The Tour may be the race everyone dreams of winning. But the rainbow stripes of a World Championship aren’t far behind. The quest begins for the 2013 elite this weekend in Tuscany, with the TTTT (Trade Team Time Trials) tomorrow, followed by the ITTs and Road Races for women, men and U23’s.
In addition to the considerable honour of wearing the rainbow jersey for the ensuing 12 months in pelotons all over the globe, past World Champions such as Cadel Evans, Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd are entitled to sport the rainbow (typically in the form of narrow strip) on their racing gear for the rest of their lives. Given the annual change in parcours gives elite riders of all different qualities a chance to feature at some stage in their careers – unlike a Grand Tour, for example, which is skewed heavily against sprinters – it is surely the most prestigious club in world cycling.
The first road World Championships took place in 1921 in Copenhagen and was strictly for amateurs only. Six years later the first professional world championship took place in July 1927 at the Nurburgring in Germany, alongside its amateur equivalent. For decades the event was almost exclusively the domain of European organisers, with the first non-European staging not taking place until Montreal in 1974.
Copenhagen and Valkenburg (Netherlands) have each hosted the event a record 5 times. Australia has staged the event just once – Geelong in 2011.
Just some of the illustrious names to have won the rainbow jersey in the blue riband Men’s Road Race include Fausto Coppi (1953), Eddie Merckx (1967, 1971, 1974), Freddy Maertens (1976, 1981), Francesco Moser (1977), Bernard Hinault (1980), Greg LeMond (1983, 1989), Stephen Roche (1987) and Mario Cipollini (2002).