UCI World Road Championships head to Bergen, Norway this weekend. Here are our top-10 picks for Sunday’s 267.5km elite men’s road race.
10. Rui Costa (Portugal)
Costa hasn’t followed up his 2013 world championship victory with many wins of note, but the Portuguese rider is still an outside favorite in Norway. A strong climber with a decent kick, Costa won the Abu Dhabi Tour in February and was second in two stages at the Giro d’Italia. He’d need to find the right breakaway move for a shot at a medal.
9. Lars Boom (Netherlands)
Former world cyclocross champion Boom is finding form right on schedule for a tilt at road worlds. His win in stage 5 at the BinkBank Tour was marred by a rather rude victory salute. However, the Dutchman made good in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, winning the stage 5 time trial and the overall. Boom will be hoping that the climbers don’t make the race too hard for him on the Bergen circuit’s primary climb, Salmon Hill.
8. Fernando Gaviria (Colombia)
Like Boom, Gaviria will be hoping the peloton stays mostly intact for a fast finish. The 23-year-old Colombian is known as a superb sprinter, but he can survive over small climbs, as evidenced by his fifth-place result in Milano-Sanremo and ninth-place finish at Gent-Wevelgem. After four stage wins in the Giro, Gaviria got back to his winning ways in stage 4 at Tour of Britain, followed by a win at the UCI 1.1 Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen race in Belgium.
7. Diego Ulissi (Italy)
The Italians have a number of cards to play in Bergen. But none of them look to be outright winners. For our money, Ulissi is the most promising rider toeing the line Sunday. He’s coming off an emphatic win from the breakaway at Grand Prix de Montreal. Also, he was second at Memorial Marco Pantani back home in Italy. Much like his Montreal win, Ulissi will be a threat if a small breakaway stays off the front.
6. Julian Alaphilippe (France)
Twenty years after France’s last world championship title, Julian Alaphilippe may be the man to break the drought. Well, maybe. The 25-year-old has a nice blend of climbing and sprinting talents, but his rivals (more on them in a moment) may be just a bit quicker. We’ll see how the Frenchman feels after a full three weeks of racing at the Vuelta a España. If he can harness the form that he rode to victory in stage 8, Alaphilippe may do his predecessor Laurent Brochard proud.
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
If worlds were in any other place, Boasson Hagen wouldn’t be ranked this high on our list. However, the 2017 championships are on home soil for the Norwegian. That should provide extra motivation. Don’t forget that Boasson Hagen finished second to Philippe Gilbert at 2012 worlds. He’ll have no trouble with the 2017 course’s climbs and, judging by his sprint win in stage 8 at Tour of Britain, may be quick enough to claim another medal.
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)
Can Kwiatkowski keep his amazing season rolling in Bergen this weekend? The 2014 world champion won Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo and then proceeded to rip the Tour de France peloton to pieces on behalf of teammate Chris Froome. Oh, and just for kicks the Pole won Clasica San Sebastian at the end of July. He helped his Sky team to a bronze medal in team time trial worlds, so it seems Kwiatkowski may have a few matches left to burn. Hopefully we’ll be treated to another exciting matchup between him and Peter Sagan, like the finale in Milano-Sanremo six months ago.
3. Michael Matthews (Australia)
The double stage-winner in this year’s Tour de France has found the podium at worlds before. Matthews was second on the hilly Richmond course in 2015. The 26-year-old Aussie is on form as well, riding with his Sunweb team to the outfit’s first team time trial world championship title Sunday. That said, he couldn’t quite match the pace of rivals Greg Van Avermaet or Sagan at the one-day races in Canada at the start of September. Matthews would need to play his hand perfectly to win a rainbow jersey, or he’d need a bit of luck — and you never know who might have a bad day, a crash, or a mechanical.
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
Olympic champion Van Avermaet is as good a pick as any for a worlds title. Should he be No. 1? Perhaps, but he wasn’t even close to out-sprinting Sagan in Grand Prix de Quebec. Overall, he never rediscovered the form that won him E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix earlier this season. The Belgian had a listless run at the BinkBank Tour prior to the Canadian WorldTour races. Perhaps he’s yet to hit his autumn peak. If he times it right, he’ll certainly have a strong Belgian team to back him up in Bergen to boot.
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
No one has won three consecutive world championship titles. Only four men have won three rainbow jerseys. This year, Sagan might join the likes of Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen, and Oscar Freire. By now, we all know he doesn’t have a beefed-up team to support his worlds endeavors. We also know that doesn’t stop him from out-classing those who do, whether they are Belgians, Britons, or Australians. Despite being controversially ejected from the Tour de France, the Slovak looks to be on pace for worlds, having just won in Quebec, his 100th career victory. If he wants his 101st win to be adorned with rainbow bands, he’ll want a tough race with an explosive sprint finish. Too much cat-and-mouse play and Sagan might get burned by tactics, faced with — for example — the Italian team, which has several cards to play.