Exactly a century after the debut, which took place in Copenhagen in 1921, the 94th edition of the Cycling World Championships will take place tomorrow, in Belgium, along the 267 kilometers from Antwerp to Leuven, part in line and part in double alternating circuit. Street. To be fair, insiders consider that of 1927 in Adenau, on the Nurburing circuit, the first world championship. This is because the first six editions were reserved for amateurs with professionals admitted only in 1927, when the rainbow jersey was introduced to coincide with the all-blue podium composed of Alfredo Binda, Costante Girardengo and Domenico Piemontesi.
The path would seem very hard. Not so much for a particular roughness but for the continuity of ups and downs that will not give the riders respite. Except for the first 50 kilometers, from the start to Rotseelar, which are basically flat, there is not a meter without a slope. The race will alternate on two circuits, both covered with walls, on which those who want to attack will find bread for their teeth. The ring around Leuven, 16 kilometers long, will be tackled first. It will include four walls: Wijnpers (360 meters at 7.98%, maximum slope of 9%), Sint-Antoniusberg (230 meters at 5.47%, maximum slope of 11%), Keizersberg (290 meters at 6.6 %, maximum slope of 9%) and Decouxlaan. After passing the Wijnpers for the second time, the race will move to the second circuit, called “delle Fiandre”, decidedly more demanding with its five stretches, all with double-digit peaks: Smeysberg (700 meters at 8.84%, maximum gradient by 16%), Moskesstraat (550 meters at 7.98%, maximum gradient of 18%), S-bocht Overijse Taymansstraat (738 meters at 5.53%, maximum gradient of 18.3%), Bekestraat (439 meters at 7.65%, maximum gradient of 15%) and Veeweidestraat (484 meters at 5.16%, maximum gradient of 12%). The second pass on the Smeysberg will be the prelude to the return to the first ring. At this point, the race will be in the middle of its course. The following four laps on the easier circuit could constitute an interlocutory phase before returning to the harder one just over 80 kilometers from the finish. It is likely that the race will then light up among those who have survived the natural selection imposed by the route, most likely also facilitated by the foretold bad weather. At 35 kilometers from the finish, there will be the final return to the first ring which will be faced entirely twice and partially a third one until the finish on a slight slope.
It is possible that only one man could arrive although it is more likely that a small group of no more than half a dozen riders will be fighting for the title in the sprint. Wout Van Aert, not for the first time, he starts as a big favorite. If the Belgian team runs properly, protecting him in order to save him energy in the first part of the race, it is difficult for the victory to escape. The only formation capable of opposing the hosts, on paper, is Slovenia. Primoz Roglic he did not run the time trial but three weeks after the end of a Vuelta, dominated by the first to the last stroke of the pedal, he could be in decreasing form. On the contrary, it is in growing condition Tadej Pogacar, even if he does not seem to have yet reached the state of grace that this year allowed him to hit prestigious milestones such as Liège – Bastogne – Liège and the Tour de France. Another team to keep an eye on is Denmark. Kasper Asgren, winner of the Tour of Flanders six months ago, will lead a hungry squad including Magnus Cort Nielsen, winner of three stages at the Vuelta, Mads Pedersen, the unexpected winner two years ago in Harrogate, and Michael Valgren, in good shape superlative in recent Tuscan races. Finally, a mention for pedigree rather than for real possibilities, goes to the defending champion Julian Alaphilippe and to the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, both not in top form.
Last but not least, but not so much, let’s come to Italy. To think that what happened at the recent European Championship in Trento could be repeated is utopian. Unlike two weeks ago, tomorrow’s race will require excellent background qualities, not quite the hallmark of the men selected by Davide Cassani, probably at his farewell step on the blue flagship. Sonny Colbrelli dreams of superimposing the rainbow jersey on the two, Italian and European, already won this year while Matteo Trentin he would like to avenge Harrogate’s mockery, when, unlike Beppe Saronni at Goodwood, he was left with a shot in the barrel at the time of the shot. Gianni Mosconfinally, it hopes to give substance to years of waiting for a tomorrow that has never become today. The other members of the team will have to enter the escapes trusting that it will lead to something good. The cabal says that the last two world championships in Flemish land, a long time ago, smiled at the Azzurri with the victories of Maurizio Fondriest in 1988 in Ronse and Mario Cipollini in 2002 in Zolder. A new Italian miracle will be needed for these memories to be transformed into something concrete.