WORLDS’20 Imola: The PEZ Preview

Ed Hood previews the 2020 World road championships

2020 World Champs Preview: Many things have changed since Denmark’s Mads Pedersen won the World Championships in Yorkshire, The scheduled race in Switzerland had to be changed to Imola in Italy, but at least we will have a race and a new champion. Our most experienced ‘Worlds Watcher’, Ed Hood, gives us his thoughts on the Imola World Championships.

Who will replace Mads Pedersen in the rainbow jersey?

It’s a strange old year; le Tour finished on Sunday and the Worlds are next Sunday? The proximity of these two massive events could have a major bearing on the outcome of these truncated World Road Championships. It’s tough luck if you’re a junior or u23.

Will all the riders be as wasted as Primoz Roglič after the Tour

Some of the Elite riders will have come out of the Tour wasted and the prospect of nine laps of a tough circuit will fill them with dread. But some, with a little rest will be flying and champing at the bit. And there will be a lot of men on the start line who need a good ride to get their names back in lights, with CCC folding, NTT not looking secure and sponsors getting harder to find in these ‘days of Covid-19.’

Worlds’20: Men’s course profile

The original venue of Switzerland had to be changed to Italy as Swiss government Covid-19 prevention measures forbid gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The percorso is anchored by the legendary Imola motor racing circuit and includes two climbs within the 28.8 kilometre lap – covered nine times – the Mazzolano over 2.8 kilometres with an average grade of 5.9% and the Cima Gallisterna over 2.7 kilometres with an average grade of 6.4% but with 14% ramps. Elevation amounts to a total of 5,000 metres – equivalent to a Tour de France mountain stage.

Worlds’20: Profile 1st & 2nd climb and last 3km

Italian squadra supremo, Davide Cassani says it’s a circuit for climbers and hilly classic specialists.

Worlds’20: map

French manager, Tommy Voeckler agrees with the latter but not the former, saying it’s not tough enough for ‘pure’ climbers, but is made for ‘puncheurs who can climb.’

Without further ado here’s what PEZ thinks, nationally and in alphabetic order – and please remember that the UCi start sheet lists reserves too, so we may mention a rider who, for whatever reason doesn’t make the start line.

The Down Under boys will have good morale on account of Richie Porte having, ‘done Tassie proud’ up La Planche des Belles Filles. He’ll have used up so much adrenalin in France that he’ll probably play a supporting role and if I was the manager, I’d be ‘all for Michael’ – Matthews having been on the podium twice; silver in Richmond 2015 and bronze in Bergen 2017. He could make it a full house? And as well as Porte he can rely on stalwarts like Simon Clarke and Rory Sutherland.

All for Michael?

Unlike the disciplined and well-drilled Italian squad, Belgian manager, Rik Verbrugghe will find it difficult to weld his team into a cohesive force with Greg Van Avermaet, Wout Van Aert and Tim Wellens all fancying their own chances on a circuit such as this. But after his showing in France – good recovery permitting – WVA has to be a ‘top favourite.’ By GVA’s high standards its not been a great year – a world title would change that though. . .

World Champion Wout!

Is it tough enough for Michael Woods – probably not?

Win for Woods?

This will be a well-drilled line-up, there’s no defending champion Mads Pedersen included though – the circuit not sympathetic to his big bones. But it’s ideally suited to Lombardia winner, Jakob Fuglsang and with the likes of Kasper Asgreen and Michael Mørkøv in support he’s a five star fave in our book.

Could be good timing for Fuglsang

Tommy V must surely go, ‘all for Ala’ – there’s little chance of divided loyalties with ‘Ala’ the only realistic hope of a medal. The little live-wire that is Julian Alaphilippe had a good Tour but it could and should have been more days in yellow but for rule-bound officials.
Has he recovered from le Grande Boucle? We’ll know late afternoon on Sunday.

France behind Alaphilippe

It’s too demanding a circuit for John Degenkolb but versatile Max Schachmann who could flourish. Surprisingly, no Lennard Kämna?

Max Schachmann might be the man for Deutschland

Great Britain:
Also surprisingly the selectors have left out recent Giro dell Appennino winner and man on form, Ethan Hayter; he also delivered second in the Memorial Pantani, second on Stage One of Coppi e Bartali, third in Toscana and ninth in the Sabatini – but what do I know? Baby Giro winner, Tom Pidcock rides, he’s just 21 years-old – but so was Tadej Pogačar, until today.

Big hope for GB – Tom Pidcock

Renowned as a nation which rides as unified force – but often to the advantage of others – the have a strong squad with Grand Tour and Monument winner, Vincenzo Nibali the leader. But Padre Tempo makes no allowances, even for a Campionissimo. The man is mature enough to advise his team mates if he doesn’t have the legs and there are plenty to fill the breach in that eventuality; Alberto Bettiol, Fausto Masnada and UAE DS Allan Peiper’s pick (read our revealing interview here), Diego Ulissi who’s just off a win in the Tour of Luxembourg.

Diego Ulissi is on form

Like the A&R men in the record industry say; ‘I don’t hear a single?’ But maybe Big Tom if it turns into a slug fest?

Outside bet – Tom Dumoulin

New Zealand:
Recent Coppa Sabatini winner, Dion Smith was ninth in Milano-Torino and sixth in Milano-Sanremo – the Italian air agrees with him. And last year around this time, big Finn Fisher-Black was riding the junior Tour of the Kingdom in Fife, Scotland – that’s some journey. . .

Dion Smith won the Coppa Sabatini at the weekend

The man who saved Ineos’ Tour for them, Michal Kwiatkowski has won this race before and is one of the most intelligent riders out there – and he can look forward 100% team support from the boys in red and white, just like he received in Ponferrada.

Michal Kwiatkowski – He’s been there before

Rui Costa is wily and has done it before – but that was seven years ago in Florence and Father Time operates on the Iberian Peninsula too.

Rui Costa was World champ in 2013

What was that young guy’s name? Oh yes, Tadej Pogačar – but he’s maybe had too many post-Tour distractions? And there’s another guy, Roglič, is it?

The Slovenians

What will Movistar do when Alejandro Valverde retires? It strikes me that his invisibility in the Tour was down to his using the race purely as training for The Worlds, not going too deep? LL Sanchez if I’ve got that wrong?

He might be getting on, but Valverde and the Worlds have a lot of history

Tour revelation, Marc Hirschi will enjoy a lot of support from fans coming down from Switzerland to Emilia Romagna – he’ll enjoy good support on the road too, from the likes of ‘oldie but goodie’ Michael Albasini and 2019 Worlds medallist Stefan Küng.

One of the heroes of the Tour – Marc Hirschi

United States:
Is Sep Kuss too much of a pure climber and has he recovered from the Tour – maybe? Expect Neilson Powless to be in the early break.

Sep Kuss was a real work-horse in the Tour

Last year’s Worlds was an Epic in that cold Harrogate rain; let’s hope la Bella Italia delivers as good a race. And if it rains, that’s okay, I won’t be hanging over barriers with the life draining out through the soles of my feet.

A wet Ed in Yorkshire

# Stay PEZ for the Worlds Race Report on Sunday. #

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