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Imola World Championships: 5 riders to watch in the elite women's time trial

American Chloe Dygert will race at Imola World Championships to defend her TT title
American Chloe Dygert will race at Imola World Championships to defend her TT title (Image credit: Getty Images)

The top elite women from each nation will arrive to the central Emilia-Romagna region of Italy for the 2020 UCI Road World Championships held from September 24-27 in Imola.

The elite women's time trial will kick off the event with a 31.7km flat contest held along an out-and-back circuit that starts and finishes at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola.

Former two-time winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) will not be participating in the time trial event this year having been sidelined with a fractured wrist sustained in a crash at the Giro Rosa.

Cyclingnews selected five riders to watch for the elite women's time trial.

Chloe Dygert (USA)

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Chloe Dygert (USA) won the time trial in Yorkshire at the 2019 Worlds

Chloe Dygert (USA) won the time trial in Yorkshire at the 2019 Worlds (Image credit: Getty Images)

The USA will, once again, line up with one of the most powerful time trialists in the world with defending champion Chloe Dygert. She is a multiple-time world champion on the track and competed in her first elite road world championships last year in Yorkshire, where she stormed to victory in the time trial beating Dutch teammates Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten.

Dygert does not compete on the Women's WorldTour road racing circuit, as many of her rivals do, since her team, Twenty20 is a domestic-elite license with USA Cycling for this year. Instead, the 23-year-old world champion chooses to focus primarily on training and racing individual time trials on the road and pursuits on the track.

Dygert revealed that she will arrive to the Imola World Championships having not competed this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is prepared to attempt a rainbow jersey defence along the flat route that includes the auto racing track in Imola.

"I'm excited to be going to Italy to try and defend my rainbow stripes," Dygert said. "It'll be interesting to see if Worlds can be won without any racing in my legs, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. It's always an honour being able to wear the World Champion jersey and I'd love to keep it for another year."

Also expected to race in the time trial is former two-time world champion Amber Neben. She won the titles in 2008 at Varese and in 2016 on a flat course in Doha.

Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)

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Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)

Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dygert's primary competition will come from the Dutch pair of Anna van der Breggen and Ellen van Dijk. In Yorkshire, she beat Van der Breggen by 1:32 and Van Vleuten by 1:52 on a challenging, rolling course. 

It was a performance that stunned the cycling world and Dygert's margin of victory will not be forgotten among the Dutch team.

Van der Breggen has not won a world title in the time trial but she has earned the silver medal on four occasions: 2015 in Richmond, 2017 in Bergen, 2018 in Innsbruck where she won the elite women's road race world title, and last year in Yorkshire.

Van der Breggen has won almost everything there is to win in women's pro cycling from the coveted Spring Classics to the Giro Rosa, the European Championships, the road race world title, and the gold medal at the Olympic Games. The individual time trial world title leaves something of a void in her sparkling palmares that she will no doubt want to fill before her planned retirement at the end of 2021.

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)

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Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ellen van Dijk wasn't meant to take the starting ramp in the time trial at this World Championships but has taken the place of Annemiek van Vleuten, who was forced to withdraw from the event due to a fractured wrist. 

The Dutch women's elite team, Trek-Segafredo, is so strong that they can swap out one potential winner for another and still remain a team that is capable of finishing with multiple riders on the podium.

Van Dijk has made a career out of time trialing, a former world champion in the discipline in 2013, she has also finished inside the top 10 eight times in the last decade. In 2018 she was part of the Dutch team that swept the podium with Van Vleuten taking the win, Van der Breggen second, and herself third.

Always ready for a time trial, Van Dijk will start the 31.7km event as one of the favourites, particularly in top form having finished second to Van der Breggen at the European Championships and the helping her Trek-Segfaredo team to a stage 1 victory in the team team time trial at the Giro Rosa.

The Dutch team have fielded three riders in the time trial in previous editions, because of a rule that allows the European Championships winner an automatic spot at the Worlds. However, the UCI removed that rule this year because other Continental Championships were not held due to COVID-19.

Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)

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Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)

Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) (Image credit: Getty Images)

With so few time trials taking place this year, it's tough to pick the outside podium contenders, however, Switzerland's Marlen Reusser has shown promising performances with a victory at her national championships in July followed by third place, behind Van der Breggen and Van Dijk, at the European Championships in August. 

She was also part of the team that secured the silver medal in the mixed team relay at the European Championships and helped her team Équipe Paule Ka to a strong fourth place in the opening team time trial at the Giro Rosa.

Last year, she won three time trials including the title at the European Games, and was second in the time trial at the BeNe Ladies Tour before going on to finish sixth place in Yorkshire.

Lisa Brennauer (Germany)

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Lisa Brennauer (Germany)

Lisa Brennauer (Germany) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Germany has a selection of powerful time trialists that could contest for the podium including Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Klein. While Klein has been the stronger of the two in the discipline last year, after finishing fifth in Yorkshire, Brennauer seems to have found top form in the time trial.

Brennauer was fourth in the European Championships, and formed part of the team that also included Klein and Mieke Kröger to help Germany win the mixed relay at the European Championships in August.

She won the time trial world title in 2014 in Ponferrada and secured the bronze medal in 2015 in Richmond. She was also sixth in 2016 in Doha, but finished outside of the top 10 in 2017 at Bergen and in 2018 at Innsbruck. Last year, she finished 10th in Yorkshire.

She looks to have improved her time trialing during the re-start to the season, which was shut down down to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps taking the opportunity to train specifically for the event.

Honourable mentions

The UCI has yet to release the official start list for the women's individual time trial, however, there are a number of riders who will be in contention for the podium and the top 10 at this year's World Championships.

Leah Kirchmann and Karol-Ann Canuel for a powerful duo that will represent Canada. Kirchmann is especially strong in the event, having placed fourth in 2018 but missed last year's race due to a knee injury.

Australian national champion Sarah Gigante will not be on the start line but runner-up Grace Brown will represent the country in Imola. Alena Amialiusik (Belarus) will be a rider to watch after finishing in the top 10 at the European Championships.

Lizzy Banks will represent Great Britain in the event, fresh off a solo victory on stage 4 at the Giro Rosa.

Trinidad and Tobago's Teniel Campbell has been targeting the time trial, which was originally scheduled at her former WCC home base in Switzerland. 

Italy will field a strong contender in Victoria Bussi, who is a former world hour record holder and three-time runner-up at the Italian championships. Others to watch will be Eugenia Bujak for Slovenia,  Juliette Labous for France, Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Jorgensen and Pernille Mathiesen for Denmark, and Olga Zabelinskaya will line up in the colours of Uzbekistan.