UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Road World Championships Bergen 2017 – Men’s Road Race Preview

Course:

The end of the 2017 road season is hurtling to its conclusion, with Sunday’s Men’s Road Race marking the finale of a brilliant World Championships in the Norwegian city of Bergen. Having watched the preceding races from the elite women and youngsters, today’s title challenge is anticipated to be a difficult to control affair, one which sees nations panic at the prospect of missing any decisive moves. As ever, the course to crown the next World Champion is intended to be a wearing task, chipping away at the riders upon each rotation of the circuit having completed the initial 39.5km of racing. Once the 19.1km circuits begin, the attritional nature of the course will become apparent, the day’s total mileage of 267.5km intended to see only the finest rise to the top.

The eleven laps of the circuit begin with a small rise shortly after first entering, plateauing briefly, before then dropping down once again 5km in. From this point starts much of the climbing on these laps, the road tilting upwards and eventually placing the riders at the day’s sole recognised ascent. Salmon Hill is a 1.5km hill, averaging a very consistent 6.4% on average and should be a challenge which many choose to tackle in the big ring. The drop from the summit is a simple enough descent, allowing riders to push on at great speed, though might not offer quite enough to escape a well organised peloton. The final 4km of the circuit are not particularly technical once heading back into Bergen, though two turns in the final 300m might be enough for a solo move to just cling on after the flamme rouge. With no convincing gradient present, the likelihood of a sprint deciding the day’s winner is high from a reduced bunch, though solo success as been prominent during the supporting races here in Norway.

UCI World Road Championship Bergen 2017 Men's Road Race Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan arrives in Norway with the very plausible chance of becoming the first man to win three consecutive World Championship Road Race titles. The course plays to his strengths convincingly enough and provides him with the belief he shall be the fastest men present in a sprint for the win after 267.5km of arduous racing. Two key issues are prominent however for Sagan, and the first is the fact he is Peter Sagan, a rider few others will be interested in working with as part of any moves. Having already won this twice in his career, he certainly does not need to prove himself today and could ride defensively in hope of being towed right the way to the finale. Though Salmon Hill is a key feature on the course, it is there to tire the bunch and is unlikely to prove the launchpad for another swashbuckling Sagan solo move. The second greatest issue for him is his recent illness, Peter Sagan has been sick for almost a week now and has not ridden for three days as a result. He may not be incapacitated by it, but it is certainly enough to take the edge off his form, on a day where only 100% is likely to win the rainbow stripes.

Alexander Kristoff as had an interesting season of results and performances, perhaps reaching this World Championship on home soil as a forgotten favourite, a man who has previously dominated gruelling one day races like this in recent seasons. There is no denying that the course has been built with his talents in mind, aiming to blunt his rivals throughout the day and place him in a position to deliver a home victory in Bergen. The year has not been rich in rewards for Kristoff, though victories at the European Road Race Championship and Ride London have demonstrated his innate talent for riding the perfect one day race. He is also one of the few names who is likely to benefit from miserable weather; native spectators happily cheering on a downpour with hope of improving Kristoff’s odds of winning. Surprisingly fast during a flat sprint, and with Peter Sagan potentially suffering from sickness, Kristoff may emerge as the man to beat.

Fernando Gaviria looks to be the fastest man present at the race this year and can certainly cope with the rigours of this course in convincing fashion to still challenge when it matters most. The Colombian team is a somewhat awkward fit for Gaviria however, supported by many pure climbers who are unlikely to be used to protecting a sprinter all afternoon, let alone trying to lead him out late in the day. He has often proven able to survive the cut on difficult courses like today, though admittedly sees his top end speed suffer as result, potentially leaving him short in the final metres. He is a man which many will want to see dropped, meaning his team and himself will have to be alert to all dangers in hope of keeping him in contention.

