Glasgow World Championships 2023: Eight riders to watch in the elite men's road race

Remco Evenepoel gets set to defend the title he won in Wollongong, Australia last year

Remco Evenepoel
Remco Evenepoel won the Clásica San Sebastián for a third time in his last outing in the rainbow jersey
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The elite men’s road race is always one of the showpiece events of the World Championships, and Sunday’s race in Glasgow is bound to be a spectacular and frenetic affair on the fast and technical city centre circuit.

Coming hot on the back of the recent Tour de France, Sunday’s race will be given an extra edge by a lot of the contenders carrying their form from the Tour into the event.

On paper, the road race looks like it’s very much one for the Classics specialists. The 271 kilometre course, which features ten laps of a fast and twisty 14-kilometre Glasgow finishing circuit, is widely expected to be hit by rain.

All of those factors combined will mean that in order to get on the podium, riders will need to be prepared to fight and battle for position once they enter the city centre after arriving from Edinburgh.

Remco Evenepoel will return to defend his title, although he will face stiff competition from all angles, including from two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, who will arrive hungry for success after being defeated by Jonas Vingegaard once more at the Tour in July.

As well as Evenepoel and Pogačar, various Classics stars will line up for the race and be looking ahead to the circuits in Glasgow as the place to make their mark.

One notable absence in the field will be Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock. The Ineos Grenadiers rider is focussing on the mountain bike events later in the championships. Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay will also not be present due to injuries sustained at the recent Clásica San Sebastián.

In Pidcock’s absence, Great Britain will look to Fred Wright and Ben Turner as the team’s two protected riders in the battle for the rainbow jersey.

Here are Cycling Weekly’s eight picks for the elite men’s road race on Sunday. 

Wout van Aert (Belgium)

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Belgium arrive in Glasgow with a squad brimming with talent for the men’s road race. It is simply overflowing with Classics stars, Grand Tour stage winners and riders of the calibre of Remco Evenepoel, who of course is the reigning world champion after his dominant display in Wollongong, Australia last year.

The lack of actual mountain type terrain on this year’s course suggests that it will be a tall order for Evenepoel to do the double. However, the Belgian have another card to play on the Classics style course. Wout van Aert.

Van Aert left the recent Tour de France early in order to attend the birth of his second child, although before he left, the Jumbo rider was regularly up the road and involved in various breakaways. The 28-year-old came second to Julian Alaphilippe in Imola three years ago, and will be more than ready to try go one step further this time out. 

Mads Pedersen (Denmark)

Mads Pedersen

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As a former winner of the rainbow jersey, Mads Pedersen knows exactly what it takes to land one of the most prestigious prizes in professional cycling.

Pedersen relishes gruelling races of attrition, and that’s exactly what the road race is set to be on Sunday. The Danish rider impressed in the recent Tour de France, taking a stage win in Limoges, and was regularly in the thick of the action in the punchier stages, so he absolutely has the form to thrive in Scotland.

It’s widely anticipated that the weather conditions won’t be favourable on Sunday with rain expected in Glasgow. Pedersen won in the pouring rain in Yorkshire four years ago, so will remain completely unfazed by the prospect.

With his strength and ability to race hard across all terrain, Pedersen will be able to follow any moves from the likes of Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel on the technical city centre circuit. He also has the power to launch a solo move on the Montrose Street climb and will be tough to then reel back in.

Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands)

Mathieu van der Poel

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The Dutch superstar struggled with illness at the Tour, but still managed to be heavily involved in pretty much all of the stages won by Jasper Philipsen, his Alpecin Deceuninck teammate.

Other than his role in Philipsen’s leadout train, Van der Poel had a relatively quiet Tour by his high standards and therefore on paper should be fresh and ready for Glasgow. The 28-year-old had a scintillating spring campaign this year, picking up maiden victories at both Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, and has won countless other major one-day races during his career so far.

His ability in a one-day setting inevitably makes him a contender in a race such as this where the rider's raw power, strength and endurance will be tested along with their technical ability. Van der Poel beats most of the other potential challengers in all of those categories which makes him the outright favourite for victory on Sunday. 

Remco Evenepoel (Belgium)

Remco Evenepoel

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Remco Evenepoel won the Clásica San Sebastián recently in the rainbow jersey and appears to be bang in form as Sunday draws near.

The Belgian has had a sensational period racing in the rainbow stripes and similarly to Pogačar, he has proven himself as both an astute racer in a one day setting as well as in a Grand Tour.

Evenepoel was simply untouchable in San Sebastián last weekend and will be tough to follow if he launches a long distance solo attack once the race enters the Glasgow circuits.

The only issue standing in Evenepoel’s way from a second consecutive world title is a potential battle for leadership once more in the Belgian camp. Evenepoel will be forced to share leadership with both Jasper Philipsen and Wout van Aert, although it's unlikely that will get in his way as he guns for a second world title.

He will also have one eye on the elite men’s time trial next week, but that won’t distract from the prestige of dispatching his rivals once more in the road race this weekend.  

