Racing is glorious. It is the distillation of effort and aspiration and willpower into a focused energy that brings out the best in us. Sometimes it brings out the worst in some of us, but the good outweighs the bad and we firmly believe that competition improves the breed. We believe this on the human level, and we emphatically believe it when it comes to our products. We race, and we sponsor racers, because we want our wheels to excel in the most demanding of conditions, to help the best in the world deliver championship performances. Racing is a heavy strand weaving through our DNA.
As such, this coming Sunday, the 29th of September, is a biggie for us. 285 kilometers, winding through sheep dotted fields along the narrow, stone walled roads of Yorkshire between Leeds and Harrogate, will decide the UCI Road World Champion. Depending who you talk to, the UCI Road World Championship race is either the pinnacle of a racer’s year, or a one-day crapshoot that involves luck as much as it does talent and preparation. Usually the people who align themselves with this latter school of thought are those who don’t necessarily thrive in a single day race environment. To us, that’s the beauty of Worlds. One day, one race, for all the chips. No bad days allowed, no hand-picked trade team to shelter you until that your carefully planned moment, nowhere to hide. You have to take whatever weather nature throws at you, be at your physical and mental peak, and race the course as it lays.
This is why we love World’s. it is everything about road riding, all the aspects that hooked us on the sport - training, preparation, discipline, skill, instinct, risk and luck - cooked down in this intense crucible to the purely elemental, laid out for everyone to watch and cheer.
As for that crucible, this year’s course is going to show no mercy to a lot of tough contenders. The length is one reason – at 285km, it is the second longest single race on the calendar this year. The only race that topped this distance in 2019 was Milan-San Remo. Then there’s the teeth in the middle of this marathon day. Great Britain isn’t known for dizzying peaks and alpine passes, but the gritstone of the Yorkshire Dales is corrugated in a downright sadistic fashion. While the climbs may appear lacking in length, they more than make up for it in savagery of gradient.
Kidstones Pass, Buttertubs, Grinton Moor. The names sound almost jovial, friendly. Those are the three sharp climbs in the middle of this very long day. The racers hit Kidstones at 60km into the race. It’s only 3.5km long, but it has some ugly gradients that come close to 14%. It won’t do much to hurt the real climbers, but will definitely show up who’s feeling the grind of a long season among the heavier riders. Buttertubs is next, at 90km. Again, not a massive climb, only 2.2 km in length, but an average grade of nine percent with a max grade of almost 16% is going to cause some misery. Grinton Moor, 160km into the race, at 3km in length with a few nice 13% ramps, is another short, sharp shock that will no doubt cause some splintering. The thing with each of these climbs is that there is still a lot of racing after them. They aren’t going to decide who wins the race, but they might very well have a hand in deciding who loses.
So, if we were to put our money down on a favorite, who would we choose? Naturally, we have our biases. We want someone riding our wheels to win. No surprise there. Julian Alaphilippe rides our wheels, has proven his climbing prowess at this year’s Tour De France, and also took the victory at Milan-San Remo. He has the right mix of pure climbing talent as well as hard classic contender grit to make something happen. And what better way to cap off a powerhouse of a season than adding a rainbow jersey to the wardrobe?
Meanwhile, our gut instincts say that this race is gonna be taken by someone who is more of a traditional spring classics contender, a brawler who can survive the climbs but also animate the seven closing circuits in Harrogate amid a shattering peloton. Someone who has tasted victory in this arena before. Maybe someone who has tasted victory three times before. Yep. Peter Sagan.
We race to break through our own perceived limitations, to push ourselves beyond what we thought possible. We watch the world’s best racers compete for the same reasons. We cheer on our champions, and love to watch history being made, records being broken, the great goalposts being moved. As of right now, Sagan is in illustrious company, alongside Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen, Oscar Freire, and Eddy Merckx. Those giants are the only people who’ve amassed three World Championships in the men’s road race. Nobody has won the rainbow stripes four times. We love the drama and the glory, however it unfolds, but we are also crossing our fingers for something magic. We’re going with Sagan. Who are YOU rooting for?