Mathieu van der Poel thinks he has a chance to win the world title on Sunday, but the 24-year-old rider does not agree with the prevailing opinion that he is the biggest contender on the rainbow jersey.
"I agree that I belong to the favorites," Van der Poel said Friday at a well-attended press conference at the Dutch riders hotel in Harrogate. "But it's a bit of an exaggeration to call me the top favorite."
The World Cup debutant for the seniors is the bookmakers' favorite on the basis of his impressive road season (ten victories) and the hilly course in Yorkshire, for men such as triple world champion Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert. His competitors also designate the Dutchman as the man to beat.
"Based on what Mathieu has shown this year, it seems normal to me that Mathieu is the top favorite," said Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, who is the leader of the Belgians with Gilbert. "But nobody is 100 percent sure that he will win, not even Mathieu. That makes it so beautiful, otherwise we wouldn't have to be here."
Van der Poel, the glorious winner of the Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race in the spring, can agree with the words of Van Avermaet. "This will probably be my most difficult race to win."
"In this area I belong to the strongest riders, but I do not consider myself the strongest. I think there are many riders who can win. I will not name names, because it is not easy to predict who will go gold on Sunday to grab."
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Van der Poel can become the first Dutch man in 34 years to become world champion and the eighth in total, after Theofiel Middelkamp (1947), Jan Janssen (1964), Harm Ottenbros (1969), Hennie Kuiper (1975), Gerrie Knetemann (1978 ), Jan Raas (1979) and Joop Zoetemelk (1985).
The last Dutch medal in the men's road race dates from 1997, when Leon van Bon became third in San Sebastian, Spain.
Van der Poel receives support from a strong and experienced team in England: Bauke Mollema, Niki Terpstra, Sebastian Langeveld, Mike Teunissen, Dylan van Baarle, Jos van Emden and Pieter Weening.
The riders will start on Sunday at 10:00 am Dutch time in Leeds at the World Championship Road Race and after a run of 187.5 kilometers followed by seven local laps the finish will be around 4.40 pm in Harrogate. The total route is no less than 285 kilometers long and on the way 3,645 meters of altitude must be overcome.
There are no long climbs on the local circuit of fourteen kilometers, but it goes on and off all the time. The most difficult obstacle is every round of Harlow Moor Road (1.1 kilometers to 5.6 percent).
See also: Who are the biggest competitors of World Cup top favorite Van der Poel?