Friday 27 September 2019

Women to watch at the Road Cycling World Championships

As the UCI World Road Cycling Championships take place in Yorkshire the fight for a gold medal and the right to wear the rainbow jersey will be hotly contested.

Gone are the days when there was a clear favourite you could single out. With outstanding performances in the UCI Women's WorldTour by various women in the professional peloton it is hard to say who will win the contest in the 150km race between Bradford and Harrogate.

People describe this course as being like a Classics course such as the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in Belgium. That means very long, with constant short, sharp hills, often in rainy weather. However, some think victory could still go to a sprinter who can handle the Classics if they have good support, since the hills are tough but may not necessarily completely separate the regular WorldTour riders. The weather will play a part in the race though, as this can be changeable, and if it's not raining it will be quite windy on the top of the Dales.

Anna van der Breggen - defending Champion
Dutch Girls (8 riders)
Everyone has been talking about the Dutch team, and it is true that with the likes of Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek Van Vleuten, Chantal Blaak - all former or current wearers of a rainbow jersey, it is reasonable to say one can't see past a rider from that team taking the top step of the podium.

Their helper riders such as Amy Pieters and Lucinda Brand also have very strong racing CVs.

However, sometimes having so many brilliant riders in one team can ironically be a problem as it then becomes difficult to devise a clear tactic, and there may even be discord among riders if one feels that she should be the lead rider for the win.

Having spoken to Marianne Vos earlier this year she said that there is no jealousy and among their team they are always glad to see a compatriot doing well, and to will always be ready to help them get the win for the Netherlands. If the Dutch do fumble their tactics on the road to Harrogate there will be a few other teams ready to capitalise on that.

The Italian Job (7 riders)
Marta Bastianelli after winning the Tour of Flanders this year
They also have a good core of riders which includes two former world champions - Tatiana Guderzo and Marta Bastianelli, who will be the lead rider.

They also have a strong climber like Soraya Paladin, who was one of only two women who managed to stay with Marianne Vos during her ride to victory at the very hilly second stage of this year's Tour de Yorkshire. And don't discount Elisa Longo Borghini, who is a phenomenally strong all-rounder.

Their joker card will likely be Letizia Paternoster if the race does come down to a sprint. The Italians have a history of being the nearly team as they haven't won the title since 2011, but they generally manage to get someone into the top 5, if not on the podium. They also have a very good team spirit among themselves.

The Young Americans (7 riders)
The Americans cannot be underestimated, and have been having a very good World Championships thanks to Chloe Dygert-Owen winning the time trial and Megan Jastrab winning the World Junior Championship. Chloe Dygert-Owen was clearly strong in the time trial, but she has also had a great season, notably when she dominated the Colorado Classic in the summer. Coryn Rivera's season has not been as glittering as in previous years mainly because she didn't feature so much in the top places during the early season races. However, she has been steadily gaining ground and so she shouldn't be ruled out of the mix, particularly because she will have support from strong riders like Katie Hall, Ruth Winder, Tayler Wiles, and Leah Thomas.

Brits at home (6 riders)
Alice (left) and Hannah Barnes - key riders in supporting Lizzie Deignan 
With a World Championships in Yorkshire passing the childhood places of Lizzie Deignan, this is going to be a massive motivation for the Team GB.

Deignan, who has shown some impressive results this year since returning from maternity leave will know these roads like the back of her hand, and will have a solid team behind her, though not necessarily with quite the might of some of the other nations.

Alice and Hannah Barnes will be key in the team, as well as Lizzy Banks, a new rider who has shown brilliant form on hilly courses - notably at the Tour de Yorkshire this year. Nikki Juniper, who does most of her racing in the UK, has extensive experience of riding hilly courses in the North of England as well as doing some classics courses in Belgium, though the question remains as to whether she will have a response to the attacks from the Dutch.

Pole Dancers (7 riders)
Katarzyna (Kasia) Niewiadoma - a punchy rider in the Classics
People don't talk so much about the Polish but this year may be the time to do so. I would say they are the dark horse in this.

