Five things we learned from the 2020 UCI Road World Championships

Julian Alaphilippe and Filippo Ganna further bolstered their reputations in Imola as Anna van der Breggen led more Dutch dominance of the women's races

By Rory Jiwani

The 2020 UCI Road World Championships were different in many respects to usual with just four elite races taking place being held in Imola.

But there were few surprises in the identities of the winners, and the medallists.

Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen regained her road race title and won the time trial for the first time.

Having spent much of the season chasing Wout van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe showed he has a fine racing brain to go with his power to claim France's first men's road race world title in 23 years.

That was after Filippo Ganna marked himself out as possibly the man to watch in the time trial at next year's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a stunning home success.

As well as providing clues for next year's Games, the event also had pointers for the Giro d'Italia starting next Saturday (3 October).

Dutch women rule OK

The brilliant orange jerseys dominated the women's races at the World Championships once more with Anna van der Breggen leading the way.

The Rio 2016 road race champion was second in both the road race and time trial in Yorkshire last year.

It looked like she would take silver again in the time trial, but a crash to reigning champion Chloe Dygert saw her go one better.

Van der Breggen took gold from Switzerland's Marlen Reusser with another Dutchwoman, 2013 time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk, filling the last spot on the podium.

The strength of the Dutch squad also proved too great in Saturday's road race.

Marianne Vos and reigning champion Annemiek van Vleuten were at the head of affairs with just over 40km to go when van der Breggen launched what proved to be a decisive counter-attack.

She was soon two minutes clear of her rivals as she claimed the first big-race double at the World Championships since France's Jeannie Longo in 1995.

Van Vleuten took silver, despite riding with a fractured wrist, with Italy's Elisa Longo Borghini adding another bronze to her collection having been third in 2012 and at Rio 2016.

It was also a fourth consecutive road race gold for the Netherlands.

This Dutch dominance is nothing new with Leontien van Moorsel winning four Olympic golds before Vos took over at the top, culminating in her road race triumph at London 2012.

While Vos remains a force despite advancing age and a number of injuries, she has been overtaken by van der Breggen and van Vleuten in recent years.

There are two prime reasons for this conveyor belt of Dutch talent in women's cycling.

For one, cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands with more bikes per capita than any other country in the world.

And secondly, girls are just as interested in cycling as a sport as boys with easy access to clubs and junior competitions.

Don't be surprised to again see podiums dominated by orange at Tokyo 2020.

Alaphilippe delivers on the big occasion

Having been one of the stars on the World Tour for the last couple of years, Julian Alaphillipe's status as cycling's top one-day rider was under threat from Belgium's Wout van Aert and his old cyclo-cross rival Mathieu van der Poel.

Van Aert had beaten Alaphilippe in a sprint finish to take the Milan-San Remo and was fancied to repeat the trick at Imola.

But the Frenchman, who was fourth at Rio 2016 and had just missed out on the podium at previous World Championships, made a break for victory on the peak of the final climb 17km from home.

It was a lung-bursting break which put distance between himself and van Aert and the rest of the field.

The Belgian team had vowed to give everything to set up the victory for their leader, but they were caught out by Alaphilippe's superb sustained kick.

After crossing the line, an emotional Alaphilippe called the win "a dream of my career".

The 28-year-old is a versatile and powerful 'puncheur' with strong climbing skills as well as pace in the finish.

And the tactical speed he showed on this occasion marks him out as a true threat for gold in Tokyo.

Van Aert took silver on the line from another rising star in Switzerland's Marc Hirschi, who won the U-23 world title in 2018.

Both men are sure to be in the mix next year but, for now, it's Alaphilippe who is the King of the Road.

Filippo Ganna makes claim for super stardom

Italy's Filippo Ganna had been better known for his exploits on the track than the road before this week

In 2016, he won the U23 Paris-Roubaix and took time trial bronze at last year's Road World Championships in Yorkshire, England, but he was more famous for his four consecutive individual pursuit world titles in the velodrome.

That's all changed now after the 24-year-old became the first Italian to secure the world time trial title.

That Ganna is extremely talented was no secret, as demonstrated by his record-breaking exploits at last November's Track World Cup event in Pruszkow, Poland.

Despite racing at sea level, he took more than a second off Ashton Lambie's world record set at altitude.

Also startling was the way Ganna showed no sign of slowing down.

Ganna broke the world record again later that day, lowering it to 4:02.647 after lapping his opponent in the final.

Almost 11 months later, he got the better of a star-studded field to claim glory on home soil with the course taking in the circuit previously used for Formula 1's San Marino Grand Prix, and this year for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Now with Team Ineos, he is likely to get plenty more opportunities to prove himself on the road although he is keen to keep competing on the track.

While the individual pursuit is no longer an Olympic event, he desperately wants to help Italy win gold in the team pursuit.

But he also has hopes of time trial gold on the road in Tokyo and gets a quick chance to show what he can do next Saturday in the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Victory in the 15.1km time trial in Palermo would see him add a coveted pink jersey, temporarily at least, to his rainbow jersey from Imola.

One of the favourites for the overall Giro title, 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, also showed his well-being with fourth place in the time trial.

Filippo Ganna on his way to time trial gold at the 2020 Road World Championships in Imola

Dygert starts road to recovery

The ups and downs of cycling were all too painfully demonstrated by Chloe Dygert in Imola.

The American looked set to retain her time trial world crown, passing the intermediate checkpoint just before the halfway mark some 25 seconds clear of the field.

All she had to do was keep going, but then Dygert lost control on a bend and was sent flying over a guardrail into a ditch.

Days later, the 23-year-old shared a gruesome photo showing the gaping wound on her left leg just after the crash.

Dygert is recovering from surgery to that laceration of her quadricep and faces a race against time to be fit for next year's Olympic Games where she will be to add to her team pursuit silver from Rio 2016.

Her coach Kristin Armstrong, who won her third consecutive Olympic time trial gold in Rio, told USA Cycling, "Chloe is a gifted athlete. She's had accidents in the past and returned stronger than ever. I have no doubt that this will be the case again."

All of sport, including IOC President Thomas Bach, is willing Dygert to make it to Tokyo.

No rest for Tour hero Pogacar

Tadej Pogacar might have been forgiven for taking things easy just a week after his shock victory in the Tour de France.

But that's just not how the Slovenian operates.

With 40km to go in the road race in Imola, Pogacar attacked from the front in a solo bid for glory.

He succeeded in splintering the field somewhat although he was hauled in with 20km remaining.

His Slovenian team-mate, Primoz Roglic, finished sixth having lost the yellow jersey to Pogacar in last Saturday's time trial in the Vosges Mountains.

The Giro is not in Pogacar's plan but he will be hoping for more silverware in two Monuments in October - the Liege-Bastogne-Liege followed by his first Tour of Flanders.

Having won the Tour de France on his first attempt, it would be no surprise to see the 22-year-old produce more fireworks in Belgium next month.


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