Three Ways to Win The Worlds Road Race

We know the favorites. You have read about them all week - all month, really - and looked at odds. You read Chris' piece on how different teams stack up against each other. But our favorites are not the same - they have different ways of winning, each with their own intricacies. How can your favorite crack worlds? Follow along.

Option 1: The Long Range Break That Sticks

No, I'm not talking about that early move, the one that goes away in the first 50 kilometers filled in part by riders from countries with no real chance at medals - the Peruvians, Iranians, and some early fodder from the bigger teams. I'm talking about the one that goes in the final 50-60km of the race that is full of not-quite-favorites. Johnny Hoogerland loves this breakaway, as will strong domestiques like Johan Vansummeren looking to put pressure on other teams.

The long range break is a constant feature of the classics; Vansummeren won the 2011 Paris-Roubaix out of such a move. The goals of riders are mixed - those who lack some of the top end horsepower of race favorites are looking for their only chance while the favorites' foot soldiers are looking to make other teams chase. But rarely does this tactic work - too many teams have a vested interest in bringing back such a move, especially in a race so prestigious as Worlds.

Whether a breakaway can stick depends largely on the course. Last year, no dissent would be tolerated by the Great Britain team on a course devoid of any sizable hills or technical passages. This year, however, the constant up and down of the course paired with the notoriously tight and treacherous roads of Amstel Gold will make it harder to bring back any breakaway that pries open a gap. In the women's race, the more aggressive racing a shorter course (under 130km) provokes will make a breakaway more likely to emerge and stay away.

Conditions Necessary for Success:

Spain, Italy, and Belgium represented; bad weather

Likely Winners:

Emma Pooley, Tejay van Garderen, Johnny Hoogerland, Lars Peter Nordhaug, Michael Albasini

Option 2: Attack The Cauberg

The proximity of the infamous Cauberg to the finish adds great uncertainty to the race. The climb by itself is not overly difficult - 1.2 kilometers at an average gradient of 5.8% with a maximum of 12% in the steep middle portion. Its infamy results from its placement at the very end of the Amstel Gold race where 250 kilometers of hard racing over steep bergs make its slopes decisive. Worlds will be similar, with 258km of racing before the final trip up the climb for the men and 127km for the women.

The plan of attack is simple here - attack on the steepest gradients of the climb and get a sufficient gap to hold on the 2 kilometer run to the finish. Execution is far from simple, though. Though the road continues to rise slightly after the Cauberg, it begins to drop slowly in the final 1.5 kilometers. A rider will need at least 5 seconds, and more likely 10, to survive the chase behind, especially if there are fast finishers left. The final 300 meters will be tilted in favor of the charging bunch; a solo rider can lose up to three seconds here alone.

Alternatively, several riders may get away. Then, collaboration becomes much more important than strength. Each member of the selection will be hoping to emulate Simon Gerrans at Milan - San Remo and avoid the fate of Fabian Cancellara. If collaboration begins immediately, there is hope, at least until the final 500 meters. With riders insisting "No, you lead out the sprint!" a selection may ironically require more time over the top of the Cauberg than a solo rider.

Conditions Necessary for Success:

8-10 seconds over the top of the Cauberg; a hard race beforehand; similar riders in a selection (i.e. none has a far superior sprint); no headwind in final kilometers

Likely Winners:

Marianne Vos, Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Simon Gerrans, Vincenzo Nibali, Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel

Option 3: Survive the Cauberg

Amstel Gold has begun to take a similar form over the past ten years. Breakaways on the final two or three climbs and the descents that follow are absorbed at the base of the Cauberg, leading to an uphill sprint from a group of 30-50 riders despite over 250 kilometers of short, sharp bergs. Why should Worlds be any different? While traditional sprinters will have no chance of staying around for the finale, plenty of former fastmen turned classics studs will be licking their chops at a chance to out-kick all the climber types around them. Tom Boonen has the second highest odds to win on Sunday, after all.

Surviving the Cauberg is not enough, though. One cannot be too far back as the climb crests because two minutes to ride up the field and position oneself for a sprint is too little time, especially if a rider has gone into the red up the climb to merely stay in contact. No, a rider must be in the top 20-25 riders over the top of the final climb to have a chance. And this sprint, it is not limited to the fastest riders as the Cauberg will dull their speed more than Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde. A thrilling matchup between riders not normally competing against each other could be in order.

Conditions Necessary for Success:

"Easy" race beforehand; come over the Cauberg in top 25 riders

Likely Winners:

Marianne Vos, Elizabeth Armistead, Emma Johansson, Tom Boonen, Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Freire, Luca Paolini, Edvald Boasson Hagen

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