Yorkshire’s love affair with cycling rolls on. After the success of the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and the now-established Tour de Yorkshire, the county in the north of England welcomes the world of cycling for the annual Road World Championships.
Yorkshire’s rolling roads and hordes of fans have put the county on the cycling map in recent years, and they will be the hallmark of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships, which run from September 22-29, with starts and routes crossing the county.
This will be the fourth time Great Britain has hosted the Worlds, almost 100 years on from the second edition in Liverpool in 1922, 49 since Leicester in 1970, and 37 since Giuseppe Saronni beat Greg LeMond and Sean Kelly in Goodwood in 1982.
The Yorkshire cycling craze may well fade in the future now that Gary Verity, who led the way in bringing the Tour to town and creating the Tour de Yorkshire, has resigned from the Welcome to Yorkshire tourism board amid a bullying and expenses scandal. It remains to be seen whether the organisation are as enthusiastic about pro cycling in the future.
What’s not in question is Yorkshire’s ability to host a memorable World Championships. As has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the last several years, Yorkshire and British crowds will come out and support a bike race. Tour de France director Prudhomme was bowled over in 2014, and even the Tour de Yorkshire has been raced in front of crowds usually reserved for the biggest races.
And then there’s the terrain. Relentlessly undulating, with grippy road surfaces and technical corners, the races – which will be among the longest any of the riders will have faced – should provide a robust test of a bike rider.
There will be 11 events over the course of eight days starting from Sunday, covering time trials and road races across the junior, U23 and elite categories for both men and women. The winners will pull on the coveted rainbow jersey, which will be theirs for the following 12 months. For the very first time a Para-cycling race will take place alongside the UCI Road World Championships, with four races on Saturday September 21.
The road races
The road races at the World Championships are always built around a circuit, and this year it's a 14km loop based in Harrogate. Each race will start elsewhere for an opening section of varying lengths – depending on the different categories – before coming into Harrogate for repeated laps of the circuit.
Typically, the races begin with a doomed early breakaway, before the local laps whittle down team and rider resources in a war of attrition that leaves the strongest riders standing.
That should well be the case in Harrogate, which may not be obviously hilly, but nevertheless accrues a significant amount of elevation gain with near-constant undulations.
We sent veteran cycling writer William Fotheringham out to ride the circuit, and the "mix of urban and rural, technical and hilly" reminded him of Oslo 1993.
"There isn't a lot of space for a team to get to work, because there is constant up and down and what the French call 'relance', where a rider loses impetus and has to pick it up again.
"It's not so much a climber's course but one for a rider who is good technically and can handle a whole series of changes of pace and intensity – a real Classics rider."
The Elite Men's road race is the final event of the World Championships, taking place on Sunday, September 29. The total distance of 284 kilometres makes it the second-longest race of the year, just seven kilometres behind Milan-San Remo.
The race starts out in the city of Leeds, south of Harrogate, and heads northwest into the Yorkshire Dales for an opening loop of 187km before coming down into Harrogate for seven laps of the 14-kilometre circuit. The opening section features three categorised climbs, all of which featured in the 2014 Tour de France: Kidstones (60km), Buttertubs (95km), and Grinton Moor (120km).
It's difficult to predict a winner, with a wide range of credible candidates. On the one hand, the lack of big climbs could see a robust sprinter like Alexander Kristoff (Norway) in the mix, but on the other, the accumulated elevation gain and demanding roads open the door to the climbers who thrive in the Ardennes Classics. The sweet spot is arguably in the middle, with the robust Flemish Classics specialists.
Peter Sagan (Slovakia) fits the bill perfectly and, despite a disappointing season, will be among the top tier of favourites as he looks to capture a record-breaking fourth world title. Julian Alaphilippe (France) has had a sensational season and, if he can muster a third 'peak' to match the form that took him to Milan-San Remo glory in the spring and Tour de France heroics in the summer, will be almost unbeatable.
The third big name that stands out is that of Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), who has simply been astounding all season on every terrain. His stunning victory at Amstel Gold Race is ample evidence that, despite his inexperience, he can go the distance and still produce a searing sprint.
Elsewhere, Greg Van Avermaet signaled his form with victory at the GP Cycliste de Montréal, and will lead Belgium alongside Philippe Gilbert, who won two stages at the Vuelta a España.
Belgium are clearly the strongest team in the race, with Remco Evenepoel, Oliver Naesen and Dylan Teuns among the support cast. Other candidates with recent wins include Michael Matthews (Australia) and Matteo Trentin (Italy), while 2018 champion Alejandro Valverde (Spain) recently finished second overall at the Vuelta.
The Elite Women's Road Race starts in Bradford, west of Leeds, and also heads up into the Dales, though on a much shorter and less hilly loop of 107km. There are two categorised climbs – Norwood Edge (15km) and Lofthouse (45km) – before the route loops around and down to Harrogate for three laps of the finishing circuit, bringing the total distance to 149km.
Anna van der Breggen is the reigning champion and once again a major contender for the title, though she is just one rider in a Dutch team stacked full of potential winners.
The bigger favourite is the resurgent Marianne Vos, a three-time world road race champion, who, after a difficult couple of years, has been sweeping all before her with an astounding run of 16 victories so far in 2019.
The Dutch also have Annemiek van Vleuten, winner of the Giro Rosa, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Strade Bianche this year, along with former world champion Chantal Blaak and current European champion Amy Pieters. One rider who won't be short of motivation is 2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), who will race through her hometown of Otley.
