Blazin' Saddles

The Worlds are not enough

Blazin' Saddles

View photo

.
History rewrote itself in Copenhagen on Wednesday
with Germany winning Worlds War One ahead of Britain, while Switzerland was
neutralised into third.

The time trial done and dusted, focus now switches to the big one as Britain bids
to bounce back with a bang in the Second Worlds War, for which Mark Cavendish
is clearly one of the danger men.

But first, let's forget Cav and his bejewelled moonboots as Saddles takes a
look at the German Giraffe Tony Martin's supreme showing in the ITT.

Saddles was given an earful last month during the Vuelta when he referred to
Martin as the time triallist of his generation. "What about four-time world
champion Fabian Cancellara?", the naysayers harrumphed.

But you see, Martin comes from a different generation to Spartacus - and after
two successive bronze medals, Martin has now graduated as the rainbow king.

Dropping to bronze now is Cancellara, who despite those trademark giant haddock
thighs, couldn't get anywhere close to Martin's time over the 46km parcours. In
fact, after overshooting the final bend and hitting the barriers with a dull
fut, the wobbling Swiss powerhouse was beaten to the silver medal by Bradley
Wiggins.

The Briton was riding well, but it would have taken an almighty downpour and a slippery
runway following his run to keep Martin at bay. Wiggins was to be no hatchet
man on the day, and the German took the world title at a canter.

If Martin's win was about as easy to predict as the Saturday night aroma of
vomit pervading the air around London's Leicester Square, then Sunday's road
race is an entirely different matter.

For the 266km road race, all predictions go out of the window as Saddles veers
towards the kind of defenestration that hasn't been seen since Chopin played
his piano during the 1863 Polish uprisings.

The camps are split on the Copenhagen route: some say it is too technical and
its finish too steep for pure sprinters, while others say its one of the
easiest in living memory.

Of course, a lot of riders are already out of the reckoning: Belgian Tom Boonen
and Dane Matti Breschel both crashed out of the Vuelta, while the unfortunate
Robert Gesink saw his season ended last week with a freak training accident
that resulted in a broken femur. The Dutchman was one of the outside bets for
Sunday - but now must learn to walk again before returning to the saddle.

There has been a lot of noise about Oscar Freire becoming world champion for a
fourth time, but to be perfectly honest, there's better chance of Tony Martin
winning for Germany and becoming, quite literally, the best of both Worlds.

If you go to one of the popular video-sharing websites online, you'll see that
someone has driven the entire 14km Worlds circuit in a car with a camcorder.
Saddles' first thoughts of the circuit - which will be raced 17 times - was just
how suburban and dreary it is.

It's basically a twisting, slightly lumpy jaunt through housing estates and
quasi-country roads on the outskirts of town. But then again, last year we had
the same thing but in Geelong, so who's Saddles to complain?

With that steady uphill slog towards the finish, the bookmakers' favourites
will be Belgian win collector Philippe Gilbert and the reigning world champion,
Thor Hushovd of Norway.

Gilbert, as Freire recently said in an interview, "is quite simply the
best in the world" and so it makes sense that he should cap a stellar
season off with the only prize he has yet to grab in his illustrious career.

The Belgian is, in short, the Tony Martin of the road race - the guy everyone
expects to end up in the rainbow jersey come late Sunday afternoon.

But road racing is never as predictable as time trialling - there are too many
variables and too many outside factors to take into consideration.

Who knows, another rogue shaven-headed drunk might wander onto the road in the
path of the peloton and cause more considerable damage than that terrific scamp
who needed to be floored by a team of burly policemen during the early stages
of the ITT.

The weather could also prove key: the colder climate of north Europe clearly
playing into the hands of riders from Scandinavia and the Low Countries, while
acting against the fair-weather Spaniards and Italians.

One rider who likes cold and wet conditions is Heinrich Haussler, the
German-born Australian. There has to be a decent non GreenEDGE-related reason
for Mark Renshaw's omission from the Wallaby squad, and the Kraut Kangaroo
could well surprise a few on the back of a poor season.

Yet Haussler, like American Tyler Farrar, looks far from the rider who used to
provide stiff competition to the peloton's fast men.

Germany have a rather formidable trident of John Degenkolb, Andre Greipel and
Marcel Kittel, while France will unleash their usual "Chavoeckler"
weapon alongside the loose cannon that is Romain Feillu.

Russia's Denis Galimzyanov will be monitored, as will the Belarusian Yauheni
Hutarovich. Daniele Bennati will be the Italian number one, but it could well
be worth putting your Lira on Daniel Oss instead.

On the back of the season he's just had, the explosive Slovakian Peter Sagan
has to be in with a chance - and he's the kind of attacking live-wire that will
not need to rely on the train he patently doesn't have.

Daniel Teklehaymanot, the Eritrean wildcard, should not be laughed at -
although it's safe to say he'll probably only lead home a second peloton
containing all the Moroccans and Iranians, plus the lone representatives from
Greece and Hungary.

Which leaves one man: Mark Cavendish. The Manx Missile suffered in the Vuelta
but then notched two wins during the milder Tour of Britain. He comes to
Copenhagen serene and in solid form, plus with a strong team to support him.

Provided he keeps Gilbert, Sagan and Hushovd in check, Cav could well be adding
a rainbow jersey to the cupboard full of greens he amassed from July's Tour de
France.

Although this is a national competition, a win for Cav - four days after
Martin's ITT victory - would make a nice story for cycling given the
soon-to-be-folding nature of the pair's team.

The Worlds are not enough to save HTC - but they could be a fitting finale.

View comments (0)