Ben Swift of Team Sky anticipates a “very aggressive race” on Sunday as Mark Cavendish aims to become the only British male pro after Tom Simpson in 1965 to win the World Road Race Championship. Ben didn’t make the final selection of eight British riders, but will be watching along with the rest of us as Cav goes head to head with rivals including bookies’ favourite Philippe Gilbert to succeed Thor Hushovd to the rainbow jersey.
There’s some debate around about exactly what kind of finish we’ll see in the race, with a drag up to the finish and the length of the race itself meaning that a mass sprint is by now means guaranteed, with splits in the peloton likely at various points in the 266-kilometre parcours.
Throw into the mix the fact that riders won’t be working for the trade teams they have represented all season, but for their countries instead, which adds an extra element of unpredictability, as well as the fact that race radios won't be used and rivals may prove difficult tto track as a result of wearing unfamiliar kit, and you have a recipe for a thrilling race.
Having said that, Cavendish’s seven-man support team is exclusively provided by Team Sky, with the exception of Garmin-Cervelo’s David Millar, so could that give Great Britain a bit more cohesion than some of the other countries?
Ben’s given us his exclusive thoughts on how he thinks the race might pan out on Sunday in the video below, after which there are our own thoughts on who might prevail in Copenhagen.
Sunday’s race, of course, is the final round of our season-long Fantasy Cycling competition. As with Thursday’s Individual Time Trial, all the normal selection rules have been dispensed with, other than sticking within the budget of 175 credits. So if you want to pack your team with sprinters or all rounders, or a mixture of both plus the odd domestique, feel free.
Besides Gilbert and Cavendish, both of whom have enjoyed spectacularly successful seasons, there are plenty of others with ambitions of taking the rainbow jersey, some of whom may be more suited to an all-out sprint finale, others to a finish that takes place after the pure sprinters have been taken out by an earlier selection. Some might hope to figure in each type of finish.
One of those is Edvald Boasson Hagen, who lines up alongside defending champion Hushovd. Both had a great Tour de France, winning two stages each with Thor also spending a week in the maillot jaune. The word from the Norwegian camp is that it in all likelihood it won’t be decided which will go all out to contest the finale until the closing stages of the race.
Peter Sagan of Slovenia may be aged just 21, but comes to the race as the most successful rider in this year’s Vuelta in terms of stage wins, the Slovakian winning three, including the final day in Madrid. With the Spanish Grand Tour seen as a barometer of form ahead of the World Championships, he is by that measure the man to watch. The distance, though, may take its toll, and there is also an extra week between the Vuelta and the Worlds this year.
Another young rider in form in Spain is Germany’s Marcel Kittel who got a Vuelta stage win to add to his earlier domination of the sprint stages in the Tour of Poland, although you would expect in Sunday that he will be working for his more experienced team mate, Andre Greipel.
Another Vuelta stage winner is Italy’s Daniele Bennati, who will be the focal point of a team whose selection policy this year sees those with past bans for doping not even considered for selection, resulting in a young line-up for the Azzuri, with Sacha Modolo also capable of springing a surprise.
With three rainbow jerseys already in his wardrobe, Oscar Freire knows better than anyone else what it takes to win a World Championship. The 35-year-old Spaniard has had a difficult season as a result of sinus and breathing problems, but he had a disrupted year in 2009 too, which he followed by winning Milan-San Remo the next Spring. The Spaniard says he will retire if he doesn’t win on Sunday – so he has all the incentive he needs to go flat out and try and claim an unprecented fourth rainbow jersey.
The Australian challenge, meanwhile, is spearheaded by the man who succeeded Freire as Milan-San Remo champion this year, Matt Goss, demonstrating that he has the legs to go all the way. The HTC-Highroad rider, who heads to the new GreenEdge team for 2012, pulled out of the Vuelta on the opening weekend, however, and may be our of race practice.
Given his palmarès, it’s difficult to describe Fabian Cancellara as a dark horse, but in some respects that is exactly what he is here following a season that has seen him so often the nearly-man in the biggest races, with second-place finishes in Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, and coming third in the Tour of Flanders and Thursday’s World Championship Time Trial.
If Sunday’s race pans out the right way for him though, Spartacus is certainly capable of adding the rainbow jersey for the road to the four he has won against the clock.
Of course, there are plenty of other riders out there who can figure in the closing stages of Sunday’s race, and we may well have missed out someone who will be one of the main protagonists come the denouement of the race.
Apologies in advance to any riders concerned if we’ve done that, but hopefully you’ll have picked them for your Fantasy Cycling team – best of luck!
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.