Mark Cavendish can win the world championships, if he starts

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Briton Mark Cavendish is among the riders favoured by the bookies to be fighting for the honour of pulling on cycling's rainbow-striped world champion's jersey next year.

The World Championships take place in Richmond, Virginia, USA, from 19-27 September, taking in numerous laps of a 16k course, which is thought to favour sprinters such as the Manxman. 

However, an incident last week has threatened Cavendish's world title bid and thrown Team GB's plans into turmoil


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It is still uncertain as to whether Cavendish will participate in the World Championships after crashing out of the Tour of Britain last week. Although it was initially feared that the Manxman had suffered a recurrence of the dislocated shoulder he sustained in the 2014 Tour de France, tests have shown that there has been no dislocation, break or fracture. 

Cavendish's withdrawal would be a major blow to British Cycling's squad in Richmond, having already lost Chris Froome to injury and Geraint Thomas to fatigue. The Telegraph reported today that Cavendish will make his decision on Friday as to whether he is fit to ride the 259.2km race.

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The favourites

If Cavendish cannot take part, the race is likely to be a battle between three of the world's toughest sprinters.

Norway's Alexander Kristoff, winner of last year's Milan-San Remo and the 2015 Tour of Flanders is perhaps the toughest of the lot. Kristoff does not quite have the pace of Cavendish, but he has proven stamina over long distance and will have ample support from his fellow Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Germany has two big favourites for the race in Andre Greipel (one of Mark Cavendish's biggest rivals of the years) and John Degenkolb. Greipel is certainly faster, but Degenkolb has a better track record in one-day races and has the added advantage of having beaten Kristoff in Milan-San Remo 2015, the longest race of the year.

Peter Sagan of Slovakia, another major rival of Cavendish, must be considered a real favourite. The flamboyant rider has won the sprinter's jersey at the Tour de France for the past four years and has had a stellar season in which he has also won the Amgen Tour of California.

However, Sagan has yet to win a Monument (the five longest and most prestigious one-day races in cycling) or world title and has fewer teammates to rely on than his opponents.

Cavendish would fit into this category if he can race, especially as no other top tier sprinter in the race has won a world title before. He has also won Milan-San Remo in the past and will have a strong, young British squad to help him on his way.

The other contenders

Spain, who regularly top cycling's world standings by country, will be led by Alejandro Valverde. He has four World Championship bronze medals and two WC silvers to his name and is always involved in the action late on, but may feel the race course doesn't suit him this year. 

Belgium will likewise field a very strong team, but are often accused of having too many leaders without a coherent strategy. Former world champions Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert have been assigned co-leadership of the team along with classics specialist Greg van Avermaet. If all three find themselves in the mix towards the end, two may have to sacrifice themselves for the other's cause; but will they be able to bring themselves to do it?

One country who often performs well is Australia, and their leader Michael Matthews is likely to secure a good finish. Although he doesn't quite have the Palmares or speed of Degenkolb, Kristoff or Sagan, he is a strong sprinter with bags of talent and the ability to perform on the biggest stage.

Julian Alaphillipe and Nacer Bouhanni represent France's best chances while Fabio Felline and Elia Viviani are likely to be in the mix for Italy. Current world champion Michal Kwiatkowski is also a strong classics rider but, like Valverde is not as suited to the course as the major sprinters are.

Meanwhile, a Cavendish-less GB squad would likely look to Adam and Simon Yates, the twin brothers who currently ride for Australian team Orica Greenedge. Although the flat-ish course may suit Simon better, Adam has demonstrated his ability in one-day classics already this year, finishing second in the GP Quebec last week and winning the San Sebastian Classic in August.

Whoever wins, it is sure to be a tense and exciting race! 

The Elite Men's World Championship Road Race takes place on Sunday, September 27.

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