Continental race report – The World Championships
The end of the season is always a sad time, as we prepare to say goodbye to the pro peloton for the winter, but it does mean one thing: a new world champion! The World Championships are always interesting to watch, one reason being that riders don’t ride for their usual trade teams, but instead in their national colours. Whoever wins wears the coveted rainbow jersey for the whole season in their respected discipline. It is one of the most sought after jerseys in the whole of cycling.
The Championships this year were held in Richmond, Virginia (in the USA). The week kicked off with a team time trial, with BMC winning the men’s and Velocio-Sram winning the women’s for a fourth year in a row. The next big event was the women’s individual time trial. Kristin Armstrong was the home favourite, having won the jersey in previous years, as well as at the Olympics. She set a strong time and looked set to finish first, but it was not to be, with Linda Villumsen of New Zealand taking the win by only three seconds.
In the men’s individual time trial, there were many favourites. One was Tom Dumoulin (The Netherlands), however he lost a lot of power during his ride to sixth place in La Vuelta. There was also Tony Martin (Germany) who was a previous winner, as well as Rohan Dennis (Australia). However, none of these men managed to win, with all three seeming off the pace right from the gun. Adriano Malori looked as though he’d won it, but a nail-biting finale saw him lose by nine seconds to Team Sky rider Vasil Kiryenka (Belarus). Jerome Coppel rounded out the podium in third. It was good to see a rider who spends so many hours on the front working for his team leader to finally get his own moment of glory, and it is a moment that he will probably never forget.
In the women’s road race, Britain started off with a clear favourite: Lizzie Armistead. The race was extremely controlled from the very start, and only lone riders were allowed to break away before being swallowed up and spat out by the bunch. Near the end, two riders broke away – Scandolara (Italy) and Kitchen (Australia). The two looked as though they were going to make it to the line, but on the penultimate climb they were caught and passed by the fast-moving peloton, which contained one Lizzie Armistead. She attacked on the final climb, and the searing acceleration split up the group, with fragments of the bunch all over the road. A group of nine came to contest the finish. Armistead was forced to lead it out, but timed her sprint perfectly in order to claim her much awaited rainbow jersey.
The day after, the highly anticipated men’s race took place over a distance of 260km, nearly the equivalent of riding from Brighton to Stoke. Every year there is an exciting battle between all of the pros, with the winner not being just the strongest, but the most tactically able as well. The course was the same as that of the women’s race – a predominately flat circuit, but with two short and sharp cobbled climbs towards the end of the race.
The race itself was controlled and uneventful for the first part, but for one promising attack. Great Britain’s Ian Stannard, who managed to lead a group of six away from the peloton, initiated it. Of the six there were some big names: current World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), former World Champion Tom Boonen (Belgium) and star sprinter Elia Viviani (Italy). The gap grew to almost 40 seconds, but as a result of some hard work from the German and Australian teams, it was not to be.
Approaching the final two climbs, they were all back together. At the foot of the climb, an attack by Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic thinned out the group, despite him not being able to get a distinctive gap. On the final climb, it was Peter Sagan who had a go. No one could follow the electric acceleration from the Slovak, who powered clear onto the finishing straight, giving himself enough time to sit up and enjoy the moment. Behind him, Australian Michael Matthews prevailed in the sprint for second, and Rasmus Navardauskas took bronze – the first ever world Championship medal for Lithuania. All focus however, was on the new World Champion: Sagan. After a string of disappointing seconds and thirds on multiple occasions this season, one could only help but feel happy for him, no matter where you stand on his somewhat controversial character.
Although the World Championships is supposed to be the traditional end of season event, there are still a few more races to come. One of these Is Il Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy). This is a lumpy one day race and is known as the ‘climber’s classic’. Previous winners include Joaquim Rodriguez and Dan Martin. There are no clear favourites for the race, however there is one thing that is crystal clear – it is going to be a fast and furious race. You never know, maybe Peter Sagan will get his first win in the rainbow jersey…