Preview World Championship men elite with Benoot, Gallopin and Wellens
As of today the road races at the Worlds are taking place in Bergen, Norway. On Sunday the men elite will battle for the rainbow jersey, among them three Lotto Soudal riders: Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens are selected for Belgium, Tony Gallopin is part of the French line-up.
The road race on Sunday is 267.5 kilometres long. First the men elite have to ride forty kilometres along the coast, before entering the local circuit. Then they need to cover eleven full laps of 19.1 kilometres. After six kilometres on the local lap Salmon Hill turns up, a hill of one and a half kilometres with an average gradient of 6.4%. The Belgians did a recon of the circuit yesterday.
Tim Wellens: “It’s an undulating course with many turns. There are not many moments to recover, except for the flat last kilometre. The climb of Salmon Hill is almost entirely straight ahead, with one turn close to the top. I think this hill will play an important role. Because of the distance of this race, this hill will be hard enough to make a difference in the last lap. There is a possibility to ride away on this climb. The course is harder than I thought.”
“I expect about sixty riders will get into the finale. A possible sprint will be one with thirty to forty riders. If it comes down to a sprint. It is definitely possible that a group of five or six riders gets away on Salmon Hill in the last lap and stays ahead until the finish. After the hill there’s a pretty technical descent, followed by twists and turns until the end, which will make it very difficult to close the gap on the leaders.”
“Us Belgians have to make the race hard and we will be racing aggressively. It’s our intention not to have to do unnecessary pulling in the peloton. There are other teams that will also benefit from an offensive race and that could be our allies, like France for example.”
“My condition is very good. The course here in Bergen suits me, so I expect to play an important role. I will work for the team, with Van Avermaet and Gilbert as our leaders. There are several possible scenarios at a World Championship though, the race is unpredictable.”
“It rains a lot in Bergen during the year, but on Sunday it will be dry. I can’t change that. Wet roads would have been a plus for me, but my legs are good anyway. I think that riders who performed well in Canada are the main contenders for Sunday, that’s definitely the case with Peter Sagan. And I think Matteo Trentin will be dangerous too.”
Tiesj Benoot: “There are many turns on the local lap and if it would be wet, gaps would be created easily; then it would become an elimination race. Also in dry weather conditions it’s best not to ride at the back, but to be attentively at the front all the time. You can compare Salmon Hill to a longer version of the Tiegemberg. The course is perfect for an attractive race and that’s positive for the Belgians. We want to make the other favourites tired and isolate them, so Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert can benefit from their duo leadership.”
“I don’t think the top riders will drop each other on the hill, but afterwards they can distance one another. Matteo Trentin and Peter Sagan will be the main opponents, but Michael Matthews and Michal Kwiatkowski will be dangerous too.”
“I had a good run-up to this World Championships and I am very satisfied about my feeling in the past races. It will be my job to attack in the last eighty kilometres of the race and to join breakaways to put pressure on the teams that want a sprint. We can’t miss out on an important breakaway.”
The French team will arrive in Norway today. The federation preferred that their riders could train in France, in dry weather conditions.
Tony Gallopin: “Julian Alaphilippe is our leader. I will play my role in the deep finale. We really want to avoid a sprint and that’s why we will race aggressively. We might cooperate with the Belgians to get an open race. I haven’t seen the course yet, but from what I’ve heard and seen on paper it will be a tough course. Also the distance will have a big influence.”
“After the Tour and Clásica San Sebastián I took a rest period. The Worlds then became my next big goal. I feel the condition is good since I got back in competition in Plouay. I got better and better, I proved that in Canada and Grand Prix de Wallonie. I hope to be at my best on Sunday. I don’t focus on particular favourites, as France we just have to ride our own race.”