The summer dates of the UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, ‘super Worlds’ mean the men’s road race title will be decided just two weeks after the Tour de France, adding an extra twist to the most prestigious one-day race of the season.
The Road World Championships were once held at the end of August before the racing season was stretched into September and October. Now with the men’s road race on the opening weekend in Glasgow, it is the earliest the rainbow jersey will be awarded since Marino Basso snatched victory from his Italian teammate Marino Basso in 1972.
Riders who have emerged from the Tour de France on form are sure to fight for victory, while modern training methods and the Vuelta a España being on the horizon means other riders will be fresh and strong, and so able to challenge for the medals.
The men’s road race appears to suit the Classics riders but the 271km distance, on 10 laps of a twisting 14.3km Glasgow finishing circuit, and the risk of rain will make it a day for the fittest and strongest in the men’s peloton. The only real climb is Montrose Street – 200 metres at 7% – and so bike handling skills and positioning will be other vital factors in deciding who pulls on the rainbow jersey on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a special course, it’s very unusual,” French National Coach Thomas Voeckler recently told L’Equipe. “There are 48 corners per lap, so almost 500 in total in the second part of the race.”
The race starts in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh and includes a 100km loop north, before reaching Glasgow for the finishing circuits.
Long-range attacks, like the one Remco Evenepoel made to win in Wollongong in 2022, could work again this year, with Tadej Pogačar perhaps ready to jump away early with the young Belgian. Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Neilson Powless, Michael Matthews and others may prefer to race hard on the final laps, while Jasper Philipsen and other sprinters will hope the race ends in some kind of fast finish.
Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard will not ride for Denmark and Tom Pidcock, Primož Roglič, Matej Mohorič are also absent for their respective national teams. Biniam Girmay was a late withdrawal after his crash at the Clasica San Sebastian and visa problems amongst his Eritrean team.
These are the riders Cyclingnews believes will challenge for the men’s world title in Glasgow.
Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of all the racing, with a full race report and photo gallery, interviews and analysis.
Remco Evenepoel raced in the rainbow jersey for the last time when he dominated the Clásica San Sebastián and so could extend his time in the iconic jersey with a similar performance in Glasgow. His Soudal-QuickStep teammate Julian Alaphilippe was the last to win back-to-back titles in 2020-2021.
The 23-year-old Belgian is also targeting the time trial world title next Friday and then the Vuelta a España but he always loves a challenge and appears ready to race after spending much of July at altitude.
Evenepoel will share leadership of the Belgian team with Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen. The fall out and tension with Van Aert after the 2021 Worlds in Belgium seems resolved but Evenepoel will surely try to anticipate both his teammates and his rivals.
The Slovenian made a late decision to ride the Road World Championships after the fatigue of taking on Jonas Vingegaard at the Tour de France but his recent record breaking test ride on the Col de la Madone in the south of France indicates he has recovered and is keen to race.
His one-day pedigree includes the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne, all just in 2023.
Tadej Pogačar will also ride next Friday’s time trial but his best chance of success is surely on Sunday even if the Slovenian team will offer him little support in the finale of the race. He can handle the twisting Glasgow circuit and the long distance but doubts remain about how he can single handedly take on the major cycling nations.
The Danish Classics rider and sprinter won the world title in Yorkshire in 2019 and Glasgow in the rain seems a perfect opportunity for a second victory.
Pedersen won a stage at the Tour de France and left France confident and on form. He loves long, gruelling races and has the full support of the Danish team, with Kasper Asgreen, Søren Kragh Andersen, Magnus Cort and Michael Mørkøv as talented support and possible alternatives.
Jasper Philipsen proved he is far more than just a sprinter in the last 12 months and his four stage wins and the green points jersey at the Tour de France earned him a protected role in the Belgian team.
If Sunday’s race comes back together on the final lap then Evenepoel and Van Aert will have to ride for him. Few other riders have his finishing speed but he will have to confirm his success at Classic Brugge-De Panne and Scheldeprijs in the biggest one- day race of the year.
He caused a huge polemic in Belgium by suggesting he wouldn’t race against Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate and Dutch rivals Mathieu van der Poel but now seems loyal to the Belgian cause, especially if he has a chance to sprint for the world title.
