Innsbruck - France's Julian Alaphilippe has been heavily
tipped by his rivals to win Sunday's cycling world championships showdown in
Innsbruck on what many have described as one of the toughest routes ever.
The race over a draining 258.5 kilometres features almost
5 000 metres of climbing, culminating in a brutal final ascent, a daredevil
descent and a slight uphill incline on the last 2km dash for the line where
huge crowds are expected in the centre of the Austrian town.
Tour of Spain winner Simon Yates and his twin Adam are also
among the favourites and should one of them succeed, it would be the first
British winner since Mark Cavendish in 2011.
But the twins both fear the French trident led by
Alaphilippe - winner of the King of the Mountains classification in this year's
Tour de France - with Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot both potential winners
"I think Alaphilippe is the main favourite, you have to
look at him," Simon said on Friday.
"He's in very good form, he's won many good races and
he's backed by a very good team, for sure the strongest team. They have many
cards to play so it's not just him."
"We all know how good (Alaphilippe) is uphill and
downhill," he added.
The twins were in bullish mood at the team hotel on Friday
and said they would see how the race panned out before deciding on a final plan
"I'm feeling good, Simon's feeling good and that's all
that matters," Adam said. "During the race it's real simple tactics.
Anything can happen so we've just got to keep it simple."
The Colombian national team boasts powerful climbers, led by
a tight-knit quartet of Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana, Sergio Henao and Miguel
"It's a really hard course, super demanding and with
that hill coming after six and a half hours riding, I think it'll be very, very
hard," said Uran, who came second in the Tour de France in 2017.
Quintana, himself a two-time runner-up in the Tour de France
and a winner of both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Spain, said his Movistar
team-mate, Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, was also primed to give his
"I had him (Valverde) on the phone earlier, he's
ready," Quintana said.
"But we have four top-level riders and we are
representing our country here," he said.
"We will try and keep track of the one-day specialists
and stop them getting away. Maintaining a fast pace will be very
"But the France team is strong with three riders who
can all aspire to the world title."
Uran also said 2014 champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky
posed a threat, but Quintana tipped the Frenchman: "I think Alaphilippe should
win it, but who knows, what I can tell you for sure is this is easily the
hardest one-day race I've seen in Europe."
Alaphilippe himself played down his chances.
"There are 50 possible scenarios," he said.
"I'm trying to forget the favourite's tag."
"This is a super difficult course and hearing people
say I'm the favourite doesn't help me, there are 10 other guys I could name
right now with an equal chance," he said.
"But I can promise you my target will be to head home
to France on Monday with no regrets."