The 2018 UCI Road World Championships is set to be one of the toughest in history with the elite men’s race packing in more than 5,000m of climbing and finishing with a climb known locally as ‘hell’.
The host region for this year’s event, Innsbruck-Tirol, announced challenging courses perfect for climbers at the London Bike Show. With Austrian former Vuelta a Espana stage winner Thomas Rohregger having input into the parcours for the events, the men’s rainbow jersey will be decided with a thrilling finale up the Höttinger Höll at the conclusion of a 265km race.
“It’s going to be one of the toughest road worlds in the history of racing," said Rohregger. “It has the climbs, the peaks, the technicality, but it’s not too dangerous. Innsbruck-Tirol is located in the mountains and the routes are going to reflect that."
The men’s and the women’s elite road races are set to start in Kufstein and will open with a 90.6km ride towards Innsbruck, including a 2.6km ascent to Gnadenwald, with an average gradient of 13 per cent. The peloton will then complete a series of 23.9km circuits around the city, each incorporating a 7.9km climb to Igls, with an average of 5.7 per cent but with peaks of ten per cent.
The junior men will tackle this circuit twice for a race total of 138.4km, the under-23 men four times for 186.2km, and the elite women three times for a distance of 162.3km.
Meanwhile, the elite men will take on six of these laps, plus an additional longer loop that climbs to Igls a final time before heading up the 2.8km Höttinger Höll, known as ‘hell’ by the locals thanks to its 11.5 per cent average that peaks at a leg-crippling one-in-four.
Riders will then descend down into Innsbruck a final time for the finish. In a fitting tribute, it’s the same technical descent the late Michele Scarponi rode for his final win during the 2017 Tour of the Alps.
The time trials, meanwhile, are arguably a more traditional affair. The women’s elite team time trial is a flat 53.8km, while the men’s is 62.1km long incorporating a 4km, 13 per cent climb to Axams sure to test the weaker riders. The junior men’s, under-23 men’s and women’s elite individual time trial is a flat 28.5km starting from Hall-Wattens, with the women’s junior event 20.2km. The men’s elite TT features two climbs to disrupt rhythm over 54km from Alpbachtal Seenland – the biggest a 4.9km, 7.1 per cent ascent to Gnadenwald.
“From the beginning I knew the routes needed to be tough," said Rohregger. “It was a challenge to make everyone happy. I really wanted to present the city and region of Innsbruck-Tirol, but it really needed to make sense from a sporting perspective. I think we’ve achieved that with these routes."
The week-long championships, scheduled to take place on September 22-30, will visit five separate regions in the Tirol - Ötzal, Hall-Wattens, Alpbachtal Seenland and Kufstein, as well as Innsbruck itself - with the intention, Rohregger says, of showcasing as much of the area as possible while showcasing the best riding on offer.
“This will be the biggest summer sport event that will ever have been hosted in the region," he said. “We’re expecting up to 500,000 roadside supporters, with 200 million viewers watching worldwide."
UCI Road World Championships 2018 schedule
September 22 - time trial training
September 23 - women’s TTT, men’s TTT
September 24 - women’s junior ITT, men’s under-23 ITT
September 25 - men’s junior ITT, women’s elite ITT
September 26 - men’s elite ITT
September 27 - women’s junior road race, men’s junior road race
September 28 - men’s under-23 road race
September 29 - women’s elite road race
September 30 - men’s elite road race