Belgian captain Philippe Gilbert said overnight that he is not afraid to take risks to win the World Championships tomorrow in Geelong, Australia.
He said: “It will be a game where one must dare and take some risks.”
Gilbert’s ability to risk losing in order to win gained him two stage victories at the Vuelta a España last month and a win in the Dutch one-day classic, Amstel Gold in April. However, it has also saw his home race and one of cycling’s most prestigious one-day classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, slip out of his hands.
Brit Mark Cavendish, American Tyler Farrar and German André Greipel came to Geelong with the hope that the race will end in a sprint.
According to Gilbert, Greipel “climbs much better than Cavendish and he will have more chance than Cavendish”.
Given yesterday’s under-23 race ended with a sprint win for Australian Mike Matthews, Gilbert may consider the risk of escaping in the final two of 11 laps with one of the other pre-race favourites.
“The two climbs and the climb to the finish line… there are a lot of possibilities, but it depends on the riders and what they make of it,” said Gilbert’s team-mate, Mario Aerts.
“If they race immediately on Sunday, there could be riders all over the place.”
Cavendish and other sprinters, Aerts explained, need to worry.
“It is still uphill the last bit, so after 260 kilometres it is a difficult sprint.”
Gilbert believes that he can also risk waiting for a sprint finish.
“I have a pretty strong sprint especially after long and tough races, so I can wait because I can win in a sprint with a small group,” said Gilbert. “There are not a lot of riders who can beat me after such a long and hard race.
“If it is a sprint, it will be with a maximum 20 to 25 riders. “