The women will be riding hard in Copenhagen at the UCI World Championships, looking for glory for themselves and their countries. Who can be expected to stand atop the final podiums?
The World Championship ITT is always a difficult race to predict, especially as the Olympics get nearer, when the riders from the peloton are joined by the specialists for the first time – and even the riders who have been racing in Europe all year haven’t raced against each other in a time trial that’s similar to this one.
The elite women ride 27.8km, two laps of the 13.9km city centre course that is the same circuit as the junior men and women. There are one or two technical sections, including a small run of cobbles, but mostly this course will be combining straight roads – including a long part on different sides of the same road – with city corners. With no climbs to face, it is the weather that could provide the biggest challenge for riders, especially if it changes over the course of the race.
A favourite for the race has to be Judith Arndt (Germany). She not only has two bronze and three silver medals in previous World ITT Championships – coming second behind Great Britain’s Emma Pooley in Geelong last year – but she also has built up some superb form in the run-up to the race, winning the two September ITTs, the 23.6km Memorial Davide Fardelli in Italy and the 33.4km Chrono Champenois in France.
Pooley herself will be a contender for the medals, although she may prefer a course with more hills, and the Netherlands' Marianne Vos will be well worth watching. Last year Vos decided not to ride the ITT in order to focus on the road race, but this year she announced that she is planning not to contest the track events in next year’s Olympic Games, but to focus on the road race and the time trial. Vos has been the stand-out rider of the year, and has already won a 2011 World Champion title at cyclocross and on the track, and this will give an idea of her chances of Olympic Gold.
Specialists in Copenhagen as part of their Olympic preparations are the Canadians,Tara Whitten and Clara Hughes. Hughes won silver in the 1995 World ITT Championships, and bronze in the ITT and on the track in the Olympics the following year, before focusing on speed skating, winning Olympic medals. She announced her return to cycling last year, aiming at London 2012. Although she hasn’t raced in Europe this year, she won the Pan-American ITT title, the ITT and the overall GC at the Tour of the Gila, and the UCI 1.1-ranked Chrono Gatineau, and this will be her chance to benchmark herself against the European competition.
There is also the local rider Linda Villumsen. Although she rides under a New Zealand licence, she was born in Denmark, and has been bronze medallist for the past two years. She may prefer a more hilly course, but that home-country advantage can never be underestimated.
If Vos is a favourite for the time trial, that goes double for the road race. She has never finished lower than second since she rode and won her first elite World Championship Road Race in 2006 – and this course looks like it suits her down to the ground.
With ten laps of the same 14km circuit as the men, including some short, sharp climbs, this will be a real race of attrition, with the winds likely to play a key role. When the women’s peloton ride courses like this one, it is usually all about which teams can use the wind and the climbs to force breaks, so positioning will be key, something that the Dutch riders excel at. Vos is supported by 2011 World Cup winner Annemiek van Vleuten and sprinter Kirsten Wild, who currently sits eighth in the UCI rankings – either of whom are capable of winning the race themselves, if Vos misses a break.
If it ends in a sprint, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany) could be the woman to beat, and with the strongest German team for years, she will have the support to get her to the end. 2010 road race Champion Giorgia Bronzini, too, could contest this one – and the Italians always bring superb tactics to the World Championships, with riders for every outcome, as they demonstrated last year and in 2009, when Tatiana Guderzo took the gold and Noemi Cantele the bronze.
If it ends in a small break, watch out for Emma Johansson, the Swede who almost never misses the crucial break, Teutenberg’s team-mate Judith Arndt, and the queen of long distance attacks, Emma Pooley. There maybe aren’t enough hills for her, and Team GB always seems to ride for Nicole Cooke in the road race - but Pooley is given an opportunity to escape, she could make it all the way. Cooke herself finally broke her long run of bad luck with a solo attack out of a small group to win the flat Stage 5 at the Giro d’Italia, and she will be hoping for a similar situation in Saturday’s race.
The women’s race is always exciting, and this one should follow the pattern women’s cycling fans love – lots of attacks, and excitement up to the line!