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“A few corners too many”: Riders react to claims that Glasgow city circuit was a “death race” and “designed in a pub” after Mathieu van der Poel wins epic battle

While Jasper Stuyven echoed Florian Sénéchal’s scathing pre-race assessment, silver medallist Wout van Aert was more balanced in his appraisal of the urban course’s 50 corners

It perhaps wasn’t too much of a surprise that the winner of today’s epic, dramatic world road race championships, held on a tight, technical, and slightly rainy city centre course in Glasgow, turned out to be Mathieu van der Poel, a rider who made his name on twisty, constantly turning circuits in all sorts of weather conditions.

At the end of an exhilarating, unforgettable race, packed with attacks, splits, and incident (and even an hour-long disruption due to a climate protest), Van der Poel claimed his long-awaited first rainbow jersey on the road, and his second world title of 2023, following his ‘cross exploits earlier in the year.

With 22 kilometres remaining, the 28-year-old attacked an elite group containing Wout van Aert, Tadej Pogačar, and Mads Pedersen, overcoming a dramatic late crash to convincingly win by over a minute and a half, as his old rival Van Aert forged clear for second and Pogačar won the sprint for bronze.

> UCI Cycling World Championships road race stopped as protester reportedly “cements hand to road”

Mathieu van der Poel wins the 2023 world road race championships, Glasgow (Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

(Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

But that fact that the rainbow jersey was handed out today to the flying Dutchman for the road race, rather than cyclocross, or indeed a criterium, was the subject of much consternation within the men’s peloton this week in the build-up to the worlds, after French rider Florian Sénéchal described the 14.3km city circuit, and its roughly 50 corners, as a “death race”, while last year’s winner Remco Evenepoel claimed its designer must “have been hanging out in the pub too much”.

“It’s dangerous for a Worlds,” Sénéchal said before today’s race. “I would have thought they would be more serious about safety. I like a race when it’s technical but in terms of respect for the riders, it's not great.

“It’s s***. You need a minimum of respect for the riders who came to put on a show and not break their collarbones... if it rains, it will be a death race.”

Meanwhile, 2022 world champion Evenepoel – who, after a subpar performance, failed to make the decisive split as Belgian teammate Wout van Aert sprinted to take second – said after Friday’s recce: “For a Formula 1 Grand Prix it is fantastic. But for a cycle race, it’s not what I prefer. The guy who drew it up may have been hanging out in the pub too much” – an allegation of drunken design that was echoed by Sénéchal’s French teammate Benoît Cosnefroy.

2023 world road race championships, Glasgow (Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

One corner down, 50 to go (Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

However, speaking after he finished 25th following the ten laps in Glasgow today, a reflective Evenepoel was much more balanced in his assessment of the circuit.

“It was long, wet and cold out there in the end,” Evenepoel told reporters, including road.cc, at the finish.

“It was a very hard course. Personally, for me it was a bit too technical, a bit too explosive. So not really a course that was in my favour, but if you see the podium I think it has been an amazing race.”

Evenepoel’s Belgian teammate Jasper Stuyven, however, was rather blunter in his appraisal of the course design.

“I don’t think it’s the best course for a world championships,” he said. “Maybe a few corners too many, but it is what is, and I think everyone will be tired because of this course.”

Van der Poel crashes during 2023 worlds (Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

Van der Poel hits the deck on one of those slippery bends (Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

Meanwhile, American Neilson Powless, who finished 11th after a strong ride, described his relationship with the Glasgow circuit as “love/hate”.

“It was good, because I knew what you had to do, you had to use energy really early on, and I think a lot of guys don’t like that. But it was the same for everybody,” the EF Education-EasyPost rider told road.cc.

“In the end, the technical part of the course and the crash is what decided my race, so I was disappointed with that. But I still had fun racing, along with all the suffering.”

Wout van Aert, 2023 world road race championships, Glasgow (Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

(Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

While Glasgow’s technical circuit has provoked a mixed response from the bunch, second place Wout van Aert admitted he could see both sides of the debate.

“I understand the critics, but I also think that the world championships has a different course every year, so a lot of riders have an opportunity during their careers,” the Belgian said in his post-race press conference. “And a city circuit like this is definitely something that deserves to be in. And in the end we saw a lot of strong riders, a lot of the best riders in the world at the front, so it was definitely selective.

“For me the only problem with the course was that if you crashed or had bad luck, there wasn’t really a chance to come back. So with a few corners less and a few more straights, or parts where you could get help, you could still have a great, technical course. A little change could have done a lot.”

In any case, and regardless of the outcome of the peloton’s own internal debate, Glasgow’s city centre circuit certainly provided one of the all-time great world road race championships for the 190,000 fans who flocked to its streets.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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14 comments

Avatar
Smiddy355 | 6 months ago
3 likes

What I and many people see here is too many riders moaning that the course didn't suit them so it was "too hard" "too dangerous" . But at the end of the day the podium consisted of 3 of the top 5 or 6 riders n the world. What more could you ask for? Along with the fact that approx 200 hundred thousand spectators were at the side of the road cheering this whole thing along. MAN UP AND STOP COMPLAINING!!!!

Avatar
Off the back | 7 months ago
4 likes

"For a Formula 1 Grand Prix it is fantastic. But for a cycle race, it’s not what I prefer." says Evanpoel. 
 

Read - "I'm getting my excuses in early as to why I'm not going to win this year." 
 

