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The Ronde Van Drenthe will open the 2012 UCI Women World Cup season in the Netherlands on Saturday. The big favourites are last year's winner Marianne Vos and World Champion Giorgia Bronzini.
Winding roads and cobblestone sections add to the spectacular character of this race where gale winds can be expected. The Ronde van Drenthe course, 132,8km long, was marked out in the true spirit of the Northern classics. It includes numerous sprints and primes as well as three short climbs, the last of which is 12.9km from the finish.
The favourites will have to avoid numerous traps along the course and even use them to their own good if they want to win. With four victories in five years, the Dutch riders are the favourites. If Annemiek Van Vleuten (Tichting Rabo Women), 2011 World Cup winner, will not be present due to an operation on the femoral artery, she can count on the overflowing energy of her compatriot and team mate Marianne Vos, who won the last edition of the Ronde Van Drenthe in the sprint, and who comes straight from a crushing domination of the cyclo-cross season.
The dual between Bronzini and Vos will be further animated by other renowned champions: the German Judith Arndt at the head of an impressive GreenEdge team, Sweden's Emma Johansson (AA-Drink Cycling Team), 3rd in the 2011 World Cup and who is back after an accident in mid-January, and her British team mate Lizzie Armistead, winner of the Omloop van het Hageland in February.