Reigning women's World Champion Marianne Vos has an impeccable record in the race for the rainbow jersey having only ever finished first or second. Vos won the 2006 World Championships in Salzburg but then endured straight five years of silver medals. Victory in the Olympic road race in 2012 started a run of gold medals that is yet to end and Vos is keen on making it three in a row in Ponferrada, Spain.
"I'm very much looking forward to the Worlds," she said. "It is, after all, one of the most enjoyable races of the season."
Vos withdrew from her two most recent races, the Boels Rental Ladies' Tour and the Lotto Belisol Belgium Tour, citing exhaustion but the 27-year-old explained she had achieved her goals and turned her attention to the Worlds.
"Really great," Vos said of racing the 'with the brakes off.' "I didn't have to do much. The team rode well and it was great to be in it with them. I had spoken with [team manager] Koos Moerenhout beforehand about just riding the race and not forcing it at all. To get back into the swing of it after my little break during the Ladies' Tour, and it ended up working out.
"The prologue and the team time trial both gave me a boost. Most surprising was the last race. We suffered all the way. It was down to three of us who could give it full gas in the second half. I had the feeling that the time difference was going to be slim, but it stayed pretty big."
Vos had a delayed start to her 2014 road season as she concentrated on Cyclo-Cross early in the year. She won her sixth straight Cyclo-Cross world title in January but has continued to dominate women's racing again in 2014 with overall victories at The Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Femminile as well claiming the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France meaning she will again start the Worlds as the favourite but is down playing her chances.
"Things are different in the road race, but there'll just be so many competitors in Ponferrada," she said. "I think this parcours favours more specialists than only one type of them. Climbers and classics riders, but sprinters could win it too. It just deepens the pool of competitors."
"Yeah, Pauline has grown tremendously," Vos said of the Frenchwoman. "She can hang in there on any terrain and has a lot of kick in her sprint. The circuit in Ponferrada is really very favourable for Pauline. But she's not alone. There are also plenty of other potential winners on the Dutch team itself. And that's not all bad.
"At this Worlds, it'll be advantageous to have several trump cards to play. You can't afford to put all your eggs in one basket. You won't be able to control the race that way. I'm really looking forward to it. It's one of the most enjoyable races of the season."
At the beginning of the year, Vos stated her ambition was to win three world titles in 2014; Cyclo Cross, and the road race and team time trial titles in Ponferrada. She has achieved one of those goals already and is confident of achieving the other two.
"Our team is stronger than ever so I think the world team time trial title is a realistic goal this year," she said. "We won silver in 2013 and that makes us long for more."
Acknowledging that Specialized-lululemon will be hard to stop as the American team chases a third straight win, Vos believes it will be tough battle for the ultimate team prize.
"Well, look, Specialized remains the outright favourite in the team time trial," she said. "Saturday wasn't all that bad for us, but there are still a lot of things we could improve on. That doesn't mean that we aren't going to give it our all. We'll do everything we can, but that's true of our competition too, but we try to challenge Specialized."