6 Riders You Need to Watch at Men’s Road Worlds

Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team
Photo credit: Media Platforms Design Team

This week, the world’s best road racers are in Richmond, Virginia, for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, where medals will be awarded in three disciplines to Junior, Under 23, and Elite competitors. While every race will be exciting, the headline events are the Women’s and Men’s Elite Road Races on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The men face 16 laps of a technical, 10-mile circuit in downtown Richmond that features two cobbled climbs and several twists and turns.

For a rundown of the riders to watch in Sunday’s 161-mile men’s race, we spoke to race announcer and commentator Frankie Andreu, himself a three-time world championship competitor. Here’s who he’ll have his eyes on this Sunday.

RELATED: Women’s World Championship Road Race: 6 Riders You Need to Watch

Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
Sagan is a terrific bike handler who can handle himself on a cobbled, technical course like Richmond’s. He can also handle uphill accelerations on the circuit’s climbs, and all but a few will fear his sprint at the end. Since crashing out of the Tour of Spain, he’s been training in Park City, Utah, and has the rainbow jersey as his end-of-season target. A win here would redeem him after a season filled with second- and third-place finishes.

Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
Another rider known more for his placings than his wins, Van Avermaet is one of the centerpieces of a strong Belgian team. The Richmond course isn’t incredibly selective, but it’s also not straightforward, which suits Van Avermaet’s aggressive riding style. He’s likely to try a late-race attack, but can also stay competitive if a small group sprints for the win.

Michael Matthews (Australia)
Matthews came into the season hoping to win a major one-day race, but has so far failed to deliver. In Richmond he’s backed by a talented Australian team that will be working to deliver a select group to the finish line for its sprinter. Like Sagan and Van Avermaet, Matthews can handle himself on Richmond’s short climbs and is tactically smart. No matter how big the winning group is, he’ll be able to hold his own.

John Degenkolb (Germany)
The winner of this year’s Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix just finished the Tour of Spain with terrific form. Many riders lose races because they’re too tentative: They won’t close gaps themselves for fear that they’ll expend valuable energy late in a race. But not Degenkolb. He won't sit in and save himself for the end. He likes the aggressive type of racing that this course demands.

Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
Valverde is a master of reading a race and knowing when to use his strength to his advantage. His fitness is spectacular: He just finished seventh overall at the Tour of Spain and won the race’s green jersey competition. But his motivation is even better than his fitness. Valverde will be tough to beat if the “real” sprinters miss the winning move. After 260km of racing, he has a finishing sprint that few can match.

Andre Greipel (Germany)
The dark horse. The quadruple stage-winner at this year’s Tour de France has recovered from his fantastic July and is riding well right now. He’s one of the world’s best pure field sprinters, but he also competes well in Classics-style races like Worlds. With Degenkolb on his team, he can afford to sit back and let the race come to him. In the event of a field sprint, he’ll be hard to catch.

And don’t forget: Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic), and Niki Terpstra (The Netherlands)

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