By Laura Weislo
The UCI Women's World Cup opens in Europe for the first time in its 11 year history, sadly due to the demise of the Geelong round this year, normally held in February. On the bright side, the later start will mean most of the contenders will have made themselves known during the early season races, making prognostications much easier than in previous years.
On the not-so-bright side, the weather forecast is calling for rain, which could throw a bit of a wrench into the dynamics of the race, especially with a decisive climb and descent falling within the final five kilometres of the race where slippery roads will test riders' skill and determination.
The Trofeo Alfredo Binda began in 1974, and through the years its stature has risen to the point where it gained World Cup status for the first time in 2008. The course around Cittiglio, which is north of Varese, includes two long circuits with a double-decker climb that rises two hundred meters to Brinzio, followed by a short descent and a shorter kick up to Orino before a longer descent back to Cittiglio.
The same crest at Orino is approached from a different direction on the three short circuits that make up the final 60km, and this climb proved to be the launching pad for last year's champion, Emma Pooley, to escape and build an unassailable lead with 40km to go. It was an unusual outcome for a race which has historically been decided on the final lap, and came about because the favourites underestimated the Briton's abilities and waited too long to launch the chase in earnest.
Now that Pooley has made a name for herself, it is unlikely she will be given as much leash in this year's event. However, she may not need this sort of guile, as she's demonstrated already this season that last year's victory was no fluke. At the GP Costa Etrusca Livorno, Pooley broke away and held off Marianne Vos and teammate Kristin Armstrong to claim the victory.
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