Local hero Lizzie Deignan
Most professional cyclists are lucky if they get to ride a single home World Championships in their entire career.
For one to take place in your home region, with a route that passes through the small town you were born and raised, is a rare honour indeed, and one that proud Yorkshirewomen Lizzie Deignan will relish this coming week.
She’s the local star of the 2019 Yorkshire Worlds, a former race champion who remains one of the biggest names in cycling.
Her aim is to reclaim the elite women’s road race title she won in Richmond four years ago, but it certainly won’t be easy. The 30-year-old is yet to rediscover the form since returning to racing this season, and faces stiff competition, particularly against the formidable Dutch line-up.
She does, however, boast the pedigree to achieve what would be a fairytale victory and the lofty peak of her illustrious career.
World’s best men figuring out how Mathieu van der Poel
This year’s line-up for the elite men’s road race is strikingly strong. From veteran former champions Alejandro Valverde and Philippe Gilbert to the red hot star of the season Julian Alaphilippe and three-time winner all-round legend Peter Sagan, any number of bona fide superstars are in with a shot of winning this year’s rainbow jersey.
Yet, for all this established quality, the runaway favourite is someone who’s only ridden a handful of elite level pro road races.
On the rare occasion that Mathieu van der Poel has put aside his other cycling commitments to compete on the road this season he’s looked almost invincible. Whether he’s single-handedly chasing down seemingly unbridgeable gaps to win Amstel Gold, overcoming potentially race-ending crashes to claim an implausible fourth at the Tour of Flanders, or winning three stages to win the overall at the Tour of Britain, Van der Poel has rewritten the rules of what road riders are capable of.
These performances have left the others in a pickle. They can’t beat him in a sprint, can’t afford to let him get up the road, and can’t even make attacks stick if he chooses to chase them down. So how can they beat him?
Watching such a brain’s trust of the peloton’s best try and figure out a way to stop this sensational Dutchman will likely be one of the highlights of the Worlds.
Having topped the medal table in each of the last two editions, the Dutch again arrive at the Worlds with an extraordinarily strong squad.
In fact, the signs are that the Dutch could be even more prolific this time around. Although Tom Dumoulin is not riding the time trial, Mathieu van der Poel is a favourite in an even they don’t typically do so well in, while the new Mixed Relay looks like a probable gold medal.
The elite women’s events continue to be where the squad excels the most, however. The time trial again looks set to be a two-way battle between the gold and silver medallist from the past two editions, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten.
And in the road race – an event the Dutch won in both 2018 and 2017, those two riders will partner up along with Marianne Vos, to form a squad that will take some beating.
Geraint Thomas in an open men’s time trial
By their nature, time trials tend to be a more predictable affair than road races, but the elite men’s race this year is a tough one to call.
In normal circumstances defending champion Rohan Dennis would probably be the favourite, but he’s only won once all season and hasn’t ridden at all since July.
Primož Roglič is certainly a candidate, returning to the event for the first time since winning silver two years ago, but he might be tired from his efforts of winning the Vuelta a España, while recently crowned European Champion Remco Evenepoel remains, at the age of just 19, unpredictable.
Without a clear favourite, then, Geraint Thomas stands a very real chance of winning. Despite his pedigree against the clock, the Welshman has never actually ridden the Worlds time trial before.
He’s raced just the Deutschland Tour and Canadian one-day races since finishing second overall at the Tour de France two months ago, and left it until the last minute before confirming he’d ride the Worlds, so his condition is something of an unknown. But on top form he’d be a gold medal contender.
Away from the elite races, the under-23 and junior events at the Worlds have regularly crowned winners who would go on to become superstars.
The likes of Fabian Cancellara, Greg LeMond, Nicole Cooke and Marianne Vos have all won rainbow jerseys at junior level, while, former under-23 world champions include Michael Matthews, Ivan Basso and Thor Hushovd.
With riders seemingly maturing at younger and younger ages these days, there will be particular interest in the youth races in Yorkshire. Just last year, for instance, Remco Evenepoel announced himself as a major talent by winning the junior road and time trial double, and has since already starred in the pro peloton.
Among the most exciting riders to look out for in this year’s under-23 races is Britain’s multi-talented prodigy Tom Pidcock. The 20-year-old is competing in the road race, having won the time trial at junior level two years ago.
His hopes of winning will depend upon how well he has recovered from a crash at the Tour de l’Avenir that left him without several teeth this summer, but there’s certainly a chance that he’ll provide Britain with a home winner.
This year’s Worlds has shaken up the formula of recent editions, with two new races introduced.
Gone is the team time trial, and in its place a new mixed relay format has been introduced. Both genders will compete alongside each other in squads of six, with three men and three women each riding a one lap together of a 14km course.
Whereas the former team time trial had been contested by trade teams, in this event teams will compete as nations, bringing it more in line with all the other individual events at the Worlds.
Meanwhile, taking place the day before on Saturday, September 21 will be the Para-Cycling International, the first time a Para-Cycling event has featured in a World Championships.