It has been just 10 months since the last World Championships in Leogang but it's already time for Camille Balanche and Reece Wilson to return their Rainbow Stripes to the UCI so the riders can battle for them once again.
Val di Sole is never an easy race to predict and that was proven in 2019's race when all four categories had a first-time winner. Still, we're giving it our best shot. Here's who we're backing for glory on Sunday:
1. Loic Bruni
There's something about the World Championships that makes Loic Bruni raise his game more than any other race. Much like Nico Vouilloz before him, Bruni places a special significance on the Rainbow Stripes and he's won them at four of the last six attempts.
Loic hasn't had the best season in 2021 as he started the year by fracturing his heel
and has been working back to fitness since then but he's been on a steady track of improvement and picked up his first podium of the year in Maribor. Regardless of his preparation, Bruni is a Stripes specialist who you simply can't bet against when the race rolls around each year.
2. Greg Minnaar
The reigning World Champion Reece Wilson was just 7 years old when Greg Minnaar collected his first Elite World Championships in Lugano in 2003. The GOAT has been winning this event for nearly 20 years so he knows better than anyone how to bring it all together for a do-or-dirt run at the biggest race of the year.
Following a bout of COVID in the off-season
that disrupted his training, Minnaar has been steadily working towards form this year. He picked up a 12th in Leogang then moved into the top 10 in Les Gets before cracking the podium in Maribor. If he carries on that trajectory Minnaar could well be adding an 11th World Champs medal to his list this weekend.
3. Loris Vergier
Loris Vergier is the in-form rider of 2021 and he finally got to show that in Maribor. At every local race he's been to, Vergier has been dominant but he's suffered his fair share of bad luck at World Cups this year. Despite this, he's still 4th in the overall standings
and carries more momentum than anyone into Val di Sole. Vergier has podiumed twice here in the past and will be looking to increase that tally or go even better on the weekend.
1. Eleonora Farina
The World Championships can always throw up a surprise result as wins from Miranda Miller, Camille Balanche and Morgane Charre in the past decade have shown. Riding on home soil and on a hot streak of form, the stage is set for Eleonora Farina to break through in a big way.
Farina is coming into the race following her best ever result in Maribor where she finished second. She was also the fastest woman on that track from the rock garden to the finish
- a section of track that isn't too dissimilar from the burl of Val di Sole. Farina's bike may be blue and red
but we think she'll be adding the black, yellow and green of the UCI Rainbow to that before the end of the weekend.
2. Myriam Nicole
It's hard to believe that Myriam Nicole has only ever won one World Championship in her illustrious racing career. Make no mistake, she has been incredibly successful at the event and hasn't been out of the medals since 2016 but has only converted that to a Championship once.
Myriam is in a winning mood in 2021 though and despite two race run crashes in three races, she still sits joint-top of the overall standings this year in the World Cup series. On raw pace alone, there's nobody that can hang with Nicole this year but it will now be a question of whether she can channel that into a race run with no mistakes. If she does, she could be untouchable on Sunday.
3. Tahnee Seagrave
Tahnee has talked openly about struggling mentally
at points this year but following her win in Les Gets she seems to be back on winning pace. Seagrave said she had her head back in the right place
in Maribor but a slam in Friday practice left her bruised and battered for finals. If body and brain are both firing in Val di Sole, Tahnee will be a formidable challenger on a track where she claimed back-to-back victories in 2017 and 2018.