Michael Matthews chased home a victorious Peter Sagan in Richmond a couple of years ago and will feel he has only improved further since that point. The Australian team have confirmed that Matthews is the sole leader for the day, intending to keep all their riders in reserve to work for him and making it unlikely we will see any riding from them in speculative breakaway moves. Matthews is known for his indomitable sprinting skill when it comes to short uphill finales, making the Bergen course ill-fitting on paper, though things are never that simple after such a long day of racing. With a powerful and committed squad at his disposal, he should arrive as one of the freshest riders in contention if a bunch kick proves the crowning moment of 2017’s World Championship Road Race. His current form has been convincing in recent weeks and there is no doubt he will be fired up to take the rainbow stripes in the green and gold of Australia.

Elia Viviani arrives as one of the most in form riders at the race, enjoying a raft of victories in recent months and shall be another sprinter many will want to distance. Potentially the fastest man at the race for a flat sprint finish, the Italian knows he has a brilliant chance of winning, as long as he can stay in contention during the hectic concluding laps. As always seems to be the case at the World Championships for Italy, their greatest issue is the assurance of teamwork, as at least three riders shall feel they have a chance of taking the stripes in Bergen. If Viviani cannot get his compatriots united behind him, then life will only be made harder as a consequence, as any unnecessary chasing shall only serve to increase the likelihood of him cracking before the finish line is in sight. However, if he does make the cut and has managed to avoid working too hard earlier in the day, it will be surprising if anyone faster than Elia Viviani is present

Philippe Gilbert could be the joker in the pack, poised to secure an unexpected second rainbow jersey in Bergen, benefiting from a Belgium squad which boasts an incredible degree of cycling talent. As a nation lacking a convincing pure sprinter, they shall be committed to making the repetitions of Salmon Hill as hard as possible, doing their utmost to avoid a large bunch kick finishing the day off. Tiesj Benoot, Oliver Naesen and Tim Wellens are just three examples of Belgian riders which other nations shall not be able to allow any freedom to within the final 50km of racing. This should allow Gilbert to sit behind the favourites and hope to stay as fresh as possible, allowing his teammates to fracture the race repeatedly throughout the city centre circuits. Gilbert’s killer instinct will inform him of which is the key move to follow late in the day, from which his odds of winning look most likely and shall believe he has what it takes to sign off from Norway with a rainbow stripes delivering sprint.

Greg Van Avermaet shall be the equally dangerous game plan for Belgium, a man who has repeatedly shown to be a clinical finisher, specifically when small groups find themselves deciding the outcome of major races. His confidence is greater than ever these days, as recent battles against Peter Sagan have often favoured the Belgian more than the reigning World Champion. Much like teammate Philippe Gilbert, Avermaet will hope that he only needs to make two crucial efforts during the day; one to make the cut and another to win the day. If Belgium can make this course far harder than it appears on first sight, then he will be one of those who shall come to the fore and benefit from a more arduous contest.

Michal Kwiatkowski should be another rider capable of securing his second stint in the rainbow bands on today’s course, though shall not be given the freedom which previously handed him the jersey in 2014. There are no question regarding his ability to survive a day in the saddle as tough as this is likely to prove, especially after taking the win at Milan – San Remo earlier this Spring. His best hope shall be to join a strong breakaway group, as a solo attack shall be difficult on such a simple climb, from where he can choose to sprint for the win or fracture the move further in the final kilometres with a fierce attack.

Matteo Trentin looked to be enjoying great form in the recent Vuelta a España and any confirmation of him having carried his condition through to the World Championships will make him a danger to everyone’s ambitions today. Capable of winning from either a small move or larger bunch sprint, the Italian will fancy his chances on a course which is unlikely to see him dropped from the group of favourites. However, it is unclear what his team orders have been heading into this race and whether he shall agree with any request to ride entirely for his faster compatriot Elia Viviani. If not hamstrung by team orders, then Trentin will aim to vanish up the road and emerge as the fastest man present from a small group of riders.

Others to consider:

Michael Albasini is a namer few will have on their list of contenders, but the veteran Swiss rider deserves a mention off the back of recent performances at Coppa Agostoni – Giro delle Brianze and Coppa Bernocchi; winning the former and finishing fourth in the latter. Both around 200km in distance, he evidently has the condition to bother the favourites today and his sprinting has been the best since earlier this season at his home tour. It will take plenty to occur in order to place Albasini in a race winning position, though recent showings suggest he does have what is required to finish it off.

