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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La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

After almost a month of gruelling racing, we finally arrive at the end of 2017’s La Vuelta a España, Chris Froome having achieved his ambition of consecutive grand tour victories in familiar faultless fashion. With a processional ride into Madrid to celebrate his success, much of the race’s remaining stress will be upon the shoulders of sprinters and their teammates. Leaving the start in Arroyomolinos, it is a total of 117.6km to the finish within the Spanish capital, of which should prove another showcase of the fastest men left standing at the race this year. The finale itself posses very few technical challenges, with the final dash to the line a simple affair that will be a drag race set to have the sprinters duke it out for the last stage honours on offer.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 21

Contenders:

Magnus Cort shall finally be allowed off the leash to chance his luck amongst a bunch kick on the last stage of this year’s Vuelta a España. Though we have not seen a great deal of the Orica-Scott rider during the last three weeks, he is certainly one of the fastest riders present and will relish the opportunity to remind people of this fact. The leadout afforded to him shall not be particularly ideal, though at the end of a grand tour stage race, it becomes more of a head to head task to discover who has the energy remaining to turn in one last successful sprint.

Matteo Trentin has ridden the race particularly intelligently and could walk away with one of the leader’s jerseys as a result of his canny tactics. He is not the fastest man here and should be one of the most fatigued as a result of his recent breakaway efforts, though the motivation to win the points jersey at the final time of asking could make all the difference for him. The leadout at his disposal might remedy any issues however, as their combined power will make it tough for rivals to seize control in the concluding kilometres.

Edward Theuns should find himself with a brilliant chance of taking the win on Stage 21, as the talented Belgian appears to have survived the rigours of the previous three weeks in good shape, providing confidence that he is still able to produce his best in a sprint finish. Though his role has often meant supporting his teammates, limiting his hopes of winning, his surprising freshness has been evident when working for Alberto Contador. If Trek-Segafredo manages to produce a successful leadout, then they shall have great odds of taking back to back stage wins in the final weekend of racing.

Adam Blythe should feel a sense of pressure having been lessened as a result of teammate Stefan Denifl’s victory last week for Aqua Blue Sport, allowing him to enjoy this last opportunity to secure a win for himself. This stage suits him convincingly so and the leadout train expected to support him will be one of the best still capable of performing strongly at such a late point in the race. The British sprinter’s greatest problem will be fatigue; though this is the case for everyone now and his highly motivated teammates could compensate for this issue well enough for him.

Those also expected to muster a final strong showing in the anticipated sprint are Sacha ModoloTom Van AsbroeckSøren Kragh and Michael Schwarzmann.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

A day without horrendous mountains to crack the peloton, Stage 13 is an 198.4km ride from Coín to Tomares, though it does start by immediately sending the riders uphill once again. A rare chance for the sprinters to return to the spotlight during this attritional Vuelta a España, the only significant challenge for the fast men to overcome is the early Category 3 ascent of Alto de Ardales (7.2 km, avg. 4.3%.) Once over the summit of this sole recognised climb on Stage 13, the bunch will ride for around 80km on rolling terrain, before then beginning to drop downwards to the flat roads which shape the second half of the day and last almost right the way to the line. The fly in the ointment for the sprinters will be the final 3km of the day, a series of ramps and slopes which will disrupt the rhythm of the leadout trains late on. Though the gradients might not be immense compared to recent days, at such a late point in a sprint, they shall prove significant at around 6% and finally drop to 2% for the final hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 13 Preview

Contenders:

Matteo Trentin has been enjoying some fantastic form during this year’s race and the Italian will have high expectations of performing strongly once again today. It is his climbing ability which has really impressed so many during the Vuelta so far, which combined with his speed, makes him the clear favourite to take the honours on Stage 13. Normally, it might be more plausible to back those who have a better pedigree for winning uphill finishes, yet the difficult final 3km may well see such rivals fail to make the cut for the sprint entirely.

Magnus Cort will have circled this stage out of interest sometime ago, but since the general classification woes of Orica – Scott took hold, there is now an even greater likelihood that he shall receive the support required to compete strongly today. No doubt one of the fastest sprinters present here, the gradients during the finale will play into his hands and he shall be confident of guiding himself into position if lacking teammates. The greatest question however regards how tough he has found the recent big mountain stages, as any glimpse of fatigue will be magnified greatly in the stressful deciding kilometres on Stage 13.

Juan José Lobato is one of the best riders in the professional ranks for winning uphill sprints and could prove to be the man to beat here today. If this was a single one day race, then Lobato would find his odds of winning diminished somewhat, but after nearly two weeks of racing that is not the case. He will hope for a driven tail end to proceedings and aim to jettison as many of the purer sprinters as possible before the final push to the line. Lobato’s current form is very encouraging and it is likely that a flurry of draining attacks late on will only strengthen his hand yet further still.

