Sharon Laws previews the World Championships Bergen 2017

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Pulling on a National jersey to race at the World Championships is a highlight in any athlete’s career. I represented Great Britain in the Road Race event for five consecutive years from 2008 – 2012 and in the Individual Time Trial in 2008.

Nicole Cooke took the gold medal in 2008 adding to her Olympic gold earlier that year. For me it was an overwhelming experience. The speed seemed twice as fast as any other race, the noise of the crowds in Varese was incredible; cow bells, screaming, banging against the barriers – I kept thinking there had been a crash. The intensity and atmosphere was like no other race during the season and I vividly remember Oenone Wood (former UCI Road World Cup winner) saying to me, at her last World Championships and my first, “there is no race like it”. The most memorable World Championships for me was in Geelong, Australia. It was like a home race for me as I had worked in Melbourne for a number of years before I became a professional cyclist. I trained regularly in Geelong in the off-season as my coach was based there. It was an amazing feeling to have my old weekend training partners shouting out my name and cheering me on.

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In 2012 the Team Time Trial (TTT) was introduced for trade teams. I had a last minute call up for the inaugural race in Limburg, Netherlands. My team – AA Drinks – finished with a bronze medal. It was an unexpected result making it even more special. I found the TTT one of the most pressured and stressful events in cycling. If you did well, however, it was also one of the most rewarding. Cycling is a strange sport in some ways, it is a team event but only one person wins the medal or the jersey. The TTT, in contrast, rewards the whole team with a medal. Achieving the TTT bronze medal was one of my career highlights.

In complete contrast to the desert and high temperatures of Qatar last year the 2017 World Championships returns to Europe, to Bergen, the second largest city in Norway. Known as the ‘City of Seven Mountains’, the centre and northern neighborhoods are located on Byfjorden ‘the city fjord’ and, not surprisingly, is surrounded by mountains. This beautiful location is also one of the wettest places in Europe. The urban road race circuit will have similarities to the spring Classics both in terms of terrain and temperature. The forecast is for highs of 14C and lows of 5C and a likelihood of cold rain.

For more information on all the events check out the excellent website.

Team Time Trial Sunday 17 September 2017

Distance: 42.5km

Start: Ravnanger (Askøy)

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For the Team Time Trial the riders depart from Ravnanger on the Askøy archipelago just outside Bergen. The course heads south and is relatively flat to begin with. It follows the fjord into the Askøy centre at Kleppestø and over the Askøy Bridge, the second biggest suspension bridge in Norway. Once over the bridge there is a 4km technical section before the teams face the first climb at Loddefjord. The climb is 600m at an average of 10%. The next 10km is flat as the course takes the riders along Lake Nordåsvannet and past the Royal Residence Gamlehaugen.

The second climb up towards Birkelundsbakken is 3km with an average percentage of 6% with pitches of 16% and will be a decisive factor in the race.  After a flat section the teams face a 0.6km section of cobblestones around Bryggen. The last 1.5km of the race is around the harbour and the historical buildings of Bryggen before the finish at Festplassen in the middle of the City.

The Teams 

Only nine teams will contest the Team Time Trial in Bergen but the competition for the Gold medal will be fierce.

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Specialized – Lululemon dominated this event from 2012 to 2014 and again in 2015 as the newly formed Velocio-SRAM. In 2016, however, Boels Dolmans pushed them into second place in a closely contested race with Cervelo Bigla Pro-cycling finishing third.

The other TTT event during the year is the Crescent Vårgårda in Sweden and often serves as an indicator for the World Championship event. This year, it was won by Boels Dolmans ahead of Bigla Pro-cycling and then Canyon SRAM. In addition to these three teams I expect Team Sunweb, led by power house and former TT World Champion Ellen van Dijk, and Team Veloconcept Women, with former World TT Champions Amber Neben and Linda Villumsen to also be in contention for a podium spot. My money is still on Boels Dolmans but I think this year will be one of the closest races we have seen.

Individual Time Trial 

Junior Women: Monday 18th September 2017 10.35am-11.50am

Distance: 16.1km

Elite Women: Tuesday 19th September 2017 15.55pm-17.15pm 

Distance: 21.1km

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The Women’s Individual Time Trial Races take place around Bergen on a technical 16.1km course (short lap on map) for the junior women and a 21.1km course for the elite women (long lap on map). Starting in Grieghallen the route heads south towards Lake Nordåsvannet. The junior TT course turns left at Lake Tveitevannet to avoid the Birkelundsbakken. This 1.4km climb in Paradis has an average gradient of 7.2% but reaches 16% at its steepest section and will be tackled by the elite women in their 5km longer circuit. The elite women’s course rejoins that of the juniors in Arstad. The last part of the circuit is the same as that of the road race and TTT and includes the 600m of fine cobblestones as the riders enter the city centre before finishing by Festplassen.

