What are the UCI World Cycling Championships?
The World Championships are a regular fixture of the cycling calendar. Every year the winner of each race is awarded the 'rainbow bands', making them world champion for the following season.
The events all unfold over a week in a different location. This year they're taking place in Australia.
1. Wollongong is an official UCI Bike City
Yes, that's right. Wollongong is classed as an official Bike City by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). It’s also the only UCI Bike City in the Southern Hemisphere.
Located just south of Sydney, Wollongong is a prominent city in its own right. The UCI classed it as a Bike City due to its commitment to cycling as a sport, mode of transport, and lifestyle.
It has recently added over 42 kilometres of shared cycleways from Sandon Point in the north through to Laka Illawarra in the south, and a recently opened cycling park in the Cringlia Hills. Sounds delightful.
2. It’s the 2nd time Australia has held the worlds
This is actually the 2nd time Australia has held the World Cycling Championships. In 2010 Australia hosted the event in Geelong, Victoria.
This makes Wollongong the 2nd most southern World Championships too. With Geelong being approx 10 hours further south by car. A less than impressive bit of trivia.
Back in 2010, Thor Hushovd & Giorgia Bronzini took the men’s and women’s road race titles. Michael Matthews, who showed fine form in this year’s Tour de France, won the Under-23 Road Race in Geelong. Will he take the Elite title 12 years later?
3. It was the first time EVER that Elite Men & Women raced the same distance TT at a World Championship
The men’s and women’s time trials took place last weekend. The race puts individual riders against the clock to see who can ride the course the quickest on the day.
Norway’s Tobias Foss took a surprise win in the men’s race whilst Ellen van Dijk produced a powerful display in the women’s race to take the rainbow bands.
But what was momentous was that it was the first time the men’s and women’s races were over the same distance. 34.2 kilometres to be precise. A big step toward equality in cycling.
4. Birds have been causing havoc
You’ve perhaps seen already that it’s not just the riders who’ve been putting in the big attacks in Wollongong….
Magpies have also been swooping on the riders as they ride through the streets of the city. It’s "swooping season" and the magpies swoop down onto pedestrians, cars, and cyclists as a way of protecting their young.
Dutch rider Bauke Mollema has been having a pretty rough time of it all:
5. It hasn't been the best preparation for Van Vleuten
Despite being a super difficult race to predict, Annemiek van Vlueten was undoubtedly one of the favourites going into Saturday’s road race.
That was until she took a spectacular crash in the mixed relay time trial. The crash resulted in a “stable fracture” of the elbow. Van Vluten is still looking to compete on the weekend, but this will have knocked her confidence.
6. After going incognito - Van der Poel is back
It’s fair to say that there are lots of big hitters heading to Wollongong for the men’s road race on Sunday. None more so than Mathieu van der Poel, who has been flying under the radar for the last few weeks.
His main rivals, Van Aert and Pogacar have been racing the popular warm-up in Canada of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
Van der Poel instead opted to stay local with a mixture of hard training rides uploaded to Strava and a few Belgian kermesses to keep some race sharpness. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it all unfolds on Sunday.
How can I watch the races?
If you’re watching from the UK, you’ll be able to catch all the races on GCN+, Eurosport, and the BBC.
The 11-hour time difference makes things a little more difficult. The elite women will start at 3:15 am on Saturday with the elite men starting at 1:05 am on Sunday. This means you should be able to catch the final couple of hours over your morning coffee.