Cycling Weekly looks at nine of the strongest teams for this year's UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, over September 19-25.
Last winner: Tom Simpson 1965, San Sebastián
Mark Cavendish will have an excellent opportunity to add to his sprint palmarès on September 25 in Copenhagen. The course suits him and his team, almost all Sky riders, is strong. Geraint Thomas and Garmin's David Millar are proven lead-out men and can provide Cavendish the needed firepower.
He won Milan-San Remo two years ago, the Tour de France's green jersey this year and only lacks the rainbow jersey to become cycling's most compete sprinter. He proved he is comfortable in British colours last month when he won the Olympic test event, a small stepping-stone towards a world title.
Team Great Britain can turn the tables and play one of its attackers if it discovers the course is too demanding for Cavendish. Thomas or Millar would be a good option in a late-race escape.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins (Sky), David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo)
Strengths: Proven sprint winner and a back up plan
Weaknesses: All eyes will be on Cavendish
Last winner: Lance Armstrong 1993, Oslo
Tyler Farrar has proven his ability to beat the world's top sprinter, Mark Cavendish and earned the right to lead team USA for a second year.
There are two catches, however: Farrar is recovering from a crash at the Vuelta and his team is not as strong as he would find at Garmin. The Vuelta a España crash banged his elbow, leg and back. He abandoned and was forced to re-tune his Worlds build-up. Making matters worse, US is short of firepower for the Worlds, filling only eight of nine spots available.
Tyler Farrar and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervélo), Matthew Busche and Benjamin King (RadioShack), Taylor Phinney, Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder (BMC Racing) and Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Strengths: Proven, but injured winner
Last winner: Laurent Brochard 1997, San Sebastián
The French have more wins at the worlds lately than they have at the Tour, but that is not saying much. Brochard was the last Frenchman to win the rainbow jersey 14 years ago.
Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel may have a chance to right the wrongs if their team can help avoid a sprint finish. A handful of top teams, including possibly Belgium, will be willing to lend a hand to the cause.
Romain Feillu came close a couple of times in the Tour de France this year and will be the leader if his team fails to crack the sprinters.
Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Samuel Dumoulin and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil), Blel Kadri and Anthony Ravard (AG2R La Mondiale), Yoann Offredo and Anthony Roux (FDJ) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Strengths: Two strong attackers
Weaknesses: Lack of confidence and a top sprinter
Last winner: Tom Boonen 2005, Madrid
Philippe Gilbert will be the unquestionable leader given his standout season that included winning the Ardennes Classics, a Tour stage and the GP Québec.
The team will have a clear goal given Boonen is out with a broken hand. Following a "misunderstanding" in Mendrisio two years ago, this year it is simple: attack and win with Gilbert.
Though this year's course is less suited to him than last year, Gilbert is a threat. If he fails, look to Greg Van Avermaet or Nick Nuyens to save the day.
Philippe Gilbert, Jurgen Van den Broeck (OmegaPharma-Lotto), Klaas Lodewyck and Olivier Kaisen (OmegaPharma-Lotto), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervélo), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard).
Weaknesses: Gilbert be heavily marked
Last winner: Oscar Freire 2004, Verona
Three-time winner, Oscar Freire and José Joaquín Rojas will lead team Spain to what it hopes is a sprint win.
Spain's coach Jose Luis de Santos will leave home his top attackers, Joaquím Rodríguez and Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez. He said that the decision was hard but, given the relatively flat parcours, he wants to rely on his sprinters.
"The team," he said, "is designed for Oscar."
If Freire fails, the sprint responsibility will be Rojas', who nearly won the green points jersey at the Tour de France after a tough fight with Cavendish.
Oscar Freire, Juan Manuel Gárate, Luis León Sánchez and Carlos Barredo (Rabobank), José Joaquín Rojas, Imanol Erviti and Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Vicente Reynes (OmegaPharma-Lotto) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky)
Strengths: The team's unity
Weakness: Reliant on second-rate sprinters
Last winner: Alessandro Ballan 2008, Varese
Italy's has a long winning tradition, taking the first World Championships at the Nürburgring in Germany and claiming 18 other wins since. Its spirit is commendable, but sometimes misfires, as with Damiano Cunego in Mendrisio and Filippo Pozzato last year in Geelong. Neither of the two is in this year's roster. Italy will instead be led by sprinter Daniele Bennati and supported by a young team.