The Junior Men kick off the road races on the Thursday, with a 149km route from Richmond in North Yorkshire down to Harrogate for three laps of the circuit, followed on the Friday by the Junior Women, who will race 86km from Doncaster in south Yorkshire.
Later on the Friday come the U23 Men, who also start in Doncaster before heading north for a couple of hills and back down and around into Harrogate for three laps of the circuit.
The time trials
The Worlds kick off on Sunday, September 22, with something of a novelty: the Team Time Trial Mixed Relay.
It's the UCI's attempt to breathe new life into a discipline that has struggled to find a place in the Worlds. The team time trial was originally run as a nations event in which four riders would tackle courses of up to 100km, but was discontinued in 1995.
The TTT returned in 2012 to be contested by trade teams on the weekend before the road races but that proved unpopular with fans and even with the teams themselves. The event became a battle ground for teams and the UCI to fight our their power struggle, with few teams interested in the prestige of being world champions.
The brave new world of the TTT will combine men and women into a 'Mixed Relay', a format that was trialed earlier this year at the European Championships.
The men and women still race separately, but in the same team (nation) in the same race, with three men completing a lap of the course before 'tagging in' three women. The women's lap will begin when the second man has crossed the line - meaning one rider can be dropped – and the clock will stop when the second woman has crossed the line at the end of their lap.
The route for the first Worlds Mixed Relay is based on the 14-kilometre Harrogate circuit used in the road races, with each nation sending their men's trio off for one lap before the women do the second lap. The event will not only require cohesion between the sets of riders, but a balance in quality between the men's and women's legs.
At the European Championships, the Netherlands were convincing winners, and will start as the favourites again given their strength in depth. However, it remains to be seen how many nations choose to field their strongest riders, and how many save them for the individual events. The success of the new format may well rest upon that.
The Individual Time Trials take place on the weekdays, with the Elite Women on the Tuesday and Elite Men on the Wednesday.
The women will cover a 30-kilometre course that starts in Ripon and heads south to the finish in Harrogate. The opening 14km are largely flat as the route takes a main road down to Ripley, but the route then becomes hilly, with three ups and downs through smaller towns before the run-in to Harrogate, which itself is on an uphill drag.
The overwhelming favourite is current champion Annemiek van Vleuten, who won last year with a margin of 30 seconds and has had another hugely successful season with wins against the clock at the Giro Rosa and Boels Ladies Tour. Her closest competitors are teammates, in Anna van der Breggen and Lucinda Brand.
The men will cover 54km, starting further north in Northallerton and tracking down to Harrogate. The riders will be able to get up to speed in the opening few kilometres but will be hit by a sharp climb in Masham, separated by a tricky descent from another leg-sapping incline.
Just before the half-way point, the route levels out but there’s barely a metre of flat as the roads constantly undulate, making it difficult to settle into a rhythm. The route dips down before joining the women’s course for the last few kilometres’ run-in to Harrogate.
The race is wide open, with doubts surrounding 2018 champion Rohan Dennis. The Australian hasn’t raced since quitting the Tour de France and is preparing to ride without his usual equipment after a fall-out with Bahrain-Merida. Furthermore, there’s no Tom Dumoulin; the 2017 champion having called time on his season after a row with his own Sunweb team.
Primož Roglič, who just won the Vuelta a Espana via a dominant TT win, could be the favourite if he can hang onto his condition from Spain, while Remco Evenepoel, winner of the junior event last year, has shown he is already among the best in the world by winning the elite European title in August.
The junior time trials for men and women take place on the Monday, with the women covering one lap of the 14km Harrogate circuit, and the men two. The U23 men’s time trial takes place on the Tuesday ahead of the elite women, using the exact same course.
Sunday, September 22
Team Time Trial Mixed Relay
Harrogate / 28km / 13:10pm-15:40pm
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
Monday, September 23
Women Juniors Individual Time Trial
Harrogate / 14km / 10:10-12:00
Men Juniors Individual Time Trial
Harrogate / 28km / 13:10-16:50
Tuesday, September 24
Men U23’s Individual Time Trial
Ripon-Harrogate / 30km / 10:10-12:30
Women Elite Individual Time Trial
Ripon-Harrogate / 30km / 14:40-17:00
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
Wednesday, September 25
Men Elite Individual Time Trial
Northallerton-Harrogate / 54km / 13:10-16:00
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
Thursday, September 26
Men Juniors Road Race
Richmond-Harrogate / 148km / 12:10-15:45
Friday, September 27
Women Juniors Road Race
Doncaster-Harrogate / 86km / 08:40-11:20
Men U23 Road Race
Doncaster-Harrogate / 187km / 14:10-19:05
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
Saturday, September 28
Women Elite Road Race
Bradford-Harrogate / 149km / 11:40-16:00
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
Sunday, September 29
Men Elite Road Race
Leeds-Harrogate / 285km / 08:40 – 15:40
Live coverage on Cyclingnews
How to watch
If you live outside a broadcast zone or are on holiday outside your country and find that Road World Championships live streams to be geo-restricted, you can get around this by getting access to them by simulating being back in your home country via a 'virtual private network', or VPN, for your laptop, tablet or mobile.
TechRadar tested hundreds of VPNs and recommends the number one best VPN currently available as Express VPN. With ExpressVPN, you can watch on many devices at once including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets etc. Check out Express VPN and get 15 months for the price of 12.
The UCI's own YouTube channel will also provide coverage of select races.
Check out our dedicated page for details on how to watch the World Championships from anywhere.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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