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By John Wilcockson
As night fell on Lisbon Thursday, workers at the world cycling championship venue in Monsanto Park were busy changing its configuration from an intricate time-trial course of 19.5km to a more straightforward road-race circuit of 12.1km. The final five events all use the same circuit, starting Friday morning with the shortest (six laps totaling 72.6km for junior women) and closing on Sunday with the longest (21 laps totaling 254.1km for elite men).
Heading in a clockwise direction, the peloton rides on a flat smooth highway to reach the first climb after 1.2km. In two parts, this hill has an initial 150-meter pitch at 10 percent, followed by a short flat stretch. The narrow road then heads through an archway beneath a 270-year-old stone aqueduct to climb the second part of the hill: 600 meters long averaging 7 percent. This is followed by the circuit’s fastest descent: straight down for almost a kilometer at a steady 8 percent.
At the bottom is the left and right chicane through a roundabout, where Joane Somarriba crashed in the elite women’s time trial on Wednesday. Riders use only the right half of the following wide road as the course continues downhill for another half-kilometer to reach the start of the main climb. This comes 3.8km into the circuit and averages 8 percent for its first 1.1km, before the grade eases to 6 percent for the next half-kilometer. The climb ends with a false flat of more than a kilometer to reach its high point, 590 feet above Lisbon’s broad Tagus River.
From here to the finish is 5.4km, almost all downhill, save for two short rises, until reaching the flat 300-meter-long finishing straight. Each lap has 620 feet of climbing, giving totals of 3720 feet for the junior women (six laps), 6200 feet for junior men and elite women (10 laps), 8680 feet for under-23 men (14 laps) and 13,020 feet for elite men (21 laps).
The circuit’s start-finish is located on a curving 3km stretch of unopened expressway, but the remaining 9.1km twists and turns around Monsanto, Lisbon’s green “lung,” a vast park of rolling hills, covered with low pine trees, tall eucalyptus and the occasional grove of bamboo. Palm trees around some of the older buildings wave in the constant sea breezes.
It’s not the toughest circuit in world championship history, but the two difficult climbs, combined with the mainly narrow roads and constant curves and turns, make it one that favors small breakaway groups. A break soon gets out of sight of the pack. On Friday morning, that assessment looked like helping defending junior women’s champion Nicole Cooke shoot for a TT-RR double last performed by Canada’s Geneviève Jeanson at the 1999 world’s in Verona.
And in Friday afternoon’s under-23 race, American Danny Pate would be striving for a similar double, but the top favorite is Yaroslav Popovich of the powerful Ukraine team. The other main contenders are Italy’s Lorenzo Bernucci and Giampaolo Caruso, Switzerland’s Markus Joho, Belgium’s Jurgen Van Goolen, Germany’s Sebastian Lang, Austria’s Thomas Rohregger, France’s Christophe Le Mevel and Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Maravyev.
Look for full reports of the five road races on Friday and through the weekend at velonews.com.