WORLDS’19 Elite Road Race: The PEZ Preview
Worlds Road Race Preview: Sunday sees the biggest one-day race on the calendar hit the roads of Yorkshire and after 280 kilometres we will have a new World champion. A ‘Nobody’ never wins the Worlds road race, but there have been some surprises over the years. This year’s race is wide open and Ed Hood takes a look at who’s going to be battling for the rainbow jersey.
2019 UCI Road World Championships – Teaser
Starting in Leeds, a city which was at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution and is still the vibrant hub of West Yorkshire and finishing in the busy spa and tourist town of Harrogate, this is not a Worlds for the faint hearted.
Describing a big loop through the tough Yorkshire Moors which takes in several long, tough climbs before entering the lumpy, unrelenting Harrogate finishing circuit – which is covered seven times – the final distance including neutralised sector is touching 300 kilometres. And whilst it may well end in a sprint, it’s not one for the pure sprinters.
For a change we’ve decided to base our preview on the current UCI world nations rankings; the top ranked 10 nations get eight starters, below that there’s the handicap of having two riders less.
Belgium: tops the ratings; there are a number of clichés which come to mind; ‘too many cooks spoils the broth’ or perhaps, ‘more chiefs than Indians?’ Only Tim Declerq could be classed as a domestique; Evenepoel, Gilbert, Lampaert, Naesen, Teuns, Van Avermaet and Wellens are all quality riders. But Philippe Gilbert’s two Vuelta stage wins and Greg Van Avermaet’s Quebec third place and Montreal win must mark them as the two protected riders, both with great motivation.
Van Avermaet and Gilbert – Belgium hopes
France: There can only be one leader for ‘Les Bleus’ – who rank number two in the world – and that’s the man who was brilliant in the spring and gave us a Tour de France to remember, Monsieur Julian Alaphilippe. The parcours suits his punchy style, albeit he didn’t seem to have his usual sparkle in the Canadian World Cup races; that said, we don’t know how his training for Rainbow Day has been structured. And here’s a name for you: former u23 World Champion, Benoit Cosnefroy, winner of three French Cups and a major animator in Canada, he’ll be in the mix.
Alaphilippe has had a good year
La Bella Italia: Ranks number three with Matteo Trentin their man of the hour with a very strong Tour of Britain performance endorsing his form. And just prior to us going to press he’s also triumphed in the last of the Italian ‘Premondiale’ – Worlds warm up – races, the Trofeo Matteotti. As well as his undoubted ability and ‘big ride temperament’ he has perhaps the best disciplined team in the race to support him. At the time of going to press, Vincenzo Nibali was not among their nominated riders but that could change.
Trentin has the form
The Netherlands: Are in fourth spot and field a very strong team with the likes of Langeveld, Mollema, Terpstra and Teunisen but they can only have one leader; the phenomenon that is Mathieu van der Poel. The man who can do it all dominated the Tour of Britain and with his big mid-season peregrination to his MTB and the forests his motivation is pin sharp. My mentor, Viktor reckons he’s too big a favourite and will be marked out, to which I’d reply; ‘Amstel Gold!’
Van der Poel – 2019 The Best of (so far)
Spain: It was June 30th 2000 when Alejandro Valverde won the u23 Spanish road race title; here we are almost two decades later and he’s still a champion – of the world. Many will have come out of the Vuelta tired but the man from Murcia thrives on work load; none of the opposition will be taking the threat of him lightly. The Spanish nation is ranked fifth in the UCI categorisation and can be relied upon to support their main man.
‘Balaverde’ has a good record at the Worlds
Colombia: The men from high altitude rank number six; we didn’t think they could ‘do’ one day races – until Esteban Chaves won Lombardia in 2016. Tour de France winner Egan Bernal rested after his win but is said to be fired up for a Worlds on his team’s home turf – albeit at the time of going to press he’s not on the official start list – second in the recent Giro della Toscana bodes well.
Will Bernal ride?
Germany: John Pierce informs me that you can only refer to the sixth ranked country as ‘The Fatherland’ if you were born there – as the kids say, ‘wotevah!’ In Pascal Ackermann they have one of the world’s fastest finishers but it’s awfully hill for him. John Degenkolb isn’t as sprightly as he once was but remember those second places in Gent-Wevelgem and Frankfurt this year? It’s perhaps just the kind of long, hard slog where an old warhorse like him could hang tough – and to reinforce my point, he’s just finished second at Isbergues, he must have been looking over my shoulder?
Ackermann – More likely Degenkolb
Slovenia: This nation of just some 2,000,000 souls which dominated the Vuelta a España and ranks eighth on the UCI scale fields a strong team with Iberian dominators Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic at its head. It would be tempting to say Pogacar must be tired but then I said that as the last week of the Vuelta loomed. . .
Two top men from Slovenia – Pogacar and Roglic
Australia: The world’s ninth rated nation have to be, ‘all for Michael’ with the man who’s finished on the World podium in the past back in the fold after last year’s snub when he was omitted from their Worlds team – we never got to the bottom of that one – demonstrating good form in Quebec. Michael Matthews also has the advantage of a strong and dependable team with the likes of Simon Clarke and Rory Sutherland in his service.
Matthews wins in Quebec again
Denmark: The last team to field eight riders also have to advantage of riding for just one man – Jakob Fuglsang. He was one of the ‘men of the spring’ and his Vuelta stage win confirms his legs are still good. The likes of Kasper Asgreen, Michael Mørkøv and Isbergues winner, Mads Pedersen will make sure he has good backing.
Fuglsang has had an up and down season
But what of the favourites outside the top 10?
Great Britain: As 11th rated, GB must endure the embarrassment of not fielding a full eight man squad in their home Worlds and have a genuine medal hope on board in British Elite Road Race Champion, Ben Swift. Despite Swift’s lowly ranking of 426 on the UCI individual scale he’s as fast after 300K as he is after 200K and most of the opposition aren’t. Witness his two Primavera podiums and fifth in the Worlds in Bergen. His motivation is 100% and a podium is no pipe dream. Viktor, unusually, agrees with me!
Ben Swift – Britain’s best chance?
Norway: Rank 12th and in Alexander Kristoff they have the kind of rough, tough, old warrior who’ll bludgeon his way over the climbs and still be pretty damn quick at the death.
If Kristoff is there at the end…
Kazakhstan: Are way down in 21st place but have a man who Viktor reckons is ‘the one’ – Alexey Lutsenko. With second in the Coppa Agostoni then victory in the Coppa Sabatini and Memorial Pantani, his form is obviously excellent and Vik could be on to something?
Not quite the favourite
Slovakia: Are even further down in 24th place but have a man whom only the very foolish would discount – three times champion, Peter Sagan. Since his post-Tour rest he’s been sixth in Hamburg, second in Quebec and displayed huge work ethic in Montreal. Ignore him at your peril.
Peter Sagan knows how to win a Worlds, or three
Just one name?
Mathieu van der Poel of The Netherlands.
Ed’s ‘Top Pick’ – Mathieu van der Poel
# And PEZ will be roadside, notebooks and Nikons poised to bring you the best Worlds coverage around. For live action go to SteephillTV. #
2018 Road World Championships Elite Men Road Race Recap by FloBikes
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.