We rate the chances of the top 10 teams taking part in Sunday's elite men's road race at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships
This is a top ten list, so it is of course limited and leaves out a few teams like Switzerland with Fabian Cancellara, but it nonetheless it gives you an idea of what could happen on Sunday.
Captain: Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
Strengths: Gerrans and Matthews could both wear the rainbow jersey when the dust settles in Ponferrada. Matthews won a stage at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España this year and as an Under 23, already won the world title. If he is too inexperienced, the team can rely on Gerrans who recently won the two Canadian one-day races in Quebec and Montreal
Captain: Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
Strengths: Behind Gilbert, already world champion in 2012, Belgium has Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin). They may not be the fastest, but they are strong and can survive to an eventual sprint. Van Avermaet could become the surprise of the day considering his recent wins in the GP de Wallonie and the Primus Classic Impanis, and second place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in April.
Captain: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano)
Strengths: When looking for example of riders who are suited to the Ponferrada course – two small hills and a five-kilometre descent to the line – Degenkolb’s name repeatedly comes up. He is versatile, which he showed with second in Paris-Roubaix, and sprints strongly. At the Vuelta a España, he won four stages and the green jersey. The only catch is that Degenkolb is recovering from a ping-pong ball-sized swollen lymph node in his groin.
Captain: Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Strengths: Spain’s strength is its weakness: two strong captains. Rodríguez, fourth at the Vuelta, and Valverde, third, could still have an axe to grind after the 2013 World’s in Florence where team-work failed and appeared to help Costa win. If the team works together, Valverde should be the strongest option for the win given his Vuelta placing and one-day race pedigree that includes 2014’s Flèche Wallonne and Clásica San Sebastián.
Captain: Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol)
Strengths: France has a strong sprinter with Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), but it will likely support Gallopin. The 26-year-old recently placed second in the GP de Wallonie and third behind winner Gerrans in the GP Montreal. The boost from wearing the yellow jersey and winning a stage in the Tour de France will surely help him.
Captain: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF)
Strengths: Italy will work for Tour de France winner Nibali, but admits that it lacks a clear favourite to win. Recent Tour of Britain stage winner Zardini may surprise from an attack, but if it comes to a sprint, the team will likely relay on recent winner of the Memorial Pantani and GP Prato, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF).
Captain: Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano)
Strengths: The orange team will probably rally around Tom Dumoulin, who placed second to Gerrans in the GP Quebec and sixth in the GP Montreal. Behind him, it has several strong stage racers it could support in escapes like Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
Captain: Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
Strengths: Norway has a team full of strong men, but is limited in numbers to just four. Kristoff won the Milan-San Remo and two stages at the Tour de France this year that makes him a favourite if the Worlds ends in a sprint. If not, Norway could use Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) or Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin).
Captain: Chris Froome, Ben Swift (Sky)
Strengths: Froome should be in form to follow the attacks of riders like Nibali and Rodríguez, but if the Worlds comes to a sprint, GB will likely lean on Ben Swift. Swift rode to third in the 2014 Milan-San Remo and recently sprinted to second behind Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at the Tour of Britain. The teams could play a wildcard with Geraint Thomas (Sky) or team Orica’s Yates twins, Adam and Simon.
Captain: Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida)
Strengths: Costa. Portugal starts the race with defending champion Rui Costa, who will likely lead the team. Costa (pictured below) won the Tour de Suisse and placed second behind Gerrans in the GP Montreal, which says that he might be up for an attack and repeat win. However, behind the defending champion, Portugal appears weak.
More on the World Championships
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Italy names its squad for the 2014 Road World Championships, but will leave out Filippo Pozzato
Full list of Great Britain riders announced for this year's UCI Road World Championships in Spain, September 21-28
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