Soon it will be another round of World Championships racing. It's the most unpredictable race of the calendar. It comes at the end of a long season and unless a rider specifically targets it and prepares for it, no chance. Team work is only partially important, mainly for the first phase, after that, legs do the talking. Although, if the team is particularly strong, it can wreak havoc and be crucial in the result (see Italy's win in 2008 and to some extent GB's win in Copenhagen in 2011).
The course is a hilly one but not necessarily a climber's delight. Many GC riders are targeting this as it has more lumpy than usual. There's an initial climb after about 50kms which will initiate a breakaway group. Then dead flat for 40kms or so, then they hit the circuit in Florence, going around it 10 times. It has 3 lumps, one of 4.3km, 600metres and a very short ramp. In my opinion it is more suited to routers with a punchy streak a la Cancellara, Gilbert, Sagan but on the day clearly anything will happen. The final charge will be over a 10% ramp leading to 2.5km flat out to the finish line.
AUSTRALIA: Evans can never be discounted as he was riding rather well in America, and Porte on a good day is very difficult to control
BELARUS: Kiryienka is a machine and could be a surprise on the day.
BELGIUM: They have won the most titles and always dangerous on one-day races. Gilbert of course is buoyed by his first win since winning this race last year; Roelandts will be the hare in the breakaway and Van Avermaet is as good as any if the legs let him.
COLOMBIA: Betancur showed in the Giro he's not just good at climbing; Henao is a big doubt as his form is waning. The Olympics had a similar outlook to Florence's course, although not as tough, which could play in the hands of Uran. Quintana is having a phenomenal season but the finish line might be too far from the last climb.
CROATIA: Kiserlovski has worked hard at the Vuelta for Benjamin Button....ahem...Horner and might be exhausted.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Kreuziger is still finding who he is but had great results this year; Stybar is growing in stature in the peloton and has panache galore; Konig might be their hare.
DENMARK: Breschel, well, he always tries at the Worlds. Fuglsang is fairly punchy and could be in the mix. Morkov has shown champion qualities.
FRANCE: Barguil, well, is the man of the moment and that might help him; Chavanel is gagging for a rainbow jersey and it would certainly suit him. France have a lot of riders capable on the day to upset things and they seem to be getting closer to a win that eludes them since 1997. Gallopin, Pinot, Riblon and tongue-swaggering Voeckler.
GB: Froome is the leader but if, and it's a big if, the peloton stays together why not Cavendish for the sprint. He has shown climbing qualities at the Tour of Britain and not for nothing. Thomas will be on breakaway duties and I'm hoping Tiernan-Locke will be given a chance as he was in the final group last year, but finish line might be too far for him too from last ramp.
GERMANY: Nerz is the leader, personally I can't see it, but it might be Degenkolb's day if the attacks on the climbs are not too strong.
IRELAND: Dan Martin is well suited for this and winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege with similar characteristic will give him food for thought. Roche? No, he's give all at the Vuelta and not punchy enough.
ITALY: Nibali has a team built around him. The course is clearly suited to his strengths but I wonder how much has he left in Spain in the pursuit of the title. He would have to attack quite spectacularly from Fiesole. Visconti is also a good bet for the Azzurri who have a good record at the Worlds. Outsiders could be Paolini in a useful breakaway and Santaromita who has replaced Ballan in style and team options.
LITHUANIA: Navardauskas....is he ready?
NETHERLANDS: Like the football cousins, they promise a lot with an array of talent, but rarely pull off the big ones: Gesink is ready, Mollema too, Slagter might need a few more years; Terpstra for the breakaway.
NORWAY: Hushovd seems to be coming back to some sort of form but it might be too much to be such a ready field; Boasson Hagen will have a good go and he is suited very well for this parcours; Kristoff behave remarkably well at the Olympics but this is unlikely to be his day.
POLAND: Poland's riders will be in breakaways and in the mix but not strong enough to beat the opponents to the line: Kwiatkovski, Majka, Niemec.
PORTUGAL: Rui Costa is fast uphill and on the flat but will have to hop between teams to get anywhere.
RUSSIA: Kolobnev has not shown his full qualities this year but always a threat.
SLOVAKIA: Sagan. I would put money on him to be right there at the end. Can climb these hills, punchy on steep ramps and fast in a sprint. It should be his day. It's not a question of if but when he'll be world champion.
SLOVENIA: Brajkovic? No.
SPAIN: I never know how to read this team. They don't seem to get on. Are very good at going up but not exceptional in the flat. Plenty of talent and many options, and that could be their secret: Contador, Moreno, Rodriguez, L.L.Sanchez, S.Sanchez, Valverde....all have a good chance.
SWITZERLAND: Cancellara has prepared for this, he will try and he will win ;-) Albasini and Frank for the breakaways.
USA: Horner....joking, too young. Van Garderen should be main man but I can't see him beating the favourites in this course.