Belgian rider Jolien D’hoore heads back to Ronde van Drenthe, a race that witnessed her first UCI World Cup victory in 2015, a major turning point in her cycling career. Last year D’hoore and her team Wiggle-High5 couldn’t reedit her previous success, delivering a performance well below their expectations without any rider in the top-10. After a 2016 season where Jolien D’hoore focused on the track ahead of Rio Olympics, the “Belgian Bullet” is back on track for the European Spring Classics. In fact she has shown some great early season form during the European season opening weekend, finishing seventh at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and winning Spar – Omloop van het Hageland.
Three-time winner and record holder of Ronde van Drenthe Marianne Vos is one of the top riders to watch in Drenthe. After starting her 2017 road season in Siena with a somehow modest results, Marianne will try win her first ever UCI WWT round in front of the home crowds. “The Cannibal” is ready to hit some early season form with her new WM3 Energie team, willing to get back to her previous dominant position in the women’s cycling peloton.
Dutch rider Lucinda Brand is another rider that has switched teams this season, joining Dutch registered Team Sunweb. After an amazing cyclocross, where she finished fourth both at the Worlds and at two UCI World Cup rounds as well as finishing second in its final round at Hoogerheide, Brand has hit some impressive early road season form winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad two weeks ago and finishing fourth last Saturday in Siena. Along with her teammates Ellen van Dijk, Leah Kirchmann, Floortje Mackaij and Coryn Rivera, they are one of the strongest team to beat in the second round of the UCIWWT.
Australian rider Chloe Hosking broke the news last September announcing that after two successful seasons with Wiggle High5 (previously Wiggle-Honda) she would switch teams for 2017 joining Italian-registered Alé Cipollini Galassia, in pursuit of a more comprehensive approach to balance her personal life, tertiary education and her professional racing career. Her move to Alé Cipollini Galassia came as a big surprise after becoming one of the most dominant sprinters of the international peloton winn.ing several top-ranked races, including UCI WWT Chongming Island and La Course. Alé Cipollini gave her more flexibility for 2017 and Hosking soon repaid them winning one stage and the points jersey at Santos Women’s Tour and finishing second at Spar – Omloop van het Hageland (where was narrowly out-sprinted by her former teammate D’hoore). Thus, she is one of our top favourites for the victory in Ronde van Drenthe. A race where she delivered a perfect lead-out manoeuvre in 2015 on behalf of Jolien D’hoore.
Dutch rider Chantal Blaak is the defending champion of Ronde van Drenthe, where she will try to bring Boels-Dolmans its first victory of the season. After a remarkable 2016 classics season where Blaak shown herself as one of the riders on best contenders for the spring classics and the joy moment they lived last season where everything seemed to work out, the Dutch rider as well as her team Boels Dolmans are somehow struggling to reedit her 2016 season start. Despite finishing second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the European season opening weekend, we haven’t seen yet the most blatant version of the Dutch rider.
Kirsten Wild is another of the big names that has switched teams this season, joining US-registered Cylance Pro Cycling. Silver medallist at the road race in Doha 2016 and at the scratch competition in the 2016 Track World Championships, Kirsten Wild is considered the most powerful sprinter of the international peloton. Despite switching teams, Wild has already shown some strong early season form, claiming two stage victories and finishing third overall at Santos Women’s Tour. In Drenthe Kirsten will try to get her second UCI WWT victory (after winning Prudential Ride London last season) and the first for its team Cylance.
Current World Champion Amalie Dideriksen is one of our riders to watch at Ronde van Drenthe. If the Danish rider manages to hold the group during the main difficulties of the race (three VAM-Berg ascents and seven cobblestones sections), she will be a top contender for claiming her first victory with the rainbow jersey. After some good performances on the track earlier this season, mainly at some omnium Six Day competitions, World Champion Amalie Dideriksen started debuted with the most coveted jersey at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before finishing ninth at Spar – Omloop van het Hageland, her best result of the season so far.
2016 was the breakthrough season for the 27-year old Finish rider claiming six victories as well as getting on several podiums at UCI WWT one-day races. Her two bronze medals in Doha World Championships (at the team time trial and the road race) were the icing on the cake to an incredible year and her career season so far. For 2017 Lepistö aims to move a step forward from previous season leading Cervélo-Bigla not only on the sprints but also at the one-day classic races. Two weeks ago Lepistö finished just outside the podium at Spar – Omloop van het Hageland, a position she will try to improve in Drenthe, where she is one of top riders to watch.
