MILAN (VN) — Cycling is bracing itself for the hardest world championships in recent years. Last week, the organizer officially presented the course, which takes in Tuscany’s sights and cumulates with a circuit that includes two stiff climbs.
“It’s the hardest worlds circuit in recent years,” Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) told La Gazzetta dello Sport after riding it Friday. “It’s the one most adapted to me, but it won’t be easy to win because I’ll have to drop everyone.”
The Florence worlds calls back to 2003, when the peloton raced in Canada on a similarly tough Hamilton circuit. In recent years, only the circuits in Geelong, Australia, and in Limburg, Netherlands, came close to being as difficult as Hamilton was. Florence, however, has the numbers to suit grand tour riders and climbers like Nibali, Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Sky), and Australian Richie Porte (Sky).
The world championships start September 22, with the men’s race capping off the week seven days later. They will race 272.5 kilometers and climb 3,373 meters, which is comparable to classic like Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Since 2010, when the race began in Melbourne and finished with a Geelong circuit, the UCI has featured a point-to-point leg in the title fight. The elite men will begin in Lucca and ride 106km east to Florence, where they face the meat of the race: 10 circuits adding up to 50.4km or 3,000 meters of climbing.
Each circuit measures 16.57km. The Fiesole climbs for 4.3km and leaves 10.5km and two shorter, sharper climbs to race. The Via Salviati, 600 meters long and 5km out, hits 18 percent and Trento, 200m at 2.8km out, rises to 10 percent.
The road races, like the women’s event on Saturday from Montecatini Terme, start in different locations but feature the same tough circuit.
“The course is similar to an Ardennes classics,” Italian national coach Paolo Bettini said in a press release. “From the top of Via Salviati, the race is fast. Whoever is able to gain a few seconds will have the upper hand because the circuit is technical and the group will find it harder to follow and close the gap. If someone arrives with 20 seconds, they won’t be seen again.”
Porte is familiar with the area having lived and trained in Tuscany before moving after turning professional. He previewed the course in April before he began to build back for the Tour de France.
“The course is for good strong climbers, it’s hard,” Porte said in a press release.
“[The hardest is in] the last four kilometers. It’s a steep climb [Via Salviati]. I haven’t seen anything quite so hard in a worlds course. That will be crucial. Also, the distance makes every climb much harder.”
Nibali has the weight on his shoulders with a home course and this year’s Giro title in his palmarès. He previewed the course Friday with a handful of other Italians and Bettini, and made notes. The Fresiole climb, he said, can act as a launch pad and the final two ramps, with their technical run afterwards, could allow him to race to a rainbow jersey.