Zach McDonald (USA): ★★ Unlike most of the Americans shooting for the stars in Louisville this February, Zach McDonald has been taking a much more practical approach. Not a huge fan of Louisville’s punchy course and numerous dismounts, McDonald, who finished second to Jonathan Page in the elite race at the U.S. national championships in January, goes in treating worlds like just another race.
“Everyone wants to win worlds, but whether or not I can win, we’ll have to wait and see. If I don’t win worlds, I’m not going to cry in a corner. I’m more concerned with consistency all year than just that one day,” McDonald told VeloNews. McDonald agreed with his American teammates who believe they will have a big advantage over the Europeans who are not as accustomed to making trans-Atlantic flights; but he didn’t view it as a positive. “Who wants to win a race because everyone else had to travel further? I would rather go to their turf and beat them on their courses. That’s why I’m racing so many World Cups this year, to show that I really belong there.” If McDonald brings this type of swagger and bravado on race day, he might just show the world that he can win at home and abroad.
Mike Teunissen (Netherlands): ★★★ Mike Teunissen burst onto the U23 scene with a second-place finish at the 2011 world championships in Sankt Wendel just one second behind then-rising star Lars van der Haar. Until this year, that spectacular race was his best result, but he has blossomed since, winning the first round of the World Cup and the European championship. Teunissen excels on fast courses and can uncork an explosive sprint if he hasn’t dropped everyone before the finish line. But he has still not shown consistency on heavy, muddy, and highly technical courses. If Louisville turns out to be a drag race, he will undoubtedly be a man to beat, but if the weather turns foul and the course turns muddy or even snowy, he’ll have to elevate his racing to earn those rainbow stripes.
Wietse Bosmans (Belgium): ★★★★ The Belgian U23 champion is his country’s most promising young rider, but he missed a perfect opportunity to become something greater than that when he lost out to Lars van der Haar in the sprint at last year’s U23 worlds. Bosmans has come on strong in the second half of the 2012-13 season. He opened by winning the second round of the World Cup in Pilsen and the Bpost Bank race in Hasselt, but finished outside the top 10 at the European championship, and just inside the top 10 in Hamme-Zogge and Gavere. Since then, he’s caught fire, winning the World Cup stops in Koksijde, Zolder, and Hoogerheide, locking up the U23 series title along the way. Bosmans’ time as a U23 is about to run out, so if he wants to win a world title, Louisville may be his best opportunity, and given his six-week string of results leading into the race, he’ll roll into the grid on Saturday as the top favorite.