Despite Great Britain only having three places in the elite men's road race at the world championships, Max Sciandri believes Mark Cavendish still has a good chance of becoming world champion.
The latest UCI ranking placed Great Britain in 15th place, meaning only three riders will line up in Melbourne on October 3 for the elite men's road race. The top-ten ranked nations are allocated nine places in the race, with the other places going to minor nations via Continental rankings. In 2009 Britain fielded a nine-rider team after being ranked tenth. Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins scored most of the points and their poorer results this year have caused the slip down the rankings.
During his years as a British rider, Sciandri often found himself outnumbered and isolated but won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic. The Anglo-Italian now coaches the Great Britain Under 23 Academy but knows Cavendish well because the Manxman is based in Sciandri's hometown of Quarrata in Tuscany.
"Only having three riders will definitely make it more difficult for Cav to win but it doesn't mean he can't win," Sciandri told Cyclingnews.
"It's a pity that we haven't got a full team this year like we had in Mendrisio in 2009 but there's nothing we can do about it now and just have to create the best three-rider team we can.
"Cav will have to ride really smart and try to benefit the work of the other teams. He should remember how Oscar Freire rides the worlds and the big classics. You don't see him for most of the day because he's hidden in the peloton. Then he moves up to the front and is always in the right place in the finale of the race.
"Cav has proved that he can win without a lead-out train, he showed it when he won in Bordeaux at this year's Tour de France. I'm sure he's smart enough to know how to use the work of the Italian and Australia teams to his advantage."
Sciandri is not involved in the team selection for the Elite men's team for the world championships but he believes selecting the right riders will be important.
"With only three riders and one of them going for overall victory it means the role of the others two riders is vital. They don't need to be specific lead-out men but must be able to help Cav during the final two laps of the race, perhaps helping to chase a break with a huge effort or dropping him off in the perfect place in the final kilometres. It's an important role but fortunately we've got some good riders who can carry out that role perfectly.
"Cav has to ride the worlds knowing that the race might not go his way but he has to be ready to win if it does. Who knows, he may pull off another surprise. He's good at proving people wrong. He did it at Milan-San Remo and in this year's Tour after losing the early sprints. Whatever the odds you can never write Cav off in a race he really wants to win."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.