Denain > Roubaix 124.4km
After last year’s historic first edition, the women’s peloton head back to Roubaix. A day fraught with danger, but with a huge prize at the end.
A lovely day out with lots of sun and mild temperatures. The wind will be a constant 17km/h and coming from the east means a lot of crosswind throughout the day, but it shouldn’t be strong enough to cause any serious splits.
17 sectors totalling 29.2km, which is an awful lot when you consider the race is only 124km. The first seven sectors are all tough and quite long, it encourages the race to split early, just like last year. It then gets a little bit easier before hitting Camphon-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre, but will the winner already be up the road?
SD Worx continue to get most things right, but not winning Amstel Gold will still hurt. Incredibly, it was because Moolman looked over her right shoulder when Cavalli launched on the left. By the time she realised what had happened, the Italian had too big a gap and the race was done. Demi Vollering was left very frustrated, especially after winning the sprint for second, but she responded in the right fashion by taking the win on Wednesday in De Brabantse Pijl.
There’s no Vollering in this race, instead they go with Majerus, Uneken, van den Broek-Blaak, Fournier, Kopecky and Cecchini. This is a strong team, but not as strong as they were in Flanders, they’ll miss Marlen Reusser. After the way she won that day, all eyes will be on Lotte Kopecky, but I don’t see them being strong enough to win in the usual SD Worx way, by outnumbering the other favourites in the closing stages. If they’re going to win this race, they’ll need do it the hard way, in a battle of the favourites.
Trek-Segafredo are the defending champions, and I think they have the strongest team in the race. Balsamo is on amazing form, and without any climbs, she’s going to be a hard rider to drop. She’ll try to sit in the pack and hope the race ends in a sprint. As attacking options, the team have Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk. Due to her CX record, Brand is a massive candidate for the win, especially as her road season seems to have been built with this race in mind. Van Dijk had a nightmare here last year, she needs to try and put that out of her mind as she’s got the power required to grind the rest of the peloton into dust.
This is what I think we’ll get. Trek – Segafredo will get the attacking started nice and early, forcing a selection and hoping to put SD Worx under pressure. The rest of the race depends on who has numbers in the front group, and who gets the luck required to avoid the crashes and punctures. There is every chance we get another solo winner, or a sprint from a very small group.
Lotte Kopecky – after her brilliant win in Flanders, she must start as the big favourite. Kopecky seems to be loving life at SD Worx, but as I’ve already mentioned, she’s going to have to win this the hard way. Since joining the team she’s benefited from always having teammates to do the work for her, but she’s no stranger to riding in an aggressive manner, something I’d love to see her do in this race. She has a very fast sprint but won’t be keen on the likes of Balsamo and Wiebes being about at the end of the race. This means we’ll see SD Worx attack and try to set a fast pace to put the faster sprinters into difficulty.
Lucinda Brand – she was incredible in the CX season just past, if she can bring that form into this race, she’ll be challenging for the win. The thing is, being a brilliant CX rider doesn’t guarantee you’ll do well in this race. Yes, it means you have the bike handling skills to cope with the cobbles, but you need a much bigger engine to win this race. We’ll see if Brand can challenge for the win.
Ellen van Dijk – without doubt, she’s been one of the strongest riders of the current season. She’s been a massive part in most of Balsamo’s wins, but I hope she gets to ride for herself in this race. She’s exactly the type of rider who can disappear up the road, never to be seen again.
Marta Bastianelli – very consistent, but rarely wins the big races anymore.
Elisa Balsamo – she’s enjoyed a brilliant year; can she land the big one? With such a strong team to support her, there is every chance of the world champion being there at the end of the day. However, I do feel this race could be a little on the hard side for her.
Emma Norsgaard – sixth last year was a great start for her, it’s a race that suits her well. This season we’ve seen her ride very consistently, but with only one win to her name, she’ll be hoping for better soon. Movistar don’t have the strongest team here, but Norsgaard is one of the strongest riders and someone who should be challenging for the win.
Lorena Wiebes – I think it will be too hard for her.
Marta Cavalli – landed a huge win in Amstel Gold, but don’t think this a race for her.
I think we’re in for another fascinating day, with tactics playing a huge part in how the race unfolds. In what should be a battle between SD Worx and Trek – Segafredo, I’ll take a win for Ellen van Dijk.