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'This course is made for the Yates brothers'

Simon Yates in action in the Vuelta a Espana

UCI Road World Championships 2018
Venue: Innsbruck, Austria Dates: 23-30 September
Coverage: Watch live coverage on BBC TV, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, BBC Sport website & app.

“We have got to go back four decades before you see a course anything like this for a World Championships.”

The Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, culminate this weekend with the men’s and women’s road races on a course Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman has described as “phenomenally difficult”.

At 265km long, the men’s course includes 5,000m of climbing with the final 3km climb dubbed ‘Hell’ by locals because of its section at 30% gradient.

Both the women’s and men’s races will involve laps of the 24km ‘Olympic circuit’ – the women completing three laps on Saturday and the men seven on Sunday.

Britain’s Vuelta a Espana champion Simon Yates – along with twin brother Adam – is among the favourites to win the men’s world title, while the British women face stiff competition for the rainbow jersey from the Dutch team.

Here, BBC Sport summariser Boardman talks through the course and what the riders can expect.

The men’s race

The field is going to be in absolute pieces.

For the men, there is an extra, very short but incredibly steep climb that finishes 8km from the end with a big descent.

It is a bit of a shock when you first see it because it is so consistent in the gradient. There is absolutely no let-up from bottom to top, and at the end of a long road race that is an awful lot to deal with. It is really going to take its toll.

There will not be a bunch sprint. There will be a breakaway that goes from the start. We will eventually be left with a small group contesting it.

They cannot go too early or they won’t make it all the way to the finish. The serious breakaways will happen on the last couple of laps. The title will almost certainly be decided on the last two climbs.

I’ve been to look at the last climb and while it’s certainly not long – perhaps 2km or 3km in length – the climb goes up to 30% in places. It’s the width of a car, so tactically it is going to be very important at the bottom going through the villages to get right near the front because there is no opportunity to move up.

The women’s race

The Dutch are highly likely to dominate. They did so in the time trial with first, second and third, and I don’t see any reason why that is going to change for the road race.

The only intrigue is going to be who in the Dutch team wins the title and how they work together. At the European Championships, they almost lost it by working against each other and trying to take the title as individuals.

A lot of the women are saying that they do not have the strength in depth in the field, and putting in a climb as severe as the one in the men’s race would have just whittled the race down to the Dutch riders immediately.

I don’t think it is a gender thing. It might take time to build up the women’s strength in depth in the peloton to get to the point where the same course can be used for everybody.

Profile of the road race route from Kufstein to Innsbruck

Why don’t men and women ride the same course?

It is a question that needs to be posed to the UCI. We’re moving at a glacial pace towards parity. We will get there, but it is going to take time.

We have got the same events for the men and the women on the track at the Olympic Games at last, but it has taken an embarrassingly long time. On the road, they are still playing catch-up.

At the moment, I do think the strength in depth in women’s road cycling isn’t strong enough to support long races.

There are some very high quality athletes but behind the scenes, financially, there is not a system in place to support people being full-time so the quality drops off very quickly.

The better way to go, in my opinion, is to shorten the men’s race to keep it more exciting. We all believe there should be parity, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be.

With the final climb in Innsbruck, I can’t see any reason why the women couldn’t do it. It’s an exciting final spectacle for the men, so why wouldn’t you include it for the women?

What does the rainbow jersey mean to cyclists?

The rainbow jersey is the top of the sport. Any sport has its own pinnacle and the rainbow jersey is the trophy you then wear for the rest of the year.

It is an honour to wear it. It says you are the best in the world and you can celebrate that for 12 months.

In the world of cycling, it is probably bigger than winning Olympic gold.

The uniqueness of an Olympic gold is that it is a brand known outside of sport. You can go out into the wilderness and say you have won an Olympic gold medal and, no matter how remote, someone is going to know what you are talking about.

If you said the cycling world championships, they probably wouldn’t – but in this world, particularly on the road, it is very valuable both figuratively and literally.

Peter Sagan

‘I can’t see past the Yates brothers’

We’re hoping to see Adam and Simon Yates up there, because they have both had sensational seasons and are both capable on a course like this – it is almost made for them.

They both excel in single day racing as well, so it is a real chance for them and possibly a once-in-a-career opportunity to have the terrain they prefer.

I can’t see past the Yates brothers for the British team. They are the two guys we should be protecting and they have a chance of a medal.

There are often surprise winners at world championships because it comes down to tactical decisions in split seconds.

‘The Dutch are going to dominate the women’s race’

I don’t think Great Britain have got anyone who you would say was up for the title here, because the Dutch are going to dominate the event.

The best opportunity for the British team is to attack from the start and be part of the breakaway. It’s a long shot – but it is an opportunity.

If they go for that breakaway strategy, then we could be looking at Sophie Wright who did the same thing at the European Championships. She went for an early breakaway and made a good fist of it as well.

It’s not just one or two riders though, all of the British team could do the same thing. If and when they get reeled in, they will need to counter-attack straightaway, so they must always be on the offensive.

Chris Boardman was speaking to BBC Sport’s Katie Falkingham.

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BBC Sport – Cycling

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