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The women’s 2020 racing season had only just begun before Covid-19 hit. Many of the riders had yet to race before being forced into quarantine with the rest of the pro peloton and the world. Now, after racing a short schedule -- Strade Bianche, La Course at the Tour de France and the Giro Rosa -- they face the Worlds road race.
The women will face the same 28.8km circuit as the men, but going around five times for a total of 2800m of climbing in the 143km race. Unlike the men, the women should see sunshine on Saturday. Below are a few of our favorites for the rainbow stripes.
The Dutch powerhouse team is the strong favorite to win, with Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and defending champion, Annemiek van Vleuten lining up. Van Vleuten would have been an obvious choice to lead the team until her unfortunate crash at the Giro Rosa that forced her to abandon the race and her GC lead with a broken wrist. A little over a week later, after surgery and a fitted brace, she has been given the green light to race Saturday.
Van der Breggen is another strong contender on the team hoping to capitalize on its options. She opened the World Championships with her first rainbow jersey in the individual time trial after earning her first Giro Rosa title last week.
The third option for the Dutch is none other than the three-time champion Marianne Vos. The hilly course and flat finish lend to her strengths. She had only one race under her belt in 2020 prior to the lockdown. She returned to her winning ways at the Giro Rosa, taking three stages and the points classification.
Deignan has been a vocal advocate for athletic moms worldwide, since becoming a mother herself in 2018. She celebrated her first major win since then at La Course in Nice, France, out-sprinting Marianne Vos to the line. Deignan was one of several riders since the return to racing to challenge the dominance of Annamiek van Vleuten. She won the one-day GP de Plouay prior to La Course in the rain.
2020 may be one of Deignan’s last chances to fight for the rainbow jersey. She won in 2015, but has publically shared her desire to retire from competition following the 2021 Summer Olympics. Great Britain has brought a six-woman squad, with Elizabeth Banks and Hannah Barnes to back her.
Rivera’s win at Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2017 catapulted her to the world stage in her first season racing on the Women’s WorldTour. The American sprinter has proven she can go the distance and survive over punchy climbs. Should the race come down to a field sprint, Rivera will surely be in the mix. Like many of her peers, she has few racing days in her legs since the shutdown. She returned to racing at Strade Bianche and had three top-five stage finishes at the Giro Rosa.
Losing Chloe Dygert, who crashed in the TT, for Saturday’s race was a major blow to USA Cycling. A now six-rider squad including Tayler Wiles, Laura Stephens, and Ruth Winder will also strengthen the team.
Elisa Longo Borghini
It has been nearly a decade since Italy saw an Italian woman in the rainbow jersey. Borghini is one of the favorites with the home advantage, after finishing second at the European Continental Championships, two stage wins and a podium finish at the Giro Rosa this season. She was a key component for her Trek-Segafredo teammate, Lizzie Deignan, in both her wins this season including at La Course. One-day races are her specialty as she hopes the home crowd will cheer her on to victory after her third at the 2012 Worlds.
Niewiadoma has shown time and time again her strengths in both one-day races and in stage racing. The Polish climber won Amstel Gold last season, and is arriving in Imola after a strong second place finish on GC at the Giro Rosa. Her short stint in the pink jersey last week and podium finish, has boosted her confidence in aiming for future victories. Should her form continue into Worlds, landing her in the jersey or on the podium, it will be a first in history for Poland.