Once every year during the road cycling season trade team contracts are tossed aside (in most cases) to be replaced by national loyalties. This presents opportunities for some, barriers for others. The stripey jumper which awaits the winner of this world’s road race championships will make or break a riders season, or maybe even their career. No other one day race can hold this title.
The course has been muted as the most open in years and really no one can predict how the race could finish. With no beginning ‘neutral zone’ and the race immediately starting on the 18.2km circuit it will undoubtedly be a hard race, a war of attrition. The first climb is relatively easy, and effort where team support can be crucial, the second is much tougher with sections at around 10%. The descent after, could also be vital, as a solo attack over the top of the climb could be successful as there is only short run into the finish after the descent as finished. So a solo victor as occurred in today’s men’s U23 race or a sprint from a small group? Who knows let’s have a look at the main contenders.
- Simon Gerrans – the bookies favourite but as the race is so wide open does he really deserve the tag? Should he hold his form that brought him a Canadian double then certainly he should be there or there abouts. The Australian team is very strong but Gerrans is a rider who goes well under the radar and perhaps that could be his downfall.
- Fabian Cancellara – Skipping the time trial, Cancellara has pushed all his chips onto the table for this race. He hasn’t raced a road race since 3rd on stage 17 of the Vuelta. He has the sprint from a small group and the strength to drop a larger one. Certainly a big chance!
- Alejandro Valverde – Best placed of the home contenders could Valverde finally add the rainbow jersey to his palmares. Two things work against him. The course probably isn’t hard enough for him and secondly can the Spanish finally ride as team after last years debacle.
- Peter Sagan – The Sagan conundrum! Where to start? It really hasn’t been his year and he looked woefully undercooked at the Vuelta. Pretty much any course can suit him but does he have the tactical nouse to suceed? For sure he will have to do this alone as Slovakia will be overrun by the large nations.
- Greg Van Avermaet – The Belgian has flown down the betting odds in recent days after two wins in his last two races. He nearly succeeded in Flanders this year and he seems to be shedding his eternal second tag.
The Worlds is so wide open and there can always be a left field winner. Here are few other names to throw in the mix. John Degenkolb was a favourite until he was lain low by a leg infection after a crash in the Vuelta. If the race ends up in a small sprint there is no reason why he should not prevail. Same for Alex Kristoff, Ben Swift and Sonny Colbrelli. Both were podiums at Milan San-Remo whose course the Ponferrada circuit has most been likened too. Tony Gallopin has probably lost his surprise after a successful Tour de France and the course has been muted as a step too far for Nacer Bouhanni. Dan Martin is a good one day racer and is coming off the back of some solid Vuelta form whilst Tom Jelte Slagter leads a versatile Dutch team and how about Alex Howes?
For whats it’s worth here is my 1-2-3.
1. Alexander Kristoff
2. Greg Van Avermaet
3. Fabian Cancellara.
Whose your winner. Get in contact on Twitter at @CyclingShortsUK or @BywaterLawrence