Kasia Niewiadoma is a punchy rider with a very daring way of racing and can spring surprises where people may not expect it.

She has ridden well in the hilly Spring Classics races in bad weather, such as what you get in Yorkshire. The Poles may have another card to play in the shape of Malgorzata Jasinksa who is a good climber. Their lead rider will be reliant also on the likes of Anna Plichta and Marta Lach.

Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie (6 riders)
The Australians, like the Italians generally manage to get someone into the decisive final part of the race, but unlike the Azzurri, the Ozzies have never had anyone win the World Championships. Last year Amanda Spratt finished in second place on the mountainous course at Innsbruck. Maybe she could do one better on the lumpy course through the Yorkshire Dales.

The only thing is that team Australia have been slightly weakened by the loss of some good helper riders like Sarah Roy and Grace Brown. They do have Brodie Chapman, who placed second in the Colorado Classic and Chloe Hosking who won the sprint at the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta recently. Mind you, the Australians are putting all their eggs into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics basket, so for this World Championships I wonder how hungry they will be for a win.

Dynamic Dane
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Great Danes (5 riders)
A very young Amalie Didericksen won in 2016 on a flat course, and she is there again this time around, though the lead rider is likely to be Cecile Uttrup Ludwig who has been a strong force over the last couple of years, but has really set the Women's WorldTour alight this year. She is as dynamic in her racing as she is in her post-race interviews!

Other people to watch
Germany's Lisa Brennauer can hold her own as a good all-round rider. We haven't seen her full potential during this year, and she has played a helper role to Kirsten Wild her Dutch team-mate in the WNT trade team. But that's not to say she doesn't have what it takes. She recently shone in the Boels Ladies Tour when she got a top 10 place. She is also the German National Road Race Champion.

South Africa's Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is a great climber and is a talented racer who has an ability to get into the mix even in situations where she has no team-mates to help her. It's a good job really, since she will only have three team-mates for today's relentlessly hilly race and it may be a big ask for them to be able to animate things at the front for her.

Cuba's Arlenis Sierra doesn't race much on this side of the Atlantic, but has shown herself to be a solid rider as part of the Astana Women's Team. She is the Pan American Games Champion and placed within the top 20 at the Tour of California.

My pick of contenders

Anna van der Breggen: defending champion and 2019 Silver Time Trial medallist  - notable wins this year: Winner, Fleche-Wallonne; Winner, Tour of California.

Marianne Vos: 2006, 2012 and 2013 Champion - notable wins this year: Winner, Trofeo Alfredo Binda; Winner, Tour de Yorkshire; La Course by the Tour de France; Ladies Tour of Norway.

AnnemiekVan Vleuten: 2019 Bronze Time Trial medallist - notable wins this year: Winner, Strade Bianche; Liege-Bastogne-Liege; Women's Tour of Italy.

Chantal Blaak: 2017 Champion - notable wins this year:Winner, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Marta Bastianelli: 2007 Champion - notable wins this year: Winner, Women's Tour of Flanders; Winner, Ronde Van Drenthe.

Letizia Paternoster: notable wins this year: European U23 Road Race Champion.

Chloe Dygert-Owen: 2019 World Time Trial Champion - notable wins this year: Winner, Colorado Classic; Winner, Joe Martin Stage race.

Coryn Rivera: notable wins this year: Silver, USA National Championships; 2nd, Ladies Tour of Norway.

Lizzie Deignan: 2015 Champion - notable wins this year: Winner, Women's Tour.

Malgorzata Jasinksa: notable wins this year: 5th, Polish National Championships; 9th, Women's Tour.

Katarzyna Niewiadoma: notable wins this year: Winner, Amstel Gold, 2nd Women's Tour.

Amanda Spratt: notable wins this year: Winner, Tour Down Under; 2nd Trofeo Alfredo Binda; 3rd, Women's Tour of Italy.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: notable wins this year: Winner, Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan; 3rd, Tour of Flanders; 3rd, La Course by Le Tour de France.


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