
“From my side, definitely bearing in mind Mount Pleasant which is a very short, punchy climb, 1.1 km, I definitely go, in the male peloton, for the puncheurs. So why not Julian Alaphilippe making it three in a row?”
Lappartient also went beyond the French rider, including Wout van Aert (Belgium) and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) in his list of riders likely to be in contention for the win on the Wollongong Worlds course.
A repeat victor, is also something that Race Director Scott Sunderland doesn’t think is out of the question in the women’s elite and U23 race. Though, he pointed out that it would be a challenging course – with well over twice the elevation gain of Flanders – for Elisa Balsamo (Italy) to defend her title on.
“The likes of Marianne Vos, [Annemiek] Van Vleuten, they're not going to make it easy for her," said Sunderland. "They're going to be going out early. They'll be taking all the advantage they can and putting pressure on the sprinters.”
The Australian race director also couldn’t resist adding into the mix Amanda Spratt, who was also on the media conference, plus Michael Matthews alongside Ewan, for the men’s race.
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.