Thursday, 13 October 2016

After an exciting time trial in which we could experience watching perfect ride from Brandon McNulty it's now time for a main course for juniors: the road race.



History 

Junior road race was first time held in 1976 when Roberto Visentini from Italy won the gold medal. Italy is also the most successful team in history of road race with eleven gold medals and total number of 26 medals. On the other hand the last time when Italy claimed gold came in 2007 when Diego Ulissi won his second title in road race in Aguascalientes. 2007 was indeed special for Italy as they filled the whole podium with Daniele Ratto finishing second and Elia Favilli third. Ulissi is also one of the two riders in history of road race who managed to win twice. The second one is his countryman Gabrielle Palumbo. Felix Gall can join this elite club if he manages to win tomorrow. The history shows that junior road race is much more unpredictable then the time trial. Despite their famous palmares in junior ranks, Cancellara, Sagan, Jungels, Kittel or Kwiatkowski never claimed a medal in World Champs road race. In 2015 we have seen an exciting battle on the last lap with a lot of attacks and splits. In the end Felix Gall won just ahead of Frenchman Clément Bétouigt-Suire and Rasmus Lund Pedersen from Denmark. What's unique is that all three riders were first year juniors and two of them, Gall and Suire, are going to start tomorrow.

Route 



Junior road race, just as time trial, is going to be held entirely on The Pearl Island. Riders will face eight laps of 15,2km circuit which gives a total distance of 135,5 kilometers. You can watch the video recon of the circuit here.The route is obviously the same as in time trial but it doesn't mean it will affect the race in the same way. First of all, the amount of roundabouts will have much bigger impact then it the time trial making the course more technical. We can expect a lot of crashes at the beginning with many less experienced guys from exotic countries at the start. Also, there is a chance that the wind will pick up but probably not high enough to cause the echelons but  enough to make some splits and favors the strongest guys in final laps. Also, it's worth to stay in front of the group as you won't have to waste energy after every roundabout and 90 degree turn.

Inigo Elosegui once again shared his thoughts about the course: "I think that it will be much harder than people think. It is so flat that the speed will be really high during the whole race, and of course there are many teams that don´t want a bunch sprint. Because of that I think that the peloton will be reduced due to the high speed and for sure in the last kilometers some strong riders will try to make a break till the finish line, which is not easy but yes possible after so many fast kilometers in the legs."

Belgian Jasper Philipsen, one of the pre race favorites who unfortunately won't start because of health issues, and future rider of BMC Devo Team expects a big bunch sprint: "The wind is not going to play a big role in my eyes. The race of the u23 will be a good preview. It's difficult to predict how the race will end. The heat is going to play a big role but I guess it's going to be a bunch sprint."

Dutch rider Jarno Mobach, winner of Paris Roubaix, also expects hard racing and fast pace on the technical circuit  "I think the course is rather technical with some sharp corners and a lot of roundabouts, especially with a peloton this big makes it technical. Furthermore, according to the weather forecast there will be quite some wind however I don't think it will play a major role as you change a lot of direction throughout the course. I don't know whether it will be a bunch sprint or not but I hope the race will be hard enough to split up the peloton."

His teammate Nils Eekhoff  shared the opinion: "It’s going to be a hard race. Because of the heat riders will fall off the bunch, but also because of the roundabouts. In the time trial you could go over them in a straight line, but during the road race there is a whole bunch that have to pass them. Then you will get a straight long line of riders what want to go back to the front, this causes a jojo effect what is very intensive. The road race itself can go a lot of ways, it can be a bunch sprint, a solo or a sprint of a selected group."

Favorites

Flat circuit is much easier to control then hilly terrain for sure. We can expect that the winner will come from one of the strongest countries. Small teams with three or four riders can fight for top10 or top5 but to win a medal you have to be well positioned in the bunch on the final kilometers. To do that you need a strong team behind you. Unless the race splits and some guys attacks in the final kilometers.

Despite missing their leader Jasper Philipsen I believe that Belgium will be one of the teams who aim for bunch sprint. Same as France. Billy Innes, sports director of US National Junior Program agrees on that: "The road race will be complicated as you have two major teams (France and Belgium) working for a bunch sprint and everyone else looking to split it up. For sure, no matter his form, Suire is the favorite to win, but it will really depend on how France tries to control the race and how he is able to keep cool. I think anyone who hasn't gone through heat protocol training will be at a disadvantage no matter the pace of the race. If it's windy it'll play into the hands of the Dutch, Norwegians and Danes who are always capable in crosswinds and a selection will be made-but that might happen anyway"

Belgium team will be lead by Gerben Thijssen, who impressed in sprints in recent months. He won two bunch sprints in Trofeo Karlsebrg and won a classic Omloop der Vlaamse Gewesten after a sprint from a small group and just ten days ago he won bunch sprint in Nederhasselt in the last episode of Belgium Cup beating Clement Betouigt Suire on the line. His teammate for tomorrow, Sasha Weemaes was third in that race and can play a key role tomorrow.