Edvald Boasson Hagen is another pick for the Norwegian’s to rally behind, especially after a great Tour de France and recent Tour of Britain, both seeing him ride aggressively throughout. It is unclear what the leadership situation is within the home nation’s team, though it would be wasteful to expect Boasson Hagen to protect Alexander Kristoff all day. If a well equipped move of contenders gets free late in the day, expect Boasson Hagen to be quick to join, aiming to bury his fellow escapees with a potent sprint to the line.

Julian Alaphilippe has seen the selectors pick a French team with the intention of supporting him as best as possible, hoping he can repeat some of his familiar early season form which has delivered him great results in the Ardennes Classics. No doubt preferring a tougher course, he might actually benefit from the plan of the Belgian team today, perhaps going as far as to unite with them to break the race apart. He looked to be rediscovering his best in the Vuelta a España a few weeks ago and is worth watching if appearing cool in the pack with less than 50km of racing left.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Philippe Gilbert

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Scheldeprijs – Race Preview 2017

Course:

Resting between the epic strong-man contests of Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris – RoubaixScheldeprijs sits as a mid-week tonic to keep people’s attention piqued on the classics season, handing the reins to the sprinters to contest this prestigious race for the fastest riders. The flattest day in the saddle the peloton shall ride during this spring campaign upon the pavé and hellingen of Northern Europe, Scheldeprijs is a 202km crescendo from Mol to Schoten which finally explodes with an electric mass sprint to the line. This year’s start has been moved to Mol from Antwerp in order to honour Tom Boonen, one of Belgian cycling’s greatest icons, who will be riding today as his final race on home soil; Mol being his former hometown. It is a stressful day on the bike each year for those at Scheldeprijs, teams investing every ounce of energy into protecting their lead riders and focusing on delivering them to the finishing straight in best shape possible for the frantic finale.

Scheldeprijs Preview 2017

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel is seeking to win this race for the fifth time in his career, finding this a favourable affair which plays to his strengths nicely. The German sprinter may even believe this to be his easiest edition to challenge for in recent years, as the absence of both Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff are two major hurdles cleared before the bunch have even rolled out from Mol. Kittel is the fastest rider in this race, he looks the man to beat as ever and will be supported by another strong Quick – Step squad which features Tom Boonen, Matteo Trentin, Iljo Keisse and David Martinelli to ensure he is led out at top speed.

André Greipel seems to have never really fitted well with this race, last year’s third place finish being his most impressive performance in a total of four appearances thus far. Though he is growing older, Greipel remains one of the fastest sprinters when it comes down to a head-to-head drag race on flat roads, so cannot be excluded from contention. He rode last weekend’s Tour of Flanders in aggressive style, making it possiblr that he shall arrive with greater fatigue than those who have targeted this exclusively. If the day becomes an attritional battle due to wind or rain however, then the strength of the ‘Gorilla’ will increase his chances as others tire.

Arnaud Démare will still be eager to convert his strong form this season into a prestigious addition to his palmarés before it fades, perhaps focusing more on this sprinters classic than many realise. The French rider enjoys longer races, so shall not be fearful of the distance just scraping over the 200km mark, while the terrain and potential weather conditions could combine for a harder race which diminishes the top speed of his faster rivals. The FDJ squad has developed rapidly in regards to sprint leadouts and could emerge as one of the strongest outfits late in the day.

Nacer Bouhanni did not start 2017 quite as well as many perhaps anticipated, but the Cofidis rider has looked to be returning back to a level we have become to expect from the combative sprinter. He shall be provided with total leadership of the team once again and will be confident of being protected throughout the day’s 202km route. Distance is unlikely to concern the gritty Frenchman, but he shall need another strong performance from his crucial cog in the sprint train Geoffrey Soupe, if he is to better Marcel Kittel.

