Geraint Thomas reckons the men’s road race at the Commonwealth Games will be a ‘war of attrition’ as rival teams work together to ensure there is no sprint for Mark Cavendish.
Reigning British champion Cavendish has a strong Isle of Man team aiming for the 160km race around Warwick and Leamington Spa to end in a sprint which he would win as favorite.
Although the route’s flat profile could point to a heap target, opposing teams plan to mix things up to rob Cavendish of his chance.
“Cavendish obviously has a strong team around him and it’s a good course for him,” said Welshman Thomas.
“But I think for us, the English, South Africa and the Scots, I don’t think any of them want a sprint, so I think it’s going to be like a Nationals race, a lot of aggressive racing, a war of attrition.
“This is the race we want and this is the race we expect.”
Cavendish’s Isle of Man squad includes former British champions Ben Swift, Mark Christian and Matt Bostock – who were involved in Matt Walls’ horror velodrome crash last week and required hospital treatment but have since been training.
When they don’t make it to a sprint, Cavendish, 37, has shown he can mix it up in breakaways too, winning his second British title in June by being in a lead group all day.
Another rider who would love to capitalize on his strong form is Fred Wright. After a terrific Tour de France in which he starred in several breakaways and finished second to Saint Etienne in Stage 13, Wright took silver in Thursday’s time trial and is a contender again.
“(Looking forward to getting involved,” said the 23-year-old. “I don’t think the race will be a traditional pro bike race where it’s controlled. It’s going to be attack after attack and we have the team to handle it.
“Let’s see what happens. Sometimes you’re there (in a breakaway), sometimes you’re not, but one of us will definitely be there and have a chance at a medal.”
The Australian side, led by time trial gold medalist Grace Brown, are favorites in the women’s race, although England will bet on Anna Henderson and Abi Smith after their recent strong form.
Henderson was just 33 seconds behind Brown in the time trial after coming to the games on the back of a superb Tour de France ladies.
The 23-year-old suffered an illness earlier in the summer but believes she is now back in the form that brought her a top 10 finish at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier in the year.
“It’s been a really crappy June, I’ve been sick twice,” she said. “I’m finally getting back to where I was in the Classics season. I’m very happy with where I’m going and hopefully it can continue like that for the rest of the season.”
The route could also play more to the strengths of Elynor Backstedt, the 20-year-old Welsh rider who is back on the track after a few years of injury-related setbacks.
Competing in the Commonwealth Games is very special for Backstedt as she follows in the footsteps of her mother, Megan Hughes, who competed for Wales in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Elynor’s Swedish father Magnus is famous as a former Paris-Roubaix winner, but Backstedt joked that her mother is “less adept at cycling” than her father.
“We want to make sure everyone knows, and we want her to know how proud we are of her,” Elynor said. “It’s an honor to be able to do the same.”