Preview: Women’s World Championship Road Race 2022

There has been much controversy ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Wollongong, Australia. The incorporation of the first-ever U23 women’s race into the Elite Women’s race, the distance most riders had to travel to reach Down Under, the Magpies. But now that most of the top contenders are sipping flat whites after a track inspection, there’s plenty to get excited about, especially for Saturday’s women’s road race.

The course is technical and challenging, so it will be difficult for the teams that have the bibs to control it and it also leaves enough room for unaided riders. Every victory requires many small pieces to come together, but even more so at the World Championships.

With a long season almost in mind, Saturday’s race will be a battle between the opportunistic drivers and a few stacked teams. It’s going to be a world that we’ll be talking about for years to come, one way or another.

Of course

The 164.3km course includes a climb of Mount Kiera and six laps of the Wollongong street circuit. It’s a bit debatable what kind of rider the course is suitable for. At first glance it might seem to favor a puncher, maybe even a sprinter who can negotiate the climbs, but as with any national team race, the momentum of the peloton will play a big part in who ends up there and how important that first climb is .

Mount Keira is fairly early in the race, but it’s no small climb. The climb is 8.7 km with a maximum gradient of 15% in the middle and an average of 5%. It finishes with 123km remaining in the race, so the chances of someone escaping on the climb are slim… but never zero.

The descent from Mount Keira is technical enough that it seems like if a rider finds themselves on the road after the climb, it would have a chance to hold onto it for a while. The road winds almost by the time the race enters the street circuit, so it will be a while before a team or group of individuals can gather to chase. Once organized, the next obstacle, the successive, powerful climbs of the circuit, will interrupt the attempt again.

The women will run up Mount Ousley and Mount Pleasant six times, enough to slowly break their legs and leave riders feeling empty. The second of the two, Mount Pleasant, is the longer at 1.1 km with an average gradient of 7.7% and a maximum of 14%. After the duo, there are still around 5 km to the finish.

It’s going to be a long race for the women, one of the longer one-day races on the calendar, and combined with the potential for jetlag and the momentum of the national team, it’s not easy to predict who will don the jersey at the end of the day.

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The final climb and run to the finish looks a lot like the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, a race not often won by a climber. Overall, it’s a tougher race than previous season’s one-day WorldTour events. From the profile, it’s safe to say that whoever gets to the top of the final climb first will be wearing the jersey shortly thereafter.

top contender

The start list of each World Championship is a bit strange. Some teams have eight drivers, others three. This year it is particularly interesting because of the inclusion of the U23 race. Some nations, like the home team and the Americans, opted not to bring any U23 riders at all. Some teams, like the Brits and the Kiwis, brought a stronger U23 contingent than the elite and some brought an U23 rider or two like the Dutch and Italians.

What we don’t know yet is how serious the nations with U23 contenders are about this jersey. The winner won’t be able to wear the jersey in races next season, it will be hung on the wall and his name will go down in history, but it’s not something he can brag about like the elite title. Will the U23 race affect the Elite race? Hopefully not.

When it comes to elite racing, there are some strong contenders for victory, but it’s a race that really could be won by any number of riders. Nobody picked Anna Kiesenhofer for the Olympic road race and who is the new world champion on Sunday morning may not be on everyone’s lips today.

If we break down the start list by nation with the most start numbers, the Dutch and Italians are at the top. The difference between these two sides is that the Italians seem better at working together. The team has a lot of really strong riders but only a few winners, while everyone in the Dutch team could win to their detriment. The Dutch have a history of poor tactics, but they have won on strength in the past. They don’t seem to be able to do that anymore. Also, at the time of writing, it’s unclear if any of the favorites for Saturday in Annemiek van Vleuten will actually be racing after falling in the mixed relay time trial.

The Italians have defending champions Elisa Balsamo, who just had the best season of her career. If Balsamo climbs the climb in the lead group and looks good on the circuits, the team will have no problem riding for them. It’s likely that the Italian coach will let Balsamo ride alone at first just to see how she does. They also have Vittoria Guazzini, the hot favorite to win the U23 title after winning the time trial. Guazzini is used to being a super teammate at FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope and she’s definitely strong enough to be there at the end.