Edward Theuns is certainly no pure sprinter, yet the Belgian rider has previously finished second at Scheldeprijs, losing out to the indomitable Alexander Kristoff in 2015. Last year he was first to finish behind the potent trio of Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and André Greipel, the best performance possible given such strong opposition present. This season could allow him to improve once again, but it will take plenty of luck to finally secure victory for a man who does not challenge the thoroughbred sprinters much beyond this race.

Dylan Groenewegen has built upon his encouraging start to the season since the Abu Dhabi Tour, taking a podium place on Stage 5 of Paris – Nice and finishing a surprise fifth at the tough Dwars Door Vlaanderen a couple of weeks ago. Groenewegen is certainly still developing as a rider at the age of 23 years old, but his combination of great pace and steely strength is already a danger to the more experienced sprinters racing today. Victory at Scheldeprijs would be another major breakthrough for the talented Dutchman and he is certainly the one most likely to upstage the bigger names come the finish.

Others likely to feature in the final top ten classification are Timothy Dupont, Dan McLay, Matteo Pelucchi, Niccolo Bonifazio, Elia Viviani and Danny Van Poppel.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd Arnaud Démare

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

The final stage of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour is a 143km criterium style affair, comprising 26 laps of the Yas Marina F1 race circuit. Silky smooth tarmac and sweeping turns look to be ideal conditions for another bunch kick to draw this year’s race to a close and likely crown Tanel Kangert 2016’s champion. The final few turns could cause problems for a few of the sprinters as the finishing straight does not come until 250m from the line; positioning will be crucial to have any chance of winning here.

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish took the win on Stage 2 and shall be favourite to do so again on the final stage as a result of André Greipel’s withdrawal ahead of the start on Stage 3. Dimension-Data have already demonstrated their ability to navigate Cavendish into position despite their smaller squad size and are certain to be the wheel to follow heading into the final metres.

Giacomo Nizzolo took advantage of his late season form when winning Stage 1, catching several of the bigger name sprinters napping by latching onto the Dimension-Data leadout to slingshot himself to victory. This finale should suit him even more, the late final turn making it a contest of positioning and acceleration instead of pure speed like we saw on the opening two stages.

John Degenkolb bailed out of the sprint on Stage 2 due to some risky moves from other riders heading into the last turn and will be hoping he can makes his time here worthwhile with a win on the final stage. His leadout is one of the strongest here, but has not necessarily shown enough when it matters most to truly hammer home this fact.

Elia Viviani was left disappointed by Cavendish’s win on Stage 2, having already stated that he shall be out for revenge on the final day to reverse his fortunes. The Italian has an explosive acceleration and his race craft honed on the track means his positional abilities to hit the front at the key moment are always a threat to rivals.

Others who could all challenge for a podium place are Andrea Guardini, Magnus Cort NielsenChristopher Latham and Steele Von Hoff.

Outcome:

1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Elia Viviani

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

A rather brief day in the saddle forms Stage 2 of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour, based in and around the emirate’s capital city and offering almost nothing in regards to elevation. Once again the roads are wide tarmac boulevards which provide a breakaway no hope of surviving life outside of the main bunch right the way to the finish. The usual array of city based furniture populates the day’s course, with the finale itself simplified yet further still as the finishing straight widens once again to give the sprinters an ideal platform to strut their stuff.
Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-2

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish is not willing to wallow in the result of Doha last weekend and was not far from winning the first stage of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour as he seeks to return to the top step of the podium. His leadout worked well, though inadvertently provided Giacomo Nizzolo the perfect support to launch himself to victory and confirm the Italian’s form right now. Cavendish tends not to make mistakes more than once and it is easy to see him remedying yesterday’ result at the first time of asking.

Giacomo Nizzolo seems to have benefited from a relatively light race schedule since May’s Giro d’Italia and is now riding an encouraging wave of form off the back of last weekend’s World Championships in Doha. Despite lacking a brilliant leadout, he weaved his way through the maelstrom and ultimately took advantage of the Dimension-Data train to deliver himself into the perfect position to take the win. His performance was dominant by the time second place John Degenkolb crossed the line and it now looks like Nizzolo will be a tough man to beat in Abu Dhabi.

