LONDON (Reuters) - Believe it or not, Britain’s world champion Mark Cavendish is not everyone’s tip for Saturday’s Olympic road race.
Although he will be backed by four top-notch team mates looking to set up a mass sprint, Cavendish should be wary of Slovakian prodigy Peter Sagan, who won the green jersey for the points classification on the Tour de France, according to American racer Chris Horner.
“I’d say he is going to impact the race dramatically, I think he is the biggest threat Cavendish has,” Horner told reporters on Friday.
Sagan showed during his maiden Tour de France campaign that he had fine climbing abilities, which would help him to shake up the field on Box Hill, an short ascent the peloton will tackle nine times in quick succession on Saturday.
“He’s going to destroy the field up the climb at some point. He’s not going to want to come to the finish with Cavendish,” added Horner.
“I would put him down in this race as my absolute favorite here if he can race with the same form he has had all year, which I don’t see why not. He’s going to be very strong in the climb.”
Sagan, who won three stages on the Tour this month, will not benefit from any team help as he is the only Slovakian rider at the start.
Top cycling nations get five riders per team, which is the case with Britain, who will look to contain ‘punchers’ such as Sagan.
Britain’s riders would know what to do, said Tour de France runner-up Chris Froome.
“(Box Hill) is not a climb that’s challenging, it’s not a grueling climb, but it’s tricky in a sense that 165 riders try to go in the front, it’s quite a narrow road up there,” he explained. “It’s more about positioning.”
Britain’s road captain David Millar summed up the situation, saying: “I think it’s a question of other teams strategizing while we’ll have to weather the storm.”
Sagan could be that storm.
“Sagan is going to be featured in this race at some point unless he flats or crashes,” said Horner. (Editing by Clare Fallon)