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Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Tuesday, 28 September 2010 10:21 UK

Can Cavendish clinch world crown?

UCI Road Cycling World Championships
Venue: Melbourne Dates: 29 September to 3 October
Coverage: Live on the BBC Red button and online (UK only). Full details here.

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish won five stages at this year's Tour de France and three more in Spain

By Chris Boardman
Olympic gold medallist, BBC pundit and British Cycling technical expert

Mark Cavendish is the best hope Britain has had in years of winning the world road race title, but he will still need a bit of luck if he is going to triumph in Australia this weekend.

Cavendish is definitely in good shape for Sunday's race from Melbourne to Geelong - we know that from the Tour of Spain earlier this month, where he produced his best performance in La Vuelta by winning the green points jersey and sprinting as well as he has all year to win three stages.

In fact, the slow start the Manxman had to 2010 is starting to pay dividends for him. He came good during the Tour de France and has hardly looked back since.

He is probably in the best form of his life coming to the end of a season so I am really looking forward to watching him try to become the first Briton since Tom Simpson in 1965 to win this event, although it is going to be a real dogfight.

There has been a lot of debate about the course, and whether it suits sprinters like Cavendish.

Since the event was moved to the end of the year, riders who do well in Spain always seem to go on to do well in the Road Cycling World Championships, so it is right that Cavendish is considered to be one of the favourites.

But his big problem will be dealing with breakaways. Because he is such a strong sprinter, it will not really be in the interests of the other riders to try to pull the breaks back just so that Cavendish can win the race at the finish.

Everyone knows how fast he is, and the way they will combat that is by trying to get in a break or at least getting their team-mates away in one.

And, because of Britain's lower world ranking, they will only have three riders in the race - compared to nine for the likes of Spain, Italy, Belgium and Australia - so he only has David Millar and Jeremy Hunt to help him stay in touch until the end.

Mark Cavendish and David Millar
Millar will have a tough job keeping Cavendish in touch until the finish

Still, it is not all doom and gloom. Cavendish is a clever guy, and he knows how to use other riders to help himself - he is not just faster than everyone else, he is intelligent too.

He will also have team-mates from his HTC-Columbia outfit out on the road. They will be riding for their own countries, of course, but they might be disposed to help him out - or at least not hinder him - if he finds himself in a move at the front.

There has been a lot of debate about the course, and whether it suits sprinters like Cavendish.

It is long at 262km, and sees the field start out in Melbourne before facing 11 laps of a 15.8km circuit when they get to Geelong.

That circuit has got a couple of climbs on it, and it is certainly a lot tougher than people might think. But, from what I have seen of it, it is still one of the best World Championship courses for Cavendish that we have seen in recent years so this is a really good opportunity for him.

It definitely will not be a procession to the end - World Championships never are. They are very attacking and active races, especially because some teams are bigger than other, but, having said all of that, it is almost the same riders who come to fight it out at the end.

Millar will be doing what he can to keep the race together for Cavendish but it is a big ask for him and Hunt because the other nations will be racing as teams.

The stronger teams will figure highly and Australia, with defending champion Cadel Evans in their squad, are likely to cause the most trouble for Cavendish

The ideal scenario would be to have all of Britain's strongest riders there but, as well as the restriction on numbers because of ranking, they are without Bradley Wiggins or Geraint Thomas who both made themselves unavailable because of tiredness.

You cannot blame either Wiggins or Thomas for that because it has been a long season for them and, effectively, they do not stop racing all year.

It is still very special to get the rainbow jersey that shows you are a world champion but it is a lot to expect these guys to perform for months on end and then essentially just extend their season to try to help someone else win.

That will be the case for most of the riders, and I don't think the motivation is there for a lot of people.

These days, the World Championships are often about the best riders left standing. The people that are winning them are elite riders but the strength in depth in the field is not the same as when the event was held in August, which it was until a few years ago.

I think the stronger teams will figure highly this year and Australia, with defending champion Cadel Evans in their squad, are likely to cause the most trouble for Cavendish by trying to get in the most breaks and attempting to shake the race up. It will be fascinating to watch it all pan out.

Oscar Freire has won three world road titles
Freire has won three world road titles - in 1999, 2001 and 2004

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, who also performed strongly in the Tour of Spain, is being touted as the favourite but I don't think you can discount Spain's Oscar Freire.

Year after year, Freire is never considered a realistic contender but he has won the road title three times before and has been the most consistent rider at the World Championships in recent times. He is in good shape and is definitely in the mix.

Fabien Cancellara has been talking about doing the double by winning the road race and time trial this year but I have a feeling he will concentrate on defending his time trial title on Thursday.

Cancellara left it late before he decided he was going to Australia at all, because he wanted to make sure he was in good shape - he did not want to go just to participate.

But, if he does ride in the road race too, he is such a consistent performer that he might just get himself in a small group at the front. If he does that, he will definitely be one of the favourites.

Chris Boardman was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

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see also
Cavendish wins Spain sprint title
19 Sep 10 |  Cycling
Cavendish earns Vuelta hat-trick
16 Sep 10 |  Cycling
Cavendish earns landmark victory
09 Sep 10 |  Cycling
GB duo join Cavendish at Worlds
26 Aug 10 |  Cycling

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