The time has arrived!
Instead of the normal circuit,they first travel a 106km transitional leg from Luca to Florence,before hitting the 10 laps of the 16.6km circuit.
This is the circuit the riders have to tackle.
The Via Salviati is only 600 metres but has an average gradient of 10.2% and a maximum of 16%.
We also have the little kick up after 13.5km,it’s only 250 metres long,but has an average gradient of 10%.
The climbs aren’t too bad but as they cover the circuit 10 times,it’s the cumulative effect they have on the legs that will hurt the riders.
These races are a nightmare to predict.They are extremely tactical and have many critical moments.
At the Olympics,team GB tried to control everything and they eventually blew all their riders out.The big teams here are Italy,Spain,Colombia,Australia,France,Holland,Poland and Switzerland.All of these teams have 9 riders.
We then have GB with 8,Belgium with 7,USA with 7,Germany with 6 and Slovakia with 6.
We have a long list of riders that stand a chance of winning,they are,in order of odds:-
Cancellara,Sagan,Gilbert,Nibali,Valverde,Rodriguez,Froome,Boasson Hagen,Voeckler,Rui Costa,Martin,Moreno,Sanchez,Van Avermaet,Quintana,Uran,Kwiatkowski,Gesink,Pozzato,Ulissi,Roche,Contador,Stybar,Mollema,Horner,Fuglsang,Breschel,Bakelandts,Degenkolb,Kolobnev,Evans,Iglinsky and Scarponi.
Throw in a few riders at even longer odds:-
Henao,Barguil,Van Garderen,Nordhaug,Slagter,Vichot and Weening.
With so many talented riders,maybe you can see why it’s so hard to predict this race!
The Spanish selector,Javier Minguez,said,”In the end there will be a maximum of 4 riders”.
The Spaniards seem to be in disarray.There have been arguments about who should be the team leader and they have eventually selected Valverde.He has won 2 silver and 2 bronze medals in the past and is the logical choice.The problem with Spain is a lack of riders with the abilities to bring breaks back,the Colombians also fall into this category.
The Italians seem to have the most well rounded team.Their leader is Nibali but I think he’ll only win from a lone break,so they’ll have to have a plan B.At the recent GP Etruscan,he tried out his legs and attacked on the final climb.Only 2 riders were able to follow and one of them was Diego Ulissi.They were eventually brought back before Scarponi escaped to win,with Ulissi winning the sprint for 2nd.
Ulissi has to be plan B for the Italians.He is in the climbing form of his life and has a very good sprint.If a small group of climbers come to the end,he will win the sprint.
The biggest question to answer is what type of rider will win?Will it be a climber or a strongman?
As we have seen in lots of races this season,if a small group reaches the last couple of kilometres,a lone rider has an excellent chance of breaking away.This is due to teams not having multiple riders to chase them down.
One rider of interest at the Worlds is Martin Elmiger of Switzerland.Whilst Cancellara gets all the headlines,Elmiger has a very good record in this race.He’s finished 10th on 2 occasions,13th,14th and 26th.He just finished 2nd at The Tour of Britain and is in good form.Of course,he’ll need to get in a break and try to patrol for his leader and hope the break stays away,to stand a chance.
The stand-out riders have to be Cancellara and Sagan,due to their Classics form but the pressure on them will be huge and in such a long race I don’t think they’ll cope with all the attacks.
The Spanish and Italians have promised to attack and they have to do this in order to break Sagan,Cancellara and Gilbert.
I have to return to Diego Ulissi.He won the Junior Road Race in 2006 and 2007,just the 2nd rider ever to do so.It has been confirmed to me that he has built his whole season around this race and Alessandro Ballan said that he would be the “real surprise” of the race.
Franco Pellizotti also said that Nibali and Ulissi should be joint leaders.
Watch how clever he is on stage 16 of the 2011 Giro.This stage was 230km long,so he can win in a long race.His tactics are also spot on.
Visconti was relegated to 3rd and Ulissi won.
I have been told that he has dedicated his whole season to this race.He had a fairly good start to the season,finishing 4th in Trofeo Laigueglia and 2nd in GP Camaiore.He then went to Paris/Nice and was 7th overall,with 2 top 5 finishes.
He then won the Coppi Bartali,thanks to a brilliant win on stage 2.
This stage finished quite close to Florence!
He had a respectable classics season,finishing 25th in Amstel,13th in Fleche and 20th in Leige.It was then I started to get interested as this was the 1st time he really proved himself over long distances.
He had a good Tour of Poland,winning the opening mountain stage and finishing 4th on stage 6.
He then headed off to ride the Vuelta.Most World Champions come from the Vuelta and he managed his race very carefully.Instead of having to ride hard everyday,like the GC riders,he had many easy days and a few hard ones.
He finished 6th on stage 2 but his best performance was 2nd,behind Rodriguez,on stage 19.This ended on a short,steep climb.
There has been concerns about his descending but he knows this course well,so should be able to go fine on the downhill.
As you’ve already seen,he then finished 2nd at the GP Etruscan,just 1 week ago.
Put all this together and consider he is 50/1 and you start to see a great value bet.If Nibali can’t get away solo,he will be the Italian option.If a lone rider does get away,Ulissi has a great chance of winning the sprint.