Worlds race guide
Fight for rainbow jersey in Holland
Last Updated: September 22, 2012 7:31pm
Great Britain and Mark Cavendish won in 2011
The most prestigious one-day event in cycling returns to Holland for a showdown among the biggest names in the peloton.
The big prize on offer, the rainbow jersey causes a stir wherever it goes and is a career-defining achievement for the rider who gets to spend 12 months campaigning it.
With the 2011 Copenhagen parcours always looking likely to favour the sprinters, 2012 should see a much more unpredictable race with a lumpier course in the Dutch cycling hotbed.
Always an intriguing race, with so many riders in with a chance of winning the course should keep the fans guessing. Classics-specialist strong men, Grand Tour riders and punchy climbers will all be looking to add their name to the history books.
The event marks one year since Mark Cavendish was propelled to victory by a towering performance from the Great British team, the Manxman going on to take 15 wins in his rainbow jersey tenure for Team Sky.
While the weekend's other four race races are confined to the local circuit, the men will tackle 100 kilometres by way of a run-in, heading out of Maastricht for a tour of the surrounding region. The end result is a total of 261km to decide the winner.
The riders head north towards Sittard for a loop which takes in seven categorised climbs ahead of the circuit. The race passes through Geleen and Heerlen, the ascents gradually increasing in length, topping out on the 3.1km Rugweg (85km) at an average of 3.2%.
The twin challenges of the Eperheide and Hoogcruts/Piemert bring the peloton back around to the entrance to the circuit, by which time a break will no doubt have fired clear.
Riders will have plenty of time to get used to a 16.1km lap, with 10 circuits to be completed around the hub of Valkenburg.
Two climbs punctuate the action on the anti-clockwise parcours, the first being the Bemelerberg (900m at 5%). A number of the competitors will be familiar with the finale having seen it used in both the team and individual time trial events. All eyes will be on the Cauberg as the potential launching pad for attacks. An average of 5.8% does not do the climb justice in terms of its toughness.
The most famous climb in Holland acts as the finale to the Amstel Gold Race and will again feature prominently at the worlds, albeit with a different run for home. Instead of finishing at the top of the 1.2km climb the course continues for a further kilometre, a gradual descent off the climb flattening out before a final 500m drag to the line.
The flat section means it is not simply enough to gap your opponents on the Cauberg, with any rider able to drag themselves up the climb in a good position putting themselves in with a chance of a coveted rainbow jersey.