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UCI World Championships: Men's elite road race preview

An action-packed UCI World Road World Championships reaches a thrilling conclusion on Sunday with the men's elite road race.

Some of the best cyclists in the world have made the trip to New South Wales, Australia in a bid to emulate some of the greatest riders in the sport's history and claim the iconic rainbow jersey.

What

Men's elite world championship road race

Where

Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

When

01:15, Sunday 25th September 2022

How to watch

Eurosport 1

Odds

Wout Van Aert 7/2, Tadej Pogacar 15/4, Mathieu van der Poel 4/1, Remco Evenepoel 8/1, Julian Alaphilippe 14/1 

Classics riders should feel right at home

Despite being thousands of miles away from cycling's northern European heartlands, this year's World Championship route has more than a hint of the spring Classics about it.

There is rarely a moment to relax on the 267km course, which features 13 climbs and almost 4,000 metres of climbing in total, meaning those who excel in the Classics should feel quite comfortable.

The race begins in the town of Helensburgh, 60km south of state capital Sydney, with the first and longest climb of the day, Mount Keira, beginning around 27km in.

The ascent of Mount Keira averages five per cent over 8.7km, but there are slopes of up to 14 per cent in the opening two kilometres, which is where a breakaway is likely to attempt to form.

Mount Keira tops out at 42km and it's then largely downhill for the next 20km before the riders reach the Wollongong circuit, on which the battle for the rainbow bands will be decided.

The peloton take on the 17.1km circuit 12 times with the ascents of the steep Mount Pleasant - 1.1km at 7.7 per cent - likely to whittle down the contenders as the day goes on.

The fast run into the finish will make it difficult for anyone dropped to get back on, so expect riders to chance their arm on the final few circuits.

All eyes on Van Aert

There isn't much Wout Van Aert hasn't achieved in his career to date, but a world championship win on the road is one thing missing from his glittering CV.

This year's route probably couldn't have been any more perfect for the all-rounder, who won the green jersey and three stages at this year's Tour de France.

A background in cyclocross, which demands riders to make continuous short, sharp efforts, is an excellent grounding for Classics-style races, and he has already taken numerous one-day race wins in his career.

The Belgian has been a model of consistency this season, with nine wins and a further 17 top-five finishes and this race has been his target since his finishing the Tour.

Van Aert missed last weekend's time trial, for which he would have been among the favourites, to concentrate on trying to win the road race.

And, with a strong Belgian team featuring recent Vuelta a Espana winner Remco Evenepoel at his disposal, he holds an outstanding chance.

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Plenty of threats to the favourite

However, it would be folly to think that this year's race is a foregone conclusion.

A stacked field featuring multiple Monument winners, a two-time Tour de France hero and a double reigning world champion are all attempting to stop Van Aert from ruling the world.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe would be among the favourites to win a third world title had he not had a season beset by injuries.

He fractured a shoulder blade and two ribs in a heavy crash at April's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and only last month was forced to abandon the Vuelta with a dislocated shoulder.

As a multiple Classics winner Alaphilippe would relish this course in normal circumstances, but he may be slightly undercooked given his injuries.

Van Aert's long-standing rival Mathieu van der Poel is another with legitimate designs on the rainbow bands, but the superstar Dutchman endured a disappointing Tour de France and, while he has returned with three straight victories recently, they were in low-grade races.

The biggest threat to Van Aert could come from double Tour winner Tadej Pogacar, who has actually won more Monuments than the Belgian, despite being better known as a stage racer.

Pogacar has picked himself up after the disappointment of relinquishing the yellow jersey in July and actually outsprinted Van Aert to take victory at the recent Montreal Grand Prix.

The Slovenian is an intriguing adversary to the favourite, although whether the climbs are long enough for him to be able to shake off the Classics specialists is debatable.

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