Julian Alaphilippe (France)

Julian Alaphilippe

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As a two-time former world champion, Julian Alaphilippe is always a rider who should be considered a threat on a course such as the one the riders face on Sunday.

Since taking his second rainbow jersey in Flanders in 2021, Alaphilippe hasn’t quite hit the heights that he’s capable of, although it's worth noting that he has struggled with both injury and illness in recent months.

The effervescent Frenchman had a relatively underwhelming Tour de France, regularly getting into breakaway positions but failing to personally deliver a stage win for his Soudal Quick-Step team.

Nevertheless, this could play into Alaphilippe’s favour on Sunday and on his day, he is undoubtedly one of the best Classics riders currently operating in the WorldTour.

As well as victory at Milan-San Remo, Alaphilippe has a vast array of impressive results in a one-day setting on his palmares. This also includes three Flèche Wallonne victories and a win at the Clásica San Sebastián.

He is an astute racer, full of punch and panache, and could well fly under the radar to victory on Sunday and prove a few people wrong who have doubted him in recent months in the process. 

Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia)

Tadej Pogacar

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Tadej Pogačar arrived in Scotland on the back of an up and down Tour de France, which eventually saw him finish as runner up to Jonas Vingegaard for the second successive year.

The Slovenian showed glimpses of his form at the French Grand Tour, but ultimately was unable to topple Vingegaard despite picking up two mountain top stage wins. With that in mind, it’s likely that the two-time Tour winner will line up on Sunday hungrier than ever to win and seize the rainbow jersey from the shoulders of Evenepoel.

Pogačar had a sensational spring which saw him add a Tour of Flanders victory to his already glittering palmares. The Slovenian won with a long range, scintillating attack on the Oude Kwaremont which completely blew all of his rivals out of the water. He then went on to add victories at both the Amstel Gold race and Flèche Wallonne.

His technical ability on the bike will mean that he can take some of the corners on the Glasgow circuit much quicker than others. The 24-year-old also has an explosive turn of speed in his locker which he could well put to good use on Sunday. He will almost certainly be in the picture for the podium.  

Christophe Laporte (France)

Christophe Laporte

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Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte will arguably line up in Edinburgh as France’s protected rider in the fight for the rainbow bands.

The 30-year-old Frenchman had a solid spring campaign for his trade team which saw him collect victories at both Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen. His victory in the latter was a superb display of tactical awareness and power, as he capitalised on hesitation in a lead group of riders before bridging across to them and powering away solo to victory.

Laporte’s stock has risen hugely since his move to the Dutch team from Cofidis, and as a result he’s rapidly become one of a select group of riders who regularly contests some of the biggest one day races in the calendar.

Laporte is capable of winning from a variety of scenarios. He has the power and ability to launch a solo attack from distance, but also has the speed to win a sprint from a reduced group. He won the sprint for second behind Evenepoel in Wollongong last year and will be ready and waiting to pounce if others hesitate in the closing stages on Sunday.  

Alberto Bettiol (Italy)

Alberto Bettiol

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Alberto Bettiol will arrive as co-leader for Italy alongside Tudor Pro Cycling’s new signing Matteo Trentin.

The Italian duo aren’t usually in the same ballpark as Evenepoel, Van der Poel and Van Aert on this type of course, although anything can happen in a road race such as this. Bettiol has already ridden both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year and went close to victory on a few occasions proving that his form is building nicely.

An impressive showing at the Clásica San Sebastián underlined his credentials as a proven racer, and he tested Evenepoel when they went on the attack in the Basque country.

Bettiol has a solid turn of speed and a big engine. He can also more than handle punchy climbs like the 7% Montrose Street and will be able to follow moves from some of the bigger favourites. The Italian won the Tour of Flanders in 2019 and if others have an off day, he could find himself well in contention in Glasgow. 

Best of the rest

Neilson Powless

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As well as the likes of Van Aert, Van der Poel and company, plenty of other riders could find themselves in a potential race winning position this weekend.

Neilson Powless (USA) has rapidly improved in a one-day setting and will relish the technical course. Montrose Street may not be long enough for him to make a difference, but he could still find himself in the race winning move at the end.

Michael Matthews (Australia) has the punch and tenacity to thrive but didn’t finish the Klasikoa last weekend. Matthews won a stage at the Giro earlier this year and if he has the form, could potentially challenge.

Fred Wright (Great Britain) has already impressed in a one-day setting this season and finished in the top ten at the Tour of Flanders. He doesn’t have the power of the likes of Van der Poel but has the resilience and determination to fight for victory.

Uno-X’s new signing Magnus Cort (Denmark) loves a hilly and up and down race. If Pedersen doesn’t have the form to contest the win then Cort is more than capable of stepping up for Denmark.

Dylan van Baarle (The Netherlands) is an industrious rider, and if Van der Poel should fail then Van Baarle can follow moves before potentially launching a solo attack. The Dutchman did after all finish second to Julian Alaphilippe in Flanders in 2021.  

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