This week the UCI World Cycling Championships are being held in northern Italy. If you don't seem to care who wins, you are not alone. The Worlds used to be held in late August/early September but, about 10 years ago the UCI moved them into late September/early October. Ever since that move, the World Championships have lost their luster and though every year worthy riders win the rainbow jerseys it just doesn't seem the same.
A closer examination reveals a number of reasons for the decline in the Worlds. First off, it is a very long racing season. The first races begin in February and run all the way through October. It is very difficult for a rider to stay fresh and fit throughout the whole season. When the Worlds were in August most riders tried to hold their form. Now that the Worlds are a month later, and after the Vuelta a Espana, many riders chose to end their season, especially if they don't ride the Vuelta, early.
Also, because the Worlds come so late in the season, a rider has to make some hard decisions concerning their racing schedule. It is clearly possible to hold form from the Tour in July until the Worlds, but if a rider has ridden an ambitious spring program, the extra month until the championships may prove just too difficult to overcome.
All this adds up to less than complete fields for the pro men's races. Two-time defending world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara recently stated that he just doesn't have any spark left to defend his title. Maybe an Olympic gold medal is enough, but I am guessing that he is pretty darn tired and doesn't want to wait until late September to end his season.
How about USA's pro men's team for the worlds. About the only headliner is Levi Leipheimer; I was seriously expecting a call from the US team manager asking if I felt fit enough to go 270km. My guess is that Levi is at the Worlds because he is basically in his second season after having to sit out July when Team Astana wasn't invited to the Tour. Levi rode well in the Olympics to get a bronze medal in the TT and he won both the TT's at the Vuelta. With Cancellara on a beach in the Adriatic, Levi is the odds on favorite for the win and he is making the right call to sieze the opportunity.
Here's hoping that Levi wins the TT. But, I am also hoping that the UCI moves the Worlds back to late August/early September so that all the best riders are present at the starting line. The World Championships used to be a great event. Let's hope the UCI can make the right moves to restore the Worlds to it's former glory.