Tour de France runner-up Chris Froome could head the British national team at next month’s UCI Road World Championships with Great Britain adopting a different approach and set of expectations to that of last year.
GB has not paid the same level of attention to the September 23 men’s road race as last season where its outright leader Mark Cavendish, won gold. The result was the focus of a three-year plan known as Project Rainbow Jersey. Cavendish is not guaranteed a starting place in Limburg this year.
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The 2012 titles have somewhat taken a back seat to a home Olympic Games and could represent a development year for the national team. It has qualified the maximum quota of nine riders for the titles and is set to release a long list of 14 on Monday.
“I told the riders straight after the worlds last year that the focus was on the Olympics,” GB road manager Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly today. “I actually wrote to the lads and said, I won’t talk, I won’t even get into any discussions about the worlds until the Olympics is over.
“The Olympics, being in London, was far bigger and I wanted everybody’s focus on that. That was the approach to the worlds this year – the focus was Olympics and what I said was we’ll roll onto the worlds.
“Most of our big players, their main targets were in July. To get Bradley (Wiggins) or even Mark, anybody, Froome, to really commit to the worlds early season is pretty hard anyway.”
David Millar is set to start the new trade team time trial with Garmin-Sharp on September 16, but has opted out of the road race and individual time trial with GB. Jeremy Hunt has too said he is not up to the task. Olympic team pursuit champion Peter Kennaugh as well as Jonathan Tiernan-Locke are among potential starters in the road race.
Great Britain has qualified two spots in the time trial and Alex Dowsett is a possibility for one of those. Wiggins can start as a third rider being Olympic champion.
Froome, who is currently competing at the Vuelta a Espana with Sky, is at this stage said to be Britain’s best bet at a good result, which Ellingworth won’t quantify. Performances at the Vuelta, Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec (September 7) and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal (September 9) as well as the Tour of Britain (September 9-16) will help determine final selection.
“A longer term thought, really, is we try and use this year a little bit as well as a developing year because, again, the focus has all been on the Olympics and the Tour,” Ellingworth said.
“Chris Froome is the one at the moment who is saying, if I’m still going, I’ll go and race there flat-out, and potentially Chris could get a good ride. But if Chris isn’t there I can’t see that we’ve got anyone else who is going to get a top 10. It’s a bit of a gamble, Chris has been going a long time now through the Tour, Olympics and the Vuelta. He could take a big dive.
“We haven’t got anybody like last year with Mark. He pulled out of the Vuelta but we put a program together to make sure he was as fit as he could possibly be. We haven’t actually gone through that same process this year. It is a little bit of a let’s see who has got the form and we’ll deal with it at the time.
“I don’t think we’ll be taking the race on as we did at the worlds (last year) because I don’t think it’s our place. There are other riders from other nations who are really up for the win. I think it’s their responsibility this year to take it on.”
Cavendish, like Wiggins and others, took a break after the Olympics and although uncertain of his form began to find some at the Tour of Denmark where he won the final stage. His last race as world champion will be the Tour of Britain.
The punchy 265km course in the Netherlands doesn’t suit the 27-year-old but he has indicated his intent to start in a mark of respect and is capable of playing a support role.
“Bradley has put himself forward and wants to race in the road race but my opinion at the minute is he wants to go and do what he can for the team,” Ellingworth said.
“I think for Cav it’s a little bit different. The thing is, we’re not just going to take anybody, it’s not just rock-up and see what you can do. We’ve got to have a bit of thought behind it and ideally you take the best team for that race.
“My idea is we see the Vuelta through, we see Canada through and we see the Tour of Britain through and then, for instance, if Mark is absolutely creeping at the Tour of Britain we won’t take him to the worlds.
“If he’s got the form, got good form, you’d choose him because he’s reigning champion, give him that opportunity. But if he hasn’t got the form then you can’t choose him. It’s the same for everybody that is. You’ve got to be able to do something in the race.”
More in Cycling Weekly magazine next week …