It meant that the year-old has now won four of cycling five Monuments, with only Milan-San Remo missing from his palmares.
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True, he's won the Worlds before, but he's certainly not going to miss the opportunity to take a second rainbow jersey if he's in with a chance in Yorkshire. What will be most interesting, however, is if national teammate Greg Van Avermaet is also still there at the end in a select group… EB. While a number of other nations put everything behind their rider-most-likely, will it be a case of ' too many chiefs ' on the Belgian squad as Gilbert and Van Avermaet vie for leadership in an eight-rider team that also includes young pretender Remco Evenepoel? It could prove tricky, although national selector Rik Verbrugghe is only too aware of the pitfalls of having such a talented team, and has already said that it's his responsibility to ensure that all of his riders are pulling in the same direction.
Reigning champion Alejandro Valverde is looking to be the first man to retain the rainbow stripes since The year-old is easily the oldest contender on the start list in Yorkshire, though is still as formidable as ever, even if the 'El Imbatido' shine has worn off somewhat this season.
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From 14 victories in , and 11 in , Valverde has just five wins to his name heading into the Worlds this time around. His chances of winning a second title might just depend on how hard they can make the race. If they can shed the faster finishers and make it a puncheur punch-up, then Valverde will be in with every chance of remaining in rainbows as he turns 40 — just like Zoetemelk.
Another man on the list who has won a World Championships of some form, Lutsenko won the under race in Valkenburg back in Not that had long to enjoy wearing the rainbow stripes though, turning pro with Astana the next season. But the version of Lutsenko is unlike any that has come before.
The Kazakh has nine wins to his name so far this season, by a distance the best of his career. He's in form now too, finishing fourth at the Deutschland Tour, second at Coppa Agostoni, taking the win at the Coppa Sabatini after a 75km solo effort and then winning the Memorial Marco Pantani two days later. Put simply, he's succeeded on every terrain. He may not command the headlines like the French, Dutch or Belgian leaders, but his ambitions match them all. Last month he told Cyclingnews that he believes in his chances of victory. A year-old neo-pro as the elite world champion sounds ridiculous, but Evenepoel has done away with all concepts of normality over the past 12 months.
A 'light' race programme designed to 'ease' him into the top level of the sport was laid out, but the Belgian has already taken it by storm.
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In what is surely the strongest team in the race, Belgium have two more obvious favourites in Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, but Evenepoel could provide another option. As his coach, Koen Pelgrim, said recently: "Give him meters and you have to ride seriously behind him. If it has been a difficult race and the collaboration is not per cent, then you never know. The country's 19 wins have been achieved by a series of legendary figures.
This year though, as has been the case for the past several, the national squad is relatively low-key — especially compared to some of the other teams heading to Yorkshire. Versatile sprinter Matteo Trentin leads the way for them this year.
A perennial Classics contender, and two-time Paris-Tours winner, the Trentino is at his best when the races are long. It was in evidence last summer too, when he won the European Championships road race in Glasgow. This season saw him take his third Tour de France stage win, triumphing from the break on the km stage More recently he finished on the podium five times in eight days at the recent Tour of Britain, taking a win and the points jersey along the way.
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That maxim can be applied to Trentin too — he's a rider who turns up and gets results. After taking fourth in Bergen two years ago, will the unassuming Italian turn up and get the biggest result of his career in Harrogate? Sign up to the Cyclingnews Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.
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