John Degenkolb has managed to bring with him a strong sprint focused team, despite squads being limited to only six riders at this race. The German rider is hoping to salvage some wins from a year marred by an early season traffic collision which caused serious damage and kept him off the bike for sometime. Degenkolb’s progress has been very encouraging in the late season and there looks to be momentum pushing him onwards to his best form; there shall be no surprise if he wins here.

André Greipel was absent from yesterday’s sprint for reasons still unknown, thus making it tough to know exactly where he stands heading into the second stage. His team Lotto-Soudal were working on the front of the peloton during the day, so it would seem that some sort of mechanical is responsible for his inability to contest the finale. Without knowing any details it is rsiky to back him, but if he is 100% to contest stage honours, then he should win this finish which favours power based sprinters.

Magnus Cort Nielsen confirmed expectations yesterday and only just missed out on a top three placing after surfing the wheels efficiently enough to place him in contention. If Orica-BikeExchange can provide better support for the young sprinter during the final kilometre, then Nielsen has a great chance of winning on Stage 2.

Andrea Guardini and Elia Viviani were both disappointing on the opening stage, each finishing outside the top ten on a finish which would normally see their names inside the top five placings. After such a poor start to their race, these Italian sprinters shall each be wanting to be amongst the frontrunners once again as soon as possible.

Outcome:

1st John Degenkolb 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Giacomo Nizzolo

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-4

Abu Dhabi Tour – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

The suggestion of a few bumps during today’s racing will seem like mountains in comparison to the other sprinters’ stages on offer this week, stretching uninterrupted for miles on flat tarmac roads through the desert landscape. Stage 1 is an 147km out and back trip from Madina Zayed, taking in a few meters of climbing as they roll over dune styled hills, ultimately spending the most part of the day on featureless terrain. A smattering of turns appear in anticipation of the finish line, though the last kilometre itself is a wide finishing straight which should favour those who often dominate a drag race to the finish.

Abu-Dhabi-Tour-Stage-1

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish will wish to return to winning ways after having to settle for silver in Doha last weekend and is no doubt highly motivated to do so. The British sprinter does not possess his full arsenal of team support for the sprints, but a combo of Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel has seen him through plenty of days in the saddle safely enough en route to victory.

André Greipel was initially seen as a favourite for the world title in Qatar, but the potent tactics of the Belgian teams meant the desert wind cut him from the lead group and immediately ended his hopes of a medal. Greipel’s leadout train is far from the familiar wheels he normally follows in the final kilometres of racing, but the simple finishing straight should prove perfect territory for him to hammer out the watts.

John Degenkolb had initially made it across to the front echelon in Doha after the race was blown to pieces, yet suffered a mechanical and ultimately drifted back to endure Germany’s failings with his teammates. He arrives in Abu Dhabi with Koen De Kort and Ramon Sinkeldam to set him up in the sprints, eager to rectify his dose of misfortune at the world championships by picking up a stage win.

Giacomo Nizzolo performed better than expected in pursuit of the rainbow bands last weekend and looks to be in great form as the season reaches its end. The Italian may struggle with the lack of technical finishes at this race, so will need to deliver his sprint perfectly if he is to challenge the likes of Cavendish and Greipel.

Elia Viviani picked up two wins here last year, bringing with him fast finishers Owain Doull and Danny Van Poppel on this occasion in hope of repeating his success. Much of 2016 has been spent focusing on track racing ahead of the Olympics, resulting in a gold medal, so there is uncertainty as to his road form right now.

Magnus Cort Nielsen announced himself to the pro ranks by snatching two stage wins in the final week of this year’s Vuelta a España. He will however be sharing duties with Michael Matthews in Abu Dhabi and there is a reasonable chance they shall look to support the Australian instead today.

