The 2018 UCI Road World Championships get under way in Innsbruck-Tirol, Austria, on September 23rd, the first of eight days of the highest level of road cycling competition. Each host city brings its own unique style to the Road Worlds, and
Innsbruck will certainly do the same. This will be the third time Austria hosts the event: the first Austrian edition was held in Villach in 1987, followed by Salzburg in 2006.
The UCI Road World Championships are the one time every year when athletes set aside trade team rivalries and don national colours to represent their country. Unique among sports, the winners of the world title in cycling are awarded
the rainbow jersey, which they will wear during competition for the following 12 months, identifying them as UCI World Champions.
Since 2012, the UCI Road World Championships have begun with an event for men's and women's trade teams - theteam time trial - and Innsbruck-Tirol will host this opening event on Sunday, September 23rd. The team time trial
will start at the Area 47 outdoor adventure centre in the Ötztal Valley. This region is already well known as the host of the FIS Ski World Cup in Sölden and the Ötztal Bike Marathon.
One day later, the individual events begin, with women and men competing for world titles in two events: theindividual time trial (a race against the clock) and the mass start road race. Athletes are divided into age
categories - Junior, Under-23 (men only) and Elite - for a total of ten individual world titles. All the races begin outside Innsbruck and finish in the city, with the road races finishing on a circuit that each category completes
one or more times.
Tens of thousands of fans come out to watch the races over the course of the week, beginning with the time trials and culminating in the Elite Men's road race; this year on Sunday, September 30th. The final loop of this race will take place
on the infamous Hell of Hötting climb, featuring a maximum gradient of 28.2%.
One of the special things about cycling is that fans can watch all the races for free, moving around the course to catch the riders in different places. While the majority of each circuit is free, there are certain key spots that require tickets,
which are available through the organiser’s website. Certain sections are particularly popular with fans - such as the climbs or near the finish line - so it is necessary to be early to grab a good spot. Often, different
nationalities or fan clubs pick a location and make it their own. All the groups are happy to welcome visitors ... and explain why their riders are the best!
Many of the fans bring national flags or banners supporting a favourite rider and
lending even more colour to the event. While this is encouraged, it is important to make sure that flags or banners on the ends of poles do not impede passing riders or interfere with other spectators.
It's always a good idea to study the circuit map in advance, to determine transport options, and where facilities such as toilets, food and drink, or souvenir stands are located. One favourite fan zone is always around the team buses near the start
of each race, where the riders warm up before their event. This is where fans who are in the right place at the right time, can get an autograph or even a photo with their favourite rider.
Quite apart from the racing, Innsbruck and the Tirol region offer plenty for visitors to the event. Located in the west of the country, Tirol is Austria's third-largest federal province and lies in the middle of the Alps. Due to its alpine terrain
(573 mountains above 3000m) which has made it famous, only 12% of the province's surface area is habitable. It is a region dominated by mountains.
Innsbruck, the regional capital, has hosted Olympic and Paralympic Games on five separate occasions: the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, the 1984 and 1988 Winter Paralympics, plus the Youth Olympic Games in 2012.
Innsbruck is also known for its Imperial and modern architecture, not least the Golden Roof, the Baroque architecture on Maria-Theresien-Strasse, and the 500-year-old Imperial Palace. The Nordkette funicular, with futuristic stations designed by
architect Zaha Hadid, climbs up to 2256m from the city centre in minutes. The breath-taking 360-degree view leaves a lasting impression, with the capital of the Alps on one side and Tirol's most extensive conservation area on the other.
Meanwhile Wattens, which will host the start of the individual time trial for Junior Women and Men, Under-23 Men and Elite Women, houses the world-famous Swarovski Crystal Worlds.