The world’s elite women cyclists will contest the world championships today, with Great Britain set to field two of the strongest riders in the field, despite the loss of the team’s Olympic silver medalist.
Lizzie Armitstead, runner up to Holland’s Marianne Vos in the Olympic road race in August, has withdrawn from the Great Britain squad with illness.
British Cycling says it has no plans to replace her “at this stage”.
Fortunately for the Great Britain squad, in Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley, they have a former world road race champion and former world time trial champion respectively.
Cooke is one of the most decorated riders in cycling.
A former world, Olympic, and two-time Grand Boucle Feminine champion, significantly her glittering palmares also includes victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen, and three in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the latter Ardennes Classic triumphs, perhaps the key indicator of her ability to win on today’s course.
Pooley’s record is barely less impressive, with overall victory in La Grand Boucle Feminine, a world time trial victory in 2010, and an Olympic time trial silver medal in 2008. She has enjoyed a more successful season than Cooke, winning the Tour de l’Ardeche, and finishing second overall in the Giro d’Italia Femminile with overall victory in the mountains classification to her credit.
The two senior riders will be supported by Nikki Harris, reigning British mountain bike champion, Katie Colclough, who races professionally for Specialized-Lulemon, and Sharon Laws, newly-crowned British road race champion.
The field Great Britain will face, unsurprisingly, is extremely strong, and several of their key rivals will field larger teams, including Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the USA.
Holland’s reigning Olympic champion, Marianne Vos, widely regarded as the best rider of her generation, and winner this year of the UCI women’s world road cup, will be heavily favoured to add a second rainbow jersey to her collection, having already won the world cyclo-cross championships in February. She will be backed by a strong team that includes Ellen Van Dijk, who rode tirelessly in support of her leader in the Olympic road race.
Germany’s Judith Arndt won the elite women’s time trial on Tuesday in emphatic style; her fourth victory in the event, and will lead her nation’s squad in the road race, backed by Highroad’s Ina Teutenberg, who won the bunch sprint behind Vos, Armitstead, and Olga Zabelinskaya in London, and Specialized-Lulemon’s Trixi Worrack, among others.
Defending champion, Giorgia Bronzini, will lead the eight-woman Italian team, while the seven-strong squad of the USA includes time trial runner up, Evelyn Stevens, who will ride alongside Olympic teammates, Shelley Olds and Amber Neben.
The elite women will tackle a 129km course that ends with eight circuits of a grueling 16.1km lap that includes ascents of the 4.5 per cent, 1300 metre Lange Raarberg and the 5.8 per cent, 1200 metre Cauberg.