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When Balsamo isn’t having a great day, Paris Roubaix winner Elisa Longo Borghini is there to fill the gap. Longo Borghini is known for attacking late races on short, punchy climbs but usually ends up at the bottom of a select group of favorites. This year the former national champion has been working on her sprint and you can see that. She’s regularly the last leading woman for Balsamo at Trek-Segafredo, and the current world champion seems to have taught her older teammate a thing or two. Italy’s other possible contender is Silvia Persico. The new rider has just won a stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta against a long list of world favorites and has had quite the season behind him.

The Dutch could have two strong favourites Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos, but will the rest of the team support her? Luckily, Vos has one of her Trade teammates, reigning Dutch Champion Riejanne Markus. The team has two really strong workers in Ellen van Dijk and Shirin van Anrooij, but Van Anrooij is also a favorite for the U23 title, which might complicate things a bit. And then there’s Floortje Mackaij who’s not a bad cry for a late race move. In short, they have many opportunities, but the race depends on how they use them.

If Van Vleuten is unable to compete it will undoubtedly completely change the way the race is won. Van Vleuten could definitely launch one of her signature ranged attacks on Keira and never be seen again.

Other teams with seven riders are France, Spain, USA and home team Australia. Neither France nor the US have strong contenders for victory. They have a couple of riders that might be up there, like France’s Juliette Labus and Veronica Ewer of the USA, but they don’t have a standout favourite. Unfortunately, France is one important driver behind in Audrey Cordon Ragot. The two-time national champion suffered a stroke the week before the time trial and was therefore unable to compete. Your presence is missed.

The driver who would be the top contender for USA is Kristen Faulker, the stage winner of the Giro Donne, however, did not finish the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta due to fatigue. Tiredness at the end of the season does not go away with more than 40 hours of driving.

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Some competitors come with significantly less support, such as Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland). Both drivers have a few teammates, Uttrup has Emma Norsgaard who is a significant companion but both arrive with far fewer numbers. It could be in their favor as the price looks. They are also similar riders in style, aggressive racing would be great for them. Uttrup Ludwig might have better chances as she just won the Tour of Scandinavia and looked really good in the second half of the season.

Great Britain will start with four U23 riders, one of whom is also British national champion Alice Towers, and two potential elite contenders Lizzie Holden and Anna Henderson. Henderson’s descending skills could eventually find them from the top, but the British team doesn’t really have a top-tier favorite for the elite race.

After all, the home team not only has really good quality, but also teamwork. They won the Commonwealth Games going all in for Georgia Baker and as this is their home world championship the team will look at the race with the assumption that as long as they wear green and gold they don’t care who wins ( how could it even you don’t think that with their special edition kit…it’s gorgeous). baker, Alexandra Manleyand Grace Brown are all potential winners. The team also has fantastic support from Brodie Chapman, Sarah Roy, Josie Talbot and Amanda Spratt. Overall, Australia have assembled a team that can definitely win this race. And given Brown’s time trial form, she looks like the best shot. But Baker and Manly both had strong seasons. Based on how the race is shaping up, Australia has more than one rider who will be there.

External competitors include Marlene Reusser (Switzerland), Arlenis Sierra (Cuba), Mavi Garcia (Spain), Liana Lippert (Germany) and Lotte Kopeky (Belgium).

CyclingTips star ratings

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Longo Borghini, Van Vleuten, Brown
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Vollering, Vos, Uttrup Ludwig
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Balsamo, Niewiadoma, Kopecky
⭐️⭐️: Garcia, Reusser, Persico, Manly, Baker
⭐️: Labous, Faulkner, Sierra, Lippert

like watching

The world elite women’s road race will be broadcast live on GCN+ and Eurosport on Saturday 24 September from 12:25 local time (4:25 CEST / 3:25 BST / 22:25 EST -1 day). Set your alarm clock early and prepare your coffee to go. North American viewers can find coverage on FloBikes.

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