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Speaking prior to today’s Elite world road race championships, senior figures at the head of three of the world’s biggest trade teams gave their opinions about what could unfold in the race. The Australian Shayne Bannan, the American Jonathan Vaughers and the Dutchman Richard Plugge – who head up Orica GreenEdge, Garmin-Sharp and Belkin Pro Cycling respectively – spoke to CyclingTips about the Ponferadda course, the riders in form and the tactics they believe could pay off in the race.
Shayne Bannan (Orica GreenEdge):
Q: What do you think of the worlds course?
SB: I actually haven’t seen the course. I have been in Ponferrada, but I did watch the last half of the U23 race and I have spoken to several of the guys who are over there. From that they are saying, it certainly looks easy and we have seen those type of courses before, but I think it is a course that really creep up on you. I think it will be a course that you need to be quite conservative on, initially.
The pro race is a fair distance, up around 260-something. The under 23s was 180. I thought that was a tame race because the way the Australians rode it, they nullified a lot of the attacks. But we did see it start to break up in particular in the last lap and a half.
With the pro race being a lot longer, I would see it being quite a race of attrition towards the end. I think people going into the race believing it is an easy course might get a bit of a shock.
Q: Do you think it will come down to a solo break or a break of a small number of guys, or will it be a reduced bunch sprint?
SB: I think it has potential. I think it is like one of those great books that you won’t know the story until the last page. From what I saw of the course in the Under 23 race, it is going to be really unpredictable. The hill is close enough to the finish for somebody to really put it on the line and have an attack.
Whether that attack takes 15 people or one person getting away, I think it is that type of course that it is going to be for the guy who really takes the bull by the horns in that last bit.
Q: Is it more a course for Simon Gerrans or Michael Matthews?
SB: It is a tough one to say, I reckon, as I think we underestimate the distance of the world pro road title. That is a tough one to call. I obviously wouldn’t mind if either won.
They are both a little bit different, but also a little bit similar as well. I would say, depending on how the race is ridden and with the form that Simon has been in, I would probably go more for Simon than Michael.
Q: Who would you see as danger men from other teams?
SB: It is a world title so there are lot of very good guys in there who want the jersey. I think the main competitor will be Valverde; if you look at his record, it is quite an amazing record that he has at world championships.
Gilbert you can never discount.
Q: What about Degenkolb, although he has been ill?
SB: If he didn’t get ill after the Tour of Spain, I would definitely say he would have been a really good chance as well. It depends on how he has recovered from his period in hospital.
Sagan, certainly. Visconti…he hasn’t won a one day race for a while, but he is always dangerous. He had a slow start to the season with his fall in Australia, he broke his leg, so I would say he would be pretty keen on finishing off the season well.
Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin-Sharp):
Q: What do you think of the worlds course?
JV: It is tricky. Watching the U23 race, it looked like it was going to be a sprint of a 40 or 50 rider group. Then that one guy got away at the last minute over the hill. That last hill is really close to the finish line, and it is basically just a straight down descent to the finish. With a really explosive attack there, it may or may not be possible to make it in.
If Cancellara was able to get away over the top, you would never get him back in the last five kilometres if he could create a gap over the top of that.
I think it is going to be touch and go. It is going to be a longer race, it will be a little more controlled, a faster tempo than the U23 race. It is going to be touch and go. Is it going to be a 30 rider sprint, or is it going to be group of 30, 35 guys behind one guy who survived out of an attack that made it to the line?
Those are the two scenarios that will happen; I don’t know which one it will end up being.
But I think it will be an exciting race no matter what. The point of it is that it is not going to be definitively one way or another, and I think it will actually be a really close chess game as to whether you want to be aggressive or whether you want to race.
Q: Who are the favourites?
JV: Well, if Sagan were on form, it is perfect for Sagan. But I don’t know whether or not…I think there is a question mark as far as his form goes. I think Cancellara will be good. Again, if he is on form, it is ideally suited to Gilbert’s characteristics.
Rodriguez, a little bit harder in that straight run in the last five kilometres into the finish, he could put in the right attack, but then to maintain it to the line could be tricky.
Q: What about Dan Martin?
JV: Dan…well, you never know, if Dan follows the right attack over that last climb, if he follows the Cancellara whatever, then he plays the dark horse role a little bit…you never know. Dan is a lot faster than people give him credit for in the sprint. He is actually a very handy little sprinter.
Q: What about Valverde?
JV: Same thing – he has got a handy sprint when he really wants to use it. It has slowed down a little bit when he got older, but he is pretty zippy.
I actually think that Ramunas Navardauskas could be right up there.
Richard Plugge (Belkin Pro Cycling Team):
Q: What do you think about the worlds course?
RP: I think it will be a big sprint. I think it will be like it was in the Spanish championships – it was not a big sprint, but there were I think two guys away with Valverde and a big group behind it. I think the other countries will try to get a bunch sprint for the strong guys like Degenkolb and Matthews.
Q: If you have to single out one or two riders, who do you think?
RP: I think it is might be something for Gerrans.
Q: Can he win in the sprint or must he go on the hill?
RP: No, I think there will be a smaller group and he can win there. Of course I hope that Bauke Mollema will be in the breakaway. I think it will be really, really difficult, but we will see.
Also see: Dan Martin on elite worlds road race: It is a great course because it is so open [link]