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Imola and La Planche des Belles Filles emerge as favourites to host 2020 World Championships

Trek-Segafredo's Vinceno Nibali and Mads Perdersen during stage 1 at Paris-Nice
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The UCI will announce a new location for the 2020 Road World Championships on Wednesday, with the Imola Motor racing circuit in central Italy and the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the eastern Vosges mountains of France emerging as the favourites.

The UCI scrambled to find a new location for its biggest and most financially lucrative event after the organisers in Aigle-Martigny in Switzerland decided the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for them to put on the week of racing. 

The UCI depends greatly on the multi-million fee obtained from the World Championships organiser and so quickly appealed for offers from Europe, with the hope of at least organising the elite men’s and elite women’s time trial and road race events between Thursday September 24 and Sunday September 27.  

UCI president David Lappartient confirmed via social media on Sunday that the World Championships would definitely go ahead, showing his French origins by posting a photo of Bernhard Hinault winning the rainbow jersey in Sallanches in 1980.

Lappartient’s tweet boosted France’s hopes of hosting the World Championships, with UCI officials visiting La Planche des Belles Filles in the Haute-Saône department on Sunday after visiting several locations in Italy last week. After further meetings over the financial implications and a suggested total cost of close to €7 million, Imola and La Planche des Belles Filles have emerged as the strongest bids.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Imola stood out compared to other locations in Tuscany and Abruzzo, while the Tre Valli Varesine opted not to make a final bid after understanding the UCI was still seeking a significant fee despite limits on the crowd numbers that can attend and so help fund the event.

The Imola motor racing circuit would host the start and finish of the races, with the Tre Monti circuit making for a hilly, demanding race. 

The motor racing circuit structure would simplify the race organisation structure needed, with the pit lane offering socially distanced areas for each team, a large modern permanence and press room, and even grandstands for a limited number of fans. Imola is very close to Bologna, where hotels are available, with the Emilia Romagna government ready to help cover the costs after hosting the start of the 2019 Giro d’Italia and recently showing interest in hosting the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.  

However, La Planche des Belles Filles is also convinced of its chances. The area will host the decisive stage 20 time trial of the Tour de France on Saturday September 19 and so could use the same organisation structure for the World Championships a week later.  

"The proposal made to the UCI has many sporting advantages: originality in such a special year, guarantee of absolute control of health constraints and optimization for a World Championship firmly committed to an eco-responsible approach," the French Cycling Federation claimed. 

The French races would cover the hilly roads close to Thibaut Pinot’s home, with five laps of the Col des Chevrères (9 km at 7 per cent) before ending on the Planche des Belles Filles climb (5.9 km at 8.5 per cent).

France has recently had a huge increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, with some countries advising against non-essential travel to France and ordering quarantine on return. This could play in Italy's favour, while the Planche des Belles Filles bid could have the support of Tour de France organiser ASO, with many of the big-name male riders staying in France after completing the Tour de France.

The UCI has said a final decision will be made before Wednesday September 2, just three weeks before the first race is due to be held.