The elite men face 285 kilometres and 3645 metres of climbing in their race for the rainbow jersey, but the Yorkshire weather on Sunday “will decide everything” in this 2019 World Championships.
Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, the captains of the Belgian team, previewed the circuit on Wednesday. They worry about the threat of bad weather heading towards the title race.
“The weather conditions will decide everything,”the 2012 World Champion Gilbert said in a press conference.
“Standing outside at 10 degrees for seven hours and rain is already difficult for an ordinary person to sustain. Let alone that in those circumstances you still have to race.”
The forecast shows rain will fall all day Sunday, with winds blowing from the North up to 29kph. The weather already ravaged the under 23 time trial, seeing several competitors lose control in the pools of standing water.
Olympic Champion in the road race, Van Avermaet watches his phone’s weather app daily. “Until Wednesday, it was still sun, sun, sun [for Sunday],” he said. “Now it has suddenly become the worst day of the week. What a shame.”
The Belgium team seems to have a horse for every course. Gilbert relishes the possibility of bad weather. Van Avermaet, not so much. Then for any other scenario, the team boasts 19-year-old Remco Evenepoel, winner of the 2018 junior road race and now professional, taking silver in the time trial on Wednesday.
“In rain and cold, I think we will crawl across the finish line one by one. It will be a battle of attrition,” added Gilbert.
“The course will then take even longer than the planned seven hours, and I like that. Correction, I don’t like that. But few people are resistant to rain, and cold and I can do better than others. Mathieu van der Poel has not yet ridden 10 races of six hours or more. Let alone in the rain. That certainly doesn’t make it easier for him.
“The course does not contain one specific hill or point where the difference will be made. If it will rain and be wet just like in the previous days, we will have a long and tough course.”
“I need good weather,” Van Avermaet said after looking up from his phone’s app. “I get my best results that way. I am not happy when I already see this weather forecast.”