The third round of the 2017 Women's WorldTour sees the riders head to Italy for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Among all the very welcome new additions to the calendar, the one-day Trofeo Alfredo Binda has been one of the stalwarts of the Women's schedule.
The race started in 1974 with home rider Giuseppina Micheloni taking the victory, and the 2017 race will be its 42nd - the race was not run in 1997 or 1998. Italy leads the way with 24 victories over the years but the winners have taken on a more international variety, with current WorldTour leader Elisa Longo Borghini the only Italian winner in the past decade after she beat Emma Johansson to the 2013 title.
Longo Borghini will be aiming to add to her victory tally come Sunday as well as keep hold of her lead in the WorldTour rankings. The home rider was the cream of the crop at the opening round at Strade Bianche following a solid season opener at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. As the wearer of the series leader's jersey, Longo Borghini chose to defend it at Ronde van Drenthe. Even though the course was not suited to her, she came home with fourth place and still holds a 35-point lead at the top of the standings.
Lizzie Deignan had locked out the top step over the past two seasons and will be looking to make it a hat trick on Sunday. Boels Dolmans have not dominated the WorldTour in quite the same way this year, but they still have one win from two so far, and whatever their final selection it will be formidable. Megan Guarnier, who finished second last year, is slated to line-up in Taino alongside Deignan, and after a mixed start to the season, which has seen her abandon her last two races, she will be looking to bounce back here. Anna van der Breggen has struggled with illness so far this season but is also possible starter for Boels Dolmans.
It's not just Boels Dolmans who will have options at the weekend, and WM3 Pro Cycling will have their two star performers Marianne Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma out in Italy. Niewiadoma has scored the team's one and only podium so far this season with second at Strade Bianche. She finished seventh here last year but has continued on an upward trend since then and will be one to watch in the finale. Vos is a former winner of the race and looked an increasing threat on the road, after a largely successful cyclo-cross season earlier this year.
Cayon-SRAM also have a couple of irons in the fire with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Alena Amialiusk and the in-form Elena Cecchini. Ferrand-Prevot has been on the podium here in the past, but she would be an outside bet as she continues to find her feet following a difficult 2016. Cecchini comes to the race after finishing second at the Ronde van Drenthe and 10th at Strade Bianche. The Italian champion is strong enough to hold on in some of the climbs and has a very good turn of pace.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) has been racing longer than most and has had an extremely consistent start to the year. Since opening her season at the Santos Women's Tour, she has notched a win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, a podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and top-five finishes at the opening two rounds of the WorldTour. Never afraid to take a race by the scruff of the neck, you get the sense that she's just a bit of luck away from another big win this spring.
Ellen van Dijk is another outside bet for Sunweb and while the team is without Lucinda Brand, who has been their leading light so far this season, they've got the ever-aggressive Coryn Rivera, who could be a thorn in the side of some of the bigger names in the peloton.
A new start
After starting in Gavirate last year, the race will roll out of Taino this Sunday, taking the riders northwest towards Cittiglio. Following the first passage of the line, the riders will set out on a long loop of the Verese province near the border with Switzerland. This section will be familiar to those that have contested the race before.
The opening loop will bring the peloton over the first classified climb of the day at Cunardo before turning back towards Cittiglio and the second official climb of Orino. The line will be passed for a second time before four laps of a short circuit, which makes a beeline off the long course at Cuveglio.
It is not a pure climber's course, but the relentless up and down of the short loop makes it difficult for the group to stay together. Expect splits in the run to the line and several attacks as the bunch tries to sort the sort the wheat from the chaff. The new start town has allowed the organisers to extend the race to a total distance of 131km.
As it was last weekend at the Ronde van Drenthe, the WorldTour lead is very much up for grabs, which may well add another element into the mix.