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World elite road race 2023: Van Der Poel wins a race of yesteryear

words by Simone Gambino

Mathieu van der Poel is the new Élite world champion on the road. The Dutchman, son and grandson of art, took the rainbow jersey with a peremptory victory at the end of the most exciting world competition of the third millennium, even if it is the longest with its 272.4 kilometres. In second place, 1’37” behind, was Belgium’s Wout Van Aert, with Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar taking bronze by outsprinting 2019 champion Mads Pedersen of Denmark. The action got into full swing as the riders entered the Glasgow circuit, a 14,300-metre loop comprising no fewer than eight breaks to be repeated 10 times. After fifty kilometres, disputed in an anarchic manner, almost as if it were an amateur competition, five people clearly stood out as protagonists: Pedersen, Pogacar, Van Aert, van der Poel and, a pleasant surprise, Bettiol. It was they who, at minus 80, rejoined the attackers of the first hour. After a temporary regrouping of the group, Bettiol set off 55 metres from the finish, but not before having risked ending up on the ground because a water bottle had hit his wheel. The Sienese rider was hoping for a repeat of what had happened at the 2019 Tour of Flanders when a tight march among the big boys created space for him to score a resounding success with a similar move from distance. In part, his attempt had the desired effect. Belgium took the lead, however, producing a gait that was not too vehement, limiting the Italian’s advantage to half a minute at minus 40 from the finish. Unfortunately for Italy, at this point Van Aert produced a breakaway in the bunch with the usual Pedrsen, Pogacar and van der Poel coming up behind the Flemish rider. Bettiol held on, passing again under the finish line with two laps to go, 28 kilometres to go, with a 25-second advantage, a margin which, however, was rapidly decreasing from this point. At minus 20, on one of the short but fierce climbs of the course, the 2023 world championship was decided. In one fell swoop, with a brutal sprint, van der Poel swept his breakaway companions off his wheel, at the same time swallowing up the unfortunate Alberto and launching himself towards the iris. Not even a crash three kilometres after the attack, when he had already built up a half-minute lead, stopped Raymond Poulidor’s nephew, who, with a torn jersey and visible bruises on his body, completed his triumphant march to the iris. After the world cyclo-cross championship, Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, Mathieu thus achieved his fourth goal of a sumptuous season that could become legendary if he also wins the world mountain bike title next Saturday. And to think that he had raced the recent Tour de France as domestique to team-mate Jasper Philpsen in order to prepare for the rainbow. I do believe he succeeded.


Route analysis and comments to follow

The total length of the race is 271.1 km with 119.8 km which leads from Edinburgh to the final circuit. The first 65 km are quite simple: just moved the first 30, almost completely flat the next thirty. At this point to reach Glasgow you overcome a couple of climbs before entering the circuit. First you climb to the artificial lake of Carron Valley, in about 4.5 km at 3.5%, followed by a wavy stretch in the plateau. Then after 3.5 km of descent you get to the foot of the toughest climb of the day, Crow Road, of 5.9 km to 4.8%; the first 2 km, with an average of 6.5% and a pick to 10%. From the following end of the descent (almost 6 km) it is only a twenty km already rather wavy to enter the final circuit.

The circuit

You enter the circuit more or less at the 6th km, this means that all the main ramps will be faced once more, therefore 11 times of the 10 complete laps of the circuit that will be covered starting from the first transit on the line finish line. The salient points of the route, which in just 14.3 km manages to condense over 50 bends, 8 steep stretches and 4 paved sections. For each lap there are about 200 meters in altitude gain, or more or less 2000 in total for the final 10 laps. The first kms of the circuit are immediately very tortuous, with 12 bends in just 3 km. A few hundred meters after the finish line it is already time for a first 550m paved stretch with a slight ascent (1/2%) which is immediately followed by the first altitude difficulty (600m at 4.8%), divided between Hope Street, St. Vincent Street and Douglas Street; just in the last 100 meters, behind a sharp curve to the right, you come across the steepest section, which already embodies the spirit of the rest of the circuit. A more linear and altimetrically favorable section follows, but it immediately returns tortuous entering Kelvingrove Park, with the short climb of Gilomerhill (300mt at 4.3%). You leave the park to face in succession the tears of University Avenue (300m at 5%) and above all Great George Street (300m at 8%), the first to have really sensitive slopes that could break up the group. Straight downhill, then back to Kelvingrove Park with a sharp bend, after which the ascent to the Park District begins (500m at 5.6%). A winding descent follows, also featuring 200 paved metres, then after a few hundred flat meters you arrive at the foot of Garnethill (200 meters at 10.5%), the steepest part of the circuit (max 18%) which you enter practically from stops with a right angle curve to the left. These 5 climbs are concentrated in just 5 km, without offering any apparent breadth from an altitude or planimetric point of view.

