Athletes from around the world will travel to Ponferrada, Spain, to fight for victory in this year’s UCI Road World Championships and the honour of wearing the distinctive World Champion’s rainbow jersey.

The iconic jerseys will be awarded in the individual time trial and road race events in the Juniors, Under 23 and Elite categories, with 2013 World Champions such as Marianne Vos, Tony Martin, Rui Costa and the Omega Pharma-Quick Step professional team all looking to win again. Elite Men and Women will also compete in the team time trial event, competing for their trade team rather than their nation.

Ponferrada in north-western Spain hosts all the action. The racing begins on Sunday September 21 with the Men’s and Women’s team time trial events over 36.15km and 57.10km respectively. The UCI World Championships week ends on Sunday September 28 with the Men Elite road race over a distance of 254.8km. Between these dates a world title will be awarded every day except for Thursday September 25.

The Ponferrada courses for the time trials and road races have been carefully chosen to inspire exciting racing and highlight the ability and skills of the best riders in the world. The UCI World Championships were last held in Spain in 2005, when the capital Madrid hosted the events.

The time trials cover various distances on loops to the west and north of Ponferrada. The Elite Women cover a distance of 29.50km, while the Elite Men cover 47.10km including the Confederacion and Mirador climbs that are covered in the road race events.

A testing road race circuit

The road race circuit is 18.2km long and is covered four times by the Women Juniors, 10 times by the Men Under 23, seven times by the Men Juniors, seven times by the Women Elite and 14 times by the Men Elite. Each lap begins by visiting the ancient centre of Ponferrada before the gradual three kilometres climb to Confederacion. A descent follows quickly before the shorter but steeper climb to Mirador. At the summit, the finish is just over two kilometres away, with a descent and then flat road bringing the riders back towards Ponferrada. A right turn with 500 metres remaining, is the final obstacle before the finish line.

Many of the leading favourites have already seen the road race course but opinion is divided if suits sprinters who are able to survive on the climbs or attacking riders who will use the two climbs per lap to break away. The Men Elite road race will include over 4000m of climbing, more than in Florence at the 2013 UCI Road World Championships and similar to that of some of the hardest one-day Classics in the UCI WorldTour calendar.

The UCI ProTeams and many UCI Professional Continental Teams will be fighting for victory on the opening day in the team time trial events reserved for trade teams. Omega Pharma-QuickStep snatched victory from the Orica-GreenEdge and the two teams are set to clash again, with Team Sky, Movistar and BMC also medal contenders.

It is a similar scenario in the Women’s team time trial, where Specialized-Lululemon chase their third title, knowing they must beat Orica-AIS, Giant-Shimano and Rabo Liv.

Germany’s Tony Martin is targeting a fourth consecutive Men Elite time trial title, with only Britain’s Bradley Wiggins likely to challenge him. New Zealand’s Linda Villumsen is the rider to beat in the Women Elite time trial.

While the Juniors and Under 23 events are difficult to predict, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands is again favourite for the Women Road Race event, as she targets a third consecutive victory. Italy and Australia will surely put up a fight but Vos can count on the strong Netherlands team.

Rui Costa of Portugal is hoping to defend his Men Elite Road Race title and recently showed some form in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal when he finished second to Simon Gerrans of Australia. Gerrans won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic in the spring and his double success in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Montréal makes him a big favourite along with teammate and excellent sprinter Michael Matthews.

John Degenkolb is expected to lead the German team despite ending the Vuelta a España with an illness. The German team will hope to control the race and then set up Degenkolb for a sprint finish, while nations like Italy and Spain are expected to try to break up the peloton to favour Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde, who finished third in the recent Vuelta a España and is second in the individual ranking of the UCI WorldTour. Outsiders include French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan.

Every rider competing in Ponferrada will dream of pulling on the rainbow jersey but only one rider in each event will do it and be crowned UCI World Champion.