British team can renew hope after U23 men's road race
British Cycling's performance manager Dave Brailsford believes there's renewed hope for Mark Cavendish's chances in the elite men's world championship road race after the under 23 men's decider finished in a bunch sprint.
The finish for the rainbow jersey in the espoirs category was contested by a group of 46 riders, with Australia's Michael Matthews - a sprinter - taking the win ahead of John Degenkolb of Germany and US rider Taylor Phinney.
According to Brailsford, Cavendish - who earlier this week made comments effectively ruling himself out of contention for the world championship win - should have faith in his ability to remain in contention for the win, despite the climb on the Geelong course.
Many have tipped the winner of 15 Tour de France stages to struggle on the 11 circuits that include the 1,150m-long ascent, which is a feature of the 260km parcours.
"You can't rule Cav out on this course. The climb's not long enough [to be too selective]. You've got that big, big, long straight afterwards which gives them time for it to come back together," Brailsford told Cyclingnews.
"On a climb like that you can't get a big enough gap, so they're going to bring it back. My money's on a gallop - 40 to 50 [riders] - I think it'll be a sprint.
"You see it every year - everyone says it's a rock hard course, but it's not. Well, it is - don't get me wrong - but the riders are of such quality that they can manage to hold it together," he added.
The espoirs race featured the climb 10 times over the 159km parcours, with powerfully-built riders such as Matthews, Degenkolb and Phinney having enough in reserve to gallop home in Geelong's city centre. It may provide an indication of what to expect in the elite men's race; Cavendish and the entire British team hope this is the case.
The outcome of today's race also highlights the importance of the 83km run from Melbourne to Geelong, which is flat and exposed, where the possibility of crosswinds that could splinter the peloton are strong.
Despite this fact, many have written off the chances of sprinters such as Thor Hushovd and Cavendish, citing their apparent lack of climbing prowess as detrimental to the chances of either rider getting up for the win.
"At the end of the day, today's race was just 10 circuits round here, not 83km flat and then the circuits round here. The decision was made to go to Melbourne and the start from Melbourne was good for sprinters," said Brailsford.
"I think it's like every year - I said when I was asked about this: every year everyone comes to the Worlds and says 'It's a super hard course, it's not going to be this, it's too hard for that...' At the end of the day, when people ride it, they think, 'Oh, is it going to come back for a sprint?'
The man behind the juggernaut that is British Cycling believes Sunday's race will indeed come down to just that.
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