It's not where we, or the UCI, were expecting the rainbows to be contested, and we're not getting quite as many races as usual, but it is the same weekend as it was originally scheduled. At this point we're just grateful the World Championships is taking place at all.
The Imola course profile is a bit different to the original Aigle one. Although a similar amount of total climbing, the parcours is made up of two smaller lumps as opposed to one major climb. There's also no run-in before hitting the circuit, so it should start hard, with no let-up for a single one of its nine laps.
But how will that affect the way it's raced, and the riders with a chance of winning it? Who do our panel reckon is in with a shot? And what does The Cycling Mole think of their picks?
Marc Hirschi - Switzlerand
I don’t think my love of Switzerland is clouding my judgement here. After his romp through France, and looking at his team full of super strong, mostly unsung heroes, I think Marc Hirschi will be another young winner at Worlds. A Swiss win would make up somewhat for the disappointment in having to move the venue (as much as we all love Italy and thank Imola for taking up the slack). The usual suspects – France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands – all look very strong. And I suspect the Australians, Danes, Brits, and Slovenians all fancy their chances as well. But I’m going for a home win; my home, at least. Hopp Schwiiz!
Jakob Fuglsang - Denmark
This course looks *brutal*. As foolish as it feels to bet against Wout van Aert, it would seem even sillier to count out Jakob Fuglsang. Two Danes in a row? Why not?
Jasper Stuyven - Belgium
The Belgian team is sensational – packed full of talent from top to bottom. The question is, who will be working and who will be shirking? My punt is The Rest of The World will be all over Wout van Aert like a rash, enabling Stuyven to play the old one-two and slip away unfettered. I’m no betting man (clearly) but, blimey, you should see the odds on that happening…
Marc Hirschi - Switzerland
The Swiss team would have been focusing on the Worlds that was set to be raced in their country, but the global pandemic robbed them of the opportunity to race at home. Hirschi showed the tremendous form that he was in at the Tour with some opportunistic, bold racing - there seems no way that he won't give it a go in Italy.
Michal Kwiatkowski - Poland
I’ve just got a hunch that we won’t get a totally expected winner and it’ll be the Pole’s day. He can sit tight while stronger teams make the running. Also, we witnessed his fitness during his day-long Tour break with Carapaz.
The Cycling Mole says
I trust we were all paying attention today as the ‘race’ showed us just how hard the two climbs are. The men’s will hopefully be much more attacking, if ridden hard the peloton should be tiny in the final laps. When making your selection for this race you need to consider who has Tour Legs. Those riders who went really deep just one week ago will likely be far too tired to win the rainbow jersey. On the other hand, those riders who didn’t race in France will likely find it hard competing with those who did. In selecting the winner of this race you need to find a rider who did the Tour de France, didn’t go too deep, and left the race with good legs. I bloody love cycling!
Nick goes for Fuglsang, and if anyone can beat the Tour riders it’s him. On the bad side is his lack of a sprint, given how far the final climb is from home I would favour a rider who can sprint a bit. Ian is picking Jasper Stuyven, hahahahahahahaha. This is meant as no disrespect to Jasper (he’s a friend of mine), but it’s a horrible pick. Ben and Olivia are going for Hirschi, the sensation of the Tour. I’m discounting him as he went deep on multiple occasions in France, and he’s very young. You don’t win the rainbow jersey at 22. Andy likes the look of Kwiato, and he does fit the bill of someone who is leaving the Tour with good legs. This is a solid pick and I can’t argue with it, as much as I’d like to.
Ever since the last week of the Tour, I had one rider in my head, but I’ve now changed my mind. I was going to go with Valverde, mainly to annoy all those sanctimonious arses who dislike him, but I’m jumping ship to someone who’ll love this course. Your new world champion will be Julian Alaphilippe, obviously.