Fred Wright anticipating tough battle in elite men's road race at World Championships

Luke Rowe on racing Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert: 'If you wait and try to race them man on man in the final, I think you’re just waiting with a loaded gun to your head'

Fred Wright
(Image credit: Getty Images)

British national road champion Fred Wright has played down his and Team GB’s chances against the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert in the elite men’s road race at the Glasgow World Championships on Sunday.

Wright and Ben Turner have been highlighted as the team’s two protected riders in the road race, but Tom Pidcock’s absence from the British team leaves them without a serious contender against some of the outright favourites to take the rainbow jersey.

Speaking to the media on Thursday afternoon in Scotland, both Wright and Rowe suggested that the British squad will look to “get ahead” of the likes of the Dutch and Belgian teams in order to enable them to seize any potential opportunity when the Glasgow city centre circuit arrives.

“Me, Conor [Swift] and Ben Turner are going to be the guys that we’re looking to potentially get in the pre-final move,” Wright said. “I think in our team we haven’t necessarily got one of the superstars like your Van Aert’s or your Van der Poel’s but we’ve definitely got guys that can do something if we get ahead of those other guys so that when they come to us it’s a bit more of a level playing field.”

Belgium and the Netherlands arrive in Scotland as two of the strongest teams for the road race. As well as Van Aert, the Belgian squad contains last year’s winner Remco Evenepoel as well as the Tour de France green jersey winner Jasper Philipsen.

Wright suggested that the belief isn’t lacking in the GB camp despite their underdog status and that they will look to force the Belgian’s to chase a lot of early moves in an attempt to weaken them as the finale approaches.

As well as Wright, the British squad contains Luke Rowe, Ben and Conor Swift, Jake Stewart, Sam Watson, Ben Turner and Owain Doull.

Rowe told the media that Pidcock’s presence could have potentially made them stronger, but he said he has every faith in his teammates to be at the sharp end of the action on Sunday.

“I think it’s no secret that we’re going into the race as slight underdogs,” Rowe explained. “I think we’re missing a few riders which would put us more up there as a favourite. We could have had Tom [Pidcock] or Ethan [Hayter] here but I’d argue that it wouldn’t add a great deal and I’m confident in the boys we’ve got here.

“I think it’s obvious that there’s four or five guys out there who are on a bit of another level compared to the rest of the peloton really. If you wait and try to race them man on man in the final, I think you’re just waiting with a loaded gun to your head aren’t you really and you’re going to come off second best.

“I think the only way to counteract that is to get ahead of the race but at the same time, there’s probably 100 other blokes thinking the same. What will be said on most buses is try and get ahead of them and let them come across to you.”

"The way he races shows he just wants to light things up"

Tadej Pogačar wins stage six of the Tour de France 2023

Tadej Pogačar will be just one of many potential winners on the start line in Edinburgh on Sunday

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As well as some of the Classics superstars of the peloton, two of the best Grand Tour riders currently operating will be on the start line in Edinburgh. Evenepoel will provide a different type of opposition to contend with as will Slovenia’s two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar.

Wright explained that as far as he’s concerned, Pogačar’s presence on the startline won’t affect his or team GB’s approach to the race.

“I think just seeing the way he was riding on the Champs-Élysées the way he races shows he just wants to light things up,” Wright said. “He’s definitely going to be a big player on Sunday but we almost need to let him come to us.

"We haven’t really got someone that can follow him when he makes his move but there’s still a lot of other guys and you can’t just focus on Pogačar… there’s a lot of strong guys out there so you can’t get too fixated by him I guess.”

Rain expected

Fred Wright

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After the riders have faced a long ride from Edinburgh, they will arrive at a fast and technical city centre circuit in Glasgow. Rain is expected on Sunday which could see the race turn into a wet and slippery affair.

Wright explained that whilst the British riders will be ready for it, everyone will still need to be on their guard once they enter Glasgow.

“It’s going to be hard on the circuit that’s for sure if it’s wet,” he explained. “There will potentially be more crashes but I think us British riders we’re a bit more used to that kind of weather. If the weather’s crap you’ve just to stay positive with it.”

“Someone told me there’s 450 corners,” Rowe added. “It’s natural that the way the peloton moves after every corner it gets lined out. With rain that just enhances all that. The peloton is like a piece of plastic, it’s always stretching then coming back together and the rain will just enhance that effect in the peloton and make the race a whole lot harder.  

“It’s about accepting that and dealing with that. It sounds cliché but it's the same for everyone. We’ve got a job to do so we’ve got to just get on with it.”

“It’s not an indoor sport is it, we don’t do it in a stadium so you’re going to get wet and have just got crack on and get it done.”

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