Having completed the first Grand Tour of his 12-year pro career, Roger Hammond is hoping that the form he has emerged with from the Vuelta a España will enable him to produce a strong performance on the tough Worlds course in Mendrisio, Switzerland this coming Sunday. Speaking to Cyclingnews on Monday morning, the 35-year-old Briton said that the muscular damage he suffered when he had no option but to crash onto Julian Dean and Wouter Weylandt as the peloton sped into Puertollano towards the end of Vuelta stage 16 had improved significantly in subsequent days.
"During the last two to three days of the race I started to feel a lot better," said Hammond. "It's difficult to gauge just how good my form is but I felt quite strong in the final time trial and didn't lose as much time to the top guys as I would have done if I'd had a bad day." Hammond took eighth place in the Vuelta's final stage bunch sprint in Madrid, but confessed he'd only got involved "half-heartedly" as the stage wasn't anywhere near tough enough to suit his strength and endurance.
The course in Mendrisio, however, is sure to be hard enough to give every rider in the field an extremely arduous test. Hammond is looking forward to tackling it, assuming he's not the odd-man out in the 10-man British squad for the nine-rider road race team. "There's a doubt over Mark [Cavendish] at the moment. We're not sure whether he's going to start yet," said the Cervélo TestTeam rider.
Hammond added that, assuming he makes the final cut for the race, he will head to Mendrisio "looking to be as strong as possible. It's going to be a very selective course. Anyone who finishes it will have done a good ride. It's going to be one of those all-or-nothing World Championships when you're either good enough to be with the guys at the front or you're not. It won't be one of those Worlds where you'll be able to ride round in the pack and finish. I don't think there will be many finishers at all," said the Briton, who is hoping that his well-known staying power will be boosted further by three weeks of tough racing at the Vuelta.
"The Mendrisio course is technical, very lumpy and the title is sure to be won by a rider having a very good day. I'm hoping that I can have a good day coming out of the Vuelta and that there will be no excuses at the end of it.
"Great Britain will be going there with a nine-man team for the first time in my career and one of the goals we will have will be to build a good team atmosphere so that we can all work well in future when we're on the national team."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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