WHETHER you’re a cycling die-hard or have little more than a passing interest in the sport, brace yourself: Scotland is about to be overwhelmed by bikes.

On Thursday, the biggest Cycling World Championships ever to be held begins.

Eight-thousand riders from across the globe will compete for over 200 world titles in 13 world championships across seven disciplines.

Glasgow will be the nucleus of the championships, hosting the majority of the events, but numerous other cities, towns and regions will get a first-hand taste of this cycling carnival.

The Herald: Glasgow venues mapGlasgow venues map (Image: UCI Cycling World Championships)

The better-known disciplines of track, road, mountain biking and BMX are likely to attract much interest, but also included on the programme are the lesser-heralded cycling disciplines of gran fondo, indoor cycling and trials.

It makes for an intriguing 11 days of competition, particularly for GB’s 200 riders – of which 31 are Scots riding on home soil.

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Taking centre stage, in the early days of the championships anyway, will be the track cycling. 

And it’s in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome that Scotland has some of its best chances of seeing home riders being crowned world champion.

Spearheading the GB team is two-time Olympic champion Katie Archibald.

The 29-year-old has bounced back from a testing year in 2022 to rediscover some of her best form this season, winning three European titles in February to take her major championships medal tally to 43 and cementing herself as the most successful rider in the history of the European Championships with 20 golds in the process.

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However, Archibald is not currently a world champion and so will be desperate to reclaim the rainbow stripes in the velodrome in which she learnt her trade.

Three gold medals, in the team pursuit, madison and omnium, are on the cards for Archibald if everything goes to plan.

Alongside Archibald in GB’s track squad are her fellow Scots, Neah Evans and Jack Carlin. Evans became points race world champion last November and so will take to the boards in Glasgow aiming to successfully defend her title, as well as going alongside Archibald as part of GB’s team pursuit squad and potentially the madison.

Also in GB’s track team is a trio of sprinters: multiple major championship medallist, Jack Carlin, who’s aiming for his maiden world title in Glasgow; Lauren Bell and Ali Fielding, both of whom have broken into the international set-up in the past few years; and endurance rider and former Commonwealth points race champion, Mark Stewart.

On the road, GB’s star riders are the likes of former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, multiple grand tour stage winner Mark Cavendish, and former world champion Lizzie Deignan. 

However, there are also several young Scottish riders who have forced their way into GB’s squad including, on the men’s side, 23-year-old Sean Flynn who will make his world championships debut and, on the women’s side, 22-year-old Olympian Anna Shackley, who has a real shot at a medal in the under-23 category.

GB’s mountain bike squad is dominated by home athletes, with over 50 per cent of the riders hailing from north of the border.

The mountain bike races will take place in Fort William and the most notable riders in the squad are GB regulars, Isla Short and Cameron Mason, while a raft of younger riders will contest the under-23 and junior championships.

In the mountain bike downhill, Pheobe Gail and Greg Williamson spearhead the Scottish contingent. 

Elsewhere, Reece Thomson will make history as he becomes the first Scot to compete in a UCI World Championships in BMX Flatland, a discipline which is widely likened to breakdancing on a bike.

In the para-events, Scotland may only have three riders in the GB squad but there is no shortage of pedigree amongst the trio.

Neil Fachie is something of a legend within Scottish cycling having won two Paralympic golds and fifteen world titles in a career that has spanned almost two decades.

The 39-year-old will be hoping to continue his success in the velodrome and successfully defend the tandem B kilo title he won for the eighth time last year.

Fin Graham is another who is defending a world title, with the 23-year-old having become world road race champion in the C3 category last summer.

And Jenny Holl is pilot for Englishwoman Sophie Unwin, with the pair having won the world time trial title a year ago.

From a wider British perspective, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for some of the superstars of the sport; the aforementioned Thomas, Cavendish and Deignan, as well as Sarah Storey, Tom Pidcock, Rachel Atherton, Charlotte Worthington and Bethany Shriever.

And globally, one of the biggest stories of the entire championships will be the final competitive races of the Netherlands’ Annemiek Van Vleuten, with the 40-year-old Dutchwoman bringing the curtain down on a career that has seen her win Olympic, World and European titles and establish herself as one of the sport’s all-time greats.