The International Cycling Union (UCI) Women's World Cup travels to China for the Tour of Chongming Island on Sunday, May 9, the first time a women's road World Cup event has been hosted in Asia.
Perhaps due to the expense of traveling to China or the proximity to France's Tour de L'Aude, May 14-23, starting five days later, World Cup leader Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) and the rest of the top-ten in the overall standings are absent from the Tour of Chongming Island, the fifth of nine World Cup rounds.
A new World Cup winner will be crowned on Sunday as none of the season's previous World Cup winners Vos, Grace Verbeke (Lotto Ladies Team), Loes Gunnewijk (Nederland Bloeit) and Emma Pooley (Cervélo TestTeam) will start. Nevertheless, a strong field comprised of European trade teams and national teams from Europe, Asia and the South Pacific will contest the inaugural World Cup and its three-stage warm-up event May 5-7, also called the Tour of Chongming Island.
If the opening stage of the three-day Tour of Chongming Island is any indicator, the HTC-Columbia team will be a favourite for the World Cup round on Sunday with German sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg taking top honours in a bunch gallop. A similarly flat, windy parcours is on tap for Sunday and the HTC-Women are eager to take their first World Cup of the season after being shut out in the opening four rounds.
HTC-Columbia's Judith Arndt, 11th overall in the World Cup, and defending Tour of Chongming Island champion Chloe Hosking are also potential winners in addition to Teutenberg. While Vos will retain her World Cup lead regardless of the outcome in China, a victory by Arndt would propel the German into second place overall, 29 points behind the Dutch leader.
Dutchwoman Kirsten Wild (Cervélo TestTeam) has been on a hot streak of late, winning the Omloop van Borsele and GP Stad Roeselare back-to-back for the second straight year prior to traveling to China. Wild also finished a close runner-up to Teutenberg in the Tour of Chongming Island stage race opener and the sprinter should once again prove to be a formidable threat for victory in the World Cup.
The home Chinese National Team and Giant Pro Cycling teams should be factors as well as the Australian National Team's Rochelle Gilmore and Vicki Whitelaw, Angela Hennig (Noris Cycling), Catherine Cheatley (New Zealand), Marta Tagliaferro (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo - Ghezzi) and Aurore Verhoeven (Esgl 93 - Gsd Gestion).
The women's peloton will tackle a flat 138.6km loop predominantly on Chongming Island, part of the municipality of Shanghai. At the race's midpoint the peloton leaves Chongming Island for a dramatic out and back section along the 8.8km Chongming North Bridge connecting Chongming Island to Changxing Island, another island in the Yangtze River Delta. While the dearth of elevation change coupled with wide streets and lengthy straights of the course favour the sprinters, strong winds and rain could prove decisive, particularly along the exposed road atop the Chongming North Bridge.