A Menu of Can’t-Miss Treats at the UCI Cycling World Championships

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships kick off on August 3 in Glasgow and offer eleven days of don’t-you-dare-miss events across seven disciplines showcasing the best bike riders on the globe.

One of the highlights will certainly be the elite men’s road race, which will be held on August 6. The course from Edinburgh to Glasgow is very lumpy, with a total elevation of 3,570 m over its 271.1 km distance. The race ends with ten 14.3 km laps, including a 200-metre climb with an average slope of 13.9%, in the Scottish capital. The route should suit the leading Classics riders. Fortunately, the four best male one-day racers in the world – Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia), Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Wout van Aert and defending world road race champion Remco Evenepoel (both Belgium) – are all scheduled to start, so it should be a cracking race featuring early breakaways and late head-to-head confrontations. Imagine all four of these riders racing towards the finish line with less than 1 km to go. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

The elite women’s road race should be just as exciting, as the riders who recently made the Tour de France Femmes with Zwift (TdFF) an eight-day feast of non-stop excitement will all line up on August 13. TdFF GC winner Demi Vollering, retiring legend Annemiek van Vleuten and the great Classics rider Marianne Vos (all the Netherlands) will race against TdFF runner-up and Škoda Green Jersey winner Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), European ITT champion Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) and TdFF third and Queen of the Mountains winner Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland) in a race that should be tense and exciting until the finish.

The 154.1-km course from Loch Lomond to Glasgow is every bit as lumpy as the men’s and should therefore also favour the hardened Classics riders such as Kopecky and Vos. In 2022, van Vleuten outsprinted Kopecky to the finish line, with Niewiadoma, Germany’s Liane Lippert, Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy and other leading riders all finishing just 1 second behind the winner. This year’s winner could easily come from one of last year’s also-rans.

The women’s Elite ITT course covers 36.2 km, has a steep ramp at the finish and could be a replay of the TdFF time trial, which was narrowly won by Reusser over Vollering. It takes place on August 10, one day before the men race against the clock. The men’s course covers 47.8 km and is flat, with a total elevation of only 352 m. This should be a race for the time-trial specialists, such as last year’s surprise winner Tobias Foss (Norway) and last year’s runner-up Stefan Küng. And don’t be surprised if Evenepoel wins both the road race and the ITT.

But the UCI Cycling World Championships consist of far more than road racing, of course. There will be special interest in the men’s MTB Elite Cross-Country Olympic (XCO) race held on August 12 because van der Poel will race in it to try and qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics. He will start at the back of the field because he has not collected any MTB points during the season, so he will face a daunting task. The Swiss 10-time and defending cross-country world champion Nino Schurter is the logical favourite, even at age 37.

In addition to van der Poel, he will have to contend with the English rider Tom Pidcock who had a disappointing Tour de France but is the defending Olympic and European champion in the event. And the seven-time Tour de France Škoda Green Jersey winner Peter Sagan, who just rode in his final Tour, will also try to make his mark in the discipline. The XCO races will be held in Glentress Forest, a town located about 110 km south of Glasgow. The course is very demanding and includes several aggressive jumps and rock gardens.

There will also be lots of eyes on the women’s track events because Lotte Kopecky, who apparently can do everything on a bike, will go for a rainbow jersey in the Elimination, Points and Omnium races. However, she will not be defending her 2022 world championship in the Madison because her partner in that event, Shari Bossuyt, tested positive for a banned substance earlier this year. Kopecky has won the Madison world title twice, having also taken victory with a different partner in 2017, the first time the women’s Madison was run at the world championships. She also happens to be the reigning world champion in the Elimination Race and clearly plans to make a healthy medal haul in Glasgow as well. “I have ambitious goals on the track and the road at the Worlds,” she told Cyclingnews.

Finally, I am very interested in the para-cycling road and track events. The ITT races take place on August 9-10, with the road races held on August 10-11. A team relay will be run on August 13. The para-cycling track events have been integrated into the general track competition programme for the first time and are held on August 3-8. For more detailed information on the entire programme, check here.