New Zealand will have multiple chances for a top finish at the cycling world road championships in Innsbruck next month.

The best chance, surely, lies with George Bennett, who has been named as leader for the men's road race, where he will be supported by Dion Smith, Patrick Bevin and Sam Bewley.

Bennett, who is currently riding in the Vuelta a Espana, is New Zealand's best chance in a decade for a top finish in the men's event. Only twice has a New Zealand rider earned a top ten finish in the men's road race, with Julian Dean finishing ninth in 2005 and 10th in 2002.

If Bennett gets through the Vuelta in good form and in good health, he will be expected to be up with the leaders on an Austrian course that is one of the toughest in world championship history.


The course is 258.5 kilometres long with over 4,670 metres of climbing, featuring 10 categorised climbs. There is no respite, with the course rarely being flat, and after several laps tackling an 8.2 kilometre climb at an average gradient of 5.5 per cent, a brutal final climb of 2.1 kilometres at 13 per cent will provide a select group to finish the race.

Not many riders are expected to complete the gruelling course, and indeed, it's unlikely Smith, Bevin or Bewley will finish, but they could all provide valuable support early on before Bennett is left on his lonesome to try and create New Zealand cycling history.

He's not the only one who could earn a top result, with Bevin also being named to contest the time trial. The 52.5 kilometre course features a short climb to start and midway through has a five kilometre climb at 6.6 per cent. While Bevin may prefer a flatter course, he has been in super form on the time trial bike all year, and could be a chance to beat New Zealand's best result in the men's discipline - Jesse Sergent's 12th place finish in 2014.

Hamish Bond will also look to go better than his 39th place last year, automatically qualifying after winning the Oceania time trial championships earlier this year.

In the women's road race, Georgia Williams will be New Zealand's best hope, but her solid season to date was recently disrupted by a crash which resulted in a fractured hip and sacrum.

Williams has been named in the Mitchelton-Scott squad for the team time trial event, and will make her decision to compete in both the individual time trial and road race closer to the date, based on her fitness.

If fit, she will be supported by two promising riders, 21-year-old Grace Anderson and 19-year-old Mikayla Harvey, with Harvey also riding in the time trial.

New Zealand are also sending a team to compete in the Under-23 Men's events, with James Fouche - currently having a good season with Team Wiggins - joined by Ryan Christiansen and one of the youngest riders in the world with a professional contract, 19-year-old James Mitri.


The world championships take place from September 24 to September 30.

New Zealand's team for the road world champs:

Men's Road Race: George Bennett, Dion Smith, Patrick Bevin, Sam Bewley.
Time Trial: Hamish Bond and Bevin.

Women's Road Race: Georgia Williams, Grace Anderson, Mikayla Harvey.
Time trial: Harvey.

Men's Under-23 Road Race: James Fouche, Ryan Christensen, James Mitri.
Time trial: Fouche.