Time to chase rainbows again.
As is the theme for the year, a little more uncertainty was thrown into the mix for the 2020 Road World Championships with COVID-19 causing a swift move from Switzerland to Italy. The course retained its up and down profile, but with shorter punchier climbs the field of contenders has opened up a little, but it is not likely to make it any easier to break the three year Dutch dominance of the rainbow bands. Whether or not the threat comes from the defending world champion Annemiek Van Vleuten, who is attempting to make it to the start line despite a fractured wrist, or one of the nation’s many other title-laden riders the Dutch team will again be the one to beat. Still, it sure is going to be fun watching every other nation try.
Before we take a closer look at the World Championships, let’s set the scene with a quick round up of what happened at the only Grand Tour on the women’s calendar, the Giro Rosa.
LOOKING BACK ON THE GIRO ROSA
The nine-stage Italian race ended up with a Dutch rider taking a third title, just as was expected, but it wasn’t quite the rider we anticipated. Annemiek van Vleuten’s (Mitchelton-Scott) hope of a Giro Rosa hat-trick was dashed with a wrist fracturing crash near the end of stage 7, which opened the door for fellow Dutch two-time winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans).
Van der Breggen secured the pink on the second last stage and kept a firm grip on it in the final stage, while Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) held on for second, working her way onto that final podium after so many years of top ten finishes. With an impressive fightback Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) claimed third overall, even after losing more than four minutes on stage two.
There were highlights aplenty, with Marianne Vos adding three stages to her Giro Rosa win total to take it to 28, a record that surely no one else will ever be able to get even close to. Italian rider Longo Borghini got that joy inspiring long awaited first individual Giro Rosa stage victory, also her first of the season. There were also some superb performances coming from among the riders still young enough to compete for the white jersey of the youth classification.
The final stage podium was completely taken over by the up and comers, with 21-year-old French rider Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) on the top step, then there was New Zealand champion Niamh Fisher-Black (Equipe Paule Ka) and last year’s white jersey winner Juliette Labous (Team Sunweb). Despite the impressive performances, none even came close to rivalling Mikayla Harvey (Equipe Paule Ka) in the white jersey competition, with the New Zealand rider repeatedly standing toe to toe with the best elite women in the world and walking away with fifth overall.
With a performance like that at the age of 22 it will not be a surprise if we see her wearing pink in the future.
September 26 – 2020 Road World Championships Elite Women’s Road Race
It was a last minute change from the course in Switzerland to Imola in Italy, but there is still plenty of climbing on the cards with five laps of a circuit of 28.8 kilometres that includes two key climbs. They aren’t particularly long climbs, but with steep sections and 2800m of ascent as the peloton traverses the route multiple times, it is definitely a course for those who don’t mind going uphill. They’ll need to be able to descend well too as the last climb ends 12 kilometres from that final finish line.
Defending world champion Annemiek van Vleuten may be an uncertain to start, due to her fracture at the Giro Rosa, but regardless the Dutch team as always has a barrage of options. First there is former Road World Champion, new ITT World Champion and now three-time Giro Rosa winner, Anna van der Breggen. There is also three-time world road champion and three-time Giro Rosa winner Marianne Vos and yet another former World Champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. Plus let’s not forget the Dutch team also includes Demi Vollering, who impressed with her podium place at La Course.
There are also no shortage of riders that will continue to try and chip away at that powerful Dutch team and take any opportunity to wrestle away those rainbow bands. We can start with home nation hope Elisa Longo Borghini who will not only be riding high on the local support but also impressive form, having just scooped up a stage victory and overall podium place at the Giro Rosa. On top of that the course really suits her, as she’ll not only be able to take advantage on the climbs but the descents too. Others that are also suited to the terrain and carrying strong form are Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma and Danish rider Cecile Uttrup Ludwig.
Then there is 2015 World Champion Lizzie Deignan, with the British rider’s chances have been enhanced by the move away from Switzerland to the shorter climbs of the Italian course. Plus it won’t hurt that she’ll have GP de Plouay podium companion and Giro Rosa stage winner Lizzy Banks to ride in league with.
Another who would have sprung to mind as a clear podium favourite is Amanda Spratt, but unfortunately the rider who stood on the World Championships podium the last two years was also in that Giro Rosa crash with Mitchelton-Scott teammate van Vleuten. It has taken Spratt out of the running for Worlds, but there are still some dark horses in the Australian team that will be determined to try and sneak into the top ranks for the nation. Grace Brown showed her strength by taking fifth in the time trial, while Lucy Kennedy is bound to excel on the climbs and Brodie Chapman also has the ability to take off on the downhill as well.
While we are on the topic of dark horses, given some of the performances from the young New Zealand riders recently it also doesn’t seem out of the question that they could ride themselves back into the top 10 at Road Worlds for the first time since 2014. They only have three riders, so would have to be opportunistic. Still they have shown they are capable of capitalising on opportunities with Mikayla Harvey emerging from the Giro Rosa with the white young riders jersey as well as fifth overall and NZ champion Niamh Fisher Black pounced on second place in the final stage.
All in all it should be an interesting race with terrain that encourages riders to roll the dice and so many nations and riders with nothing to lose. The best thing is that this is also one of those women’s races we get to watch unfold live, with widespread coverage.
How to follow the action
In Australia you’ll be able to watch the women’s race on SBS on demand from 8:35pm AEST and it will be broadcast on SBS Viceland from 10:35pm. The race, which starts at 12.35pm local time, is available on BBC in the UK and across much of the rest of Europe on Eurosport and in the US on NBC and in Canada there is coverage on FloBikes.
The go to hashtag is #Imola2020 and the Twitter account is @UCI_cycling.
There was no live coverage of the Giro Rosa this year, with highlights broadcast after the event, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t at least some good news on the coverage front. I can’t ever remember seeing as much day-to-day reporting on the race and that’s even with the high degree of difficultly that comes with remotely pulling together race reports without a live broadcast.
To demonstrate just how much daily coverage there was, I thought I’d attempt to piece together a round up of the race with a report coming from a different media organisation for every single stage:
- Stage 1, The Telegraph: Trek-Segafredo win opening team trial of Giro Rosa as Elisa Longo Borghini claims leader’s jersey
- Stage 2, Eurosport: World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten Takes Giro Rosa Stage 2 and Overall Lead
- Stage 3, inside the games: Vos wins steep stage three of Giro Rosa on massive final climb
- Stage 4, ProCyclingUK: Lizzy Banks victorious after outstanding performance on Stage four of the Giro Rosa
- Stage 5, Cyclingnews, Giro Rosa: Marianne Vos wins stage 5 sprint into Terracina
- Stage 6, VeloNews, Giro Rosa stage 6: Another sprint win for Marianne Vos
- Stage 7, SBS Cycling Central: Race leader Van Vleuten and Spratt crash out of Giro Rosa
- Stage 8, CyclingTips: Giro Rosa Stage 8: Longo Borghini takes stage, Van der Breggen into pink
- Stage 9, CyclingWeekly: Giro Rosa 2020: Anna van der Breggen seals overall as Muzic takes final stage victory
What do you know, there was enough coverage to make it through! I wasn’t completely sure there would be, but it is a good sign that it turns out there were even more options than needed.
Thanks for joining us for the Road Worlds edition of the What’s On. Running on our new COVID-19 reboot schedule, with more regular updates, we’ll be back ever so soon as the Women’s WorldTour continues with La Flèche Wallonne. To keep up to date with all the action in the meantime follow The Women’s Race on Twitter.