Retired Spanish stars offer opinions on recently confirmed Ponferrada Worlds course
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Retired Spanish stars offer opinions on recently confirmed Ponferrada Worlds course

by Ben Atkins at 4:43 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
The “five magnificent ones” predict selective races and a likely small group finish

miguel indurainFive retired Spanish riders rode the course for the 2014 World championships, in Ponferrada, Spain, this week, and predicted that a selective race will likely see a small group finishing together to fight for the next rainbow jersey. Miguel Indurain, Oscar Freire, Pedro Delgado, Abraham Olano and Igor Astarloa - collectively referred to as the “five magnificent ones” - all braved the wet conditions in the northwestern Castilla y León town, and offered their opinions.

Between them, the five riders took six Tours de France, two Giri d’Italia, two Vueltas a España, five World road race championships, two World time trial championships and one Olympic gold medal.

“This won’t be the hardest World Championship of history,” said Indurain, “but it is a selective one. It is possible to have a small group finishing together but it won’t for sure be a massive sprint.”

Freire is one of only four riders in history - alongside Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen and Eddy Merckx - to have won the World title three times. Although “the Cat” was best known as a sprinter, he was capable of staying with highly select groups on some of the tougher courses, and liked what her saw in Ponferrada.

“For sure I would have like to participate because the course could suit me very well,” he said. “A shame I am no longer racing!

“I believe many riders have a chance on such a course: the one who will decide to attack but also those who prefer to wait for the sprint as I used to do,” Freire added.

“Perico” Delgado predicted a selective race in September, particularly if the conditions mirror those experienced in this year’s men’s road race in Florence, Italy.

“If it is no raining, a group of about thirty riders could arrive together,” the 1988 Tour de France winner explained. “But if it is raining like it was the case today during a part of the day, it is possible that the bunch breaks in several groups in the downhill but also uphill.”

Peter Sagan was named as many people’s favourite going into the race in Florence, and is already being touted as a likely winner in Ponferrada. Olano is one that is already tipping the Slovakian champion, in what he feels will be a selective race.

“The circuit is very fast, the average speed will be very high and as a consequence a very small group of riders will be fighting for victory,” said the former road and time trial World champion.

Astarloa won his World title in Hamilton, Canada, in 2003, after holding off the chasing group on the two kilometre descent to the finish, and feels that “the downhill will have an important role to play [in Ponferrada]. It is a really technical one. But the ascent is tough too. It is true it is a straight one and that the road is broad but when riders will decide to accelerate, the strongest riders will be there in the first positions.”

The five former riders were accompanied by Spanish head coach Javier Mínguez, who concurred with the prevailing opinion that the 2014 Worlds races would be tough. He lamented the fact that organisers had opted not to use the course that the Spanish team had recommended.

“The course is tough but not selective,” he said. “The one we proposed was more selective and the chosen one will give chance to more candidates that it was the case in Florence for example.”


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