The descent from Garnethill is quite long, but broken up by a short bump in Rose street. Another series of right-angled bends leads into Cathedral Street, the only 1 km straight stretch on the whole circuit; the road climbs slightly (1.8% on average) and represents the last linear stretch before the final toboggan. In fact, it follows 1 km of descent with other insidious curves and another 100 meters of paving. Two km from the finish line, a double right-left curve leads into the paved stretch of Shuttle Street (200mt at 4%). Left bend, only 250 meters downhill, another right bend and then immediately begins the crux of Montrose Street (200 meters at 9.5%) which ends just 1.5 km from the end. Finally, it should be noted that in these 1500 meters there are 4 curves, as well as the chicane to avoid the church of St. George. The final straight is 450 meters long and is all slightly downhill.

Startlist here


Just two weeks after the conclusion of the Tour de France, squeezed into an increasingly congested calendar, the world race for professionals will take place tomorrow in Glasgow, part of a 10-day super event commissioned by UCI President David Lappartient “eager to give life, at the first edition of a multidisciplinary cycling event”. This year’s dates, by a curious twist of fate, coincide exactly with those of 51 years ago when the professional competition was brought forward to early August to make room for the Olympic Games in Munich. After Madrid 2005 it will be the longest edition of the third millennium. It will run for 272.4 kilometers following the route of the 2018 European Championships won by Matteo Trentin. It will start from Edinburgh with 120 kilometers of line that will lead to Glasgow. In this first stretch there will be the only two real bumps of the race, Bonnybridge and Crow Road, too far from the finish line to be decisive. Once on the banks of the Clyde, the runners will have to cover ten times a circuit of 14,300 meters including eight climbs culminating in the last: the short wall of Montrose Street. In reality, even more than these notches, it will be the lack of straights and the many right-angle bends, which will require continuous relaunching of the action, that will make the race explosive, even more if, as seems probable, it should rain. Speaking of the protagonists, two formations seem clearly above the others. Belgium, with one more athlete, nine instead of eight, for the official entry of Remco Evenepoel, defending champion, presents four potential winners who respond to every possible racing situation. Evenepoel, capable of producing a solitary action like 12 months ago in Woollongong; Wout Van Aert, perfect for a small-field sprint just like Jasper Philpsen is for a bunch sprint; finally, the other Jasper, Stuyven, very suitable to fit into an escape from afar. The Belgian poker is contrasted by the trio of Denmark, already dominating today with the solo victories of Albert Philipsen in the junior road race and the Tokyo revenge of the quartet against the blues in the final of the team pursuit. Even without Jonas Vingegaard, the Scandinavians have three riders of great class and adaptability, each of which could prove successful: Kasper Asgreen, Magnus Cort Nielsen and, above all, Mads Pedersen who, in weather conditions similar to those that could exist tomorrow, he was able to make himself known to the world four years ago by conquering the iris in Harrogate at the expense of Trentin. They hope to be able to take advantage of the clash between the two great antagonists, three champions who present themselves at the start in disparate form. The French Julian Alaphilippe, winner in 2020 at Imola and a year later at Louvain, has never recovered from his crash 15 months ago at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. This, however, is his race for which an unexpected resurrection cannot be ruled out. The Dutch Mathieu van der Poel, after a sumptuous spring in which he won Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, took his breath away, racing the Tour de France as Philpsen’s follower, to better prepare for the world championship where, in addition to the tomorrow focuses on the mountain bike scheduled for Saturday 12 August. Finally, there is Tadej Pogacar on whom every consideration is wasted due to the Slovenian’s repeatedly proven ability to make the impossible reality.

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