World Championships: Women’s Road Race preview
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Friday, October 01, 2010

World Championships: Women’s Road Race preview

by Ben Atkins at 2:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
Who will take the women’s rainbow jersey?

tatiana guderzo

The women will complete eight laps of the 15.8km Geelong circuit, making a total of 127.2km. Each lap takes in two climbs, the Ridge and Aphrasia Street, which are short but should be steep enough to split the peloton when the pace is lifted. While the course profile should put paid to any possibility of a bunch sprint, the summit of the second climb comes with 6.2km still to race, which could spell the end to the chances of a solo breakaway.

In all likelihood the race will come down to a small group, with the strongest rider on the gradually rising finishing straight coming out on top.

Defending champion Tatiana Guderzo has had a relatively quiet season with few outstanding results, although she’s experience nothing that could remotely be described as a rainbow jersey curse. Standout performances for the Marosticana have been third place in the Giro d’Italia, which was her main target of the season, and the Italian time trial championships.

The other Italian to watch should be last year’s bronze medallist Noemi Cantele, who has also experienced a quiet season after making the move to HTC-Columbia. She has experienced her usual late season lift in form though, most significantly taking the queen stage of the Giro della Toscana to the hilltop town of Volterra. Cantele is one rider who will like the short, sharp hills and she was extremely disappointed with her 12th in Wednesday’s time trial.

Surely the big favourite for the race though, as usual, is 2006 champion and triple silver medallist Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, after yet another dominant season. The 23-year-old has never finished lower than second in her four appearances in the senior women’s race, but has often found herself up against stronger teams in the finale. This time though, Vos is hoping that the girls in orange will be strong enough to take her to the finish.

Nederland Bloeit teammate Annemiek Van Vleuten looks the most likely to provide late support to her captain; she could profit from the rest of the field’s preoccupation with Vos to take something for herself.

Great Britain’s Emma Pooley will be on a high after her victory in Wednesday’s time trial; the tiny climber will like the climbs on the course, but perhaps not the distance from the top of them to the finish. Pooley’s best chance of a double-rainbow almost certainly depend on her getting away from the peloton but the other teams know this and will watch her like hawks.

Riding in support of Pooley, but also able to ride for herself, will be Lizzie Armitstead. The 21-year-old is well capable of delivering a sprint at the end of a tough race, so if she can hang on she’ll be one to watch.

The big unknown quantity for the Great Britain team is 2008 World and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke; the 27-year-old Welshwoman has had an extremely quiet season racing for the national team with second place in La Flèche Wallonne, behind Pooley, way back in April as the highlight do far; no one knows better how to peak for the Worlds than Cooke though.

The German team has been weakened by the withdrawal through injury of both Claudia Häusler and Sarah Düster. Although the team is down to five riders though, it’s tough to write off riders like Judith Arndt and Trixi Worrack. Arndt in particular has enjoyed yet another stellar season, after an injury ruined 2009; Wednesday’s time trial silver followed overall victory in the Giro della Toscana, but the 2004 champion also finished second in the Giro d’Italia and the Route de France this season.

Marianne Vos’ biggest rival in virtually every major race in the last two years has been Emma Johansson of Sweden, and tomorrow’s race should be no different. Johansson will start with a numerical disadvantage as the Swedish team only numbers four, but the Beijing silver medallist is almost certain to be there in the end when the action starts.

The Australian home team’s hopes are carried by national champion Ruth Corset and Vicki Whitelaw, with a strong team in support. Riding in front of a local crowd, the Aussies will obviously be even more fired up than usual and an Australian World champion would not be a surprise.

The New Zealand team should be almost as strong, although it starts with one rider less than its southern hemisphere rival. The two-headed attack from US NRS champion Cath Cheatley and former Danish champion Linda Villumsen could be a potent force.

Team USA will be led by Giro d’Italia stage winner Evelyn Stevens, supported by a cast of mostly domestic-based riders. The other big name to look out for is 2008 time trial champion Amber Neben, whose strong current form was confirmed by her fourth place in Wednesday’s time trial.

Other riders who have been omnipresent at the front of the biggest races this year include Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Grace Verbeke (Belgium) and Thüringen-Rundfahrt winner Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia). Both should be present when the race starts to get tough in the closing stages; either could challenge for the win.

But what if it does come down to a sprint?

If, in the unlikely event of the big teams not making the race as hard as possible, the race finishes in a sprint (just like the under-23 men’s race did) we could be treated to one of the best contests between the fast finishers all season.

The obvious favourite would be Germany’s Ina Teutenberg, who has been almost unbeatable for yet another season, but on the uphill finishing straight she would not be without competition. Her biggest rival ought to be the Netherlands’ Kisten Wild, who has been challenging the German on an almost weekly basis, occasionally coming out on top. Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini is another season-long rival, who actually beat Teutenberg twice in the Giro della Toscana last month.

Team USA’s Shelley Olds has been taking victories all season, including the Tour of New Zealand, the Pan American Championships and the final stage of the Giro d’Italia in Monza; as has Lithuania’s Rasa Leleivyte.

While any of these sprinters could take the victory should the peloton arrive at the finish together; Vos, Johansson and Cooke would all be in there and would be more than capable of taking victory.

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