Who fancies a rainbow jersey?
That's the question at the heart of the UCI Road World Championships, which roll around on Sunday in Flanders.
Dutch supremo Anna van der Breggen had the right to wear one on top of the other on the road this season after securing a road race-time trial double at the last edition in Imola. However the 31-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season and take up a sports director role with SD Worx, will not compete in the women's time trial and is yet to be confirmed for the other events.
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France's Julian Alaphilippe and Italy's Filippo Ganna are bidding to defend their men's road race and time trial titles respectively. But they will face stiff examination from last year's bridesmaid Wout van Aert, who returns on home soil having finished second in both events in 2020.
Former champions Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Deignan, plus Tokyo 2020 mountain bike champion Tom Pidcock, are the headline acts in the British squad.
When are the 2021 UCI Road World Championships?
The UCI Road World Championships start in Flanders on September 19 and run until September 26.
There are 11 races on the menu in Belgium: five individual time trials, five road races and the second airing of the mixed team relay.
Eurosport will provide all the latest breaking news from every single kilometre of the race and the riders right here.
UCI Road World Championships: Full schedule
Individual time trials
- September 19: Elite Men - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (43.3km)
- September 20: Men U23 - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (30.3km)
- September 20: Elite women - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (30.3km)
- September 21: Junior women - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (19.3km)
- September 21: Junior men - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (22.3km)
Mixed team relay
- September 22: Mixed elite - Knokke-Heist to Bruges (44.5km)
Road race events
- September 24: Junior men - Leuven to Leuven (121.4km)
- September 24: Men U23 - Antwerp to Leuven (160.9km)
- September 25: Junior women - Leuven to Leuven (75km)
- September 25: Elite women - Antwerp to Leuven (157.7km)
- September 26: Elite men - Antwerp to Leuven (268.3km)
Sensational Van der Breggen takes second World Championships gold
What is the mixed relay team time trial?
The mixed relay sees teams of three men and three women compete against each other in a team time trial. The men's teams start in Knokke-Heist and begin the charge towards Bruges, with the women's teams taking over after 22.5km and completing the final 22km.
The Netherlands won the first edition in 2019 in Yorkshire, with the event shelved last year as the event was hastily switched from Switzerland to Italy due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Who is on the men's startlist?
In the men's road race, Wout van Aert is the overwhelming favourite for hosts Belgium and arrives in stellar form, having won the general classification at the Tour of Britain, while Remco Evenepoel offers the Belgians a different option. However, defending champion Julian Alaphilippe has had a string of near misses in 2021 and will be desperate to defend the rainbow stripes.
Mathieu van der Poel has barely been spotted since crashing out of the mountain bike race at the Olympics, but dominated the Antwerp Port Epic on his return earlier in September and will inevitably be watched carefully by the entire peloton.
Elsewhere, Slovenia boast the last two Grand Tour winners, Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic, and potential dark horse Matej Mohoric, while Italy's Sonny Colbrelli arrives after being recently crowned European champion.
Great Britain's hopes will likely swing between Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter and Mark Cavendish, depending on how the race plays out. Pidcock won De Brabantse Pijl earlier this season on similar terrain, while Hayter finished just behind Van Aert at the recent Tour of Britain. Luke Rowe, Jake Stewart, Fred Wright, Ben Swift and Connor Swift will support them in the road race.
In the time trial, the event will come down to one question: is Filippo Ganna on top form? If the Italian is, he's basically unstoppable. But the signs from the European Championships and Olympics are that he's not, paving the way for him to be usurped.
Van Aert seems the most obvious candidate, if he's prepared to bury himself before the road race, while Evenepoel and Switzerland's Stefan Kung are other contenders. Hayter and Dan Bigham will compete for GB.
Olympic champion Roglic will sit out the TT battle as Pogacar and Jan Tratnik are drafted in for Slovenia.
Julian Alaphilippe wins road race gold medal at world championships
Who is on the women's startlist?
The Dutch super-squad have one task: don't let Anna Kiesenhofer out of their sights.
After the Austrian's shock win at the Olympics, an imposing orange quartet will be looking to make amends with defending champion Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, Demi Vollering and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in the eight-strong party tasked with securing the rainbow jersey.
Britain's Lizzie Deignan, the champion six years ago, will line up with Anna Shackley, Alice Barnes, Anna Henderson, Pfeiffer Georgi and Joss Lowden.
With Van der Breggen skipping her time trial defence, Dutch teammate and Olympic champion Van Vleuten is the standout name in the field.
Recent European champion Marlen Reusser is expected to compete for Switzerland, with Joss Lowden and Pfeiffer Georgi going for Britain.
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