Other riders hoping to feature in the mix for the win are Sacha ModoloAndrea GuardiniJean-Pierre Drucker and Steele Von Hoff.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd John Degenkolb

World Road Race Championship 2017 (Qatar)

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2016 – MEN’S ROAD RACE PREVIEW

Course:

Though a grand tour title or clutch of classics victories may guarantee a rider’s name in the history books, it is only the World Championships which provide the winner with a set of rainbow bands to be worn throughout the entirety of the following season. It is a rare occasion for a rider’s peak to overlap perfectly with a World Championship course tailored neatly to their strengths, especially given the forever changing choice of venue for the contest. This year’s host is the somewhat controversial Qatari capital of Doha, a nation far from known for its love of professional cycling, while also providing the type of weather which would normally render people disinterested from even sitting in the sun; let alone riding a bike.

Rolling out from the inspirational sounding Aspire Zone, it will take the peloton 257.3km to cross the finish line at The Pearl via an almost featureless route. With this in mind, it appears to be the day’s weather which is most likely to fuel any drama during the race, with teams such as Belgium and The Netherlands eager to take advantage of potentially strong desert winds by splitting the race to pieces through forming echelons. The regions scorching sun has already proven to be an issue during the preceding World Championship events, pushing riders to the brink of heat exhaustion on occasion. Perhaps more than any other edition of the World Championships in recent years, the importance to conserve energy and avoid going into the red will be paramount to those with a chance of winning; riders with a maximum roster of fully committed teammates at their disposal could thus possess a sizeable advantage.

A 15.2km circuit will form the final 120.4km of this year’s race, comprising numerous sweeping bends and roundabouts, but essentially an easy enough course to navigate safely. The trickiest part once the pace reaches its maximum will be a series of tight hairpin turns which can immediately open up gaps amongst the peloton, forcing those at the back to sprint hard in an attempt to stay with the frontrunners. These tight bends feature in the final kilometres, the last of which exits onto the flamme rouge and into the one kilometre long stretch to the finish line. It looks certain to be a reasonably sized bunch kick which crowns 2016’s champion, but given the innate unpredictability of a single day in the saddle, there are no promises to be made in Doha.

World Road Race Championship 2017 (Qatar)

Contenders:

Mark Cavendish had recently been laid low by illness and has not enjoyed an ideal preparation, instead finding himself recovering in bed for several days rather than tapering his form ahead of the big day. Having previously won the World Championships in 2011, the British rider knows what it takes to sustain a serious bid in pursuit of the rainbow bands and has confidently stated that his team for 2016 is superior to that of his previously victorious world’s squad. There is no doubt that he can handle the distance when in ideal form, has proven success in these Middle Eastern races, has assembled an extremely fast looking leadout train and knows how to navigate the maelstrom of the sprint. Surprisingly overlooked by many for this chance of becoming a double World Champion, his awkward preparation may have been a blessing in disguise, masking his form and arriving in Doha slightly out of the spotlight.

André Greipel is able to churn out enormous power to dominate these drag race style sprints to the line and has been focusing upon his build-up to this event with immense precision. There are suggestions that he may not be able to handle the distance, but given his performance at this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and victory on the 233km Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia, he has shown that this is not necessarily the case anymore. His biggest hindrance is likely to be the team at his disposal, a German squad of only five other riders; two of which are the questionably supportive Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, while Tony Martin is no doubt still recovering from his world title winning time trial performance. This truly only leaves Nils Politt and Jasha Sütterlin to protect Greipel throughout the day as he looks to conserve his energy as best as possible. It might be a struggle to get a good position ahead of the finish without the quality leadout he is normally used to, but the wide and straight final kilometre does look perfect for Greipel to bury his rivals en route to becoming the first German World Champion since Rudi Altig in 1966.

Alexander Kristoff secured the points classification at the Tour of Qatar in 2016 and 2015, winning the same three stages in both editions, thus demonstrating his ability to perform in these testing conditions. The Norwegian rider has not enjoyed a vintage year, but he is well versed in rising to the top at such long races despite lacking sparkling form in 2016. A simple sprint over 600m would not place Kristoff in the same league as many of the contenders, yet the same exercise after more than 250km of racing can compensate for this greatly and will be a definite threat to the obvious favourites as a result. He boasts a strong team at his disposal and may even have the chance to call upon compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen to lead him out; another rider who has found success in these desert races.

