Who Will Become World Champion in Doha?
With the UCI World Championships looming, Sports Gazette profiles the five main contenders for the Rainbow Jersey
Course profile - Doha, Qatar
Sunday 16 October concludes a week of UCI World Championship races with the elite men's road race. The world’s best road cyclists will tackle a 257.5km pan-flat course, consisting of 151km of riding through the Qatari desert followed by seven laps of a 15.2km street circuit around the capital city of Doha.
With the profile of the race being so flat, it seems inevitable that the winner of the 2016 Rainbow Jersey will emerge from a bunch-sprint.
However, the long-straight sections racing across the desert increase the chances of powerful cross-winds, which have the ability to decimate a peloton and make chasing a tactically astute breakaway group almost impossible.
Mark Cavendish - Great Britain
The 31 year old Manxman set himself three lofty goals at the start of the year: to wear the Tour de France’s coveted yellow jersey, win an elusive Olympic medal in Rio and become World Champion once again.
Nine months later, Cavendish has emphatically ticked off the first two of these objectives and now has his sights set firmly on the last.
Cavendish’s four Tour de France stage victories in July surprised journalists and cycling fans alike, as he edged ever closer to Eddy Merckx’s record stage victory haul of 34.
The Manx Missile’s triumphs in this year’s Tour de France were also his first victories over Marcel Kittel in a straight sprint and so he will be going into the race with a sizeable monkey off his back.
Despite Cavendish’s splendid Tour de France and Olympic performances, it has been season of mixed results and so it’s difficult to predict the form that Cavendish will have in Doha.
Andre Greipel - Germany
After racing in the shadow of Cavendish at the T-Mobile team in the early stages of his career, the last 5 years have allowed Greipel to consistenctly earn a reputation as one of the fastest men on the planet.
The German, nicknamed ‘The Gorilla’, has picked up 11 career stage wins in the Tour de France; including victory on the famous Champs-Elysées in this year’s edition.
Unfortunately for Greipel, Germany are ranked outside the UCI world top ten and are therefore restricted to six riders.
On top of this, Greipel shares his nationality with sprinting superstar Marcel Kittel. Although Greipel is the official race team leader in Doha, this essentially means that the team will be relying on just four men to try to control the pace and blunt attacks from rival nations.
Marcel Kittel - Germany
At the start of the season, Kittel would have been hot favourite to become the 2016 World Champion on the flat Doha course.
However, by his high standards, it’s been a very disappointing season for the German.
At 27, Kittel should be at the peak of his powers and was expected to comprehensively out-muscle his rivals during this summer's Tour de France. However, Kittel was only able to manage a solitary stage victory while his rivals excelled.
Further disappointment was to follow in the Eneco Tour where he failed to notch up a single stage win.
Kittel has been given a free role in the German team. While this means that the German sprint train will be working for Greipel, there’s nothing to stop Kittel from sitting on his teammate's wheel and pipping him to the line.
Despite his poor season, it is hard to discount Kittel as a major player at this year’s World Championship and a return to form would not come as a surprise.
Dylan Groenewegen - Netherlands
Dylan Groenewegen is the outsider for victory, though the young Dutchman has enjoyed a hugely successful breakthrough season.
In June, 23 year old Groenewegen out-sprinted his compatriots to become the Dutch national champion for the first time.
Groenwegen failed to make an impact in this year’s Tour de France but he won impressive stages at the Tour of Britain and the Eneco Tour.
He will come into the race in good form too, having been victorious in last week’s one day race, the Tour de l’Eurometropole.
Peter Sagan - Slovakia
The reigning UCI Road Race Champion, Peter Sagan, is generally considered a phenomenon of modern cycling.
His ability to win punchy semi-mountainous stages, straight sprints and also from tactical late breakaways explains his record of winning the points classification Green Jersey in all FIVE of his Tour de France outings.
His versatility means that Sagan has the advantage of having a plan B and C if the race deviates from the expected sprint finish.
Historically, Sagan has struggled to win sprints against the out-and-out fast men in the peloton. However, his recent to stage victories in the Eneco Tour in a field that included Greipel, Kittel and Groenewegen will boost his confidence going into the race.