Despite only being 26 years of age, this will be Lizzie Armitstead’s eighth appearance in the Elite Women’s race at the World Championships. But while she has been tearing it up on the women’s World Cup circuit for the last few years, that form has never transferred to the big end-of-season race.
In 2014 Armitstead matched her best Worlds finish, coming seventh in Ponferrada, and said afterwards that the tactics employed by the other riders did not play to her strengths.
Ironically, this year, the absence of her biggest rival, Marianne Vos, could hamper her chances as she told Cycling Weekly that without the three-time world champion in their midst the Dutch team would be full of strong riders with great chances of winning themselves.
But Armitstead has been in imperious form in 2015, winning three rounds of the World Cup on her way to overall glory, as well as winning back her National Championships title.
It’s always a lottery trying to predict World Championship winners, but this year’s Elite Women’s race is stacked with potential champions – will it be Lizzie’s year?
It’s a little unclear who Great Britain will be working for in the men’s race in Richmond, but with Mark Cavendish roughing himself up a little in a Tour of Britain crash it looks a little more likely that Ben Swift will get the nod.
The course suits the Yorkshireman, with a few sharp hills and a slightly uphill sprint finish, meaning a sprinter in the mould of Swift could ride to glory.
His main concern, though, may be a lack of racing time having broken his collarbone on the first stage of the Tour de Yorkshire in May.
He finished third in his first race back, the Ride London-Surrey Classic, and placed ninth in quite a strong field at the Rio 2016 test event in August.
His results at the Tour of Britain look underwhelming, but he was riding in support of triple stage winner Elia Viviani, so not the best Worlds warmup.
Like the women’s race, the men’s event is wide open as always, but given the right support, Swift could see himself with a shot at the win.
While Armitstead and Swift are in it to win it, for Hayley Simmonds it may be more about the experience of taking part more than the result – not that she’ll not be going flat out for victory in the women’s time trial.
Simmonds isn’t your average cyclist. For one, she converted from rowing just a few years ago, but also because she’s studying for a PhD in Chemistry at Cambridge University.
But she’s enjoyed a breakout year on the domestic time trial scene, winning the National Championships as well as the national 10 and 25-mile races.
She also set a new competition record over the 10 mile distance in August, beating Julia Shaw’s record by a single second, clocking 19-46.
She’ll have her work cut out at the Worlds though, but the 30km distance will suit her characteristics.
GB’s U23 squad is arguably stronger than its elite squad for this year’s Worlds, with all five rider ones you’d happily back to win the race.
Tao Geoghegan Hart has had an impressive past few seasons, while Alex Peters has impressed enough to sign for Team Sky next year. Then there’s Scott Davies, who finished 12th overall at the Tour de Yorkshire and won the best young rider jersey at the Fleche du Sud, and Gabriel Cullaigh, who looked solid at last week’s Tour of Britain.
But it’s another Tour of Britain standout who could have the best chance of glory, with Owain Doull claiming a podium finish in his home tour against all odds.
The Team Wiggins rider was the model of consistency over the eight stages around Britain, with his lowest finish being 11th on the race’s only ‘summit’ finish on Hartside Fell.
It obviously helped to have someone like Sir Bradley Wiggins pulling hard on the front for you, but Doull showed enough racing nous of his own to set the rumour mill into overdrive as to who he may race for in future.
What a year it’s been for Alex Dowsett. A broken collarbone disrupted his training for the UCI Hour Record, scheduled for February. But his recovery went well and the Essex boy smashed Matthias Brändle’s record in May, only to see it beaten by a certain Mr Wiggins a few weeks later.
The Tour proved tough going for the Brit, suffering a crash on stage four and being forced to abandon after struggling in the first lot of mountains.
Back in 2012, Dowsett finished eighth in the Worlds time trial over a slightly lumpy course in Valkenberg and last year he came 20th as Wiggins won the rainbow stripes.
He’s proved he can win big time trials – taking victory in the 2013 Giro over a distance not dissimilar from the one he’ll face in Richmond.
Several big names, including Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara are missing this year, but Dowsett will need to do the ride of his life to get on the podium.