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World Championships - CM

Stuttgart, Germany, September 26-30, 2007

Worlds return to Stuttgart after 16 years

Challenging parcours favours punchy rider

By Gregor Brown

Paolo Bettini wins for Italy in 2006
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The 2007 Road World Championships will take place September 26 to 30, in Stuttgart, Germany. Six highly prized rainbow jerseys will be contested over two disciplines (time trial and road race) and three categories (elite men and women and espoir men). Contenders will face a challenging parcours which is certain to select only the most worthy champion.

The last time Germany hosted the World Championships was in 1991, and in fact it was in Stuttgart. That year Italy's Gianni Bugno took his first rainbow jersey in a long sprint of four on the German roads. 16 years later, the home of car manufacturer Porsche will once again host one of cycling's most prestigious events.

The lush Killesberg park, on the western side of Stuttgart, will see the start and finishes of all six events. The time trials will be held on Wednesday (U23 Men - 38.1km, Elite Women - 25.1km) and Thursday (Elite Men - 44.9km) on a demanding course of 12.8-kilometre loop that will be repeated twice. The U23 men will go an addition 6.5 kilometres on their loop, and the Elite Men 9.9.

Each of the 12.8-kilometre loops contains the climb to Wende at 450 metres in altitude, and end on the uphill rise of Am Kochenhof. The finishing road climbs 75 metres in the final two kilometres of racing. USA's Kristin Armstrong and Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara will be forced to defend their titles on this challenging parcours. Swiss Karin Thürig and German Charlotte Becker will make a big push for gold in the women's category, while David Zabriskie and David Millar are strong candidates for the men's title. Last year's silver medalist Mikhail Ignatiev is a hot prospect for the U23 gold with the absence of the 2006 champion Dominique Cornu.

Cancellara tops the 2006 TT elite men's podium
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The road races kick off on Friday, after a day of rest. The parcours will be a 19.1 kilometre circuit; 405.7 metres of climbing that includes the steep Herdweg (700m long at km 4, max of 13%), the long Birkenkopf (1100m at km 9.2, 8%) and the finish of Am Kochenhof (2800m at km 19.1, 7%). It will be a demanding run that will suit the punchy rider with a sprint.

Saturday, the women will cover seven laps (133.7km) and the U23 men nine (171.9km) in two separate races. The Elite Men will race Sunday, covering the circuit 14 times (267.4km). Marianne Vos returns to defend her title for Holland, and will be missing competition from 2006 bronze medalist Nicole Cooke, who is out with knee problems. Vos is on hot-form after winning the finale of the World Cup and taking the overall series from Cooke, but will surely face challenges from Germany's Judith Arndt and Ina Teutenberg and a raging Italian team with Noemi Cantele and Fabiana Luperini.

The U23 men's race will be a prime opportunity for the smaller countries to get a rainbow jersey. Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen is a hot favourite, but will have to face the Russian onslaught which includes Nikolai Trusov and Mikhail Ignatiev with experience from Giro d'Italia. Recent Tour de l'Avenir champion Bauke Mollema will have plenty of support from the Dutch team which includes U23 Cyclo-cross World Champion Lars Boom. Other small country riders worth noticing are David Martin of Ireland, Rafaâ Chtioui, Tunisia, Branislau Samoilau of Belarus and of course the Slovakian Velits twins, Peter and Martin, with a full season racing for Wiesenhof Felt on the Pro Continental level in their legs.

Marianne Vos takes the 2006 women's title
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Italians are also strong contenders for the men's road race, where Paolo Bettini will defend his rainbow jersey. The Italian will co-captain the Squadra Azzurra with Filippo Pozzato, and have strong backing from Alessandro Ballan, Danilo Di Luca and Davide Rebellin. His chief rivals will be Spain's Alejandro Valverde (if he races), Carlos Barredo and Samuel Sánchez, Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, Luxembourg's Schleck brothers.

USA could mount a threat with George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie. Dutchman Michael Boogard will race his last Worlds with strong support from youngsters Thomas Dekker and Robert Gesink. Australia will rely on experience with Cadel Evans, Michael Rodgers and Bradley McGee. France will not field Christophe Moreau, but it has a strong option with Thomas Voeckler.

One of the most interesting riders that will line up is Stefan Schumacher. The German will be on home parcours, he lives about 20 kilometres away, and he has been riding strongly in the Vuelta a España. One-day races suit the 26 year-old, who this year added the Amstel Gold to his palmarès.

Finally, pay attention to Colombia (Luis Felipe Laverde and Leonardo Duque), Denmark (Lars Bak and Chris Anker Sørensen) and Great Britain (David Millar and Mark Cavendish).

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering each race of the World Championships live. The opening race is the men's U23 TT, with coverage starting at 11:30 CEST (Europe)/5:30 EDT (USA east)/2:30 PDT (USA west)/19:30 AEST (Australia east)..

The women's TT on the same day will be at 14:00 CEST (Europe)/8:00 EDT (USA east)/5:00 PDT (USA west)/22:00 AEST (Australia east).