World Championships 2017 – Road Race Preview

By David Hunter

Rong – Bergen 276.5km

Welcome to the big one!

The riders leave Rong, heading for Bergen. After 39.5km, they enter the circuit.

This is the same lap used in the other road races, featuring the climb of Salmon Hill/Mount Ulriken.

The climb is only 1.5km at 6.4%. As you can see, the opening 500m of the hill is the most difficult. Is this hard enough to split the race?

We have the same final 5km as the TTT and road races. Despite the look of the profile, gaps can be made here. With 5km to go, the riders enter a cobbled climb, it’s not the Paterberg, but it is tough enough for attackers to gap the bunch. Once off the cobbles, the road continues to rise, until 4km to go.

Then we have a fast downhill section, before the final 2.5km. After another little rise, the riders will prepare for the final kilometre. We have two sweeping turns, before a final straight of 250m. This wide road features a short downhill section, perfect to help riders gather some speed.

Tactics

Always a fascinating part of the World Championships. Some teams arrive full of talent, but that doesn’t mean they win the race. With each passing lap, we are sure to see more and more attacks. The object will be to try and eliminate as many domestiques as possible. The last three laps should be completed at a very fast speed, this is when the finale really begins.

As teams look to attack, those who miss the move are forced to chase. As Sagan arrives as the big favourite, a lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of Slovakia. They did a magnificent job in Qatar, can they do it again in Norway?

Teams without a legitimate sprint option have no choice, they must try and force a breakaway win. That won’t be easy, as the route could be harder, but they still have a good chance of success. However, Sagan surprised everyone in Richmond, when he was the one attacking in the final lap. All teams will be thinking the same, how do you beat Sagan?

Distance

One of the most important aspects of the race. At 276.5km, this is a long race. Once over 250km, riders are forced to dig very deep. Every bump in the last two laps will give riders a chance to attack and the final ascent of Salmon Hill will be hugely challenging for all left in the peloton. The distance ensures that the winner of the race will be an experienced rider.

Teams

Belgium – rammed full of talent, they are all about attacking and not wanting a sprint. They have Van Avermaet and Gilbert as co-captains. Without a shadow of a doubt, the strongest squad here. Can this strength destroy the peloton?

Australia – all about Michael Matthews.

Poland – not strong, but they have Kwiatkowski.

Slovakia – huge pressure on their shoulders, but Sagan is used to doing a lot of work himself. The hill is not good for Sagan’s helpers, they will struggle to last until the finale of the race.

Norway – have two brilliant options, Kristoff and Boasson Hagen. Riding on home soil, the fans will expect a big performance.

Colombia – a team with some good options, especially Gaviria, They will hope to be in the mix at the end.

Italy – a team with lots of options, but they look like a collection of individuals and not a team. They have a big call to make about team leadership.

Holland – can Dumoulin do the double? Sprint option is Danny Van Poppel, but he won’t be winning this race.

Weather

Beautiful sunshine. That is a surprise!

Contenders

Peter Sagan – there is a rumour circulating about the health of Sagan. Word is, he has not been well this past week. As we all know, the cycling world is always full of little stories like this, we shall have to see if it’s true or not. With a weak team, Sagan will have to carry a lot of luck to win this race. In fact, it will probably force him into attacking. He knows that he’ll be outnumbered by the Belgians, there is no point waiting for the sprint. I think Sagan will go on the offensive, in the closing laps. This is when he’s at his best.

Michael Kwiatkowski – having a great season. He tested his legs in the Tour of Britain and they seemed to pass the test. Poland don’t have a strong squad, he is another that will look to ride an aggressive race. He surprised everyone with a long distance attack back in the 2014 World Championships, he might try something similar in this race. Looking at the lap circuit, it looks perfect for Kwiatkowski. Can he repeat his Milan-Sanremo?

Michael Matthews – the Aussie came of age in the Tour de France, winning two stages and the green jersey. He followed that up with decent performances in Canada, he looks to still be in good form. Matthews is now developing into the rider I thought he would, he should be challenging for the rainbow jersey. He has become a more aggressive rider, but his best chance will be to save energy and hope for a sprint. He turns 27 on Tuesday, can he get himself an early birthday present?

Greg Van Avermaet – the Belgian enjoyed a wonderful start to the season, taking some huge wins in the Spring Classics. Since that point, he has struggled to regain his amazing form. He sits in the lead of the world tour points classification, something that he really wants to win. This has led him to ride a more defensive race, happy to sit in the bunch and fight for top 10 spots. I want to see the old Greg back! The Belgians have an amazing squad, I wonder when Van Avermaet will attack?

Philippe Gilbert – another one of the Belgian options. His season has been similar to Van Avermaet, with his best performances back in the Spring. He looked in good condition in the Tour of Britain, happy to work for others and test his legs. Having Van Avermaet in the team, allows Gilbert to attack from distance. Expect to see him making a move with two laps remaining. By that point, there might not be many riders able to follow.

Edvald Boasson Hagen – there is a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders. Riding on home soil, he will be desperate to win. His season has been built around this race, it’s been interesting to see his form improve as the year has progressed. Winning the final stage in the Tour of Britain will have helped his confidence, it was perfect timing with the Worlds approaching. The Norwegians also have Kristoff, that will allow Eddy Boss some freedom in the closing stages.

Michael Valgren – didn’t win the Tour of Denmark, but he was happy with his legs. The Dane is an outstanding athlete, he’ll love the difficulty of the race. The harder the race, the better it will be for him. The Danes don’t have a big squad, but they do possess quality. Valgren will hope that a few of his teammates will still be able to help him in the final laps. If they do, he has a chance of surprising the “big” names.

Matteo Trentin – a rider in sensational form. His problem is the distance, the Italian doesn’t usually last well over 250km. However, he cannot be written off after taking four wins in the Vuelta and he also won the recent Primus Classic. As the Italians also have Colbrelli, will Trentin be instructed to attack in the closing laps?

Fernando Gaviria – the man carrying the hopes of Colombia. Still just 23 years old, but what a sensational talent. The Colombians arrive with a strong squad, they can certainly count on Uran and Quintana lasting deep into the race. It will be interesting to see what tactics Gaviria employs, he can sometimes waste energy by attacking too early. His best option will be to hide in the bunch and wait for a sprint.

Prediction Time

Belgium versus the world! It’s safe to say the Belgians arrive with the strongest squad we’ve ever seen. Make no mistake, they will attack at every opportunity. Having two of the strongest options puts them into a wonderful position and I think we’ll see Philippe Gilbert take his second rainbow jersey. I expect the Belgians to significantly reduce the peloton and Gilbert will slip away when there are no domestiques left. It will be interesting to see who can follow his move and challenge for the medals.

David Hunter

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