Three times in a row for Peter Sagan? He’s in form, he’s versatile and he’s got nothing to lose so it makes sense. But there’s a deep field and course that makes the rainbow jersey accessible to many pretenders including sprinters, classics contenders and some of the Vuelta’s recent heroes too.
The Route: 267.5km beginning with a start on Rongøyna, a tiny island among the Norwegian polynesia. It’s 40km to Bergen and then 11 laps of the 19km circuit.
The main feature of the circuit is “Salmon Hill”. It’s not really called that but the Norwegian fishing industry is heavily sponsoring the event so they get to rename the roads for the week. It’s 1.5km long at 6.4% average and maxes out at 7.4%, a steady climb with good visibility where the real feature is repetition, it’ll feel like nothing the first time but come the money time on the final lap it’ll burn. The now-familiar circuit features wide roads with a decent surface and some cobbles in the Bryggen district of Bergen. As ever the distance counts with the speed going up and up on the final laps and the race becoming highly selective. Some fear a bunch sprint – nothing against the sprinters it’s just after 7 hours some more action would be great – but the circuit should be decisive enough to split things up.
Peter Sagan has already showed us how can win. Last year in Doha he won the spring from the reduced group. The year prior in Richmond he launched a late attack and took a solo win. It’s this versatility that makes him hard to beat. Slovakia are not a strong team but can play off the others.
Who to pick next? Two riders come to mind as Sagan’s frequent rivals. Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) can pick his way through a group to win a sprint, see his Amstel Gold race win or his triumph in Sanremo this year. He’s been building up to this race and seems more shrewd tactically than his long-term Slovak rival but perhaps he has to be given his sprint isn’t as powerful.
Greg Van Avermaet leads a strong Belgian team. If yesterday’s women’s race saw the Netherlands as the strongest team, arguably the Belgians are for Sunday. GVA is an expert at picking off big wins but his team mates could profit from the marking too. Philippe Gilbert had a terrific spring and knows how to sniff out a big win. Tim Wellens is dynamite incarnate but often a frequent winner in the wet only it’ll be dry. Dylan Teuns would prefer an uphill finish but has been in great form. Tiesj Benoot is versatile and in need of a result to mark his season while Oliver Naesen isn’t necessarily an A-list rider but was keeping company with the very best this spring. Jasper Stuyven was quietly impressive in the Tour of Denmark, helping to set up Mads Petersen’s win.
Don’t call Julian Alaphilippe France’s leader. New team manager Cyrille Guimard says Alaphilippe is their best rider but doesn’t have the palmarès or seniority to be leader. Linguistics aside he’s their main rider but Tony Gallopin should be active in the last two laps and others too.
Fernando Gaviria is a strong pick for a bunch finish, he’s able to cope with the distance and the climbs and the ace from Antioquia seems destined to win the rainbow jersey one day and it could be here given his excellent form. Jarlinson Pantano brings more options and until July arguably Rigoberto Urán’s best results have come from one day races. Gaviria’s problem is his sprint is so good he might sit back and miss the move and the Colombian team is not famed for its ability to grab control of a race…
…La squadra is, or at least has been, and Matteo Trentin is in great shape having picked off four stage wins in the Vuelta and he sprints well when others have been dropped over a hilly course. But Trentin is only one option as Sonny Colbrelli sprints well after hilly courses too and surely it’s too hilly for Elia Viviani but he just has to sit tight just in case it’s a bunch sprint? Diego Ulissi will want a lively race and is good from a small group while Gianni Moscon can continue to surprise.
Edvald Boasson Hagen is the local hero and in with a good chance. He took an excellent stage win in the Tour de France and surely these worlds have been on his hitlist from the day they were announced. But he’s not the invincible force he seemed destined to be and is sharing the Norwegian team with Alexander Kristoff who may find the course too heavy but will have likewise tailored his training for this domestic appointment.
Michael Matthews only seems to win big, his palmarès is packed with quality and he has been targeting the Worlds. He’s versatile but on paper isn’t certain to outsprint Sagan or outfox Kwiatkowski even if has got the better of Sagan in some sprints and leads an Australian team likely to be in his service now that Simon Gerrans is sat at home.
Tom Dumoulin‘s taken two wins so far in Bergen so what chance a third? He’s in perfect form for starters. He’s been seen as a time triallist before becoming a grand tour contender but has always been a punchy and crafty rider who could well win his home Amstel Gold Race. He’s got nothing to lose and a cohesive Dutch team behind him with Lars Boom as an outsider too and Bauke Mollema had a good result in Montréal two weeks ago.
Denmark have a good team with no obvious leader but Mads Petersen in top form having just beaten compatriot Michael Valgren but maybe the latter gets the nod now given the distance. Søren Kragh Andersen an outsider for a sprint or late attack, the same for Magnus Cort Nielsen.
Finally some more stealthy names to mention. Michael Albasini (Switzerland) is good for a sprint, ditto Jempy Drucker (Luxembourg) and Ben Swift (Great Britain) but Swift’s form seems off given recent results. Petr Vakoč (Czech) is a powerful rider, Jack Bauer (New Zealand) a tough rider able to race for himself for a change and Rui Costa (Portugal), remember him?
|Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews|
|Michał Kwiatkowski, Fernando Gaviria, GVA|
|Alaphilippe, EBH, Dumoulin, Trentin, Gilbert|
|Colbrelli, Ulissi, Albasini, MCN, Moscon, Gallopin, Wellens|
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