This Sunday will see the 83rd men’s World Road Race Championships take place in Doha, Qatar. Peter Sagan will be looking to defend his title against the world’s best sprinters and classics riders as they look to take the coveted rainbow jersey and top spot on the podium. With a pan flat course this year’s race looks to be decided by the sweltering desert heat and possible crosswinds in the 257.5km race that starts in the capital of Doha, takes a loop out into the desert then returns to a 15.3km circuit on “The Pearl” that will be tackled seven times.
Bookies make current World Champion Peter Sagan favourite at 5/1 followed by Mark Cavendish and German duo Andre Greipal and Marcel Kittel. Whilst these riders seem like the clear favourites considering the parcour and their palmares, this race is far from a sure thing, and as has been shown in the past, the rainbow jersey can be one from a complete outsider. Below are five riders that I believe you should be looking for. They may not quite win, but at the odds some of these riders are sitting, an each way bet is certainly worth a punt.
Fernando Gaviria (11/1 Betfair)
The Columbian powerhouse is having an outstanding first season in the World Tour with Belgian team Etixx Quick-Step and is one of the most inform sprinters going into this weekend’s race. He has managed seven victories in this debut season including last weekend’s Paris-Tours, in which he outsprinted the likes of Mark Cavendish and Nacer Bouhanni to the win. The downside for Gaviria is that being Columbian, most of his compatriots are known for their climbing and not their sprinting, meaning if he was to win, he will most likely need to do it alone. Yet, if any of you watched Bianche-Chimay-Bianche last week, you will have seen that he is no shrinking violet when it comes to riding solo.
Michael Matthews (125/1 Bet Victor)
Silver in last year’s race confirmed the Australian’s ability in one day races and whilst he is no match for the true quick men, his change of speed and ability to ride long races will suit him in Doha. Matthews also has one of the strongest teams in the race, which is packed full of his Orica-Bike Exchange teammates. One drawback is the presence of Caleb Ewan, who without doubt is the faster sprinter yet is an unknown over such long races. However, at 125/1, Matthews is without doubt worth a dabble and could prove to be the Vasil Kiryenka -Kiryenka took last years’ Time Trial title priced at 50/1 – of Doha.
Arnaud Démare (50/1 – Coral)
Usually if someone suggested Arnaud Démare as a rider to watch, I would scoff, laughing in their face before giving them a look of confusion. I am far from being a fan of the French sprinter, and like his compatriots Nacer Bouhanni and Bryan Coquard, he usually stands as cannon-fodder in most races. Also his victory at this year’s Milan-San Remo, the biggest win of his career, was marred by accusations of holding onto the team car, which has done nothing for is reputation in my books. Yet last week, Démare impressed me. In Bianche-Chimay-Bianche, the Frenchman managed to scale the final cobbled climb and outsprint the likes of Zdenek Stybar and Greg Van Avermaet to the win. Now these are not exactly world class sprinters, but the manner in which Démare took the victory was mightily impressive and at 50/1, stranger things have happened!
Alejandro Valverde (150/1 – BetVictor)
I know what you are thinking, the course is flat and Valverde is not a sprinter, why is he suggesting him? Well, you see, simply not suiting a race is not a good enough excuse for Alejandro Valverde, who has managed to medal at six world championships. In theory, a 36 year-old should not be able to finish all three Grand Tours in one season, with twelfth being his worst finish, win Fléche Wallone, the Vuelta a Andalucia and Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, finish in the top-ten at Strade Bianche, Clasica de San Sebastian and Giro di Lombardia and top-fiveteen at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Milan San-Remo. Yet, the Spaniard managed this all this season whilst also helping team-mate Nairo Quintana win La Vuelta a Espana.
After reading all of that you are probably still thinking, but Valverde is not even in the Spanish team for Sunday’s World Championships? Well that maybe the case, but I still would not be surprised if Balaverde came away with the bronze medal.
Tom Boonen (18/1 – Coral)
So I do not actually think that Tom Boonen will take his second World Championships this Sunday in Doha but picture the scene. The rain pounds the Roubaix Velodrome, a single rider enters, clear of the pack. It is Tom Boonen, clad in a mud-stained and rain-soaked rainbow jersey, in his last ever race. He completes the final lap and a half of the track, lifting his arms aloft claiming his fifth Paris-Roubaix title in his last ever race in the rainbow jersey. Now if that does not bring a tear to your eye, I do not know what will! Boonen will not win on Sunday but I, fer sure (said in a Boonenesque Flemish accent), will be hoping and praying this dream comes true.