By Ben Atkins
The Women's World Cup stays in northern Europe, moving further north and east to Hoogeveen in the Netherlands for its next round. 2007 winner Adrie Visser returns to defend her nation's World Cup race with the DSB Bank team, but will likely be working for the benefit of former World champion team-mate Marianne Vos. In truth, that's what she was doing in last year's race when her last gasp attack in the company of Elodie Touffet (then of Menikini-Gysko). Vos' rivals failed to chase down the pair of escapees, and Visser easily beat Touffet.
As Drenthe is one of the flattest parts of the Netherlands, the race organisers have to come up with other ways to make the course challenging. The first thing they did was to make it 135.6km long, over twenty more than last weekend's Ronde Van Vlaanderen. On top of the longer distance, there are four sectors of cobbles in the first half of the race, appealing to those who enjoyed themselves last week.
The major obstacle of the course though is provided by one of the larger man-made structures in the area. The VAM-berg exists courtesy of the fact that the Netherlands' government has only recently had its strict environmental policies changed; you wouldn't know to look at it, but it owes its existence to a massive landfill site.
The race will climb the VAM-berg three times; once early on after just 9.4km, and then twice in latter stages with 46.4km and then just 14.3km to go. The last of those ascents could prove decisive if a breakaway manages to get a sufficient gap so close to the finish. There are plenty of sprinters in the field though who will be keen to prevent this from happening and the flat run in gives them plenty of opportunity to get a well-organised chase together.
Last weekends Vlaanderen winner Judith Arndt starts with number 1 on her back and leads a High Road team with a number of cards to play. Arndt herself proves a hard woman to catch in a last ditch break and her team-mate Chantal Beltman proved last week that she likes the cobbles and steep hills. If it does come down to a sprint though, High Road has one of the fastest finishers in the business in Ina Teutenberg., who finished fourth here last year. Of course, Marianne Vos may have something to say here as the former World champion won the bunch sprint last year to take third.
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