Edward Theuns started the race in blistering condition, though it is unlikely he will be able to muster quite the same performance at this point in a grand tour. Regardless, on this type of terrain, the Trek – Segafredo rider remains a strong candidate for stage honours. He dug deep yesterday, which is unlikely to have helped his chances of winning today, but his talent for uphill finishes is so great that this factor could almost be disregarded.

Julian Alaphilippe will be a perfect alternative for Quick – Step if anything should suggest Matteo Trentin will be unable to stick the pace late on in the day. The Frenchman has animated the race on several occasions and has not refrained from reminding the peloton of his form whenever possible during La Vuelta. A really high tempo towards the end of the stage would make the deciding ramps much tougher, subsequently improving the odds of Alaphilippe becoming the Quick – Step rider to watch for in the concluding sprint. A man with a gift for the Ardennes classics, this is well within his capabilities to win.

Outcome:

1st Juan José Lobato 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Another day which does not take long to rise upwards again, Stage 6’s 204.4km journey from Vila-Real to Sagunt encompasses five categorised climbs, though all except one are Category 3 ascents. Having left the day’ start town, the peloton will soon tackle the Category 3 pairing of Alto de Alcudia de Veo (11 km, avg. 3.4%) and Puerto de Eslida (5.3 km, avg. 5.1%). With this opening brace concluded, the road immediately drops away again and starts building to the summit of the Category 3 Alto de Chirivilla, taking 7.9 km to climb and averaging a gradient of 4.1% from bottom to top. Yet again, having reached the summit of a climb, the bunch is sent back down into the valley in order to climb the final Category 3 ascent of the day and the penultimate climb of Stage 6. The Puerto del Oronet is another similar climb which averages 4% during its 6.4km entirety, leading over the top and into another descent which finishes at the foot of the Puerto del Garbi, the day’s only Category 2 challenge, a tougher prospect at 9.3 km and averaging a gradient of 5.1%. From the top it is a descent almost right the way to the finish line, though the frontrunners will have another series of roundabouts to contend with and will only be afforded a clean finishing run of 100m.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile is expected to challenge for the mountains jersey once again this year and should therefore be interested in performing well on a day which features five categorised climbs. Having been totally anonymous this far, without any reason such as illness, it seems Dimension Data have been keeping him safe ahead of Stage 6. With a downhill run into the line and relatively flat conclusion, Fraile has the power to either distance rivals ahead of the finish or out sprint many likely escapees.

Luis Leon Sanchez fits the bill of a rider destined to perform well today, and if given the freedom to do so, will be a man which few can match on his favoured terrain. With the strength to join the breakaway early on, endure the ascents and then sprint for the stage win, Sanchez has all the skills required to make this back to back stage wins for Astana.

Julian Alaphilippe has risen in expectations has a result of yesterday’s performance and no longer appears to be as out of form as many had previously reported. He was not able to go with the main contenders when it mattered most on Stage 5, yet he was clearly motivated when marshalling the breakaway throughout the day and looks to have acquired confidence as a result of his form improving. There is no reason to suggest he cannot perform well on back to back days in the break, especially as a rider who seems able to turn his ability to anything, though fatigue could prove an issue here.

Alexis Gougeard will look upon a day which shares many of the attributes of the stage he won at the race a couple of years ago, no doubt raising questions as to why he invested such a great deal in yesterday’s less suiting affair. Regardless, he must be enjoying a level of encouraging form currently and the expectation is he will feature once again on Stage 6. He will need to ride clever though, as many of his anticipated breakaway companions are likely to prove faster in a sprint and the final kilometres could prove hard to solo away from rivals.

There is a small chance that a larger sprint finish may occur, in which case the likes of Sacha ModoloMatteo TrentinMagnus Cort and José Joaquín Rojas should feature.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Alexis Gougeard 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Having left the day’s start of Escaldes – Engordany, the riders will face a 198.2km journey to the coastal finish at Tarragona, most of which being a gradual downhill route. The only classified climb of the day is the Category 3 Alto de Belltall, punctuating the day with a 13km rise at a gentle 2.8% and unlikely to cause much trouble for anyone. Once over the top, it is downhill all the way to the finish line, with a bunch sprint of sorts expected to decide the outcome. Position will be crucial, as plenty of road furniture in the way of roundabouts feature on the route into town, with a small 2.5% drag to make things more difficult still.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb is often the man to beat on finales such as these, as even the slightest of inclines, seem to make the German almost unmatchable in the final moments. His form is certainly still bubbling up to the level we know from him, though this could prove to be the launchpad which signals his return to great form once again. The technical nature of the last few kilometres might be troublesome for him, especially as he would prefer a simple head to head drag race to the finish, concentrating simply of churning his pedals. Regardless, if he informs his team that he believes he can do it, then the expectation is that Degenkolb shall deliver on his word.

