Trade team niceties are set to be thrown to one side and replaced with enmity on a national scale next week when the cream of the peloton descend on Copenhagen to battle it out for cycling’s coveted rainbow jersey. And Mark Cavendish, the Briton who has taken sprinting to new levels in five years Tour de France domination, is the man most of the elite men’s competition will be looking to beat.
Not since the great Tom Simpson in 1965 has Britain feted a world champion in the men’s road race. But Cavendish, the 26-year-old Isle of Man rider who has become one of the sport’s few global stars, is being tipped to end that long wait on a relatively flat course which promises a bunch or select group finish. The men’s elite road race on September 25 caps a week of racing in which the elite women, under-23 men and junior men will each get to compete in road race and an individual time trial. But as at most worlds, what goes on off the bike and what goes on during the race, when team-mates who should become rivals can become ad hoc allies, could become a hot topic of conversation in the lead up to the 266 km finale next Sunday.
One of Cavendish’s rivals for what would be Britain’s second men’s title will be Matt Goss, his teammate at HTC-Highroad who is leading Australia’s bid for only a second men’s world road crown after Cadel Evans’s win in 2009. Australia have already moved to make sure that Cavendish gets no extra help by designating Mark Renshaw, the Manxman’s loyal lead-out man for the sprints at HTC-Highroad, as a replacement on their national team.
A day after that announcement, Renshaw, who next year will race for Dutch team Rabobank, finished ahead of Cavendish in the Tour of Britain’s fifth stage. Whether that result was designed by the pair to cock a snook to Australian team selectors or not is anybody’s guess. But, in the defense of Australia, cases of teammates from different countries collaborating at the worlds are not, unfortunately, unknown. Depending on the difficulty of the course, most road races turn out to be ones of attrition where the presence of teammates in the finale can make the difference between victory and gut-wrenching defeat.
On a hilly course which surprisingly finished with a select group sprint last year in Geelong, Australia Thor Hushovd claimed a deserved and historic victory for Norway. All contenders, whether for the road races or the time trials, have recently been acquiring the kilometers and intensity required for the competition by racing at the Tour of Spain. Goss and Cavendish, however, had to leave the three-week race early because of stomach trouble. While Cavendish was given special permission by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to compete at the Tour of Britain, which overlaps with the Tour of Spain, Goss has been left competing in a number of smaller one-day races, and motor-pacing in training.
“I’m not sure I will make up for what I missed out on in the Vuelta,” Goss said. “You saw how hard that is and how much good that is going to do for everyone. But I think I can make up enough to be competitive. You don’t win any world championship without being in a great form.”
Swiss star Fabian Cancellara meanwhile has a chance to extend his record victory tally in the time trial, which he won for a record fourth time in Australia last year. Ahead of Copenhagen, the Leopard-Trek rider, a former winner of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, pulled out of the Tour of Spain early in a bid to boost his chances of a fifth crown.
“I think a reigning world champion should always defend his jersey, so Im going to try to win the time trial for the fifth time,” said Cancellara.
World Championship Schedule
Time trial Junior Women, 13,9 km
Time trial Under 23 Men, 35,2 km (2×17,6 km)
Time trial Junior Men, 27,8 km (2×13,9 km)
Time trial Elite Women, 27,8 km (2×13,9 km)
Time trial Elite Men, 46,4 km (2×23,2 km)
Road race Junior Women, 70 km (5 x 14km)
Road race Under 23 Men, 168 km (12 x 14km)
Road race Junior Men, 126 km (9 x 14km)
Road race Elite Women, 140 km (10 x 14km)
Road race Elite Men, 266 km (17 x 14km + 28 km)