The Danes Vingegaard or Pedersen, the Frenchman Cosnefroy, the Canadian Hugo Houle or the Englishman Tom Pidcock have given up the world championships.
Too far, too expensive, too late: the Road Cycling World Championships are being shunned by several leaders of the peloton, cooled by the long, tiring and expensive journey to Australia.
Organized from September 18 to 25 in Wollongong, on the east coast of Australia, the Worlds come at the end of a season all the more exhausting as several teams fight for their survival in the World Tour, the first division of cycling, another reason for the absence of several runners.
“I also have a wife and a life.” Mads Pedersen, world champion in 2019, puts forward an unstoppable argument to explain his absence “Down under”. At the end of the Vuelta, the Danish sprinter already had more than 80 days in the race this season. If the Worlds had been held in Europe, the epicenter of cycling, it might have prolonged the fun. But leaving for at least a week at more than 15,000 km, taking the plane trip, jet lag and a change of season – it’s spring in Australia – was beyond his strength. He is not the only one.
In August, his compatriot Jonas Vingegaard, exhausted by his victory in the Tour de France and his new superstar status, said he was ignoring. Frenchman Benoît Cosnefroy had scratched the event from his calendar in June. “It’s a very energy-intensive trip at this time of year, and with such a time difference. I had not yet won and I did not feel in a position of strength with my team, the sponsors who pay us”, he explained Friday after his victory at the GP of Quebec on a course similar to that of the Worlds. .
Airplane, accommodation, personnel: travel to the Antipodes costs a small fortune that some nations are unable to put on the table. Countries like Ireland and… New Zealand – a neighboring country but where most of the pro riders are based in Europe – have simply canceled their participation. The best Canadian riders like Hugo Houle, stage winner on the Tour de France this summer, Michael Woods or Antoine Duchesne also gave up when they learned that the Canadian federation was asking them to pay for their plane ticket.
“Cycling Canada cannot afford to send the athletes. So it’s entirely at our expense. (…) Me, that does not interest me”, commented Houle. “This year’s Road World Championships in Australia are incredibly expensive. We are committed to fielding teams in each category, and with a larger team, this entails additional costs, ”explained Scott Kelly, head of sport at the Canadian federation, which has provided 110,000 Canadian dollars (83,000 euros), or one-third of the annual budget for road competition.
At the end of the season, several big guys in the peloton have already burned all their cartridges, like the Briton Tom Pidcock, winner at Alpe d’Huez in July, or the German Maximilian Schachman, double winner of Paris- Nice and another potential suitor, who, exhausted, ended his season. Fatigue is a recurring element at the Worlds, but the journey to Australia acts as an aggravating factor, including for a young runner like Spaniard Juan Ayuso (19), who withdrew Tuesday evening after his “big effort on the Vuelta”, which he finished in 3rd place.
Added to this, for the first time, is the fight to remain in the World Team for the next three seasons. This crucial issue has prompted several teams to retain their riders to line them up for as many races as possible in Europe in order to score UCI points. Belgium will do so without Lotto riders and Spain will be deprived of Movistar champions like Alejandro Valverde. According to coach Pascual Momparler, the 2018 world champion was up for it. “But he didn’t get permission.” French coach Thomas Voeckler thought of bringing Bryan Coquard. But there too the sprinter’s team, Cofidis, frowned. “There are managers who need their runners to score. It’s really something that I respect. They have jobs to save for the next three years and in their place I would do the same,” commented Voeckler.