Five things to know about the road cycling world championships, which will be held in Tuscany starting Sunday:
Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert. Nearly all of the top names in the sport will be on hand for next week's world championships in Tuscany, which open Sunday with the men's and women's team time trials. While the starting points are spread out around Tuscany - Pistoia, Montecatini Terme, Lucca - each of the races finish in Florence. In all, there are 12 races for teams, juniors, under-23s and elite professionals - for both men and women.
The course for the featured elite men's race on the concluding Sunday, Sept. 29, is a 169-mile route that starts in Lucca near the coast and ends with 10 laps of a hilly circuit in and around Florence. The hills should make it feel like a mountain stage, thus Grand Tour winners like Froome, Contador and Nibali headline the list of favorites. Single-day specialists like Gilbert - who won last year in Valkenburg, Netherlands - Peter Sagan and Alejandro Valverde, could also have a chance.
CANCELLARA AIMS FOR 3 GOLDS
Swiss veteran Fabian Cancellara will be lining up in three events - the team time trial, the individual time trial and the elite road race - and he has designs on winning all three. The 32-year-old Cancellara will be part of RadioShack's team time trial squad - with Omega Pharma and BMC the main rivals - then he'll be aiming for a fifth title in the individual race against the clock. He also believes he has a legitimate chance in the road race, even though some critics say the course is too tough for him.
''And wasn't Beijing supposed to be (too tough) also?'' Cancellara told the Gazzetta dello Sport, referring to his silver medal in the road race at the 2008 Olympics.
''Everyone's talking about the steep hill on via Salviati but it's only 1 1/2 minutes of 'all out.' We'll see what happens in the race,'' Cancellara added. ''I think Gilbert will be my top rival. Belgium has only one card to play and they need to play it well. After that, I like the Spaniards - if they get along.''
For the past two years, nobody has been able to match Germany's Tony Martin in individual time trials, and he's the clear favorite for the race against the clock on Wednesday. The 36-mile course is virtually entirely flat, meaning only pure specialists like Martin, who has won this event the last two years, have a chance. Other contenders include Cancellara, who has won a record four times, Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and American hope Taylor Phinney, who finished second to Martin last year.
POLITICS AND DOPING
The election for UCI president will be held next Friday inside Florence's historic Palazzo Vecchio. The contest pits incumbent Pat McQuaid against British cycling president Brian Cookson. While tainted from alleged involvement in the Lance Armstrong doping affair, McQuaid maintains he can still clean up the sport. Cookson pledges to rebuild cycling's image and governance.
It remains unclear if McQuaid has a valid nomination. Federations in his home country, Ireland, and Switzerland, where he lives, withdrew support. But he claims valid nominations from Thailand and Morocco.
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