Loren Rowney, expert fan girl, foreshadows the road season ahead

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Now that I have officially retired from professional cycling, for the first time in a long time, I get to sit back and take on the role of fan girl.

With plans to be in Belgium over the spring, you’ll catch me on the sidelines of Flanders, beer in hand, waving a flag most likely. You may also catch me on the other side of the camera at Flèche Wallone, firing off the questions at the riders. I plan to get to as many women’s races as possible whilst in Europe, sit back and enjoy the show. I still love this sport and I’ll be Carlee Taylor’s number 1 fan now. Watch out super fans of Carlee, I’m coming for you!

Who will be the break out rider of 2017? Which event will be the best event? Which races can we expect live coverage … or any coverage? With 21 events, including the addition of the women’s Amstel gold, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as the tour of Norway and Boels rental Holland ladies tour, the UCI Women’s WorldTour is definitely becoming a well-rounded calendar with a bit of everything for everyone. There are so many more key players, and big teams than just five years ago, that we can definitely expect 2017 to be yet another very exciting season for women’s cycling.

The post-Olympic year is always an interesting one. Who is motivated? Who’s out to prove themselves and who is happy to take an “easy year” because they were lucky enough to sign a 2- or 3-year deal and are sitting pretty? So many questions!

Now that I am on the outside looking in, here’s who I’ll be watching:

I’m interested in seeing what Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) will do. After winning silver at the 2012 London Olympics, she did not have a stand out season in 2013. Alongside her incredible Boels-Dolmans teammates the Lizzie from 2015 and start of 2016, however, was a force to be reckoned with. And my guess is that after the whereabouts controversy, a disappointing Rio, and the rainbow stripes off her shoulders, we can expect to see Lizzie really hit the ground running with the classics.

I’ll also be watching Annemiek van Vleuten, With her aggressive style of racing and the backing of her Aussie contingent, Orica Scott, we will see great things from her.

And perhaps this is the year of Ellen Van Dijk once again, as she takes on a leadership role in Sunweb, just like her Specialized-Lululemon days. Ellen is known for her attacking style and ability to ride away, and stay away, from her competitors. It appears that Sunweb has put a lot of effort into developing their team into a “real” classics team, and may be able to match Boels-Dolmans in terms of strength.

Or is this the year where we see the return of Vos? I think this is a question everyone has in mind. While Marianne Vos returned to the road last season, it wasn’t till cyclocross season that she returned to her old, dominating ways again. Will we see Vos rise to her former dominance on the road as well? Or has the strength and depth of the field increased that much in the past few years, that she is now well-matched? Either way, the new WM3 Pro Cycling Team is a great addition to the women’s peloton. With less than half of the Rabo-Liv roster staying on with Vos, we will see a completely different team, with a whole new strength and approach to racing. I expect to see big things again from Vale Scandorlara in 2017. We know when Vale is a happy racer, she is a damn good racer, and from what I can tell, WM3 is the perfect fit for her.

Lastly, I think Ale Cipollini is a team that could surprise everyone this year. With the addition of world-class sprinter Chloe Hosking, Dutch breakaway specialist Janneke Ensing, ultra domestique Romy Kasper, and hill climbing specialist Carlee Taylor, Ale is a well rounded team. I think that as this team becomes more international, their strengths will just increase and the results will come. And I really do feel that with time, hopefully a team like Orica-Scott becomes more international once again. From experience, the best years of racing I had was the first two years with Specialized Lululemon, where I learnt so much from my fellow teammates from all over the world. The less Italian the team, the better in my opinion.

All in all, the Women’s WorldTour is moving in the right direction in terms of hosting more events. However, as has been discussed by many during Australia’s Summer of Cycling, we need to see more coverage. People are demanding it all around the world.

So my main question is this: When are we going to be able to log on to our laptops and stream all Women’s WorldTour races? Cough, UCI, cough…

Loren’s picks for 2017

– Most likely to have a breakout season: Coryn Rivera and Alexis Ryan
– Most likely to win more than 5 races: Jolieen D’Hoore
– Most likely to surprise us: Jessica Allen
– Most likely to disappoint: Race coverage
– Most likely to win the WWT jersey: Lizzie Deignan
– Most likely team to dominate: Toss up between Boels and Sunweb
– Most likely to be the next world champion: The safe option is Vos or Lizzie but I’m going to go with Lotta Lepisto or Elena Cecchini.

What do you think? Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comment section below. 

Loren Rowney is a South-African born Australian living in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season. After five years in the pro peloton, Rowney is retiring from professional cycling. During her career she rode for Orica-AIS and Velocio-SRAM. 

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