by Massimo Usai


Leuven is located between Liège and Brussels and has known in its past one of the most brutal pages of Belgium during the First World War.
The Germans invaded neutral Belgium on their way to France. The first city they stopped in was this one, where they devastated and raided the town for days on long.

On September 26th 2021, Leuven will be invaded by a flood of fans who will be able to enjoy a sporting spectacle that promises to be of the highest level.

Not last, they will be able to do so by drinking one of the many beers produced in the city, especially on the site that houses the largest brewery in the world.

The Stella Artois factory is visible from every corner of the city.

Riders will probably have little time to look around, as the “Number One Hundred” edition of the 2021 World Cycling Championship does not leave much room for the protagonists to look around and be tourists.

We visited the route a few days ago, and the first consideration that comes to mind is that those who designed this World Championship perhaps spent too much time in the brewery before deciding to draw the race.

The race starts from Antwerp, and in the first 8 Km, it will be a real catwalk for the participants. Still, from Km.0, precisely after 8 Km, the road will present so many opportunities to show off that indeed, the spectators will not be bored.

From Antwerp, the riders will make 45 Km reach Leuven, and there, they will make the first taste of the city circuit. Only a lap and a half inside the town, a walkway and a taste of the road, and then off to the road leading from Neerjise to Flanders’ countryside circuit.

Two laps with authentic walls on the pavement, in the middle of woods, through courtyards of houses, in narrow streets, slimy and that can be very insidious at the end of September.

It is difficult to get to this first lap with a large group in the lead because it would still be grainy for apparent reasons of space from the first climb: the Smeysberg wall.

It will be the first and last climb of this circuit before the return to Leuven. The road back to the city is a kind of roller coaster. Any escape is dangerous because the terrain offers the chance to increase the gap and remain covered on the run due to the lack of straights.

Worth mentioning in this Flanders circuit, for spectacularity, is the slop called Bekestraat, 439 meters, with slopes of 15%, in the middle of private gardens, mules, and under a tunnel makes by trees.

Indeed, Bekestraat makes the tear the most photogenic spot of the entire route.

The slop of Bekestraat in the middle of the forest (photo by ©massimousi)

The return to the city will lead to four more city tours in Leuven, with four city slopes, in narrow streets, next to churches and without sidewalks. The ascent of Sint-Antoniusberg will be the master both because of the slope’s quality and its difficult location in the city, with sharp elbow bends in and out and because of the pavement in cobbled.

This is a spectacular city climb. With only one business in the middle of the climb, a very Italian “Casa del Popolo” will surprise many Italians in its vision through their TV following the race.

“La Casa del Popolo” in Leuven (photo by @massimousai )

In these four laps in the city, the race will be about 80 km from the finish, and probably the race in the lead will have already been outlined.

Those not in the main groups have certainly lost all hope of final victory because the caravan moves back to the countryside of Flanders to repeat the circuit outside the city once again, and will be no space or time to recover.
The forces will be at a minimum when these dark and steep paths outside the city are repeated.

With the remnant of the forces, we return to Leuven, the last two and a half laps of four other city hills.

The climb of Sint-Antoniusberg is the last climb that they will face before playing the final victory on the finish line on the slope called Geldenaaksevest.

After seeing the route live, there are all the conditions a historic edition of these World Cycling Championships.

On the left of Sint-Antoniusberg Church the last climb inside Leuven (photo by ©massimousai)

Perhaps it could enter among the most spectacular races in the history of the World Cup, very close to the edition of Sallanches (France) in 1980.

Although not with steep climbs as in Innsbruck (2018) or Duitama in Colombia in 1995, it still has the characteristics to be a spectacular race to be seen but certainly not very fun for runners.

But suppose in Austria (Valverde), France (Hinault) and Colombia (Olano won, but Indurain and Pantani climbed on the podium anyway), the race was suitable for pure climbers.

In that case, this edition will see two local idols in the front line favourites (Wout Van Aert and Remco Evenepoel), plus the reigning World Champion (Julian Alaphilippe) and the Dutchman (Mattieu Van Der Poel).

Still, given the nature of the route, we can indulge ourselves with at least 8/10 other names that could celebrate with a nice beer drink the conquest of the world title on September 26th in Leuven.

A bunch of names to keep an eye on? Sonny Colbrelli, Primoz Roglic, Thomas Pidcock, Mads Pedersen and Matteo Trentin could eventually give the Italian the final surprise.

But to know much better about this year favourite, I will invite you to read this article from Simone Basso.

The Flandre’s Circuit will be so difficult (photo by @massimousai)

The hundredth edition of these World Championships was designed to go down in history, with only 2560 meters of official difference in altitude.

Still, it is so confusing and disorderly in the course, which makes it very difficult.

Now it’s up to the athletes to make the race unforgettable.

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