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It’s finally here! Nine months after the women’s peloton first toed to the line, the 2016 UCI road season comes to an end in the same place it started: the Qatari desert.
In an Olympic year it’s tough to call the UCI Road World Championships the pinnacle event of the season, but the rainbow jersey is still the most coveted jersey out there.
Unlike the hilly nature of the Rio Olympic road course, the fast and flat world championship course is one for the sprinters, and we’re bound to get an exciting finish. We can’t wait to see who will be sporting those iconic bands next year.
The world championships road race
Taking place on Saturday, Oct. 15, the women’s road race will be the penultimate event at this year’s world championship. The women’s peloton will the Qatar Foundation at 12.45 p.m. local time and finish at the Pearl Qatar 134.5 kilometers later.
In her latest installment, Ella’s own SHEcret Pro voiced the concerns of many, not just in terms of the heat in Qatar, but also about the course.
“You ride 23 kilometres (14.3 miles) to a lap of 15.2km (9.4 miles) with 15 corners and a shitload of roundabouts. Then do that lap seven times!” she penned. “In a lot of riders’ opinions, it shouldn’t be a World Championship Road Race course. Because honestly, it isn’t really a ‘road race’ course – it’s more of a kermesse.”
Fast, flat and technical –it’s sure going to be a unique one to watch and race.
Who to watch
You can see the full start list of riders expected to line up here, but here are our Ella editors’ top race favourites.
1. Basically the entire Dutch squad
As always, the Netherlands will be represented by a very strong squad at the world road championships. Any of the eight ladies on the roster could win the race, but there are some likely candidates among them, with sprinter Kirsten Wild (Team Hitec) at the top of the list.
A four-time Ladies Tour of Qatar winner, Wild has had an incredible success rate in the Middle East and is an absolute top race favourite should it come down to a pure bunch sprint. However, Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), already a three-time world champion on the road, and Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) are not to be underestimated.
Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) is probably the only rider able to hold off a bunch sprint should she attack solo late in the race, like she did in this year’s Ladies Tour of Qatar. If she has a punched TGV ticket in her pocket again, the peloton will have a tough time keeping the world ITT silver medalist from reaching the finish line first.
2. Chloe Hosking
After a fantastic 2016 season, with wins in three Women’s WorldTour races, the only thing that can top it off is becoming world champion.
No stranger to racing in the Qatari desert, Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-High5) is a two-time Ladies Tour of Qatar winner who had her best season yet with wins on the iconic Champs-Elysees, in the Giro Rosa and La Route de France. Most recently, she bested Vos and Italian Barbara Guarischi in an all-out sprint at the GP Bruno Beghelli.
She’s in great form and if there was ever a year that the rainbow jersey could be won by an Australian, it’s this year, this course, this rider.
3. The Italian sprinters
A country that always sends a strong team to the world road championships, Italy has several sprinters that will very likely be in the mix for the mad dash to the line. Former two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5) has showed on multiple occasions this season that she’s still got it, and Marta Bastianelli (Ale Cipollini) is another experienced rider with a fast finish.
The younger but equally fast Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) is another one to watch. She won the sprint for the win at UCI1.1 Omloop van Borsele earlier this year and came in third at the GP Bruno Beghelli.
4. America’s pocket rocket Coryn Rivera
Team USA is also lining up with a very strong squad with Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Carmen Small (Cylance Pro Cycling) leading the team. But it’s Coryn Rivera (United Healthcare) who’d be the team favourite on a circuit like this.
Depending on how the race evolves, Guarnier and Small are obviously in for a chance as well, but if it comes to a sprint finish, Rivera has the fastest sprint among them. The team has some strong support from newly crowned world time trial champion Amber Neben (BePink), Lauren Stephens (Team TIBCO) and Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM).
5. Jolien D’Hoore a.k.a “The Belgian Bullet”
Although it’s track cycling that got Belgian Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle-High5) her “Belgian Bullet” nickname, she could’ve easily earned it through her road results. After an outstanding season in 2015, she focussed mainly on track for the Olympics in Rio this year. But her return to the road afterward came with almost immidiate success as she clinched the win at the final Women’s WorldTour race of the season, La Madrid Challenge by le Vuelta.
1. Leah Kirchmann
The Canadian sprinter was on fire in the first part of the season, winning the Drentse Acht van Westerland and taking podium finishes in Omloop het Hageland, the Tour of Chongming Island and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau.
Subsequently, she won the prologue in the Giro Rosa to become the first pink jersey wearer and finished third in the Women’s WorldTour Prudential RideLondon. If she’s still in form, watch out for her in Qatar.
2. Lotta Lepistö
Not your average bunch sprinter, Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla, Finland) might not be able to beat any of the top favourites mentioned above. But if there’s a reduced bunch or a small break and Lepistö is in it, you can bet she’s a serious candidate for the win.
She finished 11th in the individual time trial event last Tuesday, beating the likes of Small, Van der Breggen and Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels-Dolmans, Canada), so you can say she’s most ready to take on the road race.
3. Lizzie Deignan
If it’s up to her, the defending world road champion will add another year in the rainbow stripes to her palmares. Having won two stages and the overall in the 2015 Ladies Tour of Qatar, she is most definitely a rider to do well in the Qatari desert.
Although it’s a little hotter in October than February – when the Ladies Tour of Qatar is held – and Deignan isn’t the best with the heat, she was one of the four Boels-Dolmans riders that crossed the line in the team time trial event to set the fastest time, so it’s safe to say she can handle the hot temperatures.
4. Elisa Longo Borghini
Don’t write off Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5, Italy) either, who might not be the fastest sprinter, but her overall qualities ensure she’s a serious candidate for the podium as well.
5. Roxane Fournier
Without Pauline Ferrand-Prevot to represent the French team, France is looking toward Roxane Fournier (PC Futuroscope) to make them proud.
The fastest finisher among the team, Fournier has won stages in la Route de France, finished fifth in the Women’s WorldTour La Course by le Tour de France and was just outside the podium in stage 3 of this year’s Giro Rosa.
How to follow the race
The good thing about world road championships is that both the men’s and women’s races get extensive broadcasting. The women’s road race is on Saturday October 15th, 12:45 p.m. Qatar time (that’s 1:45 p.m. European CET; 5:45 a.m. North American EST; 8:45 p.m. Australian AEST), so check your local listings (Eurosport, SBS, UniversalSports) to find out when the broadcast begins in your country.
Who is your favourite for this year’s world road championships?