With eight events completed at the 2012 World Championships the host nation are yet to win a gold medal. But in the all-conquering Marianne Vos they have their biggest opportunity to take their first rainbow jersey. The Olympic champion is no stranger to winning on all sorts of terrain and will be more motivated than ever to win this weekend.
“The opportunity to win gold on home soil is an extra incentive,” she says and confidently asserts that she ‘could do these climbs blindfolded.’ A sobering thought for her opposition.
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The Dutchwoman’s chances have been boosted by an illness for Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead, who was her most prominent rival at the London Olympics. Armistead would have been one to watch on the lumpy terrain but withdrew on Wednesday.
Great Britain still has plenty to cheer for in spite of her absence, with Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke both set to line up, while defending champion Giorgia Bronzini will fight to the death to keep hold of her hopes of winning a third consecutive title.
Road World Championships 2012 Women’s Road Race: Where and When
When: 13:30-17:00, September 22, 2012
Where: Limburg, Netherlands
Coverage: LIVE: British Eurosport from 14:15, BBC1 from 15:30, BBC Red Button from 13:20
Road World Championships 2012 Women’s Road Race: Ones to watch
Marianne Vos, 25, Netherlands
Vos is the undisputed queen of women’s cycling and has in her relatively short career achieved the kind of universal dominance that can only be likened to the great Eddy Merckx.
Yet despite her unbeatable status Vos has failed to win a worlds title since 2006, instead managing a freakish run of five consecutive second places.
Five years, five silver medals for Marianne Vos
On home turf this year, however, victory seems written in the stars. Following her Olympic title last month and with a course hilly enough to force a selection, Vos is the overwhelming favourite to finally end her run of runner-up finishes and claim what would be one of the most romantic wins of her career to date.
Emma Pooley, 29, Great Britain
Pooley may be contemplating time away from cycling, but she could go out with a flurry in Valkenburg. Unlike 2011’s edition and at the Olympics, this year’s route includes plenty of opportunities for the British leader to attack on far tougher terrain.
The time trial was her favoured event and after missing out on a medal it remains to be seen how well she will recover from the disappointment, but we can certainly expect the PHD student to animate the race.
Judith Arndt, 36, Germany
On the back of her win in the time trial on Tuesday, the veteran Arndt looks to have the legs to cause the favourites some headaches in the road race.
Arndt’s consistency this season is evident in her second place finish in the World Cup, and her diesel engine in such that the peloton cannot afford to let her slip off the front in a manner akin to her victory in Flanders this spring.
Evelyn Stevens, 29, USA
The American Stevens is enjoying her best season to date, with third at the Giro Donne, first at the Route de France and, most ominously of all, a win at the La Fleche Wallonne Feminine in which she timed her uphill sprint perfectly to pass Vos on the Mur de Huy.
Stevens: Second in the time-trial earlier this week
Strong in the hills and with a quick finish, Stevens is riding in a strong US line-up, and will be one of a select few to rival Vos.
Emma Johansson, 28, Sweden
Johansson has in recent years collected an impressive palmares, including several wins and high finishes at Ronde van Drenthe, La Fleche Wallonne Feminine and the Swedish championships. As yet however she hasn’t a single world championships’ medal on that list, but a strong season hints that 2012 could set that right.
Shelley Olds, 31, USA
Alongside Stevens, Olds will also be a threat in the US team. She will be looking to make amends after an unfortunate mechanical at the Olympics road race saw her fall back from the winning selection of four and thus miss out on a medal.
Nicole Cooke, 29, Great Britain
It’s been several years now since the former world cup winner, world champion and Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke was the leading force in women’s cycling, but she is still too good to be written off.
Cooke gets a grilling before the Olympic Games road race
As with team mate Pooley the hilly parcours will suit her riding style, though only one win this year and an underwhelming showing at the Olympics suggest she lacks the form.
Giorgia Bronzini, 29, Italy
As winner of the previous two worlds road races Bronzini needs to be mentioned, but in truth the hilly terrain is likely to prevent her from completing the hat-trick.
Her preparation for the race too has been a hindrance with flu meaning she is not guaranteed to defend her title, so the Italian team may look elsewhere for their best chance of victory