Mark Cavendish's chances of becoming the first Briton to win the world road race championship since Tom Simpson have been boosted with confirmation that Britain will field a team of eight riders in Copenhagen next month.
That should ensure that the Manx sprinter will have the strongest possible back-up on a course that most feel will suit his fast finish.
"We had planned around having a six-man team, so this is better than expected," the Great Britain road team manager, Rod Ellingworth, said. "Eight riders will give us more depth in the team and after the way the riders performed in the Olympic warm-up race last Sunday we have a good idea of how to ride it."
World championship team numbers are determined according to two measures: a nation's world points ranking and the number of riders from that nation who have scored points in the Union Cycliste Internationale's World Tour events. Britain are ranked sixth in the world and had eight riders scoring points.
The team were desperately close to securing the maximum of nine riders; had Ian Stannard finished fifth rather than seventh earlier this month in the last stage of the final counting event, the Tour of Poland, the points secured would have meant a ninth slot.
Ellingworth can nominate 12 riders for the eight places in the first week of September. As well as Cavendish, the team is likely to include Bradley Wiggins, who has announced his intention of riding the time trial in Copenhagen with an eye on the London Olympics, and David Millar, who won silver in the world time trial championship last year.
Others in the frame may well include the riders who led out Cavendish to victory in the Olympic test event on The Mall in London on Sunday: Stannard, Jeremy Hunt and Peter Kennaugh of Team Sky and the experienced Roger Hammond, while Geraint Thomas showed on the Tour de France that he can perform lead-out duties in a bunch sprint.
"For sure it is a world championship we can win," Ellingworth said. "Because of that we won't be selecting anyone to ride for experience or hoping for the best. Everyone who rides will have to be capable of doing a job and will need proven ability at that level. We need to have four riders with Mark at five or six kilometers to go, and three big engines who can chase down moves all day."
Great Britain's women's team will field a maximum possible seven riders after finishing fourth in the world rankings, with Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley the likely leaders alongside the 2008 world and Olympic champion, Nicole Cooke.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010