Gilbert, Boonen Lead Charge Into World Road Race

Tom Boonen All About The Cobbles - Paris-Roubaix 2012

Tom Boonen All About The Cobbles – Paris-Roubaix 2012

by Jean Montois

VALKENBURG, Netherlands, Sept 22, 2012 (AFP) – Philippe Gilbert and Tom
Boonen will lead a powerful Belgian team as the world championship road race
takes center stage on the roads around Valkenburg on Sunday.

“No other team will be as strong as Belgium with Tom as a sprinter and
myself as an attacker,” boasted Gilbert ahead of the 267km race over rolling
terrain on the final day of the one-week championships.

Gilbert will definitely fancy his chances on a route very similar to that
used for the Amstel Gold Race one-day classic, which he has won twice in 2010
and 2011 before finishing sixth in 2012.

The difference is the finish line, which comes after the climb to Cauberg
and is 1.8km further ahead after an initial 500m ascent before 1.3km of flat
sprinting which makes Gilbert’s task that much harder to hold off the
speedsters in the peloton.

“It will be another kind of race,” warned Gilbert. “No-one is going to go
flat out to Cauberg in order to retain energy for the final 2km.”

The attacking riders or punchers will need to be wary of the sprinters who
possess climbing skills and will try to stay in touch over the Valkenburg
climbs that will come into play over 10 laps of the 16.5km circuit which is
proceeded by 100km of racing across several Limburg municipalities.

Defending champion Mark Cavendish is being given little chance of retaining
the rainbow jersey, while Britain’s team come into the race with little left
in the tank and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Chris
Froome feeling the effects of an exhausting season.

The pick of the sprinters is Boonen, who was very much the man in form
early in the season and his victory during the Paris-Brussels race underlines
his credentials as not only a sprinter but a strong one-day racer as he chases
a second world crown seven years on from his triumph on the roads of Madrid.

“Boonen is not just a sprinter,” warned French hope Thomas Vockler, who
also has championship credentials after a strong season, including two stage
wins on the Tour de France and winner of the climber’s polka-dot jersey.

Other contenders to look for are Slovakian champion Peter Sagan, who picked
up three stage wins on the Tour and finished third at Cauberg during the
Amstel Gold Cup race.

Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway is another rider who will like the
conditions and his outright speed has brought him into the frame as another
potential champion on Sunday.

The weather may also play havoc with the race with the possibility that
national teams will build their strategy around their punchers such as Simon
Gerrans of Australia (winner of the Quebec GP), Russia’s Alexandr Kolobnev or
the Italian duo of Moreno Moser and Vincenzo Nibali.

While Belgium may have the strongest team on paper, the Spaniards will be
also be near the front as Tour of Spain winner Alberto Contador makes his
return to the race following suspension and is well-supported by Alejandro
Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez and 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez

Three-time world champion and 36-year-old veteran Oscar Freire will take
inspiration from Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov who won the Olympic gold
medal at 39.