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WORLDS’17 Elite Road Race: The PEZ Preview!
Worlds'17 Preview: This Sunday sees the one race that everyone remembers the winner... for a year anyway. The World Professional (now Elite) Road Race is always tough and long and it's never won by a 'nobody'. Ed Hood takes a look at the course and lists his 'Top Bakers' Dozen' of possible winners.




It’s that time; ‘how can you sit on the sofa for seven hours and watch that?’ Don’t try to explain, just smile and give her/him/them some money to go and do something, anything except spoil your Worlds.


The first 40K

We have 276 kilometers on the agenda, starting on one of the islands out to the west and heading 40 kilometers east back in to the city via a succession of bridges, islands, tunnels and long straights which don’t give the impression of being 'breakaway friendly'. The circuit is urban, complete with all that goes with that; multiple corners, white lines, pedestrian crossings, road furniture and if it rains – diesel spill. On the subject of rain the high in Bergen for September is 13 degrees and the low seven degrees with the weather said to resemble that of Scotland for the time of year. Not good news.


The Bergen circuit

If you’re an oldie like me then you’ll remember that when a certain young gentleman from Texas won the Worlds in Oslo in 1993 it rained, turning the parcours into a skating rink. And bear in mind that one of the stages of the recent Tour of Denmark had to be aborted due to the weather. . .


Lance Armstrong won a wet Worlds in Oslo 1993

The circuit is rolling rather than having savage climbs; it will be the distance, repeated efforts on the drags – and just maybe the weather which force the selections.


UCI World Championship Bergen 2017 - Teaser

The PEZ “bakers’ dozen” follows, with 12 of them going to be unlucky – there’s only one maillot arc-en-ciel.

Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway: Fitting we should start with a ‘home boy’ - with a beautifully executed stage win in the Tour de France, two second places and a stage win in the Tour of Britain, the man is in good shape. Here’s the ‘but’ - it was 2012 when he last won a major one day race, the GP Ouest France, Plouay. Boasson Hagen’s system is said to have difficulties assimilating nutrition in races over 200 kilometers and despite ace photog John Pierce telling me the Norwegian will be wearing the rainbow jersey on Monday, I say top 10 maybe but no podium.


Boasson Hagen could be the 'Home Hero'

Sonny Colbrelli, Italy: Colbrelli is one of four Italians who on paper could win this race. But like my editor, Alastair says; "they always seem to mess it up at the end." Colbrelli won the recent Worlds preparation race, the Coppa Bernocchi – the man from Lombardy always performs well late season and don’t forget he dominated the tough Brabantse Pijl back in the spring on similar roads.

Dubai Tour 2017 - 1st stage Nakheel stage 181 km - 31/01/2017 - Sonny Colbrelli (ITA - Bahrain - Merida) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2017
Maybe a top heavy Italian team with Sonny Colbrelli at the head

Rui Costa, Portugal: The parcours suit him but maybe that ace form so early to win his UAE team’s home race wasn’t the best way to structure his year? February is a long time ago, but he doesn’t get to trim his sleeves with the rainbow bands for nothing.

Andorra La Vella - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA (Portugal/ Team UAE Emirates) pictured during La Vuelta ciclista a Espana 2017 (2.UWT) stage 3 from Prades Conflent Canigo - Andorra La Vella (158,5 km) - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2017
Rui Costa rode well in the Vuelta, form for the Bergen Worlds

Fernando Gaviria, Columbia: Too far for the rapid trackman turned roadman sprinter? Cast your mind back to the finale of The Primavera of 2016, the be-stubbled flyer was right there ‘til he hit the deck. Races don’t come longer or more savage at the end than Milano-Sanremo and remember he’s just won the Championship of Flanders - and then there was that burst of sped at the end of Paris-Tours last year. And Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund says he’s a dab hand with a lawn mower too. . .

Reggio Emilia - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Fernando Gaviria (COL - QuickStep - Floors) pictured during team stage 12 of the Giro D’Italia 2017 from Forlì to Reggio Emilia, 237.00 km - photo LB/RB//Cor Vos © 2017
The first Colombian Elite World road champion?

Philippe Gilbert, Belgium: De Panne, Flanders and The Amstel, not a bad old spring for another man who gets to trim his jersey with worlds bands. He was quiet in the recent Tour of Britain but he’s one of the smartest riders out there and always has an eye for the tight move.

Valkenburg - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the Amstel Gold Race 2017 - foto Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2017
It has been a successful year for Philippe, but is it too long?

Alexander Kristoff, Norway: The home nation’s other race favorite; Frankfurt, London and the European Championships don’t constitute a bad season but somehow he’s not just quite as sharp as we think is necessary to be world champion. That said, like Boasson Hagen he knows this is the chance of a lifetime and will want to perform at his best on home roads.

UEC Road European Championships 2017 - Herning - Elite Road Race - Day 5 - 06/08/2017 - Alexander Kristoff (Norway) - Elia Viviani (Italy) - Moreno Hofland (Nederland) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2017
2017 European and World champion for Alexander Kristoff

Michal Kwiatkowski, Poland: The Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, San Sebastian and a scarcely believable work load in the Tour de France for Froome. He’s done it before, he can do it again; a ‘super favorite’ for us.


Kwiatkowski World champion again?

Michael Matthews, Australia: PEZ pundit Viktor rang me the other day; ‘See your Worlds preview for PEZ? It’s nailed on for Matthews!’ He has a point, the Aussie fast man knows what it takes to win the Worlds – he won the U23 event in 2010 in his native Oz. His Tour de France was brilliant and he’s been top 10 in Plouay, Quebec and Montreal – another ‘super favorite’ for us.


Ed's favorite - Michael Matthews

Peter Sagan, Slovakia: Surely he can’t? Can he? There in a row, even Van Looy and Merckx couldn’t do that. But we’re at a stage where nothing surprises us about this man; two stage wins in the Benelux Tour and the win in Quebec show his legs are good – and his head is always good, nothing seems to upset him. Our third 'super favorite'.


Three in a row for Peter?

Matteo Trentin, Italy: Our second Italian to watch, four Vuelta stages and the recent Classic Impanis-Van Petegem - always a nose for the right move. A podium is well possible.


Italy's second choice - Trentin

Diego Ulissi, Italy: Italian number ‘possible’ number three has good form, witness his win in Montreal and second spot in the Memorial Pantani. If Davide Cassani, the Italian team Capo plays it right then there’s a very real chance of one of his boys taking the first rainbow jersey back to the old country since Alessandro Ballan in 2008. The percorso suits the Tuscan – but perhaps the weather will not?


Diego Ulissi has the form

Greg Van Avermaet, Belgium: Het Nieuwsblad, E3, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, there’s little more to say about his spring campaign. Top 10 in San Sebastian, Plouay, Quebec and Montreal tells its own story as to recent form – he can win it, another 'super favorite'.

Rio de Janeiro - Brasil - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium / BMC Racing Team) pictured during men’s roadrace - Olympic Games 2016 in Rio - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016
Olympic champion - World champ next for Van Avermaet

Elia Viviani, Italy: A 'second tier' sprinter they were calling him – but not lately; Hamburg, two stages in Poitou-Charentes, Plouay and a stage in the Tour of Britain all speak for themselves. But that’s four faves in one team, some say a good problem to have – but we have to remember what Alastair said. . .

Hamburg - Germany - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Elia VIVIANI (Italy / Team Sky) - Dylan GROENEWEGEN (Netherlands / Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) - Alexander KRISTOFF (Norway / Team Katusha - Alpecin) pictured during the Cyclassics Hamburg 2017 - photo Rene Vigneron/Cor Vos © 2017
Viviani - Italian No.4

# Just one name? Can I have two please? Matthews (he’s already won a world title, this week) or Kwiatkowski. Just remember to keep it PEZZED on Sunday. #

Romans-sur-Isère - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Michael James MATTHEWS (Australia / Team Sunweb) pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 16 from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère, 165.00 km - foto NV/PN/Cor Vos © 20176
A second Bergen gold medal for Michael Matthews?

For live TV go to steephill.tv for all the Worlds links.


2016 World road race finalé





It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

 

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