Every year the UCI hold the World Championship races to decide which rider will be able to wear the World Champion’s ‘Rainbow Jersey’ – the road cycling jersey that has the rainbow stripes of the UCI across its chest.
Although the jersey is the only thins won by the riders, it is quite popular for World Champions to have custom made road bike shoes with rainbow stripes, some even colour their cycling components in the rainbow stripes such as carbon wheels or even their bike frames.
There are several events in the World Championships which usually last a week, all hosted in the nominated city on variants of the same course.
The most anticipated of the World Championship events are the Elite Mens and Elite Womens road race and individual time trial events. As well as these four premium races, there is also a time trial and a road race event for Junior Women, Junior Men and Under 23 Men. These races are good indicators for potential future stars and are often attended by scouts for trade teams.
There is also a Team Time Trial for Men and Women which is competed in trade teams and will allow the winning team to wear rainbow stripes in Team Time Trial events throughout the cycling calendar.
The World Championships are the only event in the cycling calendar where the riders compete for their Country instead of their trade team, making allegiances complicated and changing the format of the race somewhat.
The Worlds have often been marred with controversy, such as in the Worlds in Madrid in 2005 where Charly Wegelius and Tom Southam took money to work for their trade team leaders instead of their National team’s leaders, because they stood to gain more financially and increase their position in their trade teams.
Each Nation has a predetermined number of riders that are able to compete in the Worlds. This number is decided by the number of ranking points that have been accumulated by riders from that Nationality throughout the cycling season. This is to give each Nation a fair representation of the quality of riders in the race, with the maximum number of riders per team being nine.
The UCI creates a circuit in their chosen city which is then used for all of the races in the World Championships. This always involved multiple laps of a course around 20km long, to the Elite Men may complete the circuit 8-10 times for their road race, with the Elite Women and Under 23 Men completing the same course 6-8 times and so on.
This is to make the World Championships logistically simpler to organise than to create a unique course for each category of race, it also makes the races a level playing field as all riders will be competing on the same roads.