2018 UCI Road World Championships - The Big Preview

The UCI Road World Championships are back and harder than ever. This weekend the cycling world will descend on Innsbruck, Austria, for eight days of competition with 12 gold medals up for grabs and 10 rainbow jerseys on offer. The 2018 World Championships will take place from September 23 to 30.

With the longest-ever trade team time trials to date and a men’s road race that contains the formidably named Hell Climb, the 2018 Worlds is collectively set to be one of the hardest in recent memory. In terms of climbing, the men’s road race has moved into the top 10 Road World Championships. Though, with 4,670 metres of climbing, it pales in comparison to the 1966 Nurburgring that had a whopping 5,844 metres of ascent.

As ever, there will be a star-studded list of some of the world’s best riders hoping to be one of the few to don a rare rainbow jersey. Peter Sagan will be looking to win a record-breaking fourth in a row in the men’s road race, while Tom Dumoulin is seeking to defend his title in the individual time trial. Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen are aiming to repeat the Dutch sweep in the women’s competitions, while Team Sunweb are defending champions in both the men’s and women’s team time trials.

While the elite events create the biggest headlines, the junior and under-23 events are a chance to see future stars, and a good result in Innsbruck could earn some a professional contract.

The team time trials

The team time trials will bring up the curtain on the entire proceedings on Sunday, September 23. It will be the final time, at least for the foreseeable future, that trade teams will contest the event after the UCI announced in May that the event would come to an end. It’s not yet known if it will return as an event for nations, but for now, the trade teams will battle it out for the final world titles.

Both men’s and women’s courses are longer than we’ve seen since the competition was revived in 2012. The women’s event is more than 10 kilometres longer than last year’s offering in Bergen, while the men’s is a massive 20 kilometres longer at a total of 62.8k.

The teams will all set off from the Area 47 waterpark in Otztal and head progressively downhill towards the finish line in Innsbruck. While the women’s teams will take a slightly more direct route to Innsbruck, the men will take a slight diversion towards Axams on the outskirts of the city that will include a short climb.

Team Sunweb took both titles last season. The women’s team look stronger than ever heading into the event, while the men’s line-up has been relatively untested in 2018.

The individual time trials

Following the team chronos, the riders will switch to national colours as the individual time trials begin. The junior women will kick things off early on Monday, September 24, with their 20km effort. The route takes the riders over a rolling course that sets out from Wattens and winds its way around the outskirts of Innsbruck.

Italy dominated that competition last season with Elena Pirrone defeating her teammate Alessia Vigilia to the title. Neither will be racing in the junior ranks this season, but Italy does have current junior European time trial champion Vittoria Guazzini. Last year’s fourth-place, Hannah Ludwig of Germany, finished second to Guazzini in the European championships and will also be among the favourites to take home the title.

The under-23 men are next up on Monday afternoon, and they are set to take on a 27.8-kilometre course, which will take a slightly more circuitous route from Wattens to the centre of Innsbruck. It should be a picturesque parcours as the riders, flanked by mountains, make their way along the Inn river.

In Bergen, Danish rider Mikkel Bjerg surprised everyone when he took the title in his first season at under-23 level. He is still just 19 and is the big favourite for the event, having finished second in the elite Danish time trial championships in June and helping the Danes take a commanding team time trial win at the Tour de l’Avenir. Last year’s runner-up, Brandon McNulty, will be stiff competition along with Italy’s Edoardo Affini.

The junior men’s time trial will take place across the same course, as will the elite women. Tom Pidcock took an emphatic victory last year, but he will not be back to defend his title. In fact, many of the top riders in Bergen have graduated out of the age group. Keep an eye out for the Belgian pairing of Remco Evenepoel and Ilan Van Wilder, among others.

The Dutch go into the elite women’s competition as the clear favourites after getting two riders onto the podium last time out, in winner Van Vleuten and second-placed Van der Breggen. They also have former title holder and three-time European champion Ellen van Dijk in the squad. Could they secure an all-Dutch sweep of the podium?