Edward Theuns might instead prove to be the card which Trek – Segafredo choose to play on Stage 4, backing the gifted Belgian to seize the opportunity while teammate Degenkolb waits for a more suiting finale. Theuns’ form has been blistering as of late, and if he has managed to sustain that when heading into La Vuelta, then there is a great chance he will be untouchable in the final metres of the stage. The jostling for position and drag up to the line are ideal for Theuns to make his skills count, attacking hard from a jumbled bunch of leadout trains and opening a gap which nobody can close.

Adam Blythe could be the joker in the pack on the second sprint stage at this year’s Vuelta a España, the British rider clearly aggrieved by the lack of a bunch kick on Stage 2, especially given the form he has possessed for such a long time now in 2017. This drag is not perfect, but such a gentle incline can still be decided simply by sprinting power, meaning those who lean closer towards being puncheurs are unlikely to better him. The leadout train at his disposal is certainly one of the top three at the race and they will be confident of positioning Blythe well here, allowing the Yorkshireman to focus on timing his effort perfectly.

Matteo Trentin was pleased to see his teammate Yves Lampaert take the win on Stage 2, though there is no doubt that the Italian would have fancied a more typical finish to the day’s proceedings, as he looked well positioned in the final moments to secure a win. Quick – Step have already looked impressive as a coherent unit during the race thus far and stand a good chance of proving why they are the best leadout train present at La Vuelta. With its tricky final kilometres, Trentin and his leadout men will relish the technicalities, applying pressure to their rivals and hoping to slingshot their Italian rocket skywards over the line.

Juan José Lobato is a real champion at winning upon uphill finishes, though he is likely to have wanted more of a severe challenge to really see the day play into his hands on today’s stage. Regardless, such talents do not always need the perfect conditions to succeed and there is every chance that he shall be in the mix for the win at the very least.

Other names to consider on a day such as this are Tom Van AsbroeckMichael SchwarzmannJens Debusschere and Jonas Van Genechten.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Edward Theuns 3rd Michael Schwarzmann

 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 2 Preview

Course:

The first road stage of this year’s race is a 203.4km passage from yesterday’s French city of Nîmes to Gruissan, pushing the peloton closer to the Mediterranean coastline and the grand tour’s eventual reunion with Spain itself. With no recognised climbs throughout the entire stage, this incredibly flat day is all about the sprinters, as the outcome of a bunch sprint deciding the day seems impossible to argue against. Regardless, there shall no doubt be a futile breakaway to keep the cameras entertained (if possible) for the most part, with a catch likely to be made as last as possible. The finale itself looks to be a simple enough task to negotiate for those with eyes on the win, but a roundabout only 400m from the finish line does pose an interesting challenge for the favourites. Depending on how this impacts upon the leadout trains of the sprinters, this finish could become more about acceleration than maximum sprint speed.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb offered glimpses of his best during this summer’s Tour de France and shall enter this race with the confidence that his abilities are returning to their best since suffering his well documented crash last year. Usually one to prefer tougher days in the saddle or finales with a bit of a ramp, this looks surprisingly within his grasp, as many of the top thoroughbred sprinters are not present at La Vuelta this year. His leadout train is not perfect, yet it is still better than what he was afforded during Le Tour de France, making him a standout candidate to assume pole position in the absence of more recognisable rivals.

Matteo Trentin has the rare opportunity to lead Quick – Step’s sprint ambitions at a grand tour and has been provided with great firepower to realise his goals; Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert all at his disposal in the sprints. The Italian rider has a great burst of speed which could be the deciding factor as the bunch exits the final roundabout, his teammates are well skilled in placing their protected rider in the ideal place during such decisive moments and Trentin may prove clinical during such a relatively short sprint.

Adam Blythe was part of the leadout team for Peter Sagan at one point, though clearly has the ability to take charge of a team’s sprinting hopes at grand tour level. The former British champion will be aware that a wide open field of sprinters makes it unlikely that one will dominate this entire race, giving him a better chance of winning than he perhaps originally expected here. The course suits him particularly well and his form has seen him collect a clutch of second place finishes recently, giving the suggestion that a breakthrough is imminent for the Yorkshireman. Aqua Blue Sport are expected to be able to offer him a great leadout in the final kilometres, setting him up to burst forth and surge late to the line.

Sacha Modolo often struggles to sustain periods of great form, beginning this year’s Vuelta without a blistering season of wins and now lacking the quality of leadout which saw him perform so well for Lampre – Merida previously. If this becomes a trickier finale than anticipated, where the final roundabout could create a messy last few hundred metres, Modolo is a canny rider who can spot the perfect wheel to follow en route to victory. However, he does not have a great number of experienced teammates at his disposal, and if isolated before the final kilometre, he might not make it into contention to even make the most of his skills which have already delivered him grand tour wins.