Italian road race national champion Elena Cecchini forms part (along with Hannah Barnes, Lisa Brennauer, Barbara Guarischi, Mieke Kröger and Trixi Worrack) of the strong Canyon SRAM roster for Ronde van Drenthe. Despite the fact that Canyon SRAM hasn’t claim any victory this season so far they head to Hoogerheide as one of the teams to watch with several chances of being on top of the podium. Italian rider Elena Cecchini has already shown some great form at both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche, two different types of one-day races, finishing 13th and 10th respectively, setting high expectations for the coming weeks.
Annemiek van Vleuten
Despite the fact that Orica-Scott has a good chance with Sarah Roy in case of a bunch sprint, we will likely see them playing an aggressive tactic once again in order to put all the quick finishers/sprinters into difficulty. Overall winner of the 2011 UCI Women Road World Cup Annemiek van Vleuten will be the main reference of the Australian team for this purpose, for which she will count on with the help of Gracie Elvin, Amanda Spratt and Katrin (three very versatile riders that have shown strong early season form). Annemiek has shown some great early season form winning Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, finishing third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and with at Strade Bianche last Saturday. She is of most dangerous riders to have under control at the second UCI WWT round.
Spanish rider Sheyla Gutiérrez heads to Drenthe on a great form and mood after claiming her second pro victory at Le Samyn des Dames and finishing eight the previous week at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Despite the fact that Strade Bianche course doesn’t really match her skills Sheila managed to finish in a creditable 33th position. The “Hippy Lyon” is one of our riders to watch at Ronde van Drenthe where she is aiming to deliver another historic performance. With her teammate Kirsten Wild as Cylance’s main chance in case of a bunch and together with Canadian Jöelle Numainville she will play a more tactically open role.
Belgian rider Lotte Kopecky is one of our riders to follow at the second round of the 2017 UCI WWT series. Despite the fact that Kopecky has focused during winter on track cycling (claiming gold madison and bronce omnium medals at European Championships as well as claiming a silver and a gold -in Cali- medal at the omnium competition of the Track World Cup), she had a very strong road season debut, finishing 11th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 5th at Spar – Omloop van het Hageland, proving that she is one the riders aiming to step up during the 2017 season. At Ronde van Drenthe she will try to claim the first victory of the season Lotto Soudal, and the first ever in the UCI WWT circuit.
Elisa Longo Borghini
Italian rider Elisa Longo Borghini peaked her great start to the season winning Strade Bianche in front of the home crowds in Siena. Despite crashing in the fifth gravel sector, Elisa managed with the help of her teammates to get back to the front of the race and finally win her first UCI WWT event ever. After prudently missing Setmana Ciclista Valenciana following her crash at Strade Bianche, Elisa Longo Borghini heads to the Netherlands to defend her UCI WWT leader’s jersey. Despite the fact that the race course doesn’t really suit her cycling skills, her current great form and mood make her a rider to watch at Ronde van Drenthe. As her team has a really good chance with Jolien D’hoore in case of a bunch sprint, Longo Borghini won’t have to take full responsibility of her team result. Thus, it wouldn’t be unlikely to she her attacking, similarly to her performance at Omloop van het Hageland when she was caught with only a few hundred metres to go after attacking in the final kilometres, liberating her teammates from taking the bulk of the work on the bunch.
New season and new team for the Danish rider that in her fourth season as a professional rider is showing some great early season form, delivering some good performances and getting some good results for fourth her team VéloCONCEPT. After missing last Saturday Strade Bianche, Danish rider Christina Siggaard will seek in Ronde van Drenthe to continue her good results at the first European one-day races (19th in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 14th in the Omloop van het Hageland and 10th in Le Samyn des Dames).
Australian rider Sarah Roy is one our riders to follow in Drenthe. After taking part in Australian National Championships, the 31-year-old sprinter had a different race programme to most of her teammates, missing the rest of the Australian summer season, focusing on the European one-day races. At the inaugural European season weekend Sarah Roy managed to delivered a great result at Omloop van het Hageland for Orica-Scott, finishing in third place. If the race holds together she will be one of the riders that will content the victory and the main chance of Orica-Scott in case of that bunch sprint.