The Netherlands will be hoping to lock down the men’s time trial, too, with defending champion Dumoulin. The 27-year-old has been on song against the clock this season and his nearest rivals from last year’s event, Chris Froome and Primoz Roglic, will not be riding. There will be competition from the likes of Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte, Bob Jungels and his teammate Wilco Kelderman.

The elite men’s route contains well over double the amount of climbing on offer compared to the other courses and takes the riders from Rattenberg into Innsbruck. As it crosses the river close to Wattens, where the others started, it heads briefly towards the mountains for one short climb before heading through the valley towards the finish line.

The road races

After the close of the time trial competition, attention moves towards the road races. The junior women start things off again on Thursday, September 27. After the time trial, Guazzini and Ludwig are among the favourites for this race too. The route follows the same format as the other road races, with a loop out towards Igls that includes a climb past the Olympia bobsleigh track. The junior women will take on the climb just once.

Traditionally taking place on the Saturday before the elite women’s race, the junior men’s road race has been moved to Thursday afternoon. The route is much the same, but it starts slightly further out in Kufstein and is almost twice the length as the junior women's race with two laps of the Olympia circuit. Once again, many of the key performers from last year’s race have graduated, leaving the door open for a new title holder. Remco Evenepoel, who will skip the under-23 ranks to move straight to the WorldTour with Quick-Step in 2019, is among the favourites: the Belgian won the European Championships in Zlin by almost 10 minutes.

The under-23 men race the following day and take on a route that brings them around the Olympia circuit no fewer than four times. This will be a hotly contested affair, but the Colombian Ivan Sosa will be a major favourite. Watch out for Tour de l’Avenir winner Tadej Pogacar and Switzerland's Gino Mader. Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar is set to step up to WorldTour level next year and could well be among the top riders in this race.

The final weekend

The final weekend will feature the two headline events, the elite men’s and women’s road races. With the junior men moving to Thursday, the women have Saturday all to themselves. Much has been said about the women’s course, which will take on the Olympia circuit three times, with the so-called Hell Climb absent from it. Nevertheless, it should entice some aggressive racing with the climbers coming to the fore.

You cannot look past the Dutch, who come with a formidable line-up, as the big favourites to take the title for the second year running. However, there will be plenty of competition across the board with the likes of Amanda Spratt, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Elisa Longo Borghini and more looking to take away the title.

The men’s race the following day is likely to be a much cagier affair, with the Hell Climb looking set to define the race. First, they will complete the Olympia route six times before heading off to the brutally steep residential road in the Innsbruck suburbs.

Sagan will ride in Innsbruck with the hope that he can defend his title, but the Hell climb is likely to be his undoing. There is a long line of riders ready and waiting to take the rainbow jersey off his hands, including Porte, Miguel Angel Lopez, Sergio Henao, Julian Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Simon Yates, Dan Martin, Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and many more. This could well be the best chance ever for some of these riders to take a world title. 


Sunday, September 23

UCI Women's Team Time Trial

Otztal - Innsbruck
10:10 - 12:05
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

UCI Men's Team Time Trial

Otztal - Innsbruck
14:40 - 17:05
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

Monday September 24

Women Juniors Individual Time Trial

Wattens - Innsbruck
10:10 - 11:55

Men Under 23 Individual Time Trial

Wattens - Innsbruck
14:40 - 16:50

Tuesday September 25

Men Juniors Individual Time Trial

Wattens - Innsbruck
10:10 - 12:40

Women Elite Individual Time Trial

Wattens - Innsbruck
14:40 - 16:50
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

Wednesday September 26

Men Elite Individual Time Trial

Rattenberg - Innsbruck
14:10 - 17:10
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

Thursday September 27

Women Juniors Road Race

Rattenberg - Innsbruck
09:10 - 11:15

Men Juniors Road Race

Kufstein - Innsbruck
14:40 - 18:15

Friday September 28

Men Under 23 Road Race

Kufstein - Innsbruck
12:10 - 16:50

Saturday September 29

Women Elite Road Race

Kufstein - Innsbruck
12:00 - 17:00
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

Sunday September 30

Men Elite Road Race

Kufstein - Innsbruck
09:40 - 16:40
Live coverage on Cyclingnews

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Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.

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