Men’s elite road race
Men’s elite road race
Sixteen laps of the punchy circuit await for the men in a very open race which could suit a number of different riders.
The climbs individually shouldn’t be be too difficult for the sprinters – though there is an uphill drag to the finish – while the cobbles shouldn’t deter the non-Classics men, but add both together over the course of an attritional 259.2km and the 2015 rainbow jersey will be hard-earned by a deserving winner.
Defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), and former winners Rui Costa (Portugal), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) and Tom Boonen (Belgium) could all conceivably win again in Richmond, though Great Britain’s 2011 winner Mark Cavendish has pulled out after crashed out of the Tour of Britain.
But the course also suits a number of other riders, not least the versatile Alexander Kristoff (Norway) and Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb (Germany), who both thrive when things get tough.
Alejandro Valverde is one half of Spain’s two-pronged attack with Joaquim Rodriguez. After a string of six podium finishes between 2003 and 2014 – no man has more – Valverde is still in search of a first rainbow jersey. Already assured of world number one status in the UCI’s rankings for another year, victory at the World Championships would be a crowning moment for the Spaniard.
With Geraint Thomas ruling himself out of the race, having completed both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, British hopes could be led by Classics specialists Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe instead, with no obvious leader in the absence of Thomas and Cavendish.
Belgium boast phenomenal strength in depth too, with Boonen, Gilbert, Greg van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke all potential leaders – though Boonen insists it will be important for team bosses to settle on just one with one back-up.
Michael Matthews (Australia) may also be in contention but, all other contenders aside, the course looks ripe for a first ever Slovakian world champion. Peter Sagan, if he has fully recovered from his race-ending Vuelta a Espana injury will be relishing the chance to test himself on terrain perfectly suited to his talents as a fast finishing rouleur.