From standing and watching it from various parts of the inner circuit throughout the afternoon, I thought it was quite entertaining and apart from MvdPs spill there were very few incidents. Far fewer than I was expecting tbh. You could see the right angle turns were being taken a bit more cautiously but it didn't effect the racing. 

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
7 likes

It was thrilling racing and the three best one-day racers in the world this year took the medals, what's not to like?  Great to see a race where for once bike handling skills were at a premium rather than a strong leadout and an explosive sprint.

Avatar
ubercurmudgeon | 7 months ago
1 like

The whingers should harden the fuck up, look at what all three on the podium have in common in their palmares, and do some cyclocross as training for non-standard events such as this.

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to ubercurmudgeon | 7 months ago
0 likes
ubercurmudgeon wrote:

The whingers should harden the fuck up, look at what all three on the podium have in common in their palmares, and do some cyclocross as training for non-standard events such as this.

I didn't know Pogacar was a regular on the cyclocross series in the winter?

Nor that Wout or Mathieu were regular stage race GC contenders? 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to j4m1eb | 7 months ago
4 likes

A former National CX Champion no less! Learn something new everyday.

I do feel sorry for the course designer.  Either you optimise for a particular type of rider or if you dont its a bunch sprint.

Seems fairer that the styles of course are varied over the years.

Avatar
SecretSam | 7 months ago
9 likes

It was excellent to watch, which is kind of the point. Perhaps some of the pros would be happier if they just did the Qatar World's course every year...Yes, it was technical, and yes, the weather was rubbish - but the weather being rubbish can affect any World's. It was something different, and I think it worked.

 

But I'm glad I didn't have to ride it at full chat...

Avatar
Cugel replied to SecretSam | 7 months ago
3 likes
SecretSam wrote:

It was excellent to watch, which is kind of the point.

Indeed. Professional cycle racing isn't a sport but an entertainment, akin to that given by sacrificial slaves and others in the Roman amphitheatres. It's a fine distraction from the various foul machinations practiced upon the gawping plebs by the emperors and senators.

Blood and guts is part of the attraction for those gawping plebs. They like to see the crashes and agonies, despite some making oh-dear noises of faux sympathy. And if some bike-racing circus acrobat not on a pleb's fan-list gets savaged by a wet-corner lion, the schadenfreude is delicious. A fan-pleb can spend hours distractedly discussing the details on faecespuke.

Myself, I enjoyed many a town centre crit in my yoof, on circuits very like the parts of the Glasgow circuit the cycling acrobats are moaning about. Having to ride through a chicane across a wet and oily bus station concourse in Accrington or a holed stretch of puddled cobble in Fleetwood was part of the challenge. But that was real bike racing, with no prize, fame or much of an audience. And no primadonnas. Just happy cyclists, even the gravel-rashed ones.

I never watch professional "sport". If you really like the sport then do it yourself. If you need distracting from your wageslaving existenz, try protesting agin' toxic oil barons and their greenwashing. The latter seems much more of a true sport than doing what professional cyclists do.  1

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
3 likes

Sorry to disturb, but I think your cave just called

Avatar
brooksby replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 7 months ago
5 likes
The_Tory wrote:

Sorry to disturb, but I think your cave just called

And there goes my irony meter again!  Dammit - I really need to buy them in bulk...

Avatar
Cugel replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 7 months ago
3 likes
The_Tory wrote:

Sorry to disturb, but I think your cave just called

So sorry. Did the calling cry wake you up?  About time ye were woken, doncha think, from that queer dream of empire and unicorns you been havin'.  1

But perhaps you are a shareholder of some  oily polluter doing the bikerace greenwash? I can't think of any other "reason" for being a Tory and getting all hoity-toity about them as is agin' the rigs pukin' out their stuff and murdering us slowly but surely (even the grasping shareholders).

PS The cave is ever so nice, with free lecky from the many panels. It produces so much that you too might be getting some as a large excess is handed over gratis to the grid. You can't have any of my cucumbers or courgettes, though. I can spare some mint ..... ?

 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Cugel | 6 months ago
0 likes

I had some "mint" off of this seller. Highly recommend OR never buy - depending on your attitude to cats.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catnip

Avatar
Cugel replied to chrisonabike | 6 months ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

I had some "mint" off of this seller. Highly recommend OR never buy - depending on your attitude to cats. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catnip

There was a cat that once owned me who had an addiction to the essence of a certain rosewood.  I had but one chunk of this stuff, got from a skip, so was planing orf the grot only to find a crazed Jasper (for that was his name) going doowally over the shavings on the shed floor. Soon he'd sniffed out the chunk on the bench and was rubbing hisself rudely on it whilst purring & yowling at the same time.

I was clawed in no uncertain fashion when I tried to rescue the chunk. I eventually manged to sniff it myself but nothing happened to enliven my thoughts or actions over and above their normal condition - 100% rational & logical, calm as a cucumber far from the kitchen knife.  Oh yes they are!

It eventually became a small box, this rosewood chunk. It's probably become a mythical fetish object in some cat religion, which they go about seeking in a sort of holy grail fashion.

It may be, you know, that there's a human catnip, which many humans get one sniff of then go awry in the head, making them do things that are dangerous to themselves and others whilst swivelling their eyes and twerking a bit. Money, I think its called. The mad ones gather together in clumps such as The Toryspiv Party or Ineos.

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