France is another team looking for a bunch sprint tomorrow. Clement Betouigt Suire is very strong guy, very matured and fast and clearly one of the favorites despite just one win on international level this year in Tour de I'Abitibi. His recent 2nd place in Nederhasselt shows his shape came just in time. Silver medal from last year also shows what he's capable of. French team is very strong this year, they managed to dominate the junior race during the Euro Champs and tomorrow they will look after their sprinter and try to set him up for a sprint.

Apart from that we have several teams that will try to split the bunch and avoid big bunch sprint finish. Denmark is the first one to mention. Fredrik Rodenberg Madsen, current national champion and 2nd in sprint stage of Keizer der Juniores recently, should be a leader for sprint finish but Danish team is very strong in general, as always, and we can expect them to try split the bunch in final kilometers. Mikkel Bjerg and Julius Johansen showed their class already in Doha finishing second and fourth in TT while Jakob Egholm has been strong all year and could play his own cards either.

USA will be lead by World Champion Brandon McNulty is not a sprinter but you can expect him to finish high from a reduced bunch sprint after a hard race. US team will be another one that will try to split the bunch. Each of their rider is capable of joining a winning move with Gage Hecht, cyclocross specialists, stage winner from Tour de I'Abitibi, Tyler Stites and bronze medalists from TT Ian Garrison.

Slovenian team is another strong one in general. Jaka Primozic leads PCS ranking for juniors but three of his international wins came from two stages and GC of Trophy Milan Panic, where the field wasn't impressive. On the other hand Primozic did well in almost every race he enters including impressive solo win of the queen stage in Oberösterreich Juniorenrundfahrt which also gave him GC win. He's one of the strongest guys in junior category right now and definitely can win tomorrow. Tadej Pogacar recently won Giro della Lunigiana and bronze medal in Plumelec but I think he would prefer harder course.

Netherlands has a strong card to play either. Jarno Mobach, same as Primozic, is kind of a rider who is always up there in every race he enters. His big win came from Paris Roubaix and he already finished tenth in TT in Doha. Nils Eekhoff is fast on the line, especially after hard race. He won sprint stage in Course de la Paix and also finished fourth recently in Plumelec.

Italy is a team that always perform well in junior world champs. I think they would prefer much harder course but they can also aim for glory on flat race. Their two main sprinters should be Michele Gazzoli and Moreno Marchetti. Both barely rode outside of Italy where they managed to score impressive amount of wins but once they ride on international level they usually do well. Gazzoli was ninth in Gent Wevelgem, second in Piccolo SanRemo and third in Ronde Van Vlaanderen. Marchetti won seven races in Italy this year and also finished in top10 of both Beti Metallo and Gent Wevelgem.

Other names to watch tomorrow: Felix Gall, Stefan Bissegger, Marc Hirschi, Joakim Kjemhus, Niklas Markl, Richard Holec, Matus Stocek, Campbell Stewart, Szymon Krawczyk.

Asked some of the riders who they consider as favorites.

Inigo Elosegui says: "I think it is really difficult to name only some favorites for this race, but maybe teams like the Netherlands with Eekhof and Mobach in the lead, Belgium with Philipsen, Switzerland with Bissegger and Hirschi and France with such a strong team will be the main contenders, without forgotten about strong teams like Italy and Denmark." 

Jarno Mobach himself picked up Belgium as main contenders: "I know the Belgian team will go for the sprint with some fast guys such as Thijssen and Philipsen, but I think the guys who play major roles in the nations cups will be in the front as well." while his teammate Nils Eekhoff expects a bunch sprint from smaller group: "Personally I think it is going to be a sprint of a select group of about 40 riders."

Prediction


It will be a bold prediction but I think we won't see a big bunch sprint. Strongest teams will manage to split the bunch in final kilometers. I think McNulty, Mobach and Primozic can complete the podium.

Startlist
Web
Live timing

As the race is going to have live coverage tomorrow don't forget to check my twitter for some live tweets.

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