What, no Wout?
The Wollongong World Championships time trial takes place with one notable absentee from the startsheet. Belgian superstar Van Aert is still heading Down Under but, after a long hard season, has decided to put all of his eggs in the road race basket.
That leaves the door open for his compatriot, Remco Evenepoel, who will look to add a rainbow jersey to the red one he acquired last Sunday in Madrid.
Vuelta a España
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The 17.1km circuit (which just as in the women's race, will be tackled twice) is far from pan-flat, so may suit a climber slightly more than a true specialist but there are no riders among the favourites who can't handle what the course can throw at it. Ultimately the rainbow jersey and the medals will be decided by form.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - REMCO EVENEPOEL
Only one rider is worthy of the five star treatment, and that is the name that has been on our lips for most of the last month - and likely will be for many years to come. Finishing more than 40 seconds ahead of closest rival, Primoz Roglic, Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) was in a class of his own in the Vuelta time trial in Alicante, and there’s every reason to believe he will have retained the form, the impetus and the confidence necessary to take his first set of rainbow jerseys, a week after his first Grand Tour title.
- Rider ratings: Van Dijk and Reusser out to stop Van Vleuten in time trial
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Evenepoel best bits at La Vuelta
⭐⭐⭐⭐ - FILIPPO GANNA, TADEJ POGACAR, STEFAN BISSEGGER
On his day, there is no one in the world better against the clock than Filippo Ganna (Italy). Ordinarily he would be at least a close second favourite to claim a third consecutive road rainbow jersey. Sadly for him, he has been unable to reach his “ordinary” level, and hasn’t had a “his day” since the Italian national championships in June. At the Euros he was several seconds off the winning time of Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland) when, over that kind of distance, you would usually expect him to be at least half a minute to the good. The win looks less likely than it did a year ago, but even at 80%, Ganna is better than 80% of riders at their best.
Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia), for his part, doesn’t really have an off day. His very best is a bit below that of Remco Evenepoel, but you’d still expect a podium place to be well within his grasp. If the young Belgian has been on the chips and beer for the past week, it’s not inconceivable that the young Slovenian could go a step higher.
Bissegger is not a big name in the time trialling world, but it surely soon will be. The 24 year-old Swiss roller pipped compatriot Stefan Kung into second spot at the recent European Championships by a single second, which is enough for him to leapfrog the older man in our ratings as well.
⭐⭐⭐ - STEFAN KUNG, YVES LAMPAERT, ETHAN HAYTER, MATTEO SOBRERO
It’s easy to see Stefan Kung (Switzerland) as the nearly man of European time trialling - always towards the top of the standings in the big races, but never quite up there with or above the best. The truth is, he’s had (indeed is having) a pretty good career, with far more wins and jerseys than many. Another worlds podium place would be a satisfactory result for him.
As it probably would for Yves Lampaert (Belgium) and Ethan Hayter (Great Britain). The veteran Belgian stunned everyone - none more than himself - when he claimed the opening stage and first yellow jersey of this year’s Tour de France. Conditions in Copenhagen were dreadful that day, which meant they suited him down to the ground, so it’s not likely he’ll repeat the trick, but stranger things have happened.
Stage 1 highlights: Lampaert thrives in rain to deny Van Aert
The British national time trial champion, Hayter, is a supremely versatile rider and still something of a raw talent. Nowhere did he show that better than at the Tour de Romandie, when he took two stages including the prologue and a bunch sprint. Sadly Britain didn’t send anyone to the European Championships, and the 23 year-old was forced to withdraw from the Vuelta ahead of the time trial, so we haven’t seen him against the clock for a while, and nor do we quite know where his form is. Up to a point, however, he is capable of finishing in the top 10, top five, or even winning in the vast majority of races, courses and conditions.
The same could well be said for Matteo Sobrero, the Italian rider who took the final stage of the Giro d’Italia. He hasn’t offered quite that kind of form since, and it’s possible that freshness (of himself or others) works against him, but that he can achieve big results in big races is beyond doubt.
⭐⭐ - LUKE PLAPP, REMI CAVAGNA
Should Plapp perhaps have his place swapped with that of trade team-mate Magnus Sheffield? There’s a case to be made, but we’re going to make the other one. We do feel somewhat obliged to feature a rider from the host nation, but this has more to do with what he did last Sunday in Madrid. Along with Julius Johansen (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) Plapp put on a show, transforming a typical tedious procession into a real game of cat-and-mouse, or hare and hounds. His professional results have yet to rock the world, but in the big races, with a national jersey on his back, he has a history of delivering and is showing huge potential.
Remi Cavagna, in contrast, is probably peaking as an individual rider. There can be no doubt that he delivered for his team-mate, the rider at the top of this list, but a big win is going to be harder to come by and more unexpected for the Frenchman as time goes on. Third in the Vuelta time trial in Alicante is what earns Cavagna his pair of stars. He should be able to secure himself a top 10 place in Wollongong, top five if he rides out of his skin.
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⭐ - EDUARDO AFFINI, TOBIAS FOSS, MAGNUS SHEFFIELD
Another Italian, a Norwegian and an American to round us off. Tobias Foss, the Norwegian national champion arrives fresh of the plane from Canada (eh) having somewhat flattered to deceive this season. Still he’s young, fun and, as a former Tour de l’Avenir champion, full of potential. His Jumbo Visma team-mate, Eduardo Affini (Italy), has had a season of “there or thereabouts” which is what it would be reasonable to expect of him on Sunday.
As for Sheffield (United States), who knows, but it would be foolish not to name him, lest he do something very special indeed. Despite only being 20, in his first proper season, he’s won a few proper races and out-performed far more experienced riders (including his own team-mates) in plenty of others.
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Stream the UCI Road World Championships live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk
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