With the week long festival of World Championship cycling coming to a close on Sunday, the week climaxes with the two headline events of both the men’s and women’s elite road races. As one of the flagship races of the cycling season, this weekend will decide who will get to wear the prestigious rainbow jersey throughout the next year.

As classically one of the hardest races to predict, here we’ll try to give you a preview of exactly what’s happening in the women’s elite contest and who could be in contention to take the rainbow bands away from the formidable defending champion, Marianne Vos.
 
When: Saturday September 28, 15.00 BST – 17.00 BST
Where: Montecatini Terme – Florence, Tuscany, Italy.
Live Coverage: Starting on BBC One between 15.00-16.00 and then switching to BBC Two for the conclusion at 18.00-17.15.
 
The course
 
While last year’s Dutch course looked like a classic race with the inclusion of the Cauberg, this year doesn’t get any easier for the riders with five gruelling ascents of the Fiesole climb in Florence.

With 140.5km ahead of them, the riders will take in a relatively flat and comfortable 57.2km before the race really gets going with the first of five 16.6km laps through the city that also take in the category three Fiesole.

The climb itself is around 4.5km in length with an average gradient of 5.1%, however ramps up significantly in certain areas at around 10%. In total, the riders will take in 22.5km of climbing with 1,097 metres in elevation before the conclusion of the race, so it’s likely we’ll see a lot of splintered groups approaching the last lap or so.

On the other side of the climb is a fairly smooth but technical descent, and will require high concentration from all the riders as they look to take the corners at speed. The finish comes just after a descent and is fairly flat approaching the line, so it could be a fast and frantic end to the day.

 

The 2013 women’s road race route

Course profile, showing five difficult ascents of the Fiesole

The Contenders

Marianne Vos

After five consecutive silver medals since taking her first rainbow jersey in 2006, it took until the 2012 World Championships on home Dutch soil before Vos managed to take the number one title again. One of the greats in the history of women’s cycling, despite being only 26, Vos will be looking to make it three worl titles come Saturday, and it’ll be tough to bet against her. In a year which has already seen her win the Tour of Flanders, Fleche Wallonne as well as three stages and the points jersey at the Giro d’Italia Femminile, Marianne Vos remains the woman to beat.

Giorgia Bronzini

The two-time world champion is not one for the big climbs, but Giorgia Bronzini will certainly be in contention if the race comes down to a bunch sprint. Having taken six straight stages in August’s Route de France, you can’t deny the Italian is in form, and the home crowd might just inspire her to get through the difficult parcours.

Both Vos and Bronzini will both be looking for their third rainbow jersey

Emma Johansson

Swedish champion Emma Johansson has shown some good form leading up to the worlds, and she’ll be eyeing a podium position to top her third place in 2010. But despite obvious talent, Johansson remains an outside bet against the likes of Vos.

Eleonora van Dijk

Having already won the individual time trial at this year’s worlds, Eleonora Van Dijk would surely love to make it double gold with the road race aswell. As a out-and-out TT specialist though, she’s more than likely going to be riding in support of compatriot Vos, meaning opportunity will be slim. 

Evelyn Stevens

With a strong US team around her, Evelyn Stevens has the palmares to show she can compete with Marianne Vos when she wants to and is certainly a contender in Florence on Saturday. While 2013 hasn’t been quite as good as a remarkable 2012 for the American, Stevens has shown she has the pedigree to take at least a podium position, if not gold on her day, to add to the team time trial title she took with the US team earlier in the week.

The Brits

Lizzie Armitstead

Second place and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics really thrust Yorkishire rider Lizzie Armitstead into the forefront of British women’s road cycling, and the British champion will be hoping to become the fourth British woman to bring the rainbow bands home. It’s been a mixed year for Armitstead, with a win in the national road race her only this season, but she has the raw talent to give her a shot at the win this year.

Lizzie Armitstead will be looking to top her silver medal at London 2012