The USA team includes just six riders but the presence of Neilson Powless, Matteo Jorgenson and Quinn Simmons give them a number of contenders and tactical options.
All three will have to join key breakaway attempts but they could be in the final selection in numbers, giving them a shot at least at a medal.
Powless led the king of the mountains competition at the Tour de France for a long spell and showed his form and tactical intuition by attacking from the chase group to finish fourth at Clásica San Sebastián. At 26, he has the class and maturity to become world champion.
Wout van Aert was the leader of the Belgian team in 2021 but appeared to struggle under the weight of the cycling nation’s expectation. He also struggled in this year’s Classics and so is hungry to finally land a major victory and prove his status as one of the best riders of his generation.
Van Aert left the Tour de France early to become a father but has recently clocked back-to-back 200-kilometre training rides nar home in northern Belgium and appears to be on form.
If it rains in Glasgow on Sunday, Van Aert’s cyclocross skills and determination will give him a significant advantage. After showing his ability to perform over varied types of Tour de France stages, it could finally be Van Aert’s turn to win the world title for Belgium.
Mathieu van der Poel has long been Van Aert’s bête noire and is arguably the one rider with equal or even better bike skills and talent than the Belgian.
The 2022 World Championships were a disaster for Van der Poel after he was taken into police custody the night before after confronting children who had knocked on his hotel room door.
The 28-year-old Dutchman has only won four races in 2023 but they include Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. He was also second in Glasgow back in 2018 when Matteo Trentin won the European title on a similar city centre circuit.
Van der Poel often sacrificed his chance of a stage win at the Tour de France to lead out Philipsen. He will want to win himself on Sunday before also riding the mountain bike race in the hope of winning two world titles.
Fred Wright leads Great Britain on home turf and has the form and aggression to at least be a medal contender in Glasgow.
The Bahrain Victorious rider often went on the attack at the Tour de France hoping for a stage win but came up empty handed. The British national title was his first professional victory but the stars could align for the likeable Londoner at this World Championships.
With Tom Pidcock and Geraint Thomas focusing on the mountain bike and time trial events, Wright will have full support from the Great Britain team that also includes Connor Swift, Luke Rowe and protected sprinter Jake Stewart.
The two-time World Champion has struggled to return to his best this year but in Glasgow he will surely be out to prove a point to whoever may have written him off.
Alaphilippe leads the French team with Christophe Laporte and Benoît Cosnefroy and his bike skills will give him an advantage on the Glasgow circuit. The French rider has not travelled to Scotland to go trainspotting, but he would love to be the Begbie of Sunday’s race.
Italy and Tuscany have a long history of success at the world championships and Alberto Bettiol will lead the Azzurri alongside Matteo Trentin.
Neither have the credentials of Paolo Bettini and other Italian greats of the past but Bettiol polished his form at the Tour de France and had the legs and courage to go on the attack with Evenepoel at the Clasica San Sebastian.
The Glasgow course has far less climbing and more of a classic vibe, meaning it would be foolish to underestimate Bettiol. His rivals did in 2019 and he won the Tour of Flanders.
Outsiders to watch
The change from professional teams to national teams always impacts the dynamic of racing at the World Championships, offering huge opportunities to those who know how to take them.
A strong team is vital for a team leader to emerge in the final decisive laps but outsiders can always take advantage.
On Sunday watch out for Australia’s Michael Matthews who won the Under 23 title in 2010 and was third last year.
Switzerland’s Marc Hirschi is also a dangerous dark horse, as is the ever aggressive Nils Politt of Germany, Ireland’s Ben Healy, Derek Gee of Canada, Norway’s Alexander Kristoff, Jefferson Cepada of Ecuador and 2014 World Champion Michał Kwiatkowski of Poland.
If Van der Poel struggles, Dylan van Baarle will take over as leader of the Dutch team. He could also go in any early attack with Evenepoel and Pogačar and beat them at the finish.
Denmark’s Magnus Cort could emerge in the finale and use his speed to win, while Olav Kooij will be the sprint option for the Netherlands and a possible rival for Philipsen.
Peter Sagan is riding his last road race at the World Championships before retirement and proved in Richmond, Doha and Bergen that he should never be written off.