RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2017 preview: seven riders to watch - Road Cycling UK

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RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2017 preview: seven riders to watch

Tour de France green jersey Michael Matthews leads contenders for WorldTour race

Fresh from pulling on the Tour de France’s green jersey on the final podium in Paris, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) heads the startlist for the 2017 RideLondon-Surrey Classic.

Promoted to the UCI WorldTour as part of the expansion of pro cycling’s top tier for this season, 14 of the 18 UCI WorldTour teams will be on the start line at Horse Guard’s Parade.

Tom Boonen celebrates victory in 2016, though it is last year’s third-place finisher Michael Matthews who starts as favourite on Sunday (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix)

And Matthews is one of several riders racing on the back of the Tour de France, with Germans Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Welsh ace Luke Rowe (Team Sky) and two-time podium finisher Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) also in action.

So who should you be looking out for as the race heads into the Surrey Hills and back for a grandstand finish on The Mall?

Let’s take a closer look…

RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2017: route

As ever, the 185.9km RideLondon-Surrey Classic route is very similar to past editions but with a couple of tweaks to keep things fresh.

The biggest change on this year’s route is moving the climb of Box Hill closer to the finish line, potentially opening up the race for a successful breakaway.

Geraint Thomas leads the way up Box Hill at the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic last year – the climb is now closer to the finish for the 2017 edition (pic: Richard Washbrooke/Silverhub for RideLondon)

Staple Lane is the first climbing challenge, while Box Hill is the final one of the Surrey Hills to feature, with the peloton first climbing Leith Hill and twice heading up Ranmore Common.

From the top of Box Hill to the Mall finish line there are just less than 50km, though a bunch sprint is still expected in front of Buckingham Palace.

Nevertheless, both the 2014 and 2015 editions were won from the breakaway, so anything is possible on Sunday…

RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2017: teams

Of the UCI WorldTour teams, only Astana, Bahrain-Merida, FDJ and Movistar are not set for the start line, with the 14 other top-tier teams all in action in London.

They will be joined by eight UCI ProContinental invitees, including Wanty-Groupe Gobert, who were at the Tour de France, and Irish outfit Aqua Blue Sport.

Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia, CCC Sprandi Polowice, Caja Rural-Seguros and Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia all have Grand Tour experience, while the start list will be completed by Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise and the Israel Cycling Academy.

This year’s race will feature 14 of the 18 UCI WorldTour teams (pic – Richard Washbrooke, Silverhub for RideLondon)

Teams
Ag2r-La Mondiale
BMC Racing
Bora-hansgrohe
Cannondale-Drapac
Lotto-Soudal
Orica-Scott
QuickStep Floors
Dimension Data
Katusha-Alpecin
LottoNL-Jumbo
Team Sky
Team Sunweb
Trek-Segafredo
UAE Team Emirates
Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia
Aqua Blue Sport
Caja Rural-Seguros
CCC Sprandi Polkowice
Israel Cycling Academy
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
Wanty-Groupe Gobert
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia

RideLondon-Surrey Classic 2017: riders to watch

Defending champion Tom Boonen (QuickStep Floors) will not be returning to defend his crown, having retired in the spring, but there is still a stellar list of riders set for Sunday’s race.

 

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)

First among those riders is Michael Matthews, who was in outstanding form at the 2017 Tour de France as he went on to top the points classification to win the green jersey.

On paper, he looks the clear favourite for Sunday’s race – and Mark Cavendish has backed him as such – but much will depend on how well recovered the Australian is.

Michael Matthew was in stellar form at the 2017 Tour de France, winning two stages and the green jersey (pic: Sirotti)

Matthews put a huge shift in at the Tour, regularly getting in breakaways in order to hoover up intermediate sprint points and claiming two stage wins too.

He lacked the all-out speed needed on the Champs-Elysees to win at the end of the Tour, but he is more than capable when the going gets tough – as it might well do in the Surrey Hills.

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)

If the race comes down to a bunch sprint, then Andre Greipel has a big point to prove – the Gorilla finished the Tour de France without a stage win for the first time ever, and ended a run of stage wins in 12 consecutive Grand Tours for the German.