Four former winners of this event will take the start in the elite race including defending champion Amber Neben (USA) who also won in 2008, Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), Lisa Brennauer (Germany) and Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands). In addition the Dutch have Anna van der Bregggen, winner of the Women’s World Tour series and Annemiek van Vleuten, National TT champion, who won the overall at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour – including the prologue and the ITT, in addition to the ITT at the Giro Donne and dominated La Course. Two other strong contenders will be the National Champions of Australia and Italy; Katrin Garfoot, who finished third last year, and Elisa Longo Borghini. These two riders, in addition to Annemiek van Vleuten, may have fresher legs as they will not be riding in the Team Time Trial unlike the other main contenders.

Road Race 

Junior Women: Friday 22nd September 2017 10.05am-12.15am

Distance: 76,4 km

Length of circuit: 19.1 km

Number of laps: 4

Elite Women: Saturday 23rd September 2017 13.15pm-17.15pm

Distance: 152,8 km

Length of circuit: 19.1 km

Number of laps: 8

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The Road Races will be held on the same route for all events in Bergen. The elite men, however, start at Rong and race 40km before entering the 19.1km circuit which they do 12 times. The Women’s events are contested only on the circuit with the junior women racing four laps (76.4km) and the elite women eight (152.8km). This is the longest Women’s Road Championships ever.

The race starts from Festplassen with a flat 200m in a well-lit tunnel before entering the Puddefjords Bridge. After 2km the riders face the first climb at Solheimsviken, 500m long. The second climb comes after about 5km and is 1km with an average gradient of 5%. After this there is a short flat section before the decisive part of the course, the third climb ‘Salmon Hill’ on the slopes of Mount Ulriken. This 1.4km ascent, on a relatively narrow road, kicks up at 7.8% for 500m continuing at 5.6% to the summit (average gradient of 6.5%) before a 1km twisty descent into Bergen. It is 8km to the finish from here. The final 2.5km are flat with no roundabouts and includes a left and right turn before the finishing straight in Festplassen. The final part of the circuit is identical to the other races.

The nature of the course and the standard of the Women’s peloton this year make it hard to predict who will win the rainbow jersey. The Dutch have the strongest team and a number of cards to play with Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and former three time World Champion Marianne Vos all strong podium contenders.

The Italians always come to this event well prepared and race effectively as a team. National champion Elisa Longo Borghini, has had an incredible season, but this course maybe suited more towards Giorgia Bronzini (twice former World Champion) and Elena Cecchini unless Elisa can escape solo.

The American’s have two strong hopefuls with Coryn Rivera and Megan Guarnier. Coryn has won three World Tour events this year and is one of the pelotons fastest sprinters. Megan hasn’t repeated her dominant 2016 season, following a crash and concussion in the spring classics, however after finishing second overall at the Women’s Tour of Norway and fifth at the Lotto Belgium Tour she could have found her form just at the right time.

Great Britain’s Lizzie Deignan, World Champion in 2016, is also a firm favourite but following a recent operation to remove her appendix her race fitness is unknown. Other riders likely to be in contention include former World Champion (2014) France’s Pauline Ferrand Prévot who recently finished third at the World Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships and second to Lizzie Deignan at the Plouay World Tour road race and Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma, winner of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, who also finished third in all classics in the Ardennes week.

Australia is also going to want to make its mark on the race following the recent selection controversy which initially named only five riders for the event, despite the fact this nation had qualified seven spots. High performance director Simon Jones justified this decision saying: “We don’t have a clear athlete that we can back 100% with a full team.”

Successful appeals by Chloe Hosking and Rachel Neylan have seen them added to the squad and without a doubt this women’s team will want to prove Jones wrong. Gracie Elvin is probably the best suited to this course and will have the confidence following her second place at Flanders earlier this year.

Having raced in different trade teams for the whole season suddenly riders are thrown together in a team by nationality for the World Championships. This can make it difficult for some nations to ride effectively as a team. Others, such as the Netherlands and Italy, tend to do well as they have a strong national programme. Last year, however, showed the strength and unpredictability of the Women’s peloton with Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark taking the jersey ahead of Dutch favourite Kirsten Wild. Whilst the 2017 winner may be difficult to predict with all certainty we can expect to see a thrilling race.

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How to Follow 

TV coverage

There will be great coverage of the events at the World Championships.

Eurosport

  • Sunday September 17

11.00-13.00, Women’s team time trial LIVE, Eurosport 1/Eurosport Player

  • Monday September 18

10.00-11.15, Junior women’s individual time trial LIVE, Eurosport 2/Eurosport Player

  • Tuesday September 19

14.00-17.30, Women’s elite individual time trial LIVE, Eurosport 2/Eurosport Player

  • Friday September 22

09.00-12.00, Junior women’s road race LIVE, Eurosport 2/Eurosport Player

  • Saturday September 23

12.20-16.45, Women’s road race LIVE, Eurosport 2/Eurosport Player

BBC

  • Tuesday September 19

14.50-16.15, Women’s elite individual time trial LIVE, BBC Red Button/website

  • Saturday September 23

12.35-17.30, Women’s elite road race LIVE, BBC Red Button/website

14.00-16.00, Women’s elite road race LIVE, BBC One

16.00-17.30, Women’s elite road race LIVE, BBC Two

Social Media 

Follow on Twitter

@bergen2017

#bergen2017

Follow on Facebook

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Follow on instagram

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And Voxwomen will be live tweeting the races too!