Australia bring in a strong contingent of riders in the time trial and the road race, with every chance of taking away some rainbow bands and a few medals from the four events of the abridged 2020 world championships in Imola, Italy.
SBS Cycling Central

Cycling Australia
24 Sep 2020 - 2:08 PM 

The 2020 World Championships format will include the elite categories only. The challenging road race routes in the region surrounding the Imola race circuit will see the men take on 5,000 metres of climbing on a 259.2-kilometre course, while the women will tackle 2,750 metres of climbing over a 144-kilometre course. The time trial course will feature a flat 32km circuit.

The courses will race from the hub of the Imola circuit, most infamously the track where Ayrton Senna died. It has hosted a world championships before, back in 1968 when Vittorio Adoni won the men's race by nine minutes and 50 seconds! Legendary Dutch cyclist Keetie van Oosten-Hage won the women's race. 

Women's Time Trial - Grace Brown (starts 2328 AEST)

Grace Brown is the sole representative for the women, with the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider having only competed in the nationals time trial this year, where she placed second, nine seconds behind young star Sarah Gigante. Gigante hasn't had any racing this season since the COVID shutdown and wasn't offered a spot on the squad despite her nationals win. 

Brown had come into that time trial with less form than her dominant 2019 win, so she should be climaxing to near peak performance here, though a lot will depend on her reaction to a hard edition of the Giro Rosa. Brown spent a good deal of time on the front of the peloton there and did her job in the team time trial, but there's precious little in terms of time-trial form that we've seen from her recently.

The Aussie powerhouse has a proper diesel engine, but will be an outsider for a medal, with the likes of Chloe Dygert (USA), Ellen van Dijk, Anna van der Breggen (both Netherlands) and Mieke Kroger (Germany) probably a touch ahead of her at present on this course. That said, the Victorian is an ascending talent and will looking to build towards the Tokyo Olympics with a good showing here.

Thursday 24 September

Women's Elite Time Trial - 2240 AEST 

SBS On Demand

Men's Time Trial - Rohan Dennis (starts 2354 AEST), Luke Durbridge (starts 2255)

Rohan Dennis comes into the world championships looking for a hattrick of rainbow victories after winning in Yorkshire and Innsbruck. Dennis' performance in peaking for each of these has been little short of amazing, beating his nearest competitor by over a minute on each occasion. 

His expected major rival this year is Filippo Ganna (Italy), whom he beat by nearly two minutes last year, but all signs point to it being a bigger challenge this time around. Ganna beat Dennis in their most recent meeting on the final stage TT of Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Australian actually hasn't won a race against the clock since the world championships last year.

Another factor that is a concern is the shorter course that they'll be racing over this year, which may favour some of his powerful rivals, including Ganna.

Dennis is a proven champion however, and has been on the ground in Imola for a while now scouting out the course and doing his training. 

Luke Durbridge skipped the Tour de France when the world championships was going to clash with the French Grand Tour, and he's stated that he's looking to target the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics. He's looking pretty lean at the moment and was quite a brilliant time-triallist before adapting his skills more broadly as a classics rider and domestique on Mitchelton-Scott. 

He appears to have returned to a laser focus on the time trial and if he can manage a peak performance, he'll go well. Dennis said after the nationals that if Durbridge was able to replicate his Buninyong performance at worlds it likely would have been good enough for fifth, so that is as good as endorsement as any that Durbridge can aim pretty high in 2020. 

Friday 25 September

Men's Elite Time Trial - 2225 AEST 

SBS On Demand

Women's Road Race

Australia's presumptive leader in Amanda Spratt crashed out of the Giro Rosa and has only just climbed back on the bike, just completing a short ergo session for the first time yesterday. If in good condition she would favoured to add to her collection of world championship medals that currently contains a silver and a bronze from the last two world championships road races.  

In her stead, we'll likely see Lucy Kennedy, Brodie Chapman and Grace Brown have to step up and go on the front foot. All have a history of racing aggressively, with Kennedy and Chapman looking in good, if not great form at the recent Giro Rosa. Kennedy was a key driver of the pace in both of the final two stage breakaways, while Chapman set up the win for her French teammate Evita Muzic on the last stage. 

You would expect that the Australians will have to race aggressively if they want to climb on the podium, with the quality of the other nations likely to tell if they let the Dutch, the British and the Italians dictate the race.

Saturday 26 September

Women's Elite Road Race - 2035 AEST 

SBS On Demand - switch to SBS VICELAND at 22:30 

Australian women's Road Race team:

  • Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott)
  • Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)
  • Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott)
  • Shara Marche (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)
  • Rachel Neylan (Cronos Casa Dorada Women Cycling) 
  • Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott)
  • Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott)

Men's Road Race

Deciding team leadership will be a tough task for men's road manager Brad McGee, and it's likely that Australia will go into the race with some varied strategies. 

Richie Porte is coming off his best-ever Tour de France, and depending on how he has pulled up from the three-week ordeal, he could be Australia's strongest rider. The punchy climbs of the course don't really suit him despite the steep gradients as they are really quite short and as much meant for the classics and powerful types as the mountain goats. His history in one-day races is less strong than his stage-racing pedigree, but he has shown just recently that it's folly to write him off at the moment.

Porte's podium 'such a journey'
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) produced his best Tour de France performance, avoiding the crashes that have marred previous attempts at the general classification.
Matthews wins big in Bretagne
Michael Matthews romped to victory at the Bretagne Classic, capping off a tactically astute performance by Team Sunweb throughout the 247km race.

Michael Matthews and Simon Clarke were both left out of their teams' Tour de France squads, but both may be thanking their lucky stars as it means that they'll get a better preparation for the world championships. Neither would have been a big fan of the Switzerland course, and Matthews said that he was going to go there as a team helper. That may change now that the course contains a lot of short climbs and the more classic inclined riders in Clarke and Matthews will fancy their chances. 

Clarke crashed heavily on Stage 8 of Tirreno-Adriatico, while 5000 metres of vertical gain is arguably a bit too much for Matthews, but if either get down into the finale, there will be few better placed to finish things off than the Aussie pair.

Jai Hindley is a bit of a smokey as a young climber for the Aussies. He was good form at Tirreno and is starting to really put results on the board in his third year in the professional ranks.

Late withdrawals of Giro-bound pair Lucas Hamilton and Jack Haig mean that Chris Hamilton and Nick Schultz come into the squad.

Sunday 27 September 

Men's Elite Road Race - 1750 AEST 

SBS On Demand - switch to SBS VICELAND at 22:30

Australian Men’s Road Race team:

  • Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling)
  • Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott)
  • Chris Hamilton (Team Sunweb) 
  • Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb)
  • Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott)
  • Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)
  • Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo)
  • Nick Schultz (Mitchelton-Scott)