It's been an exciting July for the inaugural Women's WorldTour as the month began at the Giro Rosa and moved straight into back-to-back one-day races at La Course by Le Tour de France in Paris last Sunday followed by the Prudential RideLondon Classique this Saturday.
After switching from stage-race mode in Italy to one-day circuit racing in France, another highly-anticipated challenge for the sprinters is in prospect on the streets of London. And in this case, the toughest rider to beat will be pure sprinter Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products).
The newly-named Prudential RideLondon Classique will host the peloton on a newly designed 5.5km London circuit, catching sights of Buckingham Palace. The field will compete for 12 laps for a total of 66km. The finale is expected to cater to the fastest finishers with a flat start and finish along The Mall.
It is the 13th of 17 events that make up the new Women's WorldTour. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) leads the series after the first 12 rounds with 886 points followed by her teammate and world champion Lizzie Armitstead with 545 and third placed Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) with 493.
Many of the big-name riders will not be in attendance with the Olympic Games beginning in Rio de Janeiro the following weekend. And even though none of the top three in the WorldTour rankings are expected to be on the start line, this year's race will still showcase an international field from 22 UCI teams.
British road champion Hannah Barnes will be sporting her new national champion's kit in London, and is a favourite for a bunch sprint. She will line up with Canyon-Sram support riders Tiffany Cromwell, Mieke Korger and Alexis Ryan.
"Racing in such an iconic location is really special, especially in London. I have a lot of family and friends coming to watch, which they very rarely get to do nowadays with the limited amount of times I race in England," Barnes said.
Cervelo-Bigla's team will include La Course runner-up and Aviva Women's Tour stage winner Lotta Lepisto along with fourth placed Joelle Numainville. Together they will attempt to win the world-class event.
"I hope I do my best and get a good result for the team," Lepisto said. "I really found my legs last Sunday and felt strong all day. I hope this feeling will continue and it will be good on Saturday. It's nice going back to the UK because I won the last stage of the Women's Tour so it's a nice feeling to go back there."
Rabo Liv will field a full team that includes Lucinda Brand, Thalita de Jong, Shara Gillow, Roxane Knetemann, Jeanne Korevaar and Anouska Koster. Wiggle High5 has a good shot at the podium with sprinter Amy Pieters and Briton Dani King.
Boels-Dolmans did not enter a team because of a shortage of riders.
American team Rally Cycling will field three fast finishers in Erica Allar, Heather Fischer and Jessica Prinner. Compatriot teams Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank will also be on the start line with Lauren Stephens, and Cylance with sprinter Shelley Olds.
Team Liv-Plantur announced their line up to include sprinter/all-rounder Leah Kirchmann, winner of the opening stage of the Giro Rosa. But arguably the fastest woman on the start line will be Wild, who lines up with support from Tone Hatteland, Thea Thorsen, Julie Leth, Janicke Gunvaldsen and Emilie Moberg.
Also on the start line will be riders from teams Orica-AIS, Great Britain, Podium Ambition, Drops Cycling, Rally Cycling, Topsport Vlaanderen-Etixx, Parkhotel Valkenburg, Lensworld-Zannata, Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86, Bepink and Astana.
The event will present a landmark occasion for women's cycling as the €100,000 prize money is equal to the prize given at the men's race the following day, which makes it the richest race on the women's calendar. The winner will take home €25,000.
"It's great to have race organisers who value the women as much as the men because at the end of the day, we are as professional as the guys and sometimes even more professional," Lepisto said.
Laura Trott won the inaugural edition in 2013 and Giorgia Bronzini won the 2014 edition. The 2015 RideLondon Grand Prix was a day for the sprinters as Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) stormed to the victory ahead of Ale Cipollini teammates Shelley Olds and Annalisa Cucinotta, and Annette Edmondson (Wiggle-Honda) was fourth.