Lepisto outnumbered but not outgunned for road race - Women's Worlds Shorts

Pirrone and Paternoster lead next Italian generation, French with cards to play, Villumsen to put bad TT behind her

Despite only having one teammate alongside her for Saturday's World Championships road race, Lotta Lepistö (Finland) is determined to be in the mix for the finale.

Last year's bronze medallist already has a medal to her name in this year's championships, from the TTT, and is enjoying her best season to date on the road. Her spring was nothing short of incredible, with wins in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem, before a summer that included two national titles, a stage in the Giro and another WorldTour win at the Crescent Vargarda in August.

"It's been the best season so far for me. I've been struggling a bit with my back but it's good now and the training has gone well with the team," she said.

The back injury, according to the Finnish rider, is a longstanding issue from a crash in 2016 but she appears to be over the worst of it and the course for Saturday's road race has elements that suit her.

"It's a technical course and it's really hard with the climbs. It's all there. I'm starting with just one other girl from Finland so I have to be really smart and see what I can get," said Lepistö. "It's going to be a small bunch near the end, with maybe 25 riders, but we could also just have one rider in the front. We have to see. It's a long race at almost 160km so anything can happen."

With just one teammate on the ground – Laura Vainionpaa, who was third in the national road race – Lepistö knows that she can't go head-to-head with the stronger nations. She will have to pick her moment in the hope that she can either follow or late a move or that the race comes back together for a sprint. After finishing third in last year's race – although on totally different terrain – she has the experience and the patience needed.

"We just have to be smart. We can't do everything. I have to play my cards well and make sure that I don't many any mistakes. Hopefully I can then be there when I'm needed." (DB)

Pirrone and Paternoster lead next Italian generation

Italy continued to dominate the women's junior events at the World Championships, again filling two of the three spots on the podium in the road race and so laying the foundations for further success in the elite women's ranks and for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Elena Pirrone completed a rare double, adding the road race title to her time trial success with a powerful solo attack, while Letizia Paternoster won the bronze model in the sprint. Alessia Vigilia won silver in the time trial, confirming Italy's strength in depth. Paternoster is also a triple junior world champion on the track, winning rainbow jerseys in the Omnium, the Madison and team pursuit.

"Italy always has strong riders, so individually we can do well. Then when we work as a team and, because were a tight-knit close group, we can do well. We always go for the podium and we're always there. Success leads to more success," Pirrone explained.

Both Pirrone and Paternoster are from the northern Trentino-Alto Adige region and have raced together and as rivals since the age of six. Both will ride for the Astana elite women's team in 2018, which is funded by Kazakhstan but has a very Italian team structure, roster and staff. Paternoster will focus on the track this winner, while Pirrone will focus 100 per cent on road racing after completing school in the summer.

"Unfortunately there's not a lot of visibility for women's cycling in Italy and we're not considered to be at the same level as the men," Pirrone said. "That's why many of the best women ride for international teams instead of Italian teams. Hopefully we can help change that." (SF)

Cordon Ragot: We have cards to play

Audrey Cordon Ragot believes that France will have plenty of opportunities in the women's Worlds road race on Saturday. The French team come into the race without a major favourite but they possess former winner Pauline Ferrand-Prevot in their ranks.

"We've been talking a bit about the race and this year it's pretty open," Cordon Ragot told Cyclingnews earlier this week.

"We can see maybe a break going until the end so this is our chance to be in there and then playing the game at the front. There are several cards that we can play."

Ferrand-Prevot had a difficult 2016 season but has found form in recent weeks, picking up a bronze medal at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Australia.

When asked who the team leader might be for Saturday, Cordon Ragot admitted that the French team were yet to have their official team meeting.

"It's difficult because everyone is really strong in the team. Of course we don't have a top rider. We don't know about Pauline and how she is. We're all strong so can play on our cards. We've a good sprinter and I can be a good rider sprinting from a small group.

"Pauline had a really good World Championships on the mountain bike so I guess she's in a good shape. It's a long race so we just need to be patient at the beginning and try and get someone in the first break and then wait until the second half of the race and then play an attacking role." (DB)

Villumsen looks to put bad TT behind her

Linda Villumsen didn't mince her words after what she deemed a disappointing performance in the World Championships time trial. The 2015 winner crossed the line in sixth place, with Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) taking the crown. Villumsen still has the road race to come before ending her championships, and probably her season.

"That was a shit day. I don't like the wet roads and lost my head a bit in the downhills. I couldn't have done much different because it wasn't my course," she told Cyclingnews.

"We'll see with the road race. Never say never. There's a chance and we'll give it a go. I think Worlds might be the end of the season."

The New Zealand rider hinted that her next major goal could be the Commonwealth Games. They take place in Australia next spring. (DB)

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