Mangnus Cort would normally be a frontrunner on a day such as, yet the fact his team is well stocked with riders aiming for the overall victory, Orica – Scott may have already made the decision that his chances will come later in the race; protecting team leaders being the priority during a hectic first week for now. If he is allowed to make his own attempt at the win on Stage 2, then he will be one of the fastest present and a real threat to the likes of John Degenkolb and Matteo Trentin, even without a leadout train to support him.

Other expected to feature in the final top ten placings of the day are; Jens DebusschereJonas van GenechtenTom Van Asbroeck and José Joaquín Rojas.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd John Degenkolb

Gent - Wevelgem Race Preview 2017

Gent – Wevelgem – 2017 Race Preview

Course:

Fans have already seen the biggest names in the early season classics trade blows amongst themselves during Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, but the anticipated contest at Gent – Wevelgem offers differing prospects once again. The course may have a greater number of flat kilometres than what the riders have tackled already during their Spring campaign, but that is not to say that plenty of murderous hellingen are not waiting to break the spirits of the peloton as the ranks begin to thin. Stretching for a total of 249km from the historic city of Gent to Wevelgem, the race has often been one which leans closer to the talents of the toughest sprinters than the thoroughbred cobblestone crunching specialists, alongside both Scheldeprijs and Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne. After approximately 130km of racing upon relatively flat roads, the eleven climbs soon begin to be ticked off rapidly, the race retaining a familiar format while building upon the recent addition of another pass of the Kemmelberg. Another new feature of the race is the use of several roads which are unpaved, making the battle for position more intense in order to avoid being caught up behind any potential punctured riders. The majority of the hellingen will prove simple enough, but much of the day’s anxiety shall hang above the second Kemmelberg pass, approaching from the steeper side which reaches a maximum gradient of approximately 23%. An elite group of riders is likely to have formed by this point of the race and should contest the outcome of 2017’s Gent – Wevelgem amongst themselves with the fastest bunch kick possible after such a draining affair.

Gent - Wevelgem Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Peter Sagan did not really feature during Friday’s E3 Harelebeke and shall be extremely motivated to perform well with the ambition of defending his title from last year. The topography should play into Sagan’s hands favourably, something which is evident given his convincing history of results at this race in the last five seasons. He will need to ride aggressively in order to drop several faster finishing classics specialists, though given his sparkling form right now, it seems a challenge well within the abilities of the day’s favourite.

John Degenkolb is building strongly ahead of his main target of Paris – Roubaix and looked to be one of the only riders of Sagan’s ilk to follow the world champion when dropping the hammer on the Poggio during Milan – San Remo. He possesses a strong team of riders who are skilled enough to keep him safe throughout the day and bring back any threatening looking moves which do not feature the German sprinter if required. Trek – Segafredo will be confident of Degenkolb taking the win in a sprint against anyone after such a tough affair, marking them out as key protagonists throughout the day in order to assure his presence once they reach Wevelgem.

Alexander Kritstoff will be one of the greatest threats to the likes of Peter Sagan and John Degenkolb in a sprint finish for the title, as the Norwegian strongman is notorious for surviving attritional races with his ruthless turn of pace still intact. He may not be in the scintillating form of a couple of years ago, but his recent showing at Milan – San Remo provided a glimpse of the past, taking fourth place ahead of rivals for today Fernando Gaviria and John DegenkolbIt is likely he will keep a low profile for as long as possible, but once Kristoff is forced to break cover, viewers will realise the true race is on.

Fernando Gaviria has an incredible sprinting ability which has already delivered him victories against the world’s fastest sprinters in races much more simple than Gent – Wevelgem. The Colombian is still developing as a classics rider, yet came close to securing a monument on his Milan – San Remo debut last year and took 5th this season there too. As a young rider, the skill of staying in contention without going too deep is not as well honed as a rider like Alexander Kristoff, but his palmarés suggest he is not far off that heading into this battle.

Greg Van Avermaet took the win at E3 Harelbeke on Friday, so will arrive here aware of the form he is currently enjoying in the Spring yet again. The Belgian rider may have seen his impetus to win here reduced somewhat as a result of his recent win, but knowing what he can do in terms of racing could allow him to ride a more patient race in hope of catching the sprinters by surprise with a late move. There is no doubt that somebody will look to make a move on the final pass of the Kemmelberg and many shall expect Avermaet to be right up there in the mix, if not leading the charge.

Other riders who have the potential to win from either a sprint or small breakaway are Tom BoonenDylan Groenewegen, Fabio FellineNiki TerpstraZdenek StybarMatteo TrentinLuke Rowe and Michael Matthews.

Outcome:

1st John Degenkolb 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Peter Sagan