UCI World Championships 2017 Bergen: The Outsiders

We’ve covered the favourites, the top nations and all the former World Champions; now it’s time to have a look at those riders flying under the radar tomorrow…

Chantal Blaak denies the main favourites and takes an impressive solo victory in Bergen. CREDIT: Boels Dolmans

In all but one of the road races of this World Championships, a solo victor has taken the title, Chantal Blaak winning the elite women’s race today in spectacular fashion. The course seems to offer itself up to a late attacker, rather than a traditional bunch sprint; the undulations rewarding those riders willing to risk it all…

Repeated ascensions of Salmon Hill will more than likely be the launchpad for the race winning move tomorrow, an elite selection of riders going over the top and flying down into Bergen to contest the finale. It is possible that among the big names, a lesser favourite finds themselves in the group.

With no eyes on them come the finale, they may just be given a gap, dangerous play for those riders chasing. This race is essentially there for the favourites to lose, a real open affair that may just see an outsider take the prestigious rainbow bands.

Time to have a look at some of the names flying under the radar tomorrow…

Zdenek Stybar

Relatively forgotten about given his small team, Stybar will be a force to be reckoned with tomorrow. CREDIT: InsideThePeloton

Despite being regarded as one of the top one day racers in the peloton, the former cyclocross world champion hasn’t been mentioned within the same breath as Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan or Michael Matthews. A lot of this may lie with his small team, but more than likely due to his poor 2017 season.

Aside from his national road race victory and a second place in Paris Roubaix, Stybar hasn’t managed to score another win this season, rather playing the domestique role for his teammates experiencing some stronger form.

Even without a season of results, a rider like Stybar can never be counted out on a route like tomorrow’s. He specialises in uphill sprints and can hold a breakaway against some of the best, a perfect combo for the finale in Bergen.

Alongside Roman Kreuziger and Petr Vakoc, the Czech Republic have some stellar attacking options to act as foils for a Stybar move later on. Like Stybar, the two are uphill specialists and will be dangerous if given a small gap; they might not be able to compete against the nine man teams, but the Czech Republic have come to this race with an aim to disrupt proceedings.

Silvan Dillier

Dillier has been on top form in 2017. CREDIT: InsideThePeloton

After his maiden GT stage victory in this year’s Giro, the young Swiss rider shot into World Tour prominence, going into the Route du Sud with some impressive form in the legs. Never regarded as an out-and-out climber, Dillier competed against some of the strongest mountain goats in the business to take the overall stage victory.

Just weeks later he came just one step away from completing the national double, a second place in the ITT before an impressive solo victory in the road race. Since then, the Swiss rider has had a relatively tame run of racing, visiting America before heading to the Tour of Britain to hone some late season form.

Instrumental in BMC’s TTT second place at the start of the week, Dillier has clearly come to Bergen with some strong legs. Not only is his TT ability exemplary, but also his short punchy uphill ability. He’s a true dynamic rider that is completely unpredictable on a course like tomorrow’s, he could totally flop, or prove to be the strongest rider on the day…

The real question lies with how Switzerland approach the race, with Michael Albasini their likely team leader, Dillier may just be conscripted to the role of domesituqe. If he’s given just a whisper of freedom, he’ll surely take the race into his own hands. Given a gap, he’ll surely exploit it; do not be surprised if the young Swiss pulls off the result of a lifetime.

Lars Boom

Growing old but not losing any of his power. CREDIT: InsideThePeloton

Similarly to the career arc of a certain Alejandro Valverde, Boom seems to be getting stronger with age, a stellar end of season bringing in some credible results. Breaking his spell of bad luck with a stage win in the BinckBank Tour the opened up the legs for the Dutchman, heading to the Tour of Britain as one of the favourites for the overall.

A win in the ITT followed by a defiant display of defensive riding on stage seven wrapped up the win for Boom, his second overall victory in the event. The veteran one day racer heads to Bergen among some talented Dutch riders, Tom Dumoulin and Bauke Mollema the other team principals.

Given the Dutch success already in this race, confidence will surely be sky high, encouraging them to attack, attack and attack some more. Whilst many will be keeping their eyes on Dumoulin, the Dutchman clearly on the form of his life, not many will be marking Boom, gifting him the opportunity to slip through the net.

Despite starting his career as a strong bunch sprint, he won’t be beating Sagan or Matthews in the bunch gallop tomorrow, he’ll need to attack. Just like his attack in the BinckBank Tour, Boom will be looking to launch something similar tomorrow; Salmon Hill might not suit him as much as other riders, but the false flat run in to Bergen certainly does. Time to fire up that massive Dutch engine…

Soren Kragh Andersen

A stellar Vuelta followed up with a TTT victory. CREDIT: InsideThePeloton

The young Dane has shot to World Tour prominence this season, despite it being only his second at WT level. A stage win in the early season Tour of Oman race highlighted Kragh Andersen’s talent as an uphill sprinter, beating the likes of Rui Costa to the line.

He followed suit in the recent Vuelta a Espana, a couple of podium placings behind a surging Matteo Trentin in the bunch sprints. Not only can the young Dane sprint, but he can also climb; not the biggest bergs, but certainly the likes of Salmon Hill.

As long as he can make it over the ascent among the main favourites, he’ll prove to be a danger in the finale. Sagan and Matthews shouldn’t struggle to overhaul him in a sprint, but if he gets the jump, he will be a hard rider to peg back.

Kragh Andersen is carrying some amazing form from the Vuelta, already taking a world title this week in the TTT. If he can carry these legs into tomorrow’s race, he has to be mentioned up there with some of the top names. Whilst he may be inexperienced in races like tomorrow’s, never really having raced the long distance, this could also work in his favour; not many will know of the young Dane’s ability…

Ben Swift

Since Cavendish in 2011, Great Britain haven’t had the best time at the Worlds. CREDIT: InsideThePeloton

Team Great Britain haven’t had the best luck at the World Championships in recent years, lacking any real one day racing stars. Mark Cavendish has taken a title and a second place in the space of seven years, but without the Manxman’s presence at this year’s event, GB go into this race without an obvious team leader.

One rider that may just get the green light tomorrow is Ben Swift, the former Sky man turned UAE convert. He hasn’t had the strongest season to date, a second place on the Alp D’Huez stage at the Criterium du Dauphine his best result of the season.

What he’s lacked in results however, he’s more than made up for in racing miles; mixing it with some of the best in the finale of the Milan San Remo. The Brit is proven in long distances and shouldn’t struggle with tomorrow’s length of route. The only thing that may trouble him will be the repeated attacks on Salmon Hill; he can climb but with riders like GVA and Gilbert looking to blow the race apart, it would be a tough ask for him to follow.

He’ll need the favourites to squabble and effectively neutralise the race if he’s to reach the finale unscathed. If Matthews, Sagan and the other sprinters have spent too much energy on the attack, that leaves Swift as the strongest sprinter in the group. If he can find himself in the perfect position and get the jump on the others, he could potentially bring the rainbow bands back to the UK…

As some of you older followers may know, the joint series between me and @JustProCycling is back, an anniversary edition of UCI World Championships Rider Spotlight! This is the final installment of the collaboration, any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated!