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Varese '08: What's the Big Deal?


How selective will the World Championships Road Race actually be? First, a truce in my war against profiles for... the official profile:

And some text:

The road track is 17,350 km long and wholly runs across the city of Varese. As for all the races the route will start and finish inside the Hippodrome. The total rise (3.632 mt for elite men) worth of a medium mountain stage, is due to two climbs that the riders should face at every lap.

The first one is the Montello climb: 1,150 km at an average gradient of 6,5%, followed by a quite technical descent. The highest point of the Ronchi climb is placed with 4 km to go: 3,130 km at an average gradient of 4,5%.

Be afraid? By contrast, the Beijing course was a 5% climb for 10km, in miserable heat and air so pungent it literally forced the riders to all wear masks, for the entire week, even while sleeping. It's hard to collect info on the course, and the photos from the Official Site are all of churches. Not helpful. Pez, on the other hand, has a few course photos that lend some assistance. We can see, for instance, that the Ronchi climb is no picnic. And that the author had a nice meal. Life at the Pez Tower remains good. But I digress...

What I gather from this scant info is, there will be climbing, and as the race progresses the two hills will take their toll. It will be incumbent on someone (Italy, Spain to name two) to drive up the pace and shrink the field, but shrink it will. On the final lap or two, the first descent might come into play -- remember what the Beijing descent meant to the podium, with Gold and Bronze going to two fabulous descenders? So, my sense is that this will be selective, but it's not going to be obvious as to how.

The final stretch gains ten meters over the last 400 meters, making the finale intriguing. But the finish line is in the Hippodrome, a purely flat surface, so if Oscar Freire is around, he should be in fine shape for his historic win.

More previews coming. Feel free to add more detailed course info to this skeleton.