Vollering, Kopecky, or another? Five contenders for the women's World Championships road race

It's hard to look past a dominant SD Worx rider, but will the Dutch have it all their own way?

Lotte Kopecky (c) with Demi Vollering (l) and Lorena Wiebes (r)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just a fortnight after the conclusion of the Tour de France Femmes in Pau, the best female riders in the world will be at it again on the streets of Glasgow on Sunday. The elite women's road race brings the curtain down on the road events at the World Championships, and with all eyes on them, explosive racing is guaranteed.

The 154.1km route takes in 2,229m of vertical ascent. Unlike the men's race, which started in Edinburgh, the women set off from Balloch, Loch Lomond, but then join the same route from the Crow Road climb and onto the 14.3km city circuit for 6 laps in Glasgow.

Expect as gruelling a race as the men as the women tackle the punchy, technical course around Glasgow. It looks well suited to a Classics rider, but anything could happen, especially if the weather changes.

The under-23 women's race takes place inside the elite women's race for the second year in a row, so there will be two rainbow jerseys up for grabs in the same event, not just one.

Here are Cycling Weekly's top contenders and a few outsiders for the top step in Glasgow on Sunday afternoon.

Main contenders

Lotte Kopecky (Belgium)

Lotte Kopecky

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is hard to look past Lotte Kopecky for the rainbow bands. The Belgian is in the form of her life, finishing second overall at the recent Tour de France Femmes despite ostensibly not being a climber, and she is well suited to the criterium-like finishing circuit in Glasgow.

Kopecky won the opening punchy stage of the Tour, and will look to take flight on Montrose Street on Sunday. She might not have the strongest squad, but she is without a doubt Belgium's best hope, so there will be no split plans in Scotland. Having won the Tour of Flanders, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Danilith Nokere Koerse this year, she will be ready for a tough Classics-style race.

Her Tour form hasn't gone anywhere either, with the 27-year-old winning track titles in both the elimination and points race at this World Championships, so she has the chance to win a third rainbow jersey at Glasgow on Sunday.

Demi Vollering (Netherlands)

Demi Vollering

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Where to start with Demi Vollering? The Dutchwoman comes into the World Championships having won the Tour de France Femmes in dominant fashion, which itself followed a sparkling year.

The 26-year-old is the reigning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Dwars door Vlaanderen and Strade Bianche champion, so has the abilities in a one-day event as well as a stage race. 

She heads up a strong Dutch team which also includes defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten and former champion Marianne Vos, but Vollering will be expecting her starry colleagues to work for her. She can also use the fact that her team will include the fastest finisher in the race - Lorena Wiebes - to head up the road in a moment of indecision. 

SD Worx have used this tactic to great effect throughout 2023, so don't be surprised if it happens again on Sunday.

Five of the last six world champions have been Dutch, and now it might be Vollering's time to shine.

Lianne Lippert (Germany)

Lianne Lippert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the few riders to beat Lotte Kopecky in a reduced sprint this year is Lianne Lippert, when she won stage two of the Tour de France Femmes to Mauriac, so you should expect the German to be there when the front group is just a few people.

She came fourth at Wollongong last year in the women's road race, so will be hoping to go at least one place higher in Glasgow. The German champion was also in the mix at Strade Bianche, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so clearly has the legs for a Classics-style day.

The German squad also contains Ricarda Bauernfeind, who surprised everyone by winning from the breakaway on stage five of the Tour, so could be a decent foil option to Lippert. 

Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland)

Kasia Niewiadoma

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kasia Niewiadoma might not have won a bike race since 2019, but where better than the biggest stage of them all to break her duck and claim the rainbow bands? The Pole has finished in the top 10 at the Worlds five times, and is incredibly consistent, despite not having the killer final blow.

The women's road race is of a very similar profile to the Amstel Gold Race, where Niewiadoma finished fourth this year, so will surely be there close to the end. The 28-year-old was also in great form at the Tour de France Femmes, finishing second on the queen stage, and third overall.

An aggressive rider will surely sparkle in Glasgow, and Niewiadoma is exactly that.

Lorena Wiebes (Netherlands)

Lorena Wiebes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If it finishes in a bunch sprint, it's hard to look past Lorena Wiebes. The SD Worx rider won stages at both the Giro d'Italia Donne and the Tour de France Femmes, part of nine wins this season. 

As discussed above with Vollering, she provides the perfect plan B for the stacked Dutch squad, and her presence late on in the race will force other nations to attack in order to distance her. However, Wiebes is no pushover on punchy climbs, and has dabbled in cyclo-cross before, so might have the skills on the tight city circuit.

Other contenders

Denmark have a strong squad with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and the resurgent Emma Norsgaard; expect them to be present deep into the race. The former always turns up at the World Championships, while the latter was a winner of a memorable Tour de France Femmes stage last month.

The Netherlands come into the race with an embarrassment of riches. As well as Vollering and Wiebes, they have defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten and former champion Marianne Vos, who both could still shake the race up. Vos, especially, is a good pick with her cyclo-cross nous. They also have Shirin van Anrooij, who might not be a favourite, but is definitely an outside pick. She won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, came third at Amstel Gold, and is also under-23 cyclo-cross world champion.

Elisa Balsamo is a part of a strong Italian squad alongside Silvia Persico. Balsamo, the 2021 world champion, is returning from fracturing her jaw, so her form is unknown, but she could be fresh. Persico, meanwhile, finished third last year, and has had a strong 2023, including winning Brabantse Pijl and coming fourth at the Tour of Flanders.

Chloé Dygert carries the hopes of the USA on her back, and has looked in great form throughout 2023. Pfeiffer Georgi is probably GB's best hope, and is at her best in tough races - which the Glasgow worlds definitely is; she will be racing alongside former champion Lizzie Deignan.

Meanwhile, if a rouleur fancies a long-range attack, it is hard to look past Grace Brown of Australia or Marlen Reusser of Switzerland. The pair are very good at attacks which look innocuous at first, but then are impossible to bring back.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.