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Who are the bookies backing for the World Championships men's race?

A guide to the favourites for the men’s elite road race in Harrogate on Sunday 29th September

Joe Robinson
23 Sep 2019

The UCI World Championships is already underway in Harrogate, Yorkshire and the final event is the elite men’s road race on Sunday 29th September.

At 285km, it will be the longest World Championships road race in recent history, almost matching the mammoth 298km tackled at Milan-San Remo, just with a mighty 3,645m of elevation.

After a long 180km lap of the Yorkshire Dales - which includes ascents of Kidstones Pass, Buttertubs and Grinton Moor - the men will enter Harrogate for seven laps of a 14km finishing circuit.

It’s technical, negotiating plenty of narrow roads, tight corners and a few rude gradients in a loop that will sap the energy reserves of every rider. Particularly watch out for the tight bridge on Penny Pot Lane followed by a steep climb to Cornwall Road, a perfect attacking point.

Then there’s the weather, with rain predicted for next Sunday, which will only add another dimension to an already brutal race.

Whoever crosses the line first will be a worthy winner considering the tough nature of the route and below Cyclist has crunched the numbers to see who are the bookies’ favourites and who you should be backing. We're only covering the men's race as, at the time of writing, odds are not available for the women's road race on Saturday 28th September.

The favourites for the 2019 World Championships: Where should your money be?

A certain young Dutchman is the one to watch

Here’s a big call. Mathieu van der Poel is the biggest favourite for an elite men’s World Championships road race since Philippe Gilbert at Valkenburg 2012.

There is a genuine fear factor surrounding the all-conquering Dutchman who has proved capable of winning the world’s biggest races in road, cyclocross and on his mountain bike.

In the eight one-day races he has contested this year, he has four victories, two fourth places, a nineteenth and a DNF.

Boil that down to the four WorldTour one-day races he contested (Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold) and he has a 50% win rate, with the worst finish being fourth.

Within those wins, he won from two reduced bunches of four, a mass sprint and solo, proving that he really can win from any given scenario.

The bookies agree that it’s Van der Poel’s to lose with him being the outright favourite across the board. The best price currently is 5/2 (Paddy Power) with most pricing him at 9/4 (Skybet).

Can Sagan make history in Harrogate?

A fourth win for Sagan?

Being a three-time former World Champion earns Peter Sagan second in the bookies' ranking despite not showing any race-winning form since the Tour de France in July.

You could call 2019 a fairly quiet year for the 29-year-old, which speaks of the expectations surrounding Sagan. Apparently, two Monument top 10 finishes, a record seventh green sprinter’s jersey and a stage at the Tour de France is underperforming.

Obviously, you would be stupid to rule out the Slovakian and if anybody can pull out a top performance from seemingly nowhere, it’s Sagan.

If he wins, Sagan becomes the first male to ever win four rainbow jerseys and you can get that at a price of 9/2 (Ladbrokes).

Julian's finale to a prolific, and tiring, season

The best road cyclist in the world this year has been Julian Alaphilippe: 12 wins so far, a career-first Monument at Milan-San Remo, Fleche Wallonne, Strade Bianche, two Tour de France stages, 14 days in the yellow jersey and fifth on General Classification.

That reads like a palmares of a top rider’s entire career, not nine months.

If this race was taking place in July or even April, you’d have put your house on the Frenchman taking rainbow, or at least reaching the podium.

Yet, the stresses of such an unbelievable season will catch up with the 27-year-old and you cannot help but think a 285km road race in September is just a step too far.

Either way, the bookies rate Alaphilippe’s chances highly, placing him at third favourite with a best price 15/2 (Bet365).

Belgians bring experience combined with raw youth

Belgium brings a team of eight riders to Yorkshire in which six could realistically fancy their chances of victory. Among those six, the three that stand out are grizzled veteran’s Philippe Gilbert and Greg van Avermaet and 19-year-old super-talent Remco Evenepoel.

It has been seven years since Gilbert won rainbow in the Netherlands

Both Gilbert and Van Avermaet are in flying form with the former recently winning two-stages of the Vuelta a Espana and the latter winning the GP Montreal. Both are also two of the most accomplished one-day Classics men of their generation sharing six Monuments, a World Championships jersey and an Olympic Gold medal between them.

However, as they demonstrated in their time together at BMC Racing, Gilbert and Van Avermaet are not the best at working together, often sharing differing opinions on who should be the team leader.

So despite their prices of 12/1 (Ladbrokes) and 25/1 (William Hill) looking attractive, what you are better off doing is chucking a pound note on Evenepoel at 22/1 (Betway) because stranger things have happened.

Honourable mentions

Other notable punts are an in-form Italian Matteo Trentin at 25/1 (Paddy Power) and defending champion Alejandro Valverde at 33/1 (Coral), who are both worthy of an each-way punt.

Home hopes lie with Yorkshire lad Ben Swift, who leads the charge for Great Britain. He has previous in long-distance one-day races - twice finishing on the podium at Milan-San Remo - but you cannot help but think the level at the Worlds may be a little too high for the current road race National Champion.

You can get him at 80/1 (Bet365) but what you may want to do is place an each-way backing on Geraint Thomas who is generously priced at 250/1 (Bet365).

Will Geraint Thomas be the first rider since Cadel Evans to have won the Tour de France and World Championships?

Those who remember Rui Costa will be well aware that underdogs can sometimes prosper at the World Championships and there are few riders that are certainly worth keeping an eye on.

The first riders are Danish duo Jakob Fuglsang and Kasper Asgreen.

With victories at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Criterium du Dauphine already this year, labelling Fuglsang an underdog may be a bit of a disservice but, if anything, it is just an indication of the quality start field.

It’s why Fuglsang has a price of 50/1 (Ladbrokes) which is well worth a few quid each way.

Compatriot Asgreen is also worth a look. Only 24-years-old, he already counts second at the Tour of Flanders and has a huge diesel engine suited to tough, long days in the saddle, much like the 285km road race in and around Harrogate.

You can get the Deceuninck-QuickStep man at 50/1 (Coral) which is a bit of a steal.

Cyclist's long-range punt, Alexey Lutsenko

The final tip Cyclist is willing to part with is Kazakh rider Alexey Lutsenko. If you’ve got your ear to the ground, you’ll notice the Astana rider is in flying form having won two one-day races in Italy last week after already taking the Arctic Tour of Norway at the end of August.

Give him an inch and he will take a mile: if Lutsenko is allowed to ride out of sight, I highly doubt that he will be brought back, even by the likes of Van der Poel and Sagan.

At a price of 30/1 (Paddy Power), make sure you spare a few quid on this rank outsider to take home Kazahkstan’s first rainbow jersey.

Cyclist takes no responsibility for bets placed or resulting losses. Always remember to gamble responsibly. When the fun stops, stop.