We sift through the start list to bring you our pick of the bunch at the 2014 World Championships elite men's road race
The elite men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships takes place on Sunday, September 28, bringing the 2014 Worlds to a close.
Here we rate individual riders’ chances during the 254.8km race. For more information, see our men’s road race preview.
Alejandro Valverde, SpainThe home favourite has shown startling consistency this season, performing well in the spring classics, the Tour de France and the Vuelta with seemingly no dip in form. If he can maintain such form for just one more race, this may finally be the year he avoids a near miss (to date he has two silver and three bronze medals to his name) and makes the top step of the podium. If Valverde misfires, Joaquim Rodriguez offers a good ‘plan B’ for Spain.
Michal Kwiatkowski, PolandKwiatkowski looks destined to win the Worlds title one day, but will 2014 come too early for the 24? He has already demonstrated an ability to handle longer distance races with third at Liege-Bastogne-Liege back in April, and demonstrated good form at the Tour of Britain recently. Expect him to be in the mix for medals.
Fabian Cancellara, SwitzerlandThe road race world championships is the race that eludes Cancellara. The 33-year old is already destined to become a legend of the sport having won Milan-San Remo and multiple editions of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but he is determined to add the Worlds to his bulging palmares – so much so that he skipped the Worlds time trial (a race he has won four times) to perfectly prepare for this race.
Simon Gerrans, AustraliaParadoxically, by being named the favourite to win the rainbow jersey following his GP de Quebec/GP de Montreal double, Gerrans ceases to be the favourite. His racing style depends upon going unnoticed and taking everyone by surprise in the finale, but, with everyone mindful of dropping and marking him, may be nullified. As a result, sprinter Michael Matthews may find himself leader.
John Degenkolb, GermanyAs the best sprinter with the ability to make it over the climbs, Degenkolb looks like perfect rainbow-jersey winning material, and is on scintillating form having won four stages at the Vuelta. However, his status as a favourite has been challenged by a groin injury, from which he faces a race against time to recover.
Alexander Kristoff, NorwayAlong with Degenkolb, Kristoff looks like the fastest sprinter of those capable of making it over the climbs, and has already won similar races this season in Milan-San Remo and the Vattenfall Cyclassics. Victory would cap a meteoric rise for the 27-year old, but a weak Norwegian team that is only fielding three riders will be unable to grant him the support he’ll likely need.
Philippe Gilbert, BelgiumDespite not being as good as he used to be, Gilbert is still capable of putting in a performance in the big races, as in Amstel Gold this spring. Nevertheless, teammate Greg Van Avermaet might be a better shout for Belgium.
Rui Costa, PortugalThe defending champion won’t be given as much leeway as last year, and as such will struggle, as he has done for much of this season.
Dan Martin, IrelandThe Irishman has established himself as one of the best classics riders in the peloton and was on good form at the Vuelta, but the course isn’t hilly enough for him, and he has only two teammates riding alongside him.
Peter Sagan, SlovakiaNormally a course like this would make Sagan a hot favourite for the win, but he looked far away from his top form at the Vuelta, and has struggled in the highest-profile single-day races this year.
Vincenzo Nibali, ItalyThis will be just Nibali’s third race since sealing yellow at the Tour de France, and a serious bid for victory would have required much more preparation – especially on a course that doesn’t offer too many opportunities for him to attack.
Ben Swift, Great BritainBritain’s best hope is a major outsider and lacks the pace of the other top sprinters in the race, but possess all the attributes to make the top five should the course not force much of a selection.
More on the 2014 Road World Championships
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We pick out the leading contenders for the elite women's road race at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships
A look ahead to Saturday's women's road race at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain