Worlds Road Race Preview
The 2009 UCI Cycling World Championships road race course in Mendrisio, Switzerland favors classics riders. The course will have 4,655 m of climbing, with the second of two climbs coming only 2.5 km from the finish in Mendrisio stadium, where the race also starts. The winner will either solo home or outsprint a small group.
Who might the winner be? He seems likely to come from the Italian or Spanish teams, the two strongest squads in the race. Italian Damiano Cunego won two stages of the 2009 Vuelta and seems ready to tackle the 19 13.8-km circuits that will determine the world road race champion. In the closing stages of the race, Cunego and Ballan might dominate as they did last year in Varese, Italy. The parcours, however, is harder than it was last year, and Cunego seems to be the better bet to be in at the kill.
The Spanish team is the only one that is one a par with the Italians. Alejandro Valverde, a proven classics rider, has great form, as demonstrated by his Vuelta win. Moreover, he is probably the best sprinter among elite climbers, which means that he is likely to outsprint a small group after 262 km of riding. Samuel Sanchez, the Olympic road race champion, also has good form after finished second in the Vuelta. He won the Olympic road race in Beijing last year by getting into the right move at the right time. If Sanchez turns in a repeat performance in Mendrisio, he could wind up as the world champion.
Another Spaniard who could win is Oscar Freire. He seems to have lost the speed that carried him to victory in the past, and the course favors Valverde and Sanchez. However, one should never rule out a three-time world champion, and if Freire finds himself with the lead group with fewer than 400 m left he could become the first four-time world champion.
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg has the climbing chops for the course. However, his handicap is his team. It is not as strong as the Italian and Spanish supersquads. Like most of the other teams, the Luxembourgers will spend the days marking the Italians and the Spanish.
Other riders who could win are Filippo Pozzato (Italy), Cancellara, and David Millar (Great Britain), and Philippe Gilbert (Belgium). Will one of the favored few win, or will one of the dark horses take the day's honors? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!