The first men’s World Championships took place in 1921, but the first pro edition, in 1927, was at the Nürburgring in Germany and was won by Alfredo Binda. Since then, the victor’s rainbow jersey has been worn by greats including Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Mario Cipollini and Mark Cavendish. Peter Sagan is the only man ever to have won three years in a row.
The Women’s World Championships made its debut in 1958, in Reims, France. Women who have won more than once include the Belgian Yvonne Reynders, Italian Giorgia Bronzini and British legend Beryl Burton. Marianne Vos has three gold medals to her name, but the history of the event is dominated by Jeannie Longo, who won times between 1985 and 1995.
Since the venue changes every year, the course can vary wildly, sometimes suiting sprinters, sometimes rouleurs, but less often out-and-out mountain men and women.
Juniors of both sexes and male U23s race on similar courses to the main men’s and women’s events (female U23s race with the Elites). There is also an Individual Time trial and a Team Time Trial. Unlike the other events, the TTT, which was revived in 2012 after almost 20 years’ absence, is disputed by trade, not national, teams.