This Sunday’s World road race championships in Portugal herald the last major objective for many of cycling’s superstars. The course is 254.1km long and comprises of 21 revolutions of a 12.1km circuit. Organisers specifically created terrain that would neither suit pure sprinters or time trialists, the results being a course that resembles the memorable Lugano circuit in 1996. Bikemagic.com takes a glimpse at some of the big names that could and should be making headlines in Lisbon.
Germany’s Jan Ullrich will start as the number one favourite on Sunday and could capture the first World double after claiming the time trial on Friday. The German has terrific form as recent results in Italy suggest and has the added bonus of a unified team. However the 26-year-old has tendency of finishing on second on the big occasions as three Tour de Frances, the Olympic time trial and three Championships of Zurich show.
Italy haven’t had a World Champion since Giani Bugno retained his title in 1991 and every year the azzuri put up another disappointing show. This year the petty disputes that contrive to their downfall seem to be between Paulo Bettini and Michele Bartoli. Both are exceptional riders who have the ability to ride the rest of the pack into the ground. However the saying too many cooks spoil the broth has to be levelled at Italian team and unless they can ride with each other instead of against they’ll be going home without another rainbow jersey. If the unthinkable happens and some sort of collaboration is met either Bartoli, Bettini, Rebellin or Casagrande could come up with a win.
Its fair to say that defending champ Romans Vainstains has had a difficult year. The Latvian pin-up had a poor winter and despite some encouraging places in the spring classics, never got the win he was looking for. A bellow par performance at the Tour de France coupled by the fact that his manager publicly called his fat, means that Romans has a lot to prove in Lisbon. The course doesn’t suit him and he may suffer on the climb but he can’t be underestimated and may prove a thorn in the side of the German and Italian teams.
Since winning three stages of the 2000 Tour de France Erik Dekker hasn’t stopped winning. He has the pedigree to make the difference on the influential climb and his sprint certainly puts him ahead of most. However he’ll be a marked man and wont have the element of surprise that works so well with his attacking style. Support may also be limited if compatriot Michael Boogard is feeling strong.
Outside bets for world glory are Richard Virenque, who won last Sunday’s Paris Tour with impressive form, or Brit Max Sciandri who’ll be supported by three team mates.