Cycling World Championships 2013: Riders to Watch in Florence
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There is a select group of riders who will thrive at this year's Cycling World Championships. The course is possibly the toughest it's ever been, so it's going to make for an intense competition.
With more climbs than in recent years, it obviously benefits those with a good record in the mountains, both for the time trial and the road race. Three of the main contenders are outlined below.
Fresh from his Tour de France victory, Chris Froome is understandably one of the favourites for the rainbow jersey. He is ably supported by his team-mate and countryman Sir Bradley Wiggins—who is concentrating on the time trial—and will be up with the leaders from the outset.
Froome's attacking style will serve him well at this year's race, and his skill in the mountains has consistently brought him results. Although he and Wiggins haven't always seen eye to eye, their styles are similar enough to make them a good foil for each other.
Sky Sports reported that Wiggins has pledged to be professional in his support of Froome's bid for the rainbow jersey, and this partnership marks the Sky team out as the one to beat in Florence.
Don't be fooled by Philippe Gilbert's disappointing season—the reigning world champion cannot be ignored when marking out candidates for victory.
Before he took Stage 12 of this year's Vuelta a Espana, the Frenchman hadn't won any thing all year. However, he was unlucky to miss out on victory in Stage 7 of the Vuelta, and his impressive chasing down of Edvald Boasson Hagen in Stage 12 showed that he remains a contender.
It could be that he's coming into some form at the right time and will be eager to mount a successful defence of his world title. He's more of a sprinter than a climber, but he'll give it everything.
All through the Tour of Spain, it looked like Vincenzo Nibali would be the one to take overall victory. He looked in complete control of the race and consistently produced good rides when he needed to. The Italian will be well-supported in his home country and will fear no one on this tricky mountainous course.
Nibali is a little like Froome in that he will need an aggressive assault on the climbs in order to distance himself from the pack for the sprints. Nibali is not known as a sprinter, but his experience on Grand Tours makes him well-suited for this year's Worlds.
Look for him to attack the course and make life difficult for sprinters like Gilbert. Nibali will need to dictate the pace if he is to take the rainbow jersey. Coming off a successful Vuelta, he's in good form and will want to get an early lead.
If you keep an eye on anyone in the opening stages, make sure it's Nibali.
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