"We like it," wrote Italian newspaper lag of the "Renewed national team."
Italy has never been afraid to play the favourite role and take the reins of the course, but this year national coach, Paolo Bettini promises otherwise. He said Belgium, Denmark and Australia will need to take control if they want their leader to win.
Nine from 11: Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek), Matteo Tosatto (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing), Daniel Oss and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), Sacha Modolo and Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF Inox), Oscar Gatto and Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini) and Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD).
Strengths: 'All for one' attitude.
Weakness: Bennati lacks the same speed as Cavendish or even Gilbert
Last winner: Cadel Evans 2009, Mendrisio
Australia has come a long way and earned its place at the top. Cadel Evans gave his country its first Worlds win in 2009 and its first Tour win in July.
A sign of its depth is the controversy surrounding its nine-man selection. Matt Goss appears to be the team leader after Cavendish's key HTC lead-out man, Mark Renshaw was overlooked.
Australia is so strong that, as Paolo Bettini said, it will be expected to lead the race early on. Sky's Mathew Hayman and Michael Rogers will handle the role well allowing Goss to relax for the possible win, as he did at Milan-San Remo this spring.
Simon Clarke (Astana), Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman, Michael Rogers (Sky) and Chris Sutton (Sky), Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) and Stuart O'Grady (Leopard-Trek).
Strengths: Team spirit and proven winner
Weaknesses: Lack of a pure sprinter
Last winner: Thor Hushovd 2010, Geelong
Thor Hushovd may only have three supporting riders, but that failed to stop him last year in Geelong when he won with one less. He has proven his class and his ability to defend his title this year - two Tour stage wins and one at the Tour of Britain.
Edvald Boasson Hagen will be able to step in if Hushovd fails. He is suited to the Copenhagen course and may flourish with the attention on Hushovd.
Thor Hushovd and Gabriel Rasch (Garmin-Cervélo), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Sky)
Strengths: Two cards to play
Weaknesses: Four cards, or riders, in total.
Last winner: Joop Zoetemelk 1985, Giavera del Montello
Holland's coach, Leon van Vliet, left home top sprinter Theo Bos in favour of mostly all-rounders and climbers. Bos is a multiple world champion on the track, but has to prove himself at distances over 250 kilometres.
Lars Boom, a former cyclo-cross world champion, will have his chance to lead. He proved at the Tour of Britain on Tuesday that he is able to win a sprint if the opportunity presents itself.
The win "is certainly good for my confidence," he said. "My form is good, but I need the opportunity."
Robert Gesink, Lars Boom, Bauke Mollema, Maarten Tjallingii and Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Pim Ligthart, Wout Poels and Johnny Hoogerland (all Vacansoleil-DCM) and Niki Terpstra (Quick Step)
Strengths: Strong Rabobank core and supporting riders
Weaknesses: Lack of a pure sprinter
Last winner: Rudi Altig 1966, Nürburgring
André Greipel succeeded when he had his chance to sprint against Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France this year. He won his first stage and gained confidence he will use at the Worlds.
If the race comes to a sprint and if Greipel is in the group then fans could see a similar head-to-head match. Greipel, however, has been quiet since the Tour de France, winning only a stage at the Eneco Tour.
9 from 14: Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing), Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step), John Degenkolb, Tony Martin and Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad), Danilo Hondo (Lampre), Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano), Andreas Klier (Garmin), Christian Knees (Sky), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Marcel Sieberg and André Greipel (OmegaPharma), Robert Wagner and Fabian Wegmann (Leopard).
Strengths: A talented team that includes Degenkolb and Ciolek
Weaknesses: A questionable leader
Road World Championships 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Road World Championships 2011: Latest news
Italy to rely on Bennati and youthful Worlds squad
Renshaw left out of Australia's Worlds team
Cavendish heads British Cycling's Worlds long list
Britain up to seventh in UCI World Rankings
Cavendish previews Copenhagen Worlds course
Project Rainbow Jersey: Britain's bid for Worlds title
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
Best bicycle insurance, including what you need to know and how to compare
Wondering how to protect your pride and joy? Our helpful guide tells you all you need to know about bicycle insurance
By Hannah Bussey • Published
Five talking points from stage eleven of the Giro d’Italia 2022
The Cycling Weekly highlights package from the stage which finally saw an Italian win at the home race this year
By Luke Friend • Published