Race preview: 2017 World Road Race Championships, Bergen

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The UCI Road Race World Championships are taking place in Bergen, Norway this year. In our preview of the road races and the time trials, we consider the contenders and the courses.

Photographs: ASO / Offside / L'Equipe
World Road Race Championships

The 2017 UCI Road World Championships takes place in Bergen, “the Gateway to the Fjords of Norway”. Returning to the country for the first time since 1993, the event should present the best that the region has to offer, while the racing is designed to bring home at least one rainbow jersey for Norway.

 

The 2017 Courses
Both men’s and women’s road courses are principally based around the same Bergen circuit. Bergen is not an especially large city – population approximately 300,000 – which means the race can take in – and show off – almost all of it.

 

Before the men hit the finishing circuit, they must bump their way along 40 kilometres of islands from Rong in western Norway. The most spectacular landmark along the way is the magnificent kilometre-long Sotra suspension bridge.

 

The finishing circuit appears to be dominated by a single climb. Look closer, however, and you find that it’s neither especially steep, nor particularly long – although by the eleventh pass (for the elite men) it’ll probably feel a lot tougher than it did the first time around. The elite women only have to go over it eight times, which should mean a sizeable bunch can keep together, unless it’s in someone’s particular interest to split the race apart.

 

 

The time-trial has been similarly set up to showcase the very best of Bergen, but also to test the cyclists.

 

The women take on a 21.1km course which, in the view of one of the favourites, Annemiek van Vleuten, is significantly tougher than that of the road race.

 

This is down to the Birkelundsbakken climb. A mile long at 7.2% average, it gets gradually steeper over its length, pitching up to 16% at its maximum. The most aerodynamic position in the world isn’t going to save a time trialist who can’t climb here.

 

The men’s course is similar to the women’s, but longer, and with a climb that’s likely to have even more impact on the outcome.

 

Instead of the Birkelundsbakken, it’s Mount Fløyen. It has an average gradient of 9.1%, and with the official description calling the climb “serpentine”, it’s not just steep but technical, too. It also happens to make up the final 3.4km of the 31km course, which means the TT has a summit finish.

 

 

Some riders will choose to change to a road bike at the start of the slope and there is an officially designated “bike exchange zone” marked on the course. Could the victory depend on this decision? The views at the top will make for good television, though for the riders, the rainbow stripes will be a more fitting reward.

 

Schedule:

Time-Trials:

Women’s Team TT: Sunday 17 September, 12.05pm to 1.55pm
Men’s Team TT: Sunday 17 September, 3.35pm – 5.25pm
Women’s Elite Individual TT: Tuesday 19 September, 3.35pm – 5.15pm
Men’s Elite Individual TT: Wednesday 20 September, 1.05pm – 5.25pm

 

Road Races:

Women’s Elite: Saturday 23 September, 1.30pm – 5.30pm
Men’s Elite: Sunday 24 September, 10.05am – 4.45pm

 

All start times local (CEST)

 

Men’s Field
It’s been suggested the Bergen road course has been designed to deliver the rainbows to a local. (The last Norwegian to win them, Thor Hushovd, was involved in its design, so this seems perfectly plausible). Neither of the home favourites grew up particularly close to Bergen, but Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen will race their home Worlds with a better chance of taking home the stripes than ever before.

 

Kristoff won the points competition at the Tour of Britain, while EBH finished the same race in style, soloing to the win, and almost the overall, in Cardiff.

 

Both also finished in the twelve-man front group at the World in Doha last year. A few other lightweight finishers from that bunch who could be contenders this year include reigning champion Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and Greg Van Avermaet. At the Tour, the Slovak came out comfortably on top in the single Sagan v Matthews showdown we were treated to. Could “Bling” win the rematch?

 

 

Outside bets would include Elia Viviani, who enjoyed himself at the Tour of Britain, Fernando Gaviria, who likewise took a single stage there, and Matteo Trentin, who dominated the Vuelta bunch sprints (though that’s not really saying much).

 

The time-trial course does even more of the selection for us than that of the road race, with the winner almost guaranteed to be one of the few time trialists who is good in the mountains. With that in mind, it’s hard to see past Chris Froome, especially considering his victory in the Vuelta and the margin by which he won the race of truth there.

 

The only rider who might be able to stop him is Tom Dumoulin. The last time the two competed against each other in a time-trial was at the 2016 Tour de France, on a course significantly shorter than this one, but almost entirely uphill. On that occasion, Froome came out on top by a margin of twenty seconds, but the Dutchman’s improved his hill skills a bit since then.

 

There aren’t many more worth mentioning but if it all goes wrong for those two, Australian Rohan Dennis, former world champion Vasil Kiriyenka and new Sky signing Jonathan Castroviejo could all be contenders for the podium.

 

Chris Froome on his way to victory in the individual time-trial at the 2017 Vuelta

 

Women’s Field
With such a strong roster to choose from, several of whom are coming to the end of their most successful seasons, the most difficult thing is deciding which Dutch rider is best placed to win the road race in Bergen.

 

That might even prove to be a problem for the team itself, though it’s easy to imagine the riders going for the time-trial prize – Annemiek van Vleuten and Ellen van Dijk are the Dutch two for that race – ruling themselves out, allowing the others to fight it out among themselves.

 

Marianne Vos would love to wrap herself in the rainbows again, though she faces stiff competition from Anna van der Breggen.

 

World Championships have a tendency to be races of attrition, so the decision could ultimately get made for them, with it just coming down to who is strongest on the day.

 

Amalie Dideriksen wins the Women’s road race in Doha

 

In the event of too many cooks spoiling the Dutch broth, there are plenty of riders in other teams who will fancy their chances: Coryn Rivera, who this season won Flanders and the London Classique, thinks it’s a course that suits her; reigning champion Amalie Dideriksen isn’t going to let the jersey go without a fight, while Lizzie Deignan could yet spring a surprise, even though she’s just had her appendix out.

 

In the time-trial, rivals to the Dutch will include reigning world champion Amber Neben and Rio Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong.

 

Previous Winners

 

Women’s Road Race
2016 Amalie Dideriksen (DEN)
2015 Lizzie Armitstead (GBR)
2014 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA)
2013 Marianne Vos (NED)
2012 Marianne Vos (NED)
2011 Giorgia Bronzini (ITA)

 

 

Men’s Road Race
2016 Peter Sagan (SVK)
2015 Peter Sagan (SVK)
2014 Michał Kwiatkowski (POL)
2013 Rui Costa (POR)
2012 Philippe Gilbert (BEL)
2011 Mark Cavendish (GBR)

 

Women’s Time-Trial
2016 Amber Neben (USA)
2015 Linda Villumsen (NZL)
2014 Lisa Brennauer (GER)
2013 Ellen van Dijk (NED)
2012 Judith Arndt (GER)
2011 Judith Arndt (GER)

 

Men’s Time-Trial
2016 Tony Martin (GER)
2015 Vasil Kiryienka (BLR)
2014 Bradley Wiggins (GBR)
2013 Tony Martin (GER)
2012 Tony Martin (GER)
2011 Tony Martin (GER)

 

Most Wins by Country

 

Women’s Time-Trial
United States 6
Germany 4
France 4
Netherlands 3
Switzerland 2

 

Men’s Time-Trial
Germany 7
Switzerland 5
Australia 3
Great Britain 2
Spain 2

 

Women’s Road Race
France 10
Netherlands 9
Belgium 6
Italy 5
Germany 5
Great Britain 5

 

Men’s Road Race
Belgium 26
Italy 19
France 8
Netherlands 7
France 5

 

 

The Handmade Cyclist Mug – Peter Sagan