2016 World Championship Men’s Road Race Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

2016 World Championship Men’s Road Race Preview

By David Hunter

Doha – Doha 257.3km

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The riders head for the desert! They spend around 120km out in the middle of nowhere, in a typical, out and back route. This is section feared by some, but it all depends on the wind.

Weather

All week a northerly wind has been forecast. That would make it a headwind going out and a tailwind coming back, making echelons almost impossible. Just recently, the forecasters are saying the wind will actually come from the north-west, making echelons a real possibility. The strength of the wind will be around 20km/h, so it is strong enough for some fun!

Away from the wind, it will be another hot day. Sending the peloton into the desert for three hours really looks insane. Hopefully they all stay safe. The length of the race and the constant sun will make this a selective event. Despite the easy parcours, I expect to see many riders in difficulty, as we head over the 200km mark. It’s been a long season for some and this will be  one race too far.

Tactics

It’s all about the desert. We all know that the Belgians and Dutch are the masters of echelon riding and they will try and put everyone in the gutter. Having numbers is important, with some teams arriving with nine men, but others have less.

9 – Spain, GB, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Norway.

7 – Colombia.

6 – Germany.

3 – Slovakia.

With the Germans lacking numbers, they have some big choices to make. They have brought Degenkolb, Greipel and Kittel, but only have three workers. That doesn’t sound like a balanced squad to me, they are bound to come under extreme pressure.

Of the sprinters, Cavendish and Sagan, are masters of echelon riding. The desert will hold no fear for them, in fact, they will look to drop some of the other fast men. Sagan might only have two teammates, but he’s consistently shown that he doesn’t need any help.

The Belgians have a squad made for wind! I would expect to see Van Avermaet, Naesen and Stuyven drive the front and try to split the peloton. Given the conditions, it is possible to split the bunch to pieces. It will be up to the other teams to try and keep the gaps down, as they enter the circuit.

If the front group can reach The Pearl with a gap of 2 minutes, the race should be over. Anything under that mark, and the sprinter teams will be confident of bringing it back as we hit Roundabout City! The finishing circuit is dreadful, so boring. The desert is the only place where we’ll see some action.

Finale

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We’re all familiar with the finish now. The left turn, inside 2km, really lines the bunch out. Then we have the u-turn, with 1km remaining, another crucial point. The road then curves to the right, with all the teams wanting to be on the inside, before the little kick up to the finishing line.

In terms of sprinters, you need to make your move with 3km to go. The quick men need to be on the front, as the final two corners stretches the bunch into single file, making it impossible to move up.

Australia, Italy, Norway, France, Belgium and GB all have proper sprint trains. If the peloton is all together, it will be a frantic battle for control. This unfortunately means that crashes will play a part. Given the long distance and sun, I expect to see many riders hit the deck in this race.

Contenders

Peter Sagan – a contender for the best cyclist of all time! It’s been another magnificent season for Sagan, can he retain the rainbow jersey? He’ll cope in the wind and has the bike handling skills to make his way to the front in the finale. Sagan seems to have the bases covered. After Rio, his form has been outstanding. He won GP Quebec, Euro Champs and two stages of the Eneco Tour. It’s been a long year, but Sagan is still flying. He will have a large say in the outcome of this race.

Mark Cavendish – arrives after coming through a tough period of illness. He was competitive in Paris-Tours, that must have been a big relief for him. He’s gunning for his second rainbow jersey and this looks like being his last chance. Team GB are looking quite strong, with Thomas, Stannard and Rowe great riders in the wind. My concern is their sprint train of Blythe and Swift. Compared to some of the other countries, that looks a little weak. On the plus side, Cavendish is the master of a messy sprint. This one is going to be incredibly messy! If he wins, he becomes the first rider to win the track and road world championship, in the same year.

Alexander Kristoff – the big Norwegian won here in the Tour of Qatar, at the start of the season. Norway might not be a traditional powerhouse of cycling, but they arrive with an impressive team. Bystrom has a huge engine and will be able to chase down any breaks and Boasson Hagen looks the strongest lead out man in the field. Another plus is that Kristoff loves racing in this part of the world. It would be something if Norway won the elite and under 23 road races.

Andre Greipel – no sprint train! Greipel is a sprinter that needs a pilot fish, he is very poor at positioning himself in a crazy sprint. He will cope with the wind, but that finish doesn’t look great for him. When Marcel Sieberg withdrew from the race, Greipel’s chance also disappeared. Such a shame for the gorilla.

Marcel Kittel – can he cope with the distance? He certainly is in good form, he looked amazing in the TTT. He is used to working with Degenkolb, but will Germany allow him to sprint? It is still unclear as to how they will manage their sprinters. If given the chance, he certainly has the speed to win this sprint.

Fernando Gaviria – tempted to say too young, but he is a rider that breaks the mould. Just 22 years old, but so strong! His win in Paris-Tours was simply stunning, it takes guts to pull off a move like that. He won’t have much support form his team, but he is capable of riding well in the wind. The uphill finish is also good for him, but getting position in the closing kilometres will be tough, without help from his team.

Tom Boonen – another rider that loves Qatar. The Belgians will make this a hard race, they have to if Boonen wants to win his second rainbow jersey. His sprint train looks great, with Roelandts and Debusschere expected to guide him into position. The distance is also good news for Boonen and he has a serious chance of winning this race.

Nacer Bouhanni – France arrive with two squads within one. It looks like they will allow Bouhanni and Demare to sprint. Bouhanni will have his usual lead out of Soupe and Laporte. They have helped him to a very successful season, but it would still be a surprise to see him win.

Dylan Groenewegen – too young.

Elia Viviani – the Italians look seriously strong. In recent World Championships, they have lacked a little bit of focus, but that should change here. In Sabatini, Trentin, Bennati and Guarnieri they have a sprint train most countries would love to have. They will need to decide between Viviani and Nizzolo, but Viviani should get the nod. He’s struggled to find form since Rio, but it could all change here.

Caleb Ewan – too young.

Greg Van Avermaet – just like Sagan, he has looked a class above most riders in 2016. He will be given free licence by the Belgians to ride his own race. He will attack in the desert and see if he can force a move to go clear. Once in the city circuit, he will try and attack and lose some of his rivals. GVA has a very fast finish, especially in this type of race.

Niki Terpstra – the best rider in the wind. As soon as we get crosswinds, Terpstra comes to the fore. Think back to his performance in Le Samyn, simply magnificent. He would actually like the wind to be even stronger, to help him put the hurt on the other riders.

Prediction Time

It really does depend on who survives the desert section. Sagan would be the obvious choice, as he can cope with the wind and will be well positioned for any sprint. I do have a little concern about his ability to perform in the heat, especially after a long season. Instead of going with the obvious, I’ll go with Mark Cavendish. He was so far above the rest at the Tour de France that I cannot ignore him. He can also cope with the heat and the wind, so it’s Cav for me.

This is my final preview of the season. A massive thanks goes out to everyone who continues to read my work and to Pablo for translating into Spanish. This is my 192nd preview of the year!

I’ll be back in the off-season with a whole series of interviews. Already signed up is Tiesj Benoot, Oliver Naesen, Edward Theuns, Boy Van Poppel, Sebastian Reichenbach, Amaury Capiot, Lawrence Naesen, Chris Hamilton, Carlee Taylor, Taylor Gunman, Shane Archbold and Merijn Zeeman. It should be a lot of fun!

David Hunter

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