With the time trials out of the way all attention at the World Championships turns to the road races with the box office events – the women’s and men’s road races set for the weekend.
Cyclingnews have previewed the top contenders of the women’s race, here but in this video we pick out the top ten riders to watch in the men’s race.
It was a tough call with varying yet subtle interpretations over the severity of the course, combined with riders’ form, and strength of support.
The defending champion Rui Costa (Portugal) was one of the first names down among our list of favourites, having proved twelve months ago in Florence that a combination of guile, skill and strength were enough to deal with the collective dominance from the major nations.
This year the Lampre rider has shown patches of his calibre and his second place in Montreal nearly a fortnight ago showed that his condition is moving in the right direction.
Alejandro Valverde is set to lead Spain’s challenge on home roads. He has finished on the podium at the Worlds an astonishing five times but has yet to claim a rainbow jersey. Consistent through the year, he’s always had the attributes to win a world title, but has always managed to find a way to lose. This could be his last chance.
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The same could also be said for Joaquim Rodriguez, who finished second to Costa last year. Like Valverde, Rodriguez has the pedigree to win but he has not quite found his best form despite a recent fourth place at the Vuelta.
Simon Gerrans (Australia) arrives in Spain after back-to-back wins in the Canadian WorldTour races. There’s a suggestion that he may have marked himself out of the race but if he’s held his form he has every chance of competing for the win. The Australians also have a ‘plan b’ with Michael Matthews consistently showing that he can win against the best riders. He’s not a pure sprinter but, like John Degenkolb, he can handle the hills and the distance.
Tony Gallopin (France) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) also head into the race on the back of decent form. The Belgian recently won two races on his home turf but has to navigate through a potentially tricky situation over leadership within his team. Gallopin has kicked on this year with a stage win and a day in yellow at the Tour de France. The French have a number of options with Chavanel and Bouhanni also capable of a result, while if Van Avermaet falters Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert could be waiting in the wings.
Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) has drifted under the radar in the second half of the season but chose to skip the time trial at the Worlds with his full focus on the road race. He has never finished on the podium – a surprising statistic – given his one-day credentials but with so many strings to his bow, he can never be ruled out.
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan is perhaps a rider who has made our list due to reputation rather than form but the Ponferrada certainly suit him. His condition has been patchy in recent months – he’s not crossed the line first in any race since the national championships in June – but based on raw ability, the question is whether the Green Jersey makes it to Spain in mind, as well as body.
Finally, Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) makes our list. The Tour de France winner is perhaps the weakest link among our ten due to a recent crash and his post-Tour commitments, but he remains Italy’s talisman.