Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert has warned Swiss contender Fabian Cancellara he will be a marked man during the world road race championship on Sunday.
The elite men’s road race is a gruelling event held over 267.2km (165 miles) from Melbourne to Geelong and brings the curtain down on the five-day world championships.
Gilbert, a one-day classics specialist who excels on hilly courses, is one of several riders being tipped to win the race and the coveted rainbow jersey.
Although he is a leading contender Gilbert believes it is Cancellara, the winner of this season’s Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double, who will be given little freedom by the other riders.
“There will be a lot of riders who will react if he (Cancellara) attacks, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be me who reacts,” said Gilbert.
Cancellara was one of the main protagonists in last year’s finale but burned his powder too early, allowing Cadel Evans to surge ahead and secure an historic first road race title for Australia.
The Swiss, who won Olympic time trial gold and road race silver in Beijing, has shown strong form in recent days winning a record fourth world title in the time trial.
In comparison, Gilbert seems better suited to the hilly 15.9km circuit that will be raced 11 times by the peloton after a ride of 87km from Melbourne to Geelong.
But he admits that tactics will be crucial.
“It will be a game where you have to dare and take some risks,” said Gilbert, who comes into the race in great form having won two stages at the Tour of Spain last month.
“I’m really motivated for Sunday. I’m feeling good, I have made certain choices during the year with this race in the back of my mind.”