Peter Sagan will have won an even greater number of fans during his stewardship of the rainbow jersey, delivering a year long series of victories and incredible performances to secure the prestigious jersey one of its finest ever seasons on the shoulders of a World Champion. The potentially gruelling nature of this year’s race could once again bring Sagan into contention as this 257.3km race reaches its final stages, even more so off the back of some of his finest bunch sprints in recent years during 2016. He is a master of weaving between the wheels, staying out of trouble and only making his presence felt when victory is within touching distance; an anonymous Sagan for much of the day could indicate a similar performance as to Richmond last year which first earned him the rainbow bands.

Fernando Gaviria demonstrated his immense turn of speed at the biggest races in 2016, while also proving that 200km+ routes are already within his capabilities. There is not a brilliant Colombian team for him to call upon, primarily due to those assembled around Gaviria being poorly suited to the extremely flat Doha course. However, if things play out fortuitously for Gaviria, there is no doubt that he can out sprint the bigger names here.

Dylan Groenewegen is another young rider who has already proven to have the speed necessary to better some of cycling’s biggest names in the sprints. The Dutch rider has been provided with a convincingly strong leadout train, one which may prove to have the engine power to drag Groenewegen into an ideal position to sprint from; Tom Dumoulin and Niki Terpstra likely to make life tougher for their rivals. The greatest issue is whether or not the young Dutchman can indeed survive the course in a good enough condition to even contest the likely sprint finish.

Elia Viviani and Giacomo Nizzolo offer a definite headache for the Italian selectors as to who should truly be the protected rider in a bunch kick. In a simple question of speed, Viviani is the proven rider capable of beating top sprinters such as André Greipel and Mark Cavendish; whereas Giacomo Nizzolo is better equipped to handle a 257.3km race which may become incredibly gruelling. The Italian squad is a convincing leadout train, and if the selectors are only interested in the win, then they would be best to invest everything in to working for the faster Viviani, but a tougher race will immediately swing favour to Nizzolo.

Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare are posing a similar selection headache for France, though their talents contrast far more clearly than that of the Italian sprinters. Bouhanni is one of the few contenders to have part of his trade team’s leadout train present alongside him here, but the work of Geoffrey Soupe and Christophe Laporte has not been consistent in 2016 and may not prove to be as big an advantage as others perceive. His incredible acceleration and tenacity (some would describe it less positively) make him a dangerman amongst a hectic sprint, while his documented ability to survive harder races than this of similar distances means he should be there to battle it out at the end. Arnaud Démare is in great form in the latter stages of the season once again and is a rider who has already tasted success with the rainbow bands at U23 level. He certainly lacks the speed required to beat the majority of favourites, but a race made harder by the likes of The Netherlands or Belgium for example would diminish the field and bring Démare to the fore without a doubt. Victory at Milan-San Remo demonstrates his ability to cope with the demands of 250km of racing, but plenty will state that Bouhanni’s mechanical in the final moments is what truly delivered victory to Démare.

World Championships are not afraid of producing unexpected winners, so riders worth keeping an eye upon include: Marcel KittelMichael MatthewsCaleb EwanRamunas NavardauskasJohn DegenkolbTom BoonenEdvald Boasson Hagen and Matti Breschel.

Outcome:

Though there are teams eager to make life difficult and hope to fracture the race early on, it seems certain that the large amount of nations seeking a relatively simple sprint finish will ensure we are offered the most hotly contested bunch gallop of 2016. There are a few technical aspects late on, with the most focus being placed upon the final turn into the deciding kilometre up to the finish line, a corner in which the race may be lost for several riders. The final kilometre is an almost perfectly straight run into the finish on a wide tarmac road, ideal territory for those able to put out big watts to seize the day and the rainbow jersey. With this in mind, André Greipel and Mark Cavendish soon emerge as the clear contenders to lead the charge to the line, leaning slightly more so towards the German due to Cavendish’s recent illness; the British team is far superior however. Alexander KristoffPeter SaganNacer Bouhanni and Fernando Gaviria all have the speed to be in the mix, no doubt ensuring the final kilometre is more thrilling than the entire preceding 256.3km of racing.

