Members of the Italian men's national road squad performed a reconnaissance ride of parts of September's 2019 UCI Road World Championships course in Yorkshire, in the UK, on Monday, with recent Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) declaring it "more difficult than the Bergen Worlds course in 2017".
While that year's race in Norway was considered to be too hilly for the pure sprinters, and ended with race favourite Peter Sagan of Slovakia taking his third straight Worlds road race win, ahead of home rider Alexander Kristoff and Australia's Michael Matthews, the Yorkshire course is set to be more selective again, with the men taking on a tough 285km route between Leeds and Harrogate.
The rider who finished fourth behind Sagan in Bergen a year-and-a-half ago, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), was another one of four Italian riders who took a closer look at the 14-kilometre-long finishing circuit in Harrogate, which the elite men's race covers seven times on September 29, with the elite women's race tackling the same finish circuit three times the day before.
"It's a really hard circuit because it's nervous with continuous ups and downs," Trentin told Italian website cicloweb.it.
"There's a decisive climb that could make the difference," he said, presumably referring to the tough climb of Cornwall Road, midway through the 14km circuit. "You need to know how to recover well. I like it – a lot – both in terms of the distance and the profile. It's going to be a very interesting world championships."
Bettiol believes the course is reminiscent of the northern Classics – which will be no bad thing in the eyes of the Flanders champion.
"When you enter the circuit, there are still 98km to go, and you already have the three climbs in your legs," he said, and also suggested that the weather could play a part if Yorkshire throws its worst at the riders later this year.
"It's a tough world championships, with a route that reminds me of the northern Classics, where you'll need to know how to save as much energy as possible, to stay alert, and to try to stay as close to the front as possible. It's a long race, too, and I'd say that it's even more difficult than Bergen in 2017. It's very demanding," Bettiol said.
"It's up and down all the time, with no real opportunity to catch your breath," Viviani added, who must now be wondering whether it suits him at all. "That last climb comes seven kilometres from the finish, and if you consider all the kilometres you've done before you even start the seven laps of the circuit, it's going to be a hard Worlds course.
"After Milan-San Remo [291km], it's the longest race of the year, and that also has to be taken into account. It's very much a Classics course," he said.
"It's not a course for pure sprinters," Colbrelli said. "There might only be 10 or 15 riders who come to the finish together, as it looks to be very selective."
Cassani, too, admitted to being surprised by the difficulty of the finishing circuit.
"Honestly, I thought it was going to be easier than that," he said. "The circuit has two climbs, one of which is quite demanding, and there's a slightly uphill finish. It's really not for pure sprinters, but for riders who know how to recover well."