Ride London Classic 2016 Preview

By David Hunter

London – London 202km

london ride

This race began as the test even for the 2012 Olympic games and it grows every year. The route remains the same as 2015, where we were treated to a very attacking race. The crucial point is the climb of Box Hill, 4.4km at 3.8%. This doesn’t sound like much, but when the peloton flies up it, the legs burn!

Once over the climb, the route levels out with only a couple more opportunities to attack. Depending on the size and composition of the lead group, we could see it survive to the end, or brought back by the peloton. It really does depend on who makes the leak!

GB Olympic Team

This race is being used as preparation by the GB Rio squad. Not only will Sky bring Froome, Stannard and Thomas, but Steve Cummings is also riding for Dimension Data. Any race in Britain is big news for Team Sky and they will be keen to take the glory in front of their home fans. However, it won’t be easy!

Belgian Powerhouses

The main problem for Team Sky is the presence of Etixx and BMC, two of the finest one day teams in cycling. BMC are the defending champions, with Jempy Drucker, but they are not as strong as last year. Just like 12 months ago, they arrive without a recognised sprinter. It’s clear to see that they’ll go all out to try and stop any regroupment as we head towards the finishing line.

Etixx are fresh from a good showing in Tour de Wallonie. With Boonen and Trentin they have two excellent options in a sprint finish.

Sprint or No Sprint?

With 50km between Box Hill and the finish, you would normally expect a big sprint. However, this race doesn’t often end that way. You need to look at the teams and see who wants to work for a sprint. The quick men are Matthews, Swift, Van Poppel, Trentin, Boonen, Roelandts and Blythe. All these riders would be confident in making it over Box Hill with the leading group. Once heading towards the finish, Etixx and Orica should have a few riders to help with the chase. But what will Sky do?

It’s hard to see them winning a sprint finish, I expect to see them let Thomas and Stannard attack from distance. Froome will not want to go deep with the Olympics just around the corner. Sky will want to give their fans something to shout about, so expect to see them ride an attacking race. Despite being the home team, they will find it hard to drop Etixx, the one day masters!

Tactics

With just 6 riders in a team, tactics play a huge part of this race. It’s not advisable for the big teams to try and put a man in the early break, that would be pointless. The big squads will keep their riders together and then make a move on Box Hill. Once over the top, you hope that you still have 5 or 6 riders left. At that point, the fun starts! Etixx will keep rolling the dice until they get numbers they’re happy with. The reduced size of the bunch makes it hard to hold the race together for a sprint. Teams need to make sure they make the front group, mainly so they don’t have to work behind.

Contenders

Tom Boonen – just signed a new contract with Etixx and celebrated with a stage win in Wallonie. It’s a one day race, so Boonen has to be considered one of the big favourites.

Matteo Trentin – back down from a period at altitude and also took a win in Wallonie. The Italian usually goes very well in the second half of the season, seeming to favour the profile of the races. He has a good record in Britain, he took four top 5 results in the 2015 Tour of Britain. He is very similar to Boonen and will be a protected rider.

Michael Matthews – fresh from a brilliant win in the Tour, Matthews will be the sprinter that everyone will fear. No one will be happy taking him to the line, something that will hurt his chances of success.

Jempy Drucker – the defending champion arrives with a weaker squad compared to 2015. They still possess strength, but are not as strong as Etixx. Drucker was a surprise winner, a reward for all his domestique work. It’s going to be hard defending his title.

Jurgen Roelandts – another rider fresh from the Tour. The Belgian loves one day racing and looks to be the strongest rider from Lotto. He has a very fast finish, so is dangerous in a reduced sprint. Etixx know all about his strengths, so don’t expect him to get any freedom.

Sonny Colbrelli – the Italian is another that usually performs well at this time of year. His 3rd place in Amstel Gold was a terrific result and he should be contending in races like this. Bardiani are not the strongest team, so Colbrelli will have to ride his luck.

Adam Blythe – another terrific one day racer. Won this race in 2014 and took the British title one month ago. He rarely gets chances to shine, as he usually has to work for others. He is here riding for the GB team, so expect him to go full gas. Certainly a rider who has a chance of winning the title.

Ben Swift – always goes well in this race. Just like in 2015 he approaches the race after a long time off the bike. One day he will win this race, just not this year.

Prediction Time

I can’t see past Etixx. They arrive with Boonen, Trentin, Martinelli and Terpstra. These four riders are amongst the strongest here and they will take advantage of this. I’ll say that Trentin will win from a small group.

David Hunter

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