The world championship road race stands out among all other one-day races as the one where the winner is awarded both a curse and a jersey to carry for the next 12 months. It also inspires way too many riders to wear white bibs, which is an alarming trend in itself and one which I hope Brian Cookston, the new UCI President, prioritizes over the doping problem – let’s face facts: white shorts on rainy days does more damage to Cycling’s image than any doping scandal ever could.
Be that as it may, I often find myself wondering if its easier to win a Grand Tour or a one-day race. Certainly, winning a Grand Tour requires focus, discipline, and performance across a wide range of terrain and over a long period of time, but it also offers the opportunity to recover from a bad moment and to take advantage of the days where the terrain or discipline suits the qualities of the rider. A one-day race, on the other hand, is shorter but also less controllable. All in, no net; a moment’s inattention could be disastrous and in an instant your chances could disappear up the road.
The World Championships are also the only race which has brought Mary V to tears after narrowly losing the title. The Dutch don’t cry easily, especially not the ones who bleed pure V.
The Worlds are always a live wire of a race; the national teams mean the riders are riding for and against their usual teammates. Team unity is always a question, and loyalties are hard to predict. All for one and one for all, until a mate goes up the road and suddenly things start looking blurry. Throw in a circuit race, a big climb you ride 17 times, a steep ramp about V km from finish, and you’ve got yourself a race Nostradamus would have a chore predicting.