Remco Evenepoel crosses the finish line alone, arms held wide to his sides, as he wins the 2022 World Championship road race in Wollongong, Australia.

Glasgow Worlds preview: Who will win the elite men’s road race?

Belgium looks for a repeat victory, but they'll face strong challenges from Denmark and the Netherlands.

Remco Evenepoel wins his world title in Wollongong, Australia. Photo ©kramon

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 04.08.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos, Kristof Ramon
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We usually have to wait until the final day of the Road World Championships to crown a new men’s road race champ, but things work a bit differently at “Super Worlds.” Sure, the event has only just started, but why not put one of the world’s most coveted rainbow jerseys on the line this weekend in Glasgow?

That’s right, the men’s road race will take place on Sunday as riders will cover 271.1 km from the start in Edinburgh to the finish line in Glasgow. That means it’s time to name some favorites and pick some winners!

The Belgian men's road race team out for a training ride on the road course in Scotland. Wout van Aert leads, riding next to Jasper Stuyven. Victor Campanaerts and Yves Lampaerts follow behind.
Wout van Aert and his Belgian teammates in recon mode at Glasgow Worlds. Photo © Gregory van Gansen/Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson has an in-depth insider preview of the Worlds routes with all the details you need, so we’ll just set the scene with a few of the major details. Riders will traverse some mild challenges on the run-in to Scotland’s largest city before entering a very technical circuit with lots of up and down, although no singularly huge climbs. With that distance, the fatigue that a boatload of little hills in Glasgow will provide, and oh-so-many tricky corners to navigate, this sure looks like a race that will favor the Classics types who can stick a late attack.

That said, plenty of squads are bringing sprinters to Glasgow in case things do go that way. In trying to predict the winner of this race, I’m reminded of previewing Milan-San Remo over the past few seasons, where things could play out any number of ways and nobody is an odds-on favorite. It’s hard to fully rule out a sprint finish and thus the list of potential winners is a big one that features riders with a variety of skillsets.

The heavy hitters: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark

Let’s start with what is probably the best team in the race, headlined by the defending champion in Remco Evenepoel and one of the world’s most versatile riders, Wout van Aert.

The big question mark is how Belgium plans to use a stable of stars, which also includes Jasper Philipsen. It sure seems likely that Evenepoel will attempt one of his trademark long-range attacks, and that could work on this circuit. His form was on point at the Clásica San Sebastián one week ago, and he’s a favorite with some bookmakers. He’d probably prefer the race to be slightly harder but the circuit will nonetheless make it very hard for an organized chase to take shape if he can get clear.

If a long-range attack doesn’t stick, however, Belgium will have cards to play in Van Aert and possibly Philipsen. Van Aert is really a favorite in any scenario. He may not have looked quite as strong at the recent Tour de France as he was last year, but we probably shouldn’t read into that too much, considering that he was always planning to leave early and that he was also squarely focused on this very target, Worlds.

It’s tough to say how well Belgium will be able to hold the race together, but if they can, Philipsen could be involved too. As dominant Tour de France sprinters go, he’s about as strong a Classics rider as he can be. Tiesj Benoot is yet another option. Belgium has a great chance of repeating Worlds glory, but any number of riders could make that a reality.

Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel rides the Glasgow World Championships road course in training, pedaling up a short, steep climb out of the saddle while dressed in a white long-sleeve jersey and blue shorts.
Mathieu van der Poel recons the Glasgow Worlds course. Photo © Gregory van Gansen/Cor Vos

As is so often the case in the one-day races, one of the biggest obstacles to Belgian domination will be Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutchman can put in short power surges like no one else in the entire pro peloton, and that could prove deadly on the lumpy Glasgow circuit. He is a clear leader on his team, but it’s also a strong team with the likes of Dylan van Baarle, and Olav Kooij as a potential sprint option, although it’d be a surprise if it’s anyone other than Van der Poel battling for the win. On his day, Van der Poel – who also plans to race the mountain bike cross-country on August 12 – can seem unbeatable, but he can underperform expectations with surprising regularity, so it seems as likely that he could run away with the victory as he could fade early.

Mads Pedersen and Kasper Asgreen headline a strong Danish squad that also features Mattias Skjelmose and Magnus Cort. 2019 World Champion Pedersen and Asgreen complement each other perfectly on this course, with Asgreen an option to put in a big attack and Pedersen well suited for a potential sprint finish, though he has been known to put in an attack of his own on occasion.


Tadej Pogačar is, as usual, a wildcard contender. Given that it’s Tadej Pogačar, it seems silly to call him an outsider, but this course doesn’t seem hard enough to suit the Slovenian. Then again, I thought that about the Tour of Flanders too, so what do I know?

Christophe Laporte won the reduced bunch sprint for second in Wollongong in 2022 and is a strong candidate for France, with Julian Alaphilippe as an alternative option. Michael Matthews (bronze medalist last year) gives Australia a versatile fast finisher, the typically strong Italian team will look to Alberto Bettiol and Matteo Trentin on this route, while Ireland has Ben Healy.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) will be a rider to watch given the form he showed en route to a brilliant stage win at the Tour, Ben Turner and Fred Wright will look to deliver a British win in the United Kingdom, and Neilson Powless will hope that his skillset as a former San Sebastián winner will translate to this route.

The Escape Collective star ratings

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: N/A
⭐⭐⭐⭐: Remco Evenepoel, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel
⭐⭐⭐: Mads Pedersen, Kasper Asgreen, Tadej Pogačar
⭐⭐: Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Jasper Philipsen, Christophe Laporte
⭐: Alberto Bettiol, Mattias Skjlemose, Magnus Cort, Tiesj Benoot, Ben Healy, Michael Matthews, Fred Wright, Ben Turner, Dylan van Baarle, Julian Alaphilippe, Olav Kooij

Our picks

Dane Cash: Wout van Aert
Ronan Mc Laughlin: Kasper Asgreen
Abby Mickey: Mads Pedersen
Caley Fretz: Wout van Aert
Kit Nicholson: Ben Healy
Jonny Long: Fred Wright

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