Once again, our ‘expert’ panel here at Rouleur Towers pit their wits and intimate knowledge of the racing scene against Cycling Mole, our harshest critic and king of the tipster scene, to see who will be crowned King of Yorkshire.
Hours of painstaking research will go into our World Championships picks, whilst stroking our luxuriant hipster beards over a mug of single origin coffee, listening to ambient techno. [Did Moley write this? – Ed]
Can any of us outfox the crafty Mole? Or will he rip us a new one, as per usual? Read on…
Mixed Relay Team Time Trial: Harrogate, 28km
This is an enjoyable big unknown – formbook-wise, we only have one race to go on, the Europeans. Germany narrowly lost out to the Dutch there, but drafting in Tony Martin and Nils Politt for Yorkshire, I reckon they’ve beefed up their team even more than their rivals. There are no weak links in their line-up now. If former world champ Martin is back in fine fettle after his Vuelta crash, I think they’ll pip their orange-clad opponents. Should be an entertaining watch, whatever happens.
As Andy says, a hard one to call when half the field didn’t bother with the Euros test event back in the summer. I like the look of the Danes though, with some serious firepower from both sexes. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Cecelie Uttrup Ludwig in the post-race press conference: “Pam! We put the hammer DOWN!”
Seemingly the cycling country of the moment and admittedly the team with the most riders I recognise the names of, I’m plumping for Slovenia. With Roglič and Pogačar fresh off the back of killer Vuelta form, they’re going to run the fine line between fatigue and fabulous – but I’m going with fabulous.
Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and Elle van Dijk (the top three in the Dutch national ITT earlier this year) are all conspicuous by their absence from the women’s side of this, but in Lucinda Brand, who finished 4th in the time trial at the Giro Rosa, they have a heavyweight anchor.
The men’s side is about as strong as it could be: Jos van Emden is a tip top tester – and one of the nicest guys in cycling to boot – while Bauke Mollema and Koen Bouwman were both in the team that won this race for the Dutch at the Euros.
Netherlands have to be the favourites, but going by the long lists, Germany look like the only team who could field a stronger lineup than they did at the European Championships. They ran the Dutch close there, despite losing Mathis (who isn’t coming to Yorkshire) very early on in the men’s leg so I’m tipping them to go one better.
The good people at Rouleur Heights clearly haven’t had enough of me yet, time to push them a bit further and see which of the posh boy journos crack first. The mixed relay is a new format, one that has certainly split opinion. It’s in at the expense of the team time trial, which is not something that pleases me. Three men set out first, and when the second guy crosses the line, the women start. The final time is taken when the second women gets home. The route is typical Yorkshire, lots of lumps to test the legs, most of which we’ll become accustomed to during the week.
We’re all working from the provisional start list, which is really going to test everyone. The teams haven’t yet announced who will actually ride, so it’s a bit of a stab in the dark, but I’ve got a torch! Let me break it gently to Miles. Primož Roglič isn’t doing the relay, I’m not called the Cycling Mole for nothing! Without him, Slovenia won’t be winning this.
Ian’s on Denmark, and they won’t be far away. Their men are very strong, but I see the women as weaker than the other teams, which will stop them from winning gold. Back at the Euros, the Netherlands beat Germany by 14 seconds, and they’ve added Jos Van Emden to their unit, a rider who is very good against the clock. The problem is that Jos isn’t enjoying his best period of the season, but they’ll still be challenging for the win.
Andy has recently been very busy in the kitchen, turning his hand to a risotto. No doubt he was gently stirring and scrolling through the form book at the same time. Once he got stuck into the Sauv Blanc, he went with the Germans (please say in a Scouse accent). They were close in the Euros and have added some serious firepower, but is it the risotto talking?
Verdict – this should be a three-way battle between Germany, Netherlands and Italy, who were shunned by the Rouleur lads. As much as I would like to, I can’t see fault in Andy’s pick and I too will go with Germany, they always do like to spoil the English parties. Cycling’s coming home!