Can Ill Sagan Win 3rd Straight World Championship?

Peter Sagan was the denied a sixth consecutive Tour de France Green Jersey after he was controversially disqualified for causing a crash, but the Slovakian superstar still has a chance to keep his World Championship run going. Sagan is the favorite for the upcoming men’s race, which takes place in Bergen, Norway on September 24th. A win would mark his third consecutive World Championship and his recent win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec is a testament to his form. But the defending champ was recently hit with illness and chose to skip the Team Time Trial at the World Championships in order to recover.

Sagan is currently a 4/1 favorite (full odds below) to win his third straight title, and is even as short as 9/4 at some of the top sportsbooks. No other rider is better than 7/1 at the moment. The numbers are verging on preposterous given that Sagan would be the first rider to ever win three consecutive world road-race championships. Aside from Sagan, only six other riders (Gianni Bugno, Paolo Bettini, Gianni Bugno, Rik Van Looy, Rik Van Steenbergen, Georges Ronsse) have gone back-to-back in the 89-year history of the race.

The 2014 winner, Michał Kwiatkowski (7/1), stands the best chance of ending Sagan’s reign. The Polish time-trial champ kicked off the season with a huge win at the Strade Bianche and picked up his first Monument at Milan-San Remo, and then went on to play a pivotal role in Chris Froome’s Tour de France victory. After a few disappointing seasons, “Kwiat” is back in form and ready to reclaim the Rainbow Jersey.

The Norwegians will have a lot to be hopeful for when they fill the streets of Bergen. With two strong contenders for the World Championship — Edvald Boasson Hagen (9/1) and Alexander Kristoff (20/1) — there’s a decent chance we’ll see a Norwegian win on home soil.

Belgian rivals and former teammates Greg Van Avermaet (12/1) and Philippe Gilbert (28/1) are both hot contenders for the Rainbow Jersey. Gilbert, the 2012 World Champion, left Team BMC for Etixx-Quick Step at the end of last year and his gamble paid off. He took his first monument since 2011 by winning the Tour of Flanders and landed a remarkable win at the Amstel Gold. Back at BMC, Van Avermaet won Paris-Roubaix and dominated the Belgian classics, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3, and Gent-Wevelgem.

Having two riders contesting the Rainbow jersey can backfire spectacularly, though. As we saw between Australians Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans in 2015, having co-leaders can lead to teammates refusing to ride in support of one another. Team Australia has learned its lesson after that debacle and focused its attention on Matthews (16/1), who is fresh off a Team Time Trial win with Sunweb and recently won the Tour de France Green Jersey.

Photo credit: Travail personnel (Wikimedia) CC License

2017 UCI Road Race World Championships: The Favorites

Peter Sagan (Slovakia): 4/1

Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland): 7/1

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway): 9/1

Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium): 12/1

Fernando Gaviria (Colombia): 14/1

Michael Matthews (Australia): 16/1

Matteo Trentin (Italy): 18/1

Alexander Kristoff (Norway): 20/1

Julian Alaphilippe (France): 25/1

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium): 28/1


2017 UCI Road Race World Championships: Betting Advice

The price on Sagan (anywhere from 9/4 to 4/1) is way too short. It would be even if he weren’t ill. The World Championship road race is a crapshoot. Don’t let his back-to-back victories convince you otherwise. There is a reason no one has ever won three times in a row: the epically long distance (276.5 km, 171.8 mi) creates too many uncontrollable variables. Plus, everyone in the peloton knows exactly how strong Sagan is. Even if he’s in the winning breakaway, he will receive zero help from the others in the group, unless there’s another Slovakian, which isn’t likely.

Like with betting on golf, the road-race field is so big and so strong that picking a winner is a bit of a dart-throw. That said, some riders are clearly offering more value than others. Given the seasons Van Avermaet (12/1) and Matthews (16/1) have had, sprinkling a little on both gives you two live-wires with slightly different styles in a race that could play out in a number of different ways.