The 2011 world championships are now in the rear-view mirror, but officials in Holland are already busy at work to prepare for next year’s series of races.
After Copenhagen’s relatively flat, sprinter-friendly course that left some fans empty, the 265km course in the hilly Limburg region has the potential to deliver an explosive, attack-ridden world championship race.
If Copenhagen was Mark Cavendish’s course, next year’s worlds in Valkenburg seems tailor-made for Philippe Gilbert.
The most striking feature of the 2012 worlds will be the Cauberg. The emblematic climb (1.2km at 5.8 percent) has been the battleground of four world championships as well as the annual spring classic with the Amstel Gold Race. The Cauberg climb will be the finish-line staging area for all time trials and road race events, except the junior women’s time trial.
The finish line will be dramatically different from what the pro men are used to seeing at the Amstel Gold Race, however.
The checkered-flag will be 1.7km beyond the Cauberg hill summit — about 1km longer than the Amstel Gold Race finish-line — providing a very similar scenario to the 1998 world championship battle when Oscar Camenzind beat back Peter Van Petegem and Michele Bartoli, with Lance Armstrong fourth.
The undulating Limburg region of southern Holland is known for its narrow, technical farm roads, heavy winds and short, but grueling climbs. Renowned as Holland’s cycling mecca, the region will be hosting its fifth world championships by putting some new touches on how a world championships is presented.
Picking up the trend of incorporating point-to-point racing at the worlds, the elite men’s road race will start in Maastricht and cover 100km point to point before hitting 10 finish laps on a 16.5km circuit. The opening 100km will trace part of the route of the Amstel Gold Race and tackle seven rated hills over narrow, technical roads,
Two climbs will be featured on each lap, with the Bemelerberg climb (with the maximum grade of 17 percent) coming about midway through each circuit. The route continues about 4km over slightly climbing terrain before descending into the edge of Valkenburg. The route turns left onto the Cauberg, which features ramps as steep 12 percent.
From there, it’s a slightly downhill run to the finish line 1.7km after the Cauberg summit.
There’s another interesting twist for the time trial races. Four different regional towns will host the start lines for the events against the clock. The pro team time trials will start in Sittard, with the women hitting two climbs and the men three climbs. Landgraaf will see the starts of the U23 and men TTs, with Eijsden seeing the starts for the junior and elite women’s TTs. The elite men will start in Heerlen on a demanding, hilly course feature three hard climbs, with all the TTs, except the junior women, finishing over the Cauberg.
The dates are set for September 15-23, with a week-long series of competition as well as the revival of the professional team time trial race the weekend before.
The Limburg region is no stranger to hosting major events. Along with the annual Amstel Gold Race as well as stages in the Eneco Tour, the Ster Elektrotoer and other regional races, the Limburg has hosted the world championships five previous occasions.
Valkenburg and the Cauberg climb featured in four of those world’s battles, with Marcel Kint (1938), Briek Schotte (1948), Jan Raas (1979) and Oscar Camenzind (1998) all claiming the rainbow jersey after powering up the short, but steep hill.
Nearby Heerlen played host to the 1967 worlds, when Eddy Merckx won the first of his three world crowns.
Tentative schedule for 2012 world championships
Saturday, Sept. 15: Time trial training; public ride Sunday, Sept. 16: Professional team time trial (31.9km women, 50.8km men) Monday, Sept. 17: ITT, junior men (26.6km); U23 men (36km) Tuesday, Sept. 18: ITT, junior women(15.6km); elite women (24.1km) Wednesday, Sept. 19: ITT, elite men (46.9km) Thursday, Sept. 20: no competition; UCI Congress in Maastricht Friday, Sept. 21: RR, junior women (66km) Saturday, Sept. 22: RR, U23 men (165km); elite women (132km) Sunday, Sept. 23: RR, junior men (132km); elite men (265km)