He was second on the Champs-Elysees, however, and if it does come  down to a sprint he is undoubtedly one of the fastest men in the bunch – particularly looking at his likely rivals in London.

Andre Greipel endured a win-less Tour de France for the first time ever (pic: Sirotti)

The climbs will hold no fears for Greipel, either, so a lot will come down to his tactics on The Mall – if the race comes to its expected conclusion.

He too often started his sprints at the wrong time at the Tour but if he corrects that in London he can end a difficult month on a high point.

John Degenkolb/Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)

Another below-par Tour de France means John Degenkolb has still claimed just one victory in Trek-Segafredo colours since his switch from Giant-Alpecin (now Sunweb) in the winter.

But with his Classics pedigree and sprinting ability, a race like RideLondon should suit him down to the ground

John Degenkolb’s victory on stage three of the Dubai Tour remains his only win in Trek-Segafredo colours (pic: ANSA/RCS Sport)

And he is not Trek-Segafredo’s only option, either, with fast-finishing Classics specialist Jasper Stuyven also heading for the capital.

The 25-year-old, who finished second in the points classification at the Giro d’Italia, is set to race for the first time since his third place at the national road race.

Having had time to recover his legs, this could be the perfect opportunity to start the second part of his year with a bang.

Elia Viviani (Team Sky)

Having missed out on the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year, Italian sprinter Elia Viviani has been in great form since.

He helped Team Sky win the inaugural Hammer Series at the start of June, before bagging a stage win at the Route du Sud and claiming two more in the Tour of Austria early this month.

Elia Viviani has been in good form since missing out on selection for the Giro d’Italia (pic – Sirotti)

A four-time Tour of Britain stage winner, Viviani knows what it takes to race and win on these shores too, and will have Luke Rowe – the Tour de France’s lanterne rouge among his supporting cast.

Viviani is capable of beating Greipel and co in a bunch kick, especially if he is canny with his tactics.

Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac)

If Cannondale-Drapac team-mate Rigoberto Uran was becoming the forgotten man of the Grand Tours, then Sep Vanmarcke is the forgotten man of the Classics.

As Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara have retired, and world champion Peter Sagan and Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet have taken up the mantle, Vanmarcke has slipped under the radar.

Sep Vanmarcke has slipped under the radar – but should not be written off (pic – Sirotti)

But just as Uran proved himself at the Tour de France, so you should never write off Vanmarcke either.

His Classics pedigree makes him one to watch, while he was in superb form at the Tour of Austria earlier this month, claiming five top-five finishes out of seven stages, on the back of second place in the Belgian national road race.

If he can carry that form to London, his rivals will be well advised to keep the Belgian at close quarters.

Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates)

A first Tour de France since 2011 for Yorkshireman Ben Swift passed by with little to shout about in the end, though he did get himself up the road in the breakaway for three stages in the final week.

He now returns to a race at which he has twice finished on the podium, in 2014 and 2015, without yet winning.

Ben Swift has twice finished on the podium at RideLondon (Pic: Sirotti)

Both of those podium places highlighted his versatility, however, as he got himself into the race-winning breakaway on both occasions.

If his legs are good after testing them in the Alps, he will no doubt be looking to animate the race once again at RideLondon.

Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport)

A former winner of the RideLondon Classic back in 2014, while riding with UCI Continental team NFTO, Adam Blythe is still searching for his first victory with Aqua Blue Sport.

But, having started the year in the British champion’s jersey, he could not have come much closer – a second place on stage four of this week’s Tour de Wallonie was his third of the season, all by the smallest margins.

Former RideLondon winner Adam Blythe has finished second three times this season, as he bids for his first win for Aqua Blue Sport (pic – Aqua Blue Sport)

Aqua Blue Sport’s roster is yet to be confirmed at the time of writing, but Blythe will be among those to watch if he is among those selected.

Capable of mixing it up in the sprint, he also proved with his 2014 win that he has an eye for the breakaway – winning that year after breaking clear with fellow Yorkshireman Ben Swift and team-mate and good friend Philippe Gilbert.

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