Tim Wellens has stated that he and Belgium would benefit from a wet World Championships on Sunday. The Belgium squad arrive in Yorkshire ahead of the men’s elite road race with arguably the strongest squad in the race. Wellens is joined by Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and former world champion Philippe Gilbert as part of an eight-man roster that has few if any weaknesses.
On Thursday morning, six of Belgium’s roster rode the finishing circuit around Harrogate and while the sun beat down, the autumnal conditions are set to drastically change on Sunday, with rain expected for much of the race. The change in conditions could have a huge bearing on how the race unfolds.
"It's a nice course but there will be big differences depending on whether it's wet or dry," Wellens told Cyclingnews after his training ride. "If it's wet then it's going to be much, much harder of course."
Wellens' compatriot Jan Bakelants told Cyclingnews that the course had several dangerous points after he raced in a wet team time trial on the opening day of the championships. Wellens picked out the exact pinch points as Bakelants when it came to analyse the dangers of this year's roads course.
"There are two descents with two annoying corners. They come with a lot of speed with off-camber sections. They're tricky to take with speed and not crash," he said.
"Everyone will know the parcours and will take it carefully but in the end, some will take risks and maybe some people will go over the limits."
The 284.5km course opens with a long 180km section before multiple laps around Harrogate. Unlike in Innsbruck last year there are no standout climbs that will decide the race. Instead, the Yorkshire course can be described as one long slog with a parcours that is peppered with undulating sections and technical variants.
"I think from an altitude stance it's not super impressive but it feels harder than on paper," Wellens said.
"The surface and the corners mean that you are always braking and accelerating. Being in a good position all race is going to be key. You'll need a good amount of luck. A wet race would be good for me also for all of the Belgian team."
Van Avermaet echoed Wellens' words with regards to the importance of the weather. The recent winner of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal is one of the protected riders within the Belgian squad and he rode over parts of the course earlier in the year when the Tour de Yorkshire took place.
"The weather will play a big part. If it rains, then it will make it a harder race than it is already. Taking key positions will be key but there will be crashes. It's a tricky parcours.
"Key points will be all the bridges where we go up and then the sections where the peloton will be stretched out. It's key to have a good position but it will be hard to always be at the front because everyone else will have the same strategy."
Dylan Teuns is likely to support Wellens, Gilbert and Van Avermaet on Sunday and he likened the Yorkshire course to Amstel Gold Race after riding the entire route over the last two days.
"Yesterday we did the big loop. It's quite hard and the legs will hurt from that first 180km, even before we start the final laps. It's technical but even the non-technical sections are hard. It's similar in some aspects to Amstel Gold Race because of the loops and the climbs. As ever the final laps will decide who wins."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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