Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

World Championship Men's Road Race Preview

The Main Event: Elite Men’s Road Race

The Course: 14 laps of a 18.2km circuit = 255km (little shorter than last year’s 272km) Riders will tackle 306m of climbing per lap, totaling 4,284m of climbing (Yeah, its going to be a hard day)

The Contenders: The list of contenders goes on and on at Worlds. Everyone is there and everyone is in top form. I have decided to slim the contenders down to my top ten favorites.

Simon Gerrans (Australia) ***** : What else is there to say, but “Five Star Favorite.” He looked to win with ease at the two World Tour races in Canada. His strong Orica-GreenEdge team helped him greatly. Australia was the first country to announce their squad for the Worlds road race and they have brought out all of the stops. The Australian team will be one of the stronger teams at Worlds and definitely has the firepower needed to control a championship caliber peloton. Gerrans is looking to be on the form of his life and seems to have peaked his form perfectly. A Rainbow jersey would cap off an incredible year for the Aussie who also won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the spring.

Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) ***** : The last 12 monuments Cancellara has finished he has been on the podium (12/13 entered, crashed out of Flanders in 2012). Enough said. When Cancellara sets his sights on something he delivers. Unlike Sagan, Cancellara has proven time and time again he can win even when he is a “marked” man. Furthermore, he is a 4-time World Champion and 2008 Olympic Champion in the ITT. The man called “Spartacus” is nearing the end of an illustrious career and a Road World Title would be the cherry on top for him. Also, he is not a bad descender.

Peter Sagan (Slovakia) **** : “Once in a generation rider.” That is the label Peter Sagan has been given. It is no secret he has been off his game this year. It is funny how a “down” year for Sagan includes a third straight points jersey at the tour, which by the way he won handily. He also finished top 5 in the first 7 stages at the Tour. Sagan is coming in off the radar a bit and I think that is good for his head (he was clearly frustrated at the Tour). The course suits Sagan to a W (like that W is for Win). The final climb will help him get away, and everyone knows he is one of the best descenders in the world (Sagan won a Mountain Bike World Title as a junior). Look for Sagan to silence the critics and show at just 24 years of age why he will be a pain in the neck for the peloton over the next decade and beyond.                                                                                                              

Alejandro Valverde (Spain) **** : This Worlds week has brought up the dreaded conversation of how Valverde blew Spain’s chances for a World Title last year. Though, everyone clearly still respects him because even after last year’s debacle Spanish coach Javier Minguez still named Valverde team leader. A podium at the Vuelta showed Valverde is on good form, but how tired is he after back-to-back Grand Tours on good/great form.

Rui Costa (Portugal) **** : Costa automatically gets an extra star for being defending champion. Way outnumbered in the final he showed he has the guts and power to win Worlds. Furthermore, Costa’s form is not that bad at all. He confirmed this with a second place at Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. With a course similar to last year look for Costa to again be a factor in the finale. The soft spoken Portuguese rider no longer flies under the radar.

Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain) ***: Rodriguez is looking for redemption after last year. He appeared to be destined to wear the Rainbow bands, but got caught within sight of the line by Rui Costa. Having the victory ripped right from his grasp hurt him deep and tears were seen running down his face as he stood on the podium. Rodriguez is in fine form this year with a recent 4th place finish at the Vuelta and looks to show off his form on home roads. Nothing would be greater than winning Worlds on home roads. The difficulty is, he is not team leader on the Spanish team, Valverde is. Rodriguez has been quoted in the press as saying he will work for Valverde, but when crunch time hits, everyone wants to win, and when you see your name painted across the road everything goes out the window.

Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) *** : “The Shark of Messina” The Italian has been lackluster of late to say the least. Furthermore, Nibali has been doubting himself openly and low-balling his chances. To take a term from Chris Horner, I think Nibali is playing possum. You do not show up to Worlds looking skinny and not be a factor. After a magical summer the motivation may not be their for Nibali, but after 4th last year he will still be a factor. Lastly, do not forget Nibali has uncanny ability to go downhill fast, real fast.

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) *** : World Champion in 2012 after a bit of a down season Gilbert can do the same exact thing again this year. Gilbert had a decent spring winning Brabanste Pijl and Amstel Gold, but other than that he has been awfully quiet on the winning front. Belgium comes in with a stacked team, two former World Champions (Gilbert and Tom Boonen) and strongman Greg van Avermaet. Gilbert will definitely make the selection, but I believe the climb is not difficult enough and a finish like Amstel Gold suits Gilbert better than a fast-downhill run-in. Look for Gilbert to be top ten, but off the podium.

John Degenkolb (Germany) *** : 4 Vuelta a Espana stage wins. To say the least, Degenkolb is on the form of his life. If the group comes back together and finishes in a bunch sprint I would not bet against Degenkolb. I do not believe he has the kick to follow the attacks on the climbs, but Germany comes with a strong team so look for them to try to keep it together in the finale.
Greg van Avermaet (Belgium) *** : Van Avermaet is a classics strongman and does not have a bad finishing kick. Van Avermaet will make the selection, unlike Degenkolb, and has the finishing kick to finish it off. Fresh off a win at Grand Prix de Wallonie, van Avermaet has the form to contend with the best. The difficulty for van Avermaet is that he is third in line for leadership on the Belgium team. Van Avermaet may be hindered by having to fulfill domestigues duties, but with Boonen not getting any younger look for van Avermaet to compete for the Rainbow bands in the future.

My Pick: Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara

            Watching the U23 Championship only confirmed my pick. No one in the U23 race was able to get away with 2-3 laps to go and quite a big group came into the final set of climbs. These climbs suit a rider who can do a big short effort and then power through the fatigue all the too the line. I expect the Ardennes Classic riders to shatter the group on the climb, but look for Cancellara to stick with them and hit them when the pain sets in going over the top.

            Cancellara has chosen not to race the ITT this year to go all in for the Road Race. Last year he placed 3rd in the ITT and followed that up with 10th in the road race. This year Cancellara should be fresher for the road race and he badly wants to finish off his career in the Rainbow bands as his contract is up at the end of next season. Cancellara has hinted on many occasions that this may be his last contract.

Bold Podium Prediction:

I believe Milan-San Remo, though shorter, will be a great indicator of the type of finish will see. The Poggio, though longer, and quick descent into town is just like the finish in Profferrada. I am going to go for the trifecta and call the podium; Cancellara, Sagan, Gerrans.

Everyone can predict whom he or she wants to win, but in the end it is just a prediction. That fact is, this is bike racing. Once the race starts anything can happen and all hell will break loose. The bottom line, Worlds is always a race for the ages and boy it is going to be fun.

**I will be unable to watch the race live due riding Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Yeah, while the pros got out and destroy themselves on the bike I will be doing the same. #Livin’theDream

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