We preview the women’s elite road race at the World Championships – live on Eurosport on Saturday – and consider whether the Dutch can put their differences aside to dominate the podium…
Rarely can a team put forward eight riders in all contention for the rainbow jersey – but this Dutch women’s team certainly can.
“Everyone on our team is capable of winning the World Championships,” Van Vleuten said in her Cyclingnews blog.
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Two-time world time trial champion Van Vleuten, winner of this year’s Giro Rosa, knows her main competition for Saturday’s race comes from within.
She will be riding with, but up against, race favourite and three-time champion Marianne Vos, defending champion Anna van der Breggen, 2017 winner Chantal Blaak, as well as Lucinda Brand, European champion Amy Pieters, Floortje Mackaij and Demi Vollering.
“We know that the main priority is that someone wearing the orange jersey must win,” Van Vleuten added.
“There are advantages to being part of such a strong team. I've seen women from other nations racing who have little support, and for them, it's tough to win.
Ever since my first World Championships in 2010, the Dutch have been the favourites, and I think we have shown that we can handle that situation professionally and successfully.
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The Dutch know they will have to pull together to ultimately produce another champion on Saturday, but other nations will be hoping to see disharmony among the among the women in orange.
“You can see the tension in the team and use that against them,” said Alice Barnes – per the Telegraph – who will be supporting Lizzie Deignan's hopes of winning the world title on home asphalt four years after her victory in Richmond, Virginia.
Anything is possible. I think sometimes they don’t always support one rider and they do race against each other and that’s one thing you can use to your advantage.
The Dutch have denied any such rift, but Deignan, along with 2007 champion Marta Bastianelli and Coryn Rivera will be among the non-Dutch contenders hoping cracks appear somewhere between Bradford and Harrogate.
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‘It’s going to be a smash fest’
Australian hope Amanda Spratt is also in with a shout, and she is predicting the unpredictable on Saturday.
Last year’s silver-medallist in Innsbruck believes the 150km route in Yorkshire is akin to the Ardenne Classics, and – like many – does not expect a bunch sprint to decide where the gold goes.
"It’s a bit more unpredictable. It’s going to be a race of attrition. You have to be punchy and strong but also smart,” she told Cyclingnews.
“I like that style of racing where you have to think a bit and pick a right moment. I like to be aggressive and pick a good moment to attack.
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"It will 100 per cent be a small group at the end. There are a lot of challenges with 2,300 metres of altitude gain, and we don’t see bunch sprints with that amount of metres in the women’s peloton.
“We have two hard climbs early on and once we get to the circuits I think it’s going to be a smash fest. I don’t think anyone is going to want to take the sprinters to the line among some of the top contenders."
Spratt knows where her main competition lies, but the 32-year-old hopes to spring an upset while the majority of eyes are watching the Dutch team.
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"Surprises can happen in bike racing," Spratt added.
Everyone can be so focussed on the Dutch riders and someone else could ride away with it. I definitely hope the surprise ends in my favour, that would be very nice."