RideLondon Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

By David Hunter

London – London 183km

The peloton returns to England for the 6th edition of this new race. The organisers have continued with a traditional route, with the climbs of Leith Hill and Box Hill being favourite spots for fans. In order to make the race more interesting, the organisers have decreased the distance from the final climb to the finish, but there is still around 50km for the peloton to chase down the attackers.

Tactics

Teams of 7 means that this race can be hard to control, but it does favour the sprinters. Although the climbs are infamous in the local area, the pros can climb Box Hill in the big ring. Most teams will try the same tactic, get a rider in the break and then rest up for the final 40km.

A sprint finish is likely, but not guaranteed. If the right combination makes the breakaway, they will be very hard to bring back.

To Sprint Or Not To Sprint

This is the dilemma faced by all teams. Teams that bring a mixed squad to this race have a huge advantage, as it really is a race where a breakaway can succeed. The middle section of the race contains enough climbs for a break to move away from the bunch and never come back. The last 50km is good for sprinters, but by that time, a break featuring all the big teams could be established.

Teams that bring attackers and a sprinter are at an advantage. It is an incredible risky tactic to arrive with a team totally focused on a sprint finish.

Contenders

Sam Bennett – after a successful spell in Slovenia, the Irishman sets his sights on a big day in London. Bora have become one of the best sprint teams, helping their sprinter to three wins this season and four podium spots in the Giro. They look like they are banking on a sprint finish, this means they will have to work hard at the front of the bunch. If the race ends in a bunch gallop, Bennett has a great chance of taking another win.

Jempy Drucker – after taking a win in the Tour de Wallonie, Drucker will be hoping for more in this race. He does possess a fast sprint, but needs a tough race. In order for him to outsprint some of his rivals, he needs the day to be very fast. Ideally, the sprint would be from a smaller bunch.

John Degenkolb – after a hugely frustrating Tour de France, the German needs a confidence boost. In fact, it’s not been a great year for Degenkolb, he only has one win to his name and that was back in early February. Trek have a couple of options for this race, Degenkolb looks like their man for a sprint. With his trusted lead out man, Koen De Kort, it would not be a surprise to see him taking a long overdue win.

Michael Matthews – the man of the moment! The Aussie star had a brilliant Tour de France, taking two stages and the green jersey. With his confidence sky high, he will be a huge threat in this race. Given his current form, I don’t think we’ll see him waiting for a bunch sprint, he knows his best chance is to go with the moves on the climbs.

Andre Greipel – terrible Tour de France, confidence at rock bottom.

Alexander Kristoff – see above!

Elia Viviani – I remember when Team Sky took home races seriously, those days look long gone. With a weakened team, I don’t think Viviani will get much help, especially as he looks destined to leave Sky in the near future.

Oli Naesen – after a month of riding round France on bodyguard duties, the Belgian champion is ready to go! Last time he got to ride for himself, he took out his national championship. Now with the Tour in his legs, I expect to see him even stronger. He will certainly go on the attack, can the others stay with him?

Edward Theuns – after a good training block, Theuns returns to action. Climbing better than ever, it would be good to see him following the attacks on Box Hill. He provides Trek with a real option of winning this race. A terrific one day racer, it would be good to see him in the thick of the action. A lack of recent racing, could be his downfall.

Ben Swift – needs to win from a small bunch. He has good memories of this race, but is still yet to win. Riding on home soil will be a big motivating factor for him, but he is another that needs a tough race. He isn’t fast enough to win a bunch sprint.

Pete Kennaugh – should be Team Sky’s attacking option. After failing to win the British Championship, on his home roads, he will be looking to impress in this race. At his best when attacking, he does give Sky a big chance of winning the race.

Stefan Kung – hugely talented youngster, who seems to developing at a rapid rate. After a solid Tour de France, he arrives here with the freedom to chase personal glory. He will not find it easy to get away as he is now a marked man! Saying that, he has the power to explode this race.

Prediction Time

No sprint. Expect a tough race and the break to win. I think we’ll see the Belgian champion take the win in London. Vamos, Oli Naesen.

David Hunter

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