WORLDS’16: Elite Road Race Preview
Race Preview: The World Road Championships is the biggest one-day race of the year, or it should be! Let’s forget the heat, the lack of spectators and the bleak desert or the sky-scraper back drop and look forward to a great day of bike action. Ed Hood gives us the run down on the ‘course and runners’ for Sunday’s big day.
My amigo Stuart Anthony expressed it best; ‘The UCI have robbed a cycling mad country of the Worlds.’ And if they do cut the distance to just over 100K then resignations should be demanded from the ‘experts’ who stuck the world’s most significant one day race where no one would watch it in killing conditions. OK, that’s all of my chest, about the race. . .
There are four types of potential winning teams on this parcours which is FLAT, hot, windy and very technical in the finale due to an O/D of roundabouts:
Sprinters: teams where it’s ‘all for The Man’ – who may well come from the Isle of Man. These teams will ride with just one objective in mind – a mass charge for the line.
Bet hedgers: where they have a good sprinter but realistically their Man is probably not quick enough to win, so if the right split happens they’ll go to Plan B – Nizzolo ain’t gonna beat Cav, for instance.
Echelon Kings: who’ll do everything in their power to split it – out in the desert or in the technical finale – and isolate the pure sprinters; GVA perhaps?
Opportunists: the Rui Costas of this world who’ll hide, follow, infiltrate and go with the late move.
First, the fastmen’s teams:
Great Britain has one of the big favorites in Mark Cavendish, his four Tour de France stage wins were stunning and his Olympic silver in the omnium reminded us that he’s still a special rider. He’s been ill of late and looked ordinary in the finale of Paris-Tours but has a very strong team built around him and you discount him at your peril.
Germany has that manager’s dream/nightmare, not one, nor even two but three big finishers in André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. Leadership has gone to Greipel as a previous medallist and known hard man – me? I’d have gone for Kittel, he was just so impressive for Etixx in the TTT, the big man is flying – they just need to keep him on the bike and out of the barber’s shop.
France is another team with – let’s just come out and say it – ‘divided loyalties.’ Arnaud Demare and Nacer Bouhanni do not exchange Christmas cards and the Green Eyed Monster of jealousy is sure to be sniffing around the camp. That said, team manager Bernard Bourreau as a former Olympian and ex-professional has done a good job for his nation in his role so far and will do his utmost to get unity. Demare already has one world title as a U23 and Bouhanni is desperate for a big win.
Australia may say otherwise but they’ll be ‘all for Michael,’ Matthews, that is – he’s been quiet of late but there’s little doubt he’ll be getting himself ready physically and mentally to go one better that last year’s silver in Richmond.
Columbia – no, no misprint, Columbia, in Fernando Gaviria the South American nation has one of the fastest men alive – his Paris-Tours win was jaw droppingly impressive. A man from the land of the Andes winning a ‘Sprinters’ World Championship?’ It could just happen. . .
Ireland – yes, Ireland, in Sam Bennett they have another of the ‘new wave’ of sprinters, young, bold and not impressed by reputations. He’s been flying of late – all that suffering in Le Tour finally paying off. A podium is possible and would be a huge fillip for the Emerald Isle.
Those in the ‘bet hedgers’ category include two of cycling’s biggest nations:
Italy – can Giacomo Nizzolo and/or Elia Viviani out drag Cav, Kittel, Matthews and all the names above in a straight sprint duel? Despite Italian champion Nizzolo’s late season purple patch, it’s unlikely. If it comes to sprint then the Azzurri will ride for them but they’ll also be looking to place Sonny Colbrelli and Daniele Bennati in the moves when they go.
If there’s wind, with the heat and the roundabouts in the finale it’s not 100% it’ll be a sprint finish but it’s hard to imagine anything else with the collective firepower that Cav and Matthews have in their armory.
The Netherlands – in Dylan Groenewegen the Orangemen have another of the new generation of fast men. He’s young, rapid and ambitious, he also registers on the ‘Bouhanni Scale’ of craziness – but again he’ll be up against the most rapid in the world at their most motivated. But any team which contains Niki Terpstra would be foolish not to ride for the baby faced executioner who excels when the going is really tough – if there are echelons. . .
Norway – have Alex Kristoff who’s not just quite as sharp in the kerb to kerb finales as he used to be but could well infiltrate any late split where he’d be unbeatable. And let’s not forget Edvald Boasson Hagen, another man who’s hard to beat from a small break, albeit he looked tired in Wednesday’s TT.
In the ‘Echelon Kings’ category the notable name is. . .
Belgium – the legend that is Tom Boonen is still quick at the end – but not Cav or Matthews quick and he has to get into a breakaway, as does team mate and Olympic Champion, Greg Van Avermaet if he’s to land the ‘double.’ They men from the land of the kermis also have ‘coming man’ Jasper Stuyven who can be allowed no slack in a late move – and the team has some of the hardest working men in show biz in there to back them, Iljo Keisse a prime example.
Portugal – has Rui Costa, who’s done it before and could do it again if he follows the right wheels late in the day.
Slovakia – has the man who fits into just about any category and could win from them all, reigning champion Peter Sagan. He can win solo, match the fastest of the fast, handles a bike like it’s part of him, is fearless and just loves to race. Too tired at the end of the season? Sure Peter. . .
But let’s turn to real experts for their view on the outcome – THE BOOKIES, William Hill say:
Greipel & Cav: 5/1
Kristoff & Boonen: 9/1
And finally, one name that really is worth an ‘each way’ bet, Matthews at 50/1 – or maybe they know something we don’t?
Ignore the lack of fans, barren parcours and concentrate on those wonderful athletes jousting for that beautiful jersey. . .
Race report and the photos will be on PEZ as soon as the race finishes and you can watch live on Steephill.tv.
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 1,200 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.