The defending Tour of Flanders champion Marianne Vos has decided to take a late start to the 2014 season, leaving the fight for victory in the capable hands of her Rabo Liv teammate Anna van der Breggen, currently second in the World Cup rankings. But can they withstand the pressure from current World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead and her powerful world time trial champion teammate Ellen van Dijk, and World Cup chaser Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS?
The third round of the World Cup is sure to be full of attacks, beginning from the start in Oudenaarde, and all across the 139.6km course and its four cobbled sections and 10 cobbled climbs.
Marianne Vos launched her winning attack last year on the Oude Kwaremont, taking along Elisa Longo Borghini, Emma Johansson and later Ellen van Dijk along before handily defeating them in the sprint.
This year, expect Van der Breggen to repeat the aggression she displayed in the Ronde van Drenthe, but with more fire to overcome the hard earned lesson she was given by Armitstead in the two-up sprint.
Fresh off her Trofeo Alfredo Binda victory, Johansson will toe the line with increased confidence and motivation to go after the coveted 120 points at the finish line in Oudenaarde.
New this year are the minor classifications - the sprint, mountains and young rider jerseys. Iris Slappendel of Rabo-Liv will take the start in her UCI Women Road World Cup sprint jersey. She leads the classification with twelve points. With only one sprint, at the finish line in Oudenaarde, her lead can only be threatened if her teamate Anna van der Breggen wins the race or finishes in second place.
Rabo-Liv have another leader’s jersey in the team with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot as best young rider. She is at six points, just like Thalita de Jong and Elena Cecchini.
With both the Leberg and the 12.9 % average Paterberg counting towards the mountain classification and twelve points up for grabs, Alena Amialiusik will have to fight hard to keep her leading position in the mountain classification.
Latest on Cyclingnews
Nils Eekhoff: I can’t live in the past‘In theory I could still become the World Champion’ says Sunweb rider after Yorkshire disqualification
Cyclo-cross round-up: Aerts on top as Iserbyt defends DVV leadWorst extends her lead in DVV Trofee at midway point of competition
Compton's national championships run ends with gracious nod to competition'Yeah, I'm disappointed, but mostly I just didn't feel that great' says 15-time US cyclo-cross champion
Verschaeve and Vermeersch graduate to Lotto Soudal from development teamUnder-23 riders both sign until the end of 2022 with Belgian WorldTour squad