1st André Greipel 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Fernando Gaviria

Paris – Tours Preview 2016

Course:

One of the most historic races in professional cycling, Paris – Tours has long been one of the final contests to bring the curtain down upon another year of racing and specifically stands as a final opportunity for the peloton’s sprinters to secure glory before winter calls time on another season. Somewhat altered in 2016 due to the anticipation of the oncoming World Championships, this year’s course has removed the usual decisive late hills and also added around an extra 20km of racing; both as an attempt to liken it to the demands of Doha’s contest to crown this year’s World Champion. As a result of these changes, the quality of sprinters at Paris – Tours this year has increased greatly, promising a thrilling showdown amongst some of the fastest men on two wheels before the big day in Qatar. For the challenge at hand, the riders will travel a total of 252.5km from Dreux to Tours, a relatively tame passage which should prove easy enough to control for 2016’s peloton, thanks to a much stronger field of bunch sprint focused teams. Attacks from breakaway hopefuls are bound to occur once the peloton near the finish with 30km – 50km still remaining, but the likelihood is that we will see a hotly contested sprint in Tours, as some of cycling’s most talented fast-men duke it out for glory and a glimpse as to the future of 2016’s rainbow bands.

Paris - Tours Preview 2016

Contenders:

Fernando Gaviria is part of a formidable Etixx – QuickStep team which boasts Tom Boonen, Zdeněk Štybar and last year’s winner Matteo Trentin. There are certainly questions regarding who exactly they shall back for the win today, but given Gaviria’s superior speed and encouraging form, he should be their ideal candidate to contest race honours here. He has proven able to handle such distances well and few teams will be able to match either the firepower or experience at his disposal if given the nod to lead the team today.

Nacer Bouhanni should be one of the fastest men left in contention as the race reaches Tours, possessing a leadout train which can deliver him perfectly into position, though this has proven inconsistent during the season. His performance at Milan – San Remo earlier in the year demonstrated his ability to cope with long races and he arrives here off the back of several great showings in recent weeks; Bouhanni may well prove to be the man to beat late on.

Arnaud Démare took victory at Binche – Chimay – Binche with an extremely powerful sprint which he initiated far ahead of where any of his rivals would have expected him to do so. Such a move secured him victory, but also demonstrated that the Frenchman is both in great strength and extremely confident heading into this penultimate race before the World Championships. Victory at Milan – San Remo in the Spring reminded people of just how strong Démare is, though it will be tough for today’s race to reflect a similarly attritional contest despite being 252.5km long; unless the day’s crosswinds prove more severe than expected. His team FDJ will commit everything to ensuring a bunch sprint and have grown to become a surprise package in the leadout battle in recent months, promising Démare a great chance of another late season victory.

Caleb Ewan is potentially the fast sprinter at this year’s edition and has enjoyed a good level of consistent form at the end of this summer, but his recent appearance at the Eneco tour was certainly less inspiring. A simple drag race would make Ewan the favourite here, instead he has to contend with numerous talented sprinters and their attempts to get a better run at the finish line than him. Though his Orica – GreenEDGE leadout is strong, it has suffered from inconsistency throughout the year and has seen Ewan lost when positioning proves the difference between a win or a passing mention in the race results.

Elia Viviani will view today as an ideal chance to stamp his authority upon the Italian World Championship team ahead of compatriot Giacomo Nizzolo with a good performance in Tours. Certainly one of the fastest at this year’s race, Viviani will need Team Sky to be running smoothly if he is to have much hope of surviving the 252.5km in good enough condition to threaten the greater favourites.

Other names worth keeping an eye upon are Tom BoonenMark CavendishSam BennettJens Debusschere and Dan McLay.  

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Fernando Gaviria 3rd Nacer Bouhanni