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Labous expects 'whole different race' if injured Van Vleuten is sidelined from Worlds

Juliette Labous of France
Juliette Labous of France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Juliette Labous will lead the French national team as a contender in the elite women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong this weekend. 

However, she suggested that it could be an entirely different race if the outright favourite Annemiek van Vleuten riding for the Netherlands is forced to sit out of the race due to her injuries sustained in a crash during the mixed relay TTT on Wednesday.

“I think it will be a whole different race and we will have to look to other strategies and what can be possible,” Labous told reports in the mixed zone following the mixed relay team time trial, where France finished seventh and 58 seconds behind the new world champions from Switzerland.

The combined elite-U23 women’s road race will be held across 164.3km on a route that includes an opening loop with a climb over Mount Keira (6.5km at 6.2%) followed by six smaller circuits with a climb over Mount Pleasant (1.1km at 8.6%) before finishing along the coast in Wollongong.

Van Vleuten, who won the road race world title after an audacious 104km solo attack in Yorkshire in 2019, was the favourite to win a second road title after a remarkable season where she won overall titles at the Giro d’Italia Donne, Tour de France Femmes and Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

She targeted the Worlds as her final goals of the season but finished a disappointing seventh in the individual time trial last weekend and then crashed heavily in the mixed relay TTT on Wednesday.

The Dutch national team confirmed that Van Vleuten was taken to hospital where doctors confirmed she sustained a stable fracture to her elbow and that her participation in the elite women's road race on Saturday will be decided later in the week.

The Dutch team have one of the strongest teams on paper with Marianne Vos, Demi Vollering, Floortje Mackaij, time trial World Champion Ellen van Dijk, national road champion Riejanne Markus, and Shirin van Anrooij, who is the team's only under-23 rider.

Labous forms part of the French team that is the strongest its been in years with Aude Biannic, Coralie Demay, Marie Le Net, Evita Muzic, Gladys Verhulst and Jade Wiel. Audrey Cordon-Ragot was set to compete at the Worlds but suffered a stroke a week before she was set to depart to Australia, and is currently resting while she awaits surgery and further medical treatment.

Labous said that during the mixed relay TTT she felt better than she did during last weekend’s individual time trial where she finished 11th, and that the road race course is one that suits her well.

“It’s hard. I did Mount Keira and I think it will explode already there, if Annemiek is feeling good, that is probably she will go, that is what we hear. I think it will be tough but I like the course. If we only went once up the steep climb, then I would say it’s not for me, but we do it six times, it’s a bit less for the puncheurs, so I’m excited,” Labous said.

Labous expects a small group to finish in Wollongong due to the difficulty of the circuits and the team will support both her and Muzic to be contenders for the final, and they are aiming for a medal.

“We have the confidence, and we will try to save me and Evita [Muzic] for as long as we can, and me and Evita will be there in the final. Everyone is super motivated and I feel that confidence and it gives me motivation,” Labous said.

“I want to go for a medal and try to give everything. It’s the World Championships and I think we have to try to see what we do.”

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