The UCI Road World Championship road races in Flanders, Belgium take place on September 25 and 26th. The Flanders region is a hotbed for professional cycling, known for its steep, and often cobbled climbs.
Both the elite men’s and women’s road races begin in Antwerp and feature multiple complex circuits which will give racers and fans a taste of quintessential Belgian bike racing before finishing on Leuven’s Geldenaaksevest.
The elite men will race on September 26 for 268.3km with an official start on the Grote Markt in Antwerp.The peloton will pass through the village of Keerbergen before arriving in Leuven. After arriving in Leuven, the elite men will complete the local circuit 1.5 times, the Flandrien circuit one time, the local circuit four times, the Flandrien circuit one more time and the Leuven local circuit 2.5 more times. The finish features the uphill finish on Geldenaaksevest.
Cyclocross Stars Headline Favorites For Flanders Worlds
Former U23 cyclocross world champion Thomas Pidcock will lead Great Britain’s team in Flanders. Pidcock won the 2020 Olympic gold medal for Mountain Bike Cross Country discipline, before taking part in his first grand tour, the Vuelta a España. The multi-discipline star also excels in the classics. Pidcock won the Brabantse Pijl, a race which shares many roads with the Flanders world championships
Dutch phenom Mathieu Van Der Poel will be racing for the Netherlands, and is a heavy favorite for worlds. The multi-discipline superstar is a four-time cyclocross world champion, and is equally at home on Belgium’s punchy, cobbled roads.
Van der Poel, also a former winner of the Brabantse Pijl, has suffered from back issues since crashing in the Olympic mountain bike race. As a result, his participation in the world championships is still up in the air.
Van Der Poel will be taking on his long-time cyclocross rival Wout Van Aert, who is the 2020 Belgium National Time Trial Champion and the 2021 Belgium Road Race champion. Van Aert also won the Gent–Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Races in 2021.
Thoroughbred Road Racing Threats
Defending world champion Julian Alaphilippe cannot be ruled out as a favorite for the Flanders parcours. While Alaphilippe is not an off-road world champions, the Frenchman is an incredibly versatile rider, who has proven himself more than capable both in grand tours and spring classics.
And yes, Alaphilippe has won The Brabantse Pijl and medaled in the junior cyclocross world championships, further qualifying him to beat out the aforementioned three riders.
Tadej Pogačar is the 2020 and 2021 overall winner of the Tour de France. Pogačar also won the bronze medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The young Slovenian is undoubtedly a different type of rider the others on this list, but Pogačar has proven time and time again that he is simply the strongest rider in the peloton when he is on form.
The Flanders course may not have as much elevation as Pogačar might like, but his raw time trialing power should serve him well on any cobbled or windswept sections of the course. Don’t count out the Tour de France champion this September in Belgium.