Lizzie Deignan remains Britain’s top prospect at the World Road Championships | Cycling

great Britain will field some of its strongest teams of all time for the world road championships next week in Flanders. The teams are teeming with young talent such as Olympic gold medalist Tom Pidcock and Pfeiffer Georgi, but the strength and depth of the opposition in elite events is at least such that their chances are nearly impossible to predict.

The best hope for a medal rests with the 2015 elite female champion, Lizzie Deignan, as she has been doing for a decade now, aside from her hiatus to give birth to her daughter, Orla. Deignan has not yet reached the heights it reached in 2020; her only victory so far is the Tour de Suisse, but she now faces a busy end to the season, with the first women’s Paris-Roubaix and the UK Women’s Tour following immediately after Flanders.

Regardless of how the race unfolds next Saturday, she is perfectly suited to the small hills of the hard-hitting course through Flanders and Brabant where she lived when she started racing in Europe in 2009, and she has a full squad. behind her, unlike in Tokyo, where the Olympic race eluded her in the final.

Over the years, Deignan has had to face the dominant Dutch team alone – the orange train fled with victory last year thanks to Anna van der Breggen – but with established WorldTour riders Anna Shackley, Anna Henderson and Alice Barnes around her. , she can finally get support when it counts.

Georgi, meanwhile, is on the other end of the age and experience spectrum, but the 20-year-old has seen fluid form in recent weeks, culminating in her first professional victory, at the Grand Prix. of Fourmies.

In the Tour of Britain, won by Belgian Wout van Aert, it was clear that the native nation’s big star had returned to form at the right time for both Sunday’s elite men’s time trial and for next Sunday’s highlight, the elite men’s road race. Van Aert won half of the stages on the eight-day UK tour, bringing his total for the season to 13, including two Belgian classics.

However, he was also the favorite for last year’s road world title in Italy and for the Olympic road race in Tokyo last month, and was too heavily scored to win either. He will face intense pressure in Europe’s craziest region for cycling, which could leave room for teammate Remco Evenepoel, arguably the most exciting young talent in professional cycling.

Remco Evenepoel (left) and Wout van Aert at a Belgian press conference in Flanders. Photograph: Rex / Shutterstock

Given the large number of riders who appear to be in good shape at the right time – including defending champion Julian Alaphilippe and Danes Magnus Cort Nielsen and Michael Valgren – the Brits are hoping to go under the radar, like the Tour de Grande -Brittany, Ethan Hayter, or the in-form Conor Swift should at least feature in the Endgame. In 2019 at Harrogate, the favorites fell apart, letting an outsider from Dane Mads Pedersen pass, and a similar result cannot be ruled out this year.

The absence of Geraint Thomas from the British men’s squad speaks volumes about the uncertain form of the 2018 Tour de France winner, and the statesman role will be played by Luke Rowe, Ben Swift and Mark Cavendish, who have agreed on terms for 2022 on Friday with his current team, Deceuninck Quickstep.

Young hopefuls Pidcock, Hayter, Fred Wright and Jake Stewart have all the skills needed to advance to the decisive endgame, it remains to be seen if they can produce the sheer grunt to compete when Van Aert, Alaphilippe and company make their moves, remains to be seen, but like Georgi in the women’s race, the feeling is that this is just the start of their journey.

Elsewhere, in time trials, it’s hard to see past last year’s gold medalist Filippo Ganna – though Van Aert should push him hard – and two-time female world champion Annemiek van Vleuten.

The men’s Under-23 race is usually a lottery, but Britain’s leader Ben Askey has performed well recently in the Under-25 Tour de l’Avenir, while in the junior races Zoe Backstedt, Finlay Pickering and Josh Tarling can hope to be among the medals.

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