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Who are the favourites for the elite men's road World Championships 2021?

Robyn Davidson
16 Sep 2021

One of the pinnacle moments of the season is here, and Cyclist looks at some of the favourite names to take home the coveted rainbow jersey

One of the pinnacle moments of the season is here. The UCI Road World Championships take place in Flanders, Belgium from Monday 20th September until Sunday 26th September. 

The final event will be the elite men's road race, a 267.7km route from Antwerp to Leuven, the home of Stella Artois beer. Ahead of the event, Cyclist looks at some of the favourite names to take home the coveted rainbow jersey.

Who are the favourites the elite men's road World Championships 2021?

Wout van Aert (Belgium)

Age: 27
Trade team: Jumbo-Visma
Best finish at Elite Road Worlds: 2nd (2020)

As far as favourites go, look no further than Belgian national champion Wout van Aert. He’s heading to Flanders in more than fine form, recently winning half of the stages at the Tour of Britain and the overall. It appears he’s somewhat unstoppable.

Sprints, climbs and time-trials, this man can do it all. He proved so in Britain and at the Tour de France, winning atop Mont Ventoux after scaling it twice, and on the Champs-Élysées. His 2021 season has also included victory at Gent-Wevelgem and the Amstel Gold Race plus a silver medal in the Olympics road race.

The Belgian team is packed with talent alongside van Aert. Remco Evenepoel – who recently finished second behind Sonny Colbrelli at the European Road Championships – Jasper Stuyven, Tiesj Benoot, Victor Campenaerts , Yves Lampaert, Dylan Teuns and Tim Declerq are all ready to help their leader to the win.

As the race takes place in the Flanders region of Belgium, it does feel like this is meant to be. But as we all know, there are no gifts in cycling. Van Aert certainly be a marked man. Onto the others looking to upset the Belgian party…

Julian Alaphilippe (France)

Age: 29
Trade team: Deceuninck-QuickStep
Best finish: 1st (2020)

The reigning world champion will certainly be doing his best to retain his title. Like van Aert, Alaphilippe rode the Tour of Britain with the World Championships in mind. He finished 3rd overall, behind winner Wout van Aert and Ethan Hayter.

One standout moment featured the pair doing battle on the uphill Stage 4 finish into Llandudno. After almost 210km in the saddle and three other categorised climbs, the duo broke away with Michael Woods on the punishing gradient.

Alaphilippe launched his attack and Van Aert followed, the latter just edging ahead for the win. France is sending a team including Christophe Laporte, Florian Sénéchal, Benoît Cosnefroy and Arnaud Démare to ensure a repeat of that finish position doesn’t happen.

Alaphilippe has had a good season, winning La Flèche Wallonne in April and the opening stage of the Tour de France. He also came second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège behind Tadej Pogačar. Known for his explosive and exciting riding, an attack drawing out a group of favourites could well be on the cards.

Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia)

Age: 22
Trade team: UAE Team Emirates
Best finish: 18th (2019)

Speaking of Tadej Pogačar, the 22-year-old has had nothing short of a phenomenal season. Overall wins at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico followed by Liège-Bastogne-Liège don’t come easily. He successfully defended his Tour de France title with UAE Team Emirates, including the mountains and youth classifications.

Pogačar’s Stage 5 five victory arrived in the shape of an individual time-trial; Stages 17 and 18 featured intense climbing in the Pyrénées. Like van Aert, versatility plays a big part in his success. But a downside for the Slovenian is that his team is also stacked with potential for the rainbow jersey. Primož Roglič is additionally included in the list of favourites.

Like Pogačar, the 31-year-old defended his Grand Tour victory, going back-to-back-to-back at the Vuelta a España with wins in both individual time-trials and the mountainous stages of 11 and 17. His Olympic success this year derived from a gold time trial medal while finishing 28th in the road race.

At La Flèche Wallonne, Roglič placed second in a fierce climb alongside Alaphilippe on the Mur de Huy. Lest we forget their Slovenian teammate Matej Mohorič – winner of two Tour de France stages in July and the final stage at the Benelux Tour this month. Where the other favourites will go, the Slovenian team will surely follow.

Sonny Colbrelli (Italy)

Age: 31
Trade team: Bahrain Victorious
Best finish: 11th (2019)

At the start of the season, Sonny Colbrelli probably wasn’t the first man to cross people’s minds when asked about the potential next world champion. But the Italian has steadily been building up his results this season.

He finished 4th at Gent-Wevelgem before winning the second stage and points classification at the Tour de Romandie, then topped this classification again at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The 31-year-old recently won the overall at the Benelux Tour after a solo attack on Stage 6 and two second-place finishes on stages five and seven.

Yet just last week he hit his peak form by becoming the European Road Race Champion. The Italian national champion broke away with Remco Evenepoel and sprinted to a then-expected win in front of his home crowd, with fellow Italian Matteo Trentin celebrating in fourth place. Trentin will be alongside Colbrelli on the start line for the World Championships, with Giacomo Nizzolo, Davide Ballerini and Gianni Moscon also in the mix.

Magnus Cort (Denmark)

Age: 28
Trade team: EF Education-Nippo
Best finish: DNF (2019)

Magnus Cort propelled himself into the headlines at the Vuelta a España this year. He produced one of the most impressive three weeks of racing to result in a hat-trick of victories and the overall combativity award.

His first win came from a breakaway on Stage 6 as he managed to evade the clutches of a surging Primož Roglič on the Alto de la Montana de Cullera. Then on Stage 12 into Córdoba, Jens Keukeleire expertly led out Cort in the sprint just one day after he heartbreakingly lost in the final 200m to Roglič on the Valdepeñas de Jaén. EF Education-Nippo duo Cort and Lawson Craddock made the breakaway on Stage 19 as the peloton left it too late to catch them, Cort sprinting ahead of Rui Oliveira and Quinn Simmons.

Denmark has a seriously strong team at the World Championships, with Mikkel Honoré, Mads Würtz Schmidt, Andreas Kron, Mads Pedersen, Kasper Asgreen, Mikkel Bjerg and Michael Valgren all in consideration.

The Men’s Elite Road Race World Championship will take place on Sunday the 26th of September.