Friday Group Ride #185

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Maybe we’re spoiled for choice. Classics season gives way to Grand Tour time. In between there are a veritable panoply of small, interesting races that drag the world’s fastest cyclists all over the globe. Our sport is steeped in history and tradition, and yet remains ripe for innovation, for new races like the Strade Bianche to take hold of our collective imagination.

Increasingly lost in the churn of the season is the World Championship.

Born on the track in the 1890s, cycling’s World Championships have taken myriad forms, been run by multiple governing bodies and been slotted into the calendar haphazardly for more than a century. At times, the race has been the pinnacle of the season, at others it has been what it seems to be now, an afterthought.

This is not to say there is no prestige to wearing the rainbow jersey, nor that some of the best riders of this generation will make it one of their primary objectives for the season. Despite the relative truth that the World Champ almost always has a crap season in the multi-colored top (see this bit from Philippe Gilbert), it’s hard for a bunch of go-fast lunatics not to want to be crowned World Champion.

But sitting where it does in the schedule, stuck on the end like a spare tire, it doesn’t lend itself to high prestige or fan excitement or even the intrigue of the world’s best going at it in their mid-season form. Instead, the top contenders have dragged themselves to the four corners, looking for competitive races to tune up their finishing speed rather than springing off the back of some more logical and high profile one-day racing earlier in the year.

Of course, this is also a marketing problem, and the UCI has shown itself to be mediocre at race promotion, at least when compared to the 800-pound gorilla in the cycloverse, the Amaury Sports Organtization, owner of the Tour de France among many, many others, or even an upstart sports agitator like Red Bull. Maybe the diminution of the World Championships is one more reason to change leadership atop the UCI.

The whole circus starts this weekend with the team time trial and carries on through the week, culminating in next weekend’s individual time trials and road races.

This week’s Group Ride asks, are these races important to YOU? If not, why not? Has your attention wandered since the Vuelta? Or even before that? Do you hope your favorite rider wins in Florence, or do you hope they avoid the rainbow stripes, the better to compete in the coming season’s more important races? Predictions are allowed, too, but no one gets any credit for picking Marianne Vos for anything.

 Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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12 comments

  1. Souleur

    best way to end the year IMHO, worlds

    and I hope to see them all

    Spartacus will do very well, and Gilbert will seemingly gladly give up the stripes, as they are a very heavy crown to bear

  2. spiff

    this years worlds means one year away from next year in Richmond VA, just down the road from me here in DC. I can’t wait. One week of the pros in my back yard is getting me kinda excited.
    I’ve seen almost every Pro Tour event on the computer screen and want nothing better that live action. It does suffer a bad time of year and it seems that only the TV commentator knows how important it is to wear the jersey, but it is more important for the town/region hosting than the rest of the world.
    We don’t have Pro Tour events here in the Mid-Atlantic anymore, so this is a true gift.

  3. rashadabd

    To be 100% honest, I have a hard time getting into Worlds. It just doesn’t capture my attention the same way that the Spring Classics and the Grand Tours do. I also think I start to burn out on road cycling a bit this time of year. Last year cyclocross picked me back up. We’ll see how I feel this fall.

  4. rashadabd

    I should add that I do love seing someone return to their team with a World Champ kit and those that get to wear the rainbow arm bands though (weird, I know). I was also captivated by the cyclocross world championships last year (again, weird), but they don’t really have anything like grand tours or classics, so the national and world championships are pretty much the show.

  5. SusanJane

    I did enjoy the finishes of both the men and women’s worlds last year. This year I detect more interest among the riders. There are several serious contenders who have gone to great lengths to be ready. It may flop anyway but I see potential for a hotly contested race.

    The whole worlds thing is a little strange since what country a rider is from is pretty much “color” during the season, but the fans obviously care. Over the years I read the highlights with an element of ho-hum because it seemed that the riders rode without passion. Kind of hard to give a damn if the athletes don’t put anything into it.

    This whole curse nonsense is relative. My favorite is Boonen who stormed the universe in the rainbow jersey. Anyone who expected Gilbert to shine this year were wishful thinking. He had his dream season. Some riders only get one. Did you see him at the finish line at the Velta? He couldn’t believe he won… if you don’t believe you can win any more, well, you won’t.

  6. Tim McKuin

    If I were bike czar I’d pick iconic courses for road and tt, preferably crossing a couple of international boundaries, and stick with them from year to year. Just about every other major 1-day race on the calendar covers basically the same route every year, which enables the course to become a character in those decades-long stories. Even the grand tours and shorter stage races have their often-visited classic venues- the Vail tt, l’Alpe d’Huez, a sprint in Bordeaux, Gavia, etc. Place plays a huge role in bike racing, and when the Worlds use a different backdrop each year it’s hard to fall in love. The histories of the classics and grand tours are literally written on the roads for all to see, either as they race over them or as we watch from home. I think the World Championships would enjoy much greater interest if the UCI didn’t try to use the races as a way to spread the cycling love around.

    Sorry Richmond.

  7. Chiwode

    Super psyched for this. And then Lombardia. And then I’ll be in massive withdrawal after the Tour of Beijing waiting for Tour Down Under.

  8. Tom in albany

    I care who wins. I will read about it on the web, though. Sadly, LUG’s model doesn’t work for one-day races – not sure it works for Grand Tours! Anyway, since the big races happen on the weekends, I never see them anyway. That said, I think it’ll be intersting to see if Sagan can convince the rest of the Peloton to ride for him, seeing as he’ll have a small Slovak contingent to help. My money’s on Martin in the ITT with Spartacus disappointed by his close second and BBBSW in third. For the road race, this is a tough one. It’s sort of a classic but not… Could be anyone of about 8 guys. I’ll pick Fausto Coppi. Never bet against him on home roads!

  9. Margaret Smiddy

    I realize there is no credit for picking Mariane Vos to win the women’s road race but I still think she’ll win it. I don’t know about the men’s road race but with several strong contenders it will be exciting. With Martin, Wiggins and Cancellara in the TT it’s got potential to be quite a test. They will all have to do something special if they want to win. They are not the only strong TT contenders either so I think it will be quite a race.

  10. Paul

    I’m interested in them, looking forward to reading the live cycling news commentary on the men’s road race especially.

    I’ve told my wife that I want to see some of Richmond in 2015 (this will be harder than convincing her to go to Toronto for the Hockey Hall of Fame).

    My favorites:
    ITT: Tony Martin to win, Taylor Phinney to place
    Road: Tejay van Garderen ?

    Not worried about this ‘curse’, should always try to win (depending on role)

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