Amateur athletes from all over the globe to race for the rainbow stripes in Italy

Ever dreamed of being a World Champion? This week, over 2500 cyclists from more than 50 different countries will try to make that dream a reality at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships taking place in Varese, Italy.

Amateur riders from around the world will gather on the shores of the Lago di Varese to race for the UCI World Champion’s rainbow jersey in their respective categories. Three events are on the programme: the individual time trial, the team relay, and the Granfondo (103km and 130km). Each participant has earned the right to race thanks to results obtained at one of the 21 qualifying events held around the world in the last 12 months, as part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series. The aim of the Series is to contribute to the spread of cycling internationally, while offering cyclists an opportunity to race like professionals.

One of those qualifying events, the Tre Valli Varesine held at the end of September 2017, gave some of the riders a taste of what to expect at this week’s UCI World Championships: the stunning Granfondo course along forest roads and through quiet villages provides views of Lake Ceresio, Lago Maggiore and Lake Varese. The course passes through 34 different municipalities.

We caught up with three qualified athletes who have more than one edition of the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships under their belt, to share their impressions regarding racing at the event:

Molly: The beautiful destinations around the world, usually to places I have never travelled before; the inspiring competitors, many of whom have become long-distance friends over the years; the dream of standing on the podium hearing my national anthem and wearing a rainbow jersey!

Marti: To be a World Champion is the highest goal which you can reach. The competitors are stronger each year and I very much like that there are also separate categories  for elder women, so it is a fair battle. And the organisation gets better every year: they are constantly learning to deliver the best possible event.

John:  The chance to mix it with international cyclists in the time trial and Granfondo, but it’s also a great opportunity for us from Australia to ride some classic cols in the Pyrénées and Alps in the lead-up.  Also, always fun to catch up with friends made from the Championships over the years.

Marti: My best memory is the first time I became Time Trial World Champion in Ljubljana; I also like combining races with travelling, and therefore I also enjoyed South Africa and Australia.

Molly: The road race in South Africa, in which I was in a long breakaway with Lynette Burger, was one of the hardest and most satisfying races I've ever done. It was very hot and long and by the end when I stood up to sprint my legs cramped so badly that I had to immediately sit back down. So Lynette won the sprint, but we were in two different age groups and so both won jerseys that day and bonded over our shared victories and suffering!

John: Lots of great memories but especially the ferry trip across the Indian Ocean from Rottnest Island, where the time trials were held, back to Fremantle near Perth, knowing I had just become World Champion in my age group.  That was the year the UCI Gran Fondo World Champs were held in Western Australia.

John: I’m sure Varese will put on a good show.  I would like to do well in the road race on what seems to be a challenging course.  I participated in the Giro delle Dolomiti in Bolzano last month and was pleased with my form, so here’s hoping!

Molly: I expect great competition and beautify scenery. The last time I was in Northern Italy was for the World Championships in Trento, and the countryside there was some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. I've seen that the start lists are long and stacked with recent champions, so the racing should be tough!

Marti: As in every World Championship, I will give the best I have in Varese and I see what that will bring. Last January, I broke 3 vertebrae and could not train for three months. So for now I'm more than happy that I can race again.