At the World Championships it’s tribal
Sport, of any kind, generates the most passion when it’s tribal. It’s the key to the popularity of all the football codes. But there’s nothing more tribal than supporting your national team.
In cycling, the world championships is the only race of the year that is truly tribal.
We cheer for Richie Porte at the Tour de France but he’s in BMC colours. Shara Gillow has been at the pointy end of just about every race she’s ridden this year but she’s in FDJ colours.
At the world championships they’ll be wearing the green and gold. They’ll also be teammates with season long rivals, and rivals with season long teammates.
And pulling a team together, for one race of the year, is a major challenge for the national team coaches. Australia’s Rory Sutherland best summed it up with a Tweet following the announcement of the French team, saying, “That’s a lot of good individual riders. I’m still baffled that national coaches don’t see the World Championships as a team event”. A nice dig at the French too by Rory.
For the women’s road race Australia has its best chance in a generation to win. It’s a team built around Amanda Spratt, who has built the second half of her season around the world championships. Spratt’s first objective for the year was the Ardennes classics. She was brilliant, coming up just short of a big win, taking fifth at Fleche Wallone, third at Amstel Gold Race and second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. She’s fifth in the world rankings, an exceptional climber, packs a handy sprint, is tactically astute and has the kind of gritty determination that can’t be measured in a science lab.
The Dutch, particularly Anna van der Breggen and Spratt’s Mitchelton-Scott teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, are the favourites but Spratt can win. If she does she’ll be the first Australian to claim the women’s road race rainbow jersey. It would look good climbing Mt Kosciuszko.
The best hope for the elite men comes in the time trial, where Rohan Dennis will start as one of the favourites. He dominated the time trials at the Vuelta a Espana and then headed home, after his Stage 16 victory, to fine tune the engine. Tom Dumoulin will be the man to beat. Again the Dutch.
In the road race, at his best, Richie Porte would be a contender but he didn’t show any great signs at the Vuelta a Espana. He was almost anonymous. But the three weeks on the roads of Spain might just bring his class to the fore. My favourite for the win is Julian Alaphilippe, yes Rory, a Frenchman.
Also keep an eye on the U23 men’s road race. Jai Hindley has just completed a very impressive Vuelta a Espana and has the form to win.
Fingers crossed we see “Spratty” in the rainbow jersey at L’Étape Australia.
- Tuesday 25 September – Women’s Elite Individual Time Trial, 28.5km
- Wednesday 26 September – Men’s Elite Individual Time Trial, 54.2km
- Friday 28 September – Men’s Under 23 Road Race, 186.2km
- Saturday 29 September – Women’s Elite Road Race, 162.3km
- Sunday 30 September – Men’s Elite Road Race, 265km
Follow all the action on the SBS Cycling Central website.
Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.