2010 UCI World Championships – Men’s Road Race Preview

2010 Vuelta a Espana - Gilbert After Stage 19

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Here’s our run-down of the main favorites for Sunday’s World Championship Road Race in Melbourne.  Come back later today from predictions from our contributors.

5-Stone Favorite

Philippe Gilbert

Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert is the unquestioned top favorite heading into Sunday’s Road Race in Melbourne—but that might not be a good thing.  After winning two stages at the Vuelta—both in convincing fashion—Gilbert’s made no attempt at hiding his fitness.  He’ll be heavily marked Sunday and his team will bear the responsibility of controlling the race.  Even worse, there are some who wonder if he’s peaked too soon.  Remember last year when Damiano Cunego won two impressive stages at the Vuelta only to arrive at Worlds a fraction below where he was in Spain?

That said, Gilbert has two things working in his favor.  First, he’s the sole leader of a team composed almost entirely of riders from Gilbert’s trade team, Omega Pharma-Lotto.  Aerts, Hoste, Roelandts, Van Avermaet, and Bakelants are capable domestiques, familiar with Gilbert and his riding style.  This chemistry could make the difference when it matters most.

Most importantly, Gilbert has never been afraid of attacking.  Worlds is often won by a rider willing to take a chance when the favorites are too busy watching another to attack themselves.  Gilbert won’t mark himself out of the race—should he find himself in a select group, he’ll take matters into his own hands.  If he is indeed the strongest rider on the day, there might be little the rest can do other than watch him ride away.

4-Stone Favorites

Filippo Pozzato

Italy’s Filippo Pozzato rode a solid Vuelta, failing to take a stage but placing well on some of the more important days.  After falling short at this year’s Spring Classics, Pozzato’s hoping he can end his season on a high note.  With few exceptions, he leads an Italian squad capable of getting him where he needs to be to take the victory.  He’ll need to find himself in a group select enough to have eliminated the better sprinters, while still having the legs to follow the attacks of men like Gilbert.  Bettini claims he’s not quite in the shape he needs to win—is he bluffing?

Alexandre Kolobnev

Kolobnev has come close to important wins several times over the past two seasons.  After an anonymous but productive Vuelta, the Russian leads a team hoping to win the nation its first elite title since—well, ever!  Kolobnev has finished second twice—in 2007 and 2009—and with a smart and gutsy ride, he could go one better in Australia.  Should the sprinters ride to keep the race together and the attackers mark one another too heavily, Kolobnev could be just the man to jump away for the win.

Tyler Farrar, Matthew Goss, and Thor Hushovd

Farrar, Goss, and Hushovd have similar talents, styles—and prospect for Sunday.  More powerful than pure field sprinters, but less able to follow the sharp accelerations of men like Gilbert and Kolobnev, they’ll be hoping for a selective, but not overly aggressive finale.  Should a smallish peloton hit the final kilometer intact (as in Friday’s U23 road race), look for these men to quickly find their way at the front.  Of the three, Hushovd has the most experience in such a pressure-cooker of a race, but Goss and Farrar have proven their mettle with several quality wins over the course of the season.  An interesting dynamic to watch for: Farrar and Hushovd are future teammates on the new Garmin-Cervelo—could that play a role Sunday?

Peter Velits

Slovkia’s Peter Velits already has one world title to his name—he won the 2007 U23 road race in Stuttgart, Germany.  After a stage win and third place overall finish at the Vuelta, he appears ready to challenge for a another.  If he manages to maintain his Spanish fitness, he’ll be a major contender Sunday—and someone who could easily spoil the plans of the larger national teams.  With Peter Sagan and brother Martin riding in support, Slovakia boasts one of the strongest small teams in the race.  Is another rainbow in Velits’ future?

3-Stone Favorites

Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara came to Melbourne with one purpose—well two, actually.  After winning his fourth world time trial championship Thursday, Spartacus is halfway to achieving his goal.  After his dominating performance, it appears as if Cancellara knew exactly what he was doing when he dropped-out of the Vuelta before the final weekend.  Has he timed his peak just right, hitting his top fitness just as others are losing theirs?  We’ll soon see, but if he manages to do the double, his season will go down as one of the finest in recent history.


