Cavendish faces uphill battle to defend world crown


The world cycling championships get underway on Sunday, with seven days of racing set to produce several new champions as Britain’s Mark Cavendish attempts to defend his road race crown on the final day of the competition on September 23.
The Isle of Man rider who has racked up 23 stage wins on the Tour de France, and became the first British rider since Tom Simpson in 1965 to triumph on the world stage last year on the roads of Copenhagen, is not one of the outright favourites on a rolling circuit suited more to punchers rather than outright sprinters.
The 267km route will feature the first 100km raced over the streets of several Limburg municpalities and two challenging climbs, before the final 10 laps over a 16.5km circuit and an ascent towards the finish before a slight dip to the line.
The first section of the route is almost identical to that used in the Amstel Gold races and suited to the likes of Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert who has won the one-day classic in 2010 and 2011 and will fancy the rolling conditions.
However Gilbert could only finish sixth during the 2012 Amstel Gold race and has also lost his Belgian road race and time-trial titles in the build-up to the championships, although a win on the ninth stage of the Tour of Spain will have boosted his confidence.
Newly-crowned Tour of Spain champion Alberto Contador is part of a strong Spanish team although the 29-year-old will only race the time-trial, while three-time world champion Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez will be contenders for the podium in the road race.
Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins is part of the British team but will not attempt to better his silver medal in last year’s time-trial behind Germany’s Tony Martin as he also opts to concentrate on the road race and the Cavendish cause.
“Brad has opted out of riding the time-trial at the worlds. This year’s focus for him has been fully on the Tour de France and the Olympics, so to expect him to hold form going into the worlds is a big ask,” explained British Cycling director Dave Brailsford.
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara has declined the opportunity to add to his four time-trial world titles as the 31-year-old continues to recover from a nasty fall during the closing stages of the Olympic road race in London.