With 5,000m of climbing over 265km, the 2018 World Championships road race route in Innsbruck looks tough on paper, but French coach Cyrille Guimard says that it is the toughest Worlds route he has seen in nearly 40 years.
Guimard travelled to Austria on Friday for the final stage of the Tour of the Alps, which covered three ascents of the climb to Igls which will be covered seven times in the men’s road race, jumping into the Ag2r La Mondiale team car to take a look at that climb as well as the final climb of the Worlds to Gramartboden which reaches a maximum gradient of 28 per cent.
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“I have not seen anything so hard since the World Championships in Sallanches [in 1980], where only 14 or 15 riders had finished,” Guimard told L’Equipe. “We will need eight guys at 100 per cent. Otherwise, it’s not worth coming.”
The men’s road race at 1980 World Championships in the French Alpine town of Sallanches, which was won by Bernard Hinault, featured 20 laps of a 13km course that included a 2.5km climb averaging 10 per cent meaning more than 6,000m of climbing over the duration of the race.
The Innsbruck course is similarly hilly, but includes an 80km prelude from the start in Kufstein before getting onto laps of a circuit out around the city.
The men’s road race will cover six laps of a short circuit featuring the 7.9km, 5.7 per cent climb to Igls, before a final circuit that not only features the Igls climb, but also the climb to Gramartboden that has and average gradient of 11.5 per cent for its 2.8km total length, but features a maximum gradient of 28 per cent and a long section of more than 20 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, Guimard, who already has a pre-selection of 18 riders in his mind, thinks that this testing course will create a race of attrition with a pure climber coming out on top.
“Now that I have seen the course, I already have an idea of the riders who I will put in,” he continued. “It will be a natural selection. It’s a simple mountain race, one for the pure climbers.”