Spain’s strength could prove to be its biggest weakness, as the nation’s over-abundance of cards to play could produce a perfect case of too many cooks spoiling the rainbow broth.  With Carlos Barredo, Luis Leon Sanchez, Samuel Sanchez, and Oscar Freire all taking the line Sunday, it’s easy to see why we could see a rekindling of the Spanish Civil War.  Freire’s an obvious candidate for the win—especially in the event of a sprint.  He’s been relatively silent since winning Milan-San Remo in March, a fact which—come to think it—might just mean he’s due.

Vincenzo Nibali

With a third-place finish in the Giro to go with his recent overall victory in the Vuelta, Vincenzo Nibali might have been excused for calling it a season by now—but he’s not finished yet.  An aggressive and savvy rider with several one-day victories to his name, Nibali’s an outside threat to win Sunday—if given a long enough leash.  Should Pozzato show any signs of weakness, look for Italian DS Paolo Bettini to make a mid-race change, perhaps giving team leadership to the Sicilian.

Frank Schleck & Nicholas Roche

Until we hear otherwise, Schleck and Roche “officially” finished fifth and seventh in the Vuelta, results that bode well them here.  Schleck leads a small squad of only three men in Melbourne, but before you scoff, remember that this is a man who won the Amstel Gold Race—he knows to handle himself in a one-day event.  As for Roche, his steady progression over the past two years has him poised for a breakout win.  A win Sunday would officially announce the Irishman’s arrival into the sport’s upper echelon.  He would also make history by providing the sport with its first set of father-son world champions.

2-Stone Favorites

Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish

Part of me hopes the race comes down to bunch sprint just for the chance to see Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish go head-to-head in one of their final races as “teammates”.  Greipel’s team is by far one the strongest in the race; unfortunately, they might lack a rider able to follow the likes of Gilbert, Kolobnev, and Pozzato.  Paul Martens and Tony Martin are the team’s best bets from a breakaway, but in all likelihood the Germans will be doing their best to keep Greipel in contention for a sprint victory.  As for Cavendish, his team starts only three men—a clear disadvantage for Cav. Jeremy Hunt will likely be charged with looking after Boy Racer, while David Millar should be free to try his own hand.  Cavendish surprised us all last year by winning Milan-San Remo—a race many thought was too tough for him.  Can he perform a similar feat Sunday?

1-Stone Favorites

Allan Davis, Matti Breschel, Peter Sagan, Giovanni Visconti, Greg Henderson, and France

Who are your favorites for Sunday?  Share your comments below.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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5 Responses to 2010 UCI World Championships – Men’s Road Race Preview

  1. Chris says:

    Great stuff! The only thing I have to add is that I would wager that if Fabu wins and pulls the double, it would be one of the greatest seasons ever. He has been on top form the entire season in every corner of the world (Oman, Europe, Cali, Australia), won monuments, wore yellow. Huge consistency in the age of targeting peak performance. Not to mention winning narrowly – he has demolished the competition with each win.

  2. dag says:

    What about Boasson Hagen? I would rate him at least 3.5 stones, he had a pretty good run in Canada.

  3. cthulhu says:

    Predictions, predictions, soon it’s all over for the winter, so let’s give a final go.

    The course it not so easy and Gilbert is the top favourite for the race. But then again the racers decide how hard it will be. Yesterday the U23 a relatively big group arrived at the finish while I guess the womens’ field will arrive in little groups. The harder the race will be fought the more it plays into Gilbert’s hands. His form is excellent and I don’t think he peaked too early. But if the teams with sprinters can control the race i guess a group of 50 or so will arrive with the top sprinters in it. So which one will it be?
    The Italian squad is definitely out for destruction while the German stands for control, and I think the Spanish as well. So if there is carnage on the street my bet would be
    1. Gilbert
    2. Cancellara
    3. Pozzato
    But I think the sprinters will be there and I say
    1. Greipel
    2. Freire
    3. Cavendish

  4. Whit says:

    Great stuff gentlemen–as always! If you’ve ever seen Anchorman, the scene that comes to mind is when the rival crews all get together for a gang fight on the docks. “Keep your head on a swivel in a vicious cock fight…” something to that effect. I’m at a wedding tonight, but I might have to remove myself early to see it!

    Is that wrong?

  5. Kristobal says:

    Personally I have made a bet for Roche and Luis Leon. I cant see this end up in a sprint. The Vuelta has often been a good warm-up for the winner. Gilbert will be watched too close, and might had his best form a couple of weeks too early. Roche and Luis Leon both had a good Vuelta, but also seemed to have something left before the real peak point of their form.

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