Vincenzo Nibali rode the course for the 2018 Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol, Austria with Italian teammates Alessandro de Marchi and Franco Pellizotti on the weekend and the verdict: it's hard.
"The final climb looked like a mountain bike endurance race, so hard," Nibali said.
"It will be a difficult race to manage, from power distribution to food, from the technical choices to the choice of athletes for a complete national team. After seeing it on paper I was expecting a hard route but riding it is quite another thing. Many other riders will be as surprised as I was today".
De Marchi and Pellizotti agreed.
"On paper, I think this is one of the most difficult World Championship courses," De Marchi said. "It was a good idea to come here now - a few months before the race - to see and understand what we’re going to find in September."
"These World Championships are very difficult," Pellizotti said. "The course is long and tough. To do well here it will be very important to come out of the Vuelta in good condition, both mentally and physically".
Although Italian National Cycling Team Manager Davide Cassani had already clocked eyes on the course, he said it was another thing entirely seeing his azzurri discover it.
"Both myself and the boys were impressed. There’s an 8km climb to be repeated seven times, plus a final wall with inclinations that peak at 28 per cent: this says everything about the hardness of the route.”
The 2018 Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol will run from 22-30 September.