15 riders to follow at Ronde van Vlaanderen (1.WWT)

 Anna van der Breggen

After a heartbreaking crash at Ponferrada 2014 Worlds, where the Dutch rider broke her pelvis, she recovered outstandingly to win her first race of 2015, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After her successful comeback Anna carried forward her winning momentum to consolidate her position as one of the best riders of the peloton and as the key rider for Rabobank Liv during the 2015 season. The Dutch rider is rising again as one of the key riders for Rabobank Liv in this early season (due to Marianne and Pauline absence in several races) together with the European champion Kasia Niewiadoma. Van der Breggen has not yet being on the podium this season but has had good and consistent performances in her few competition days. Anna will try to improve her third place last year and jump on the UCI WWT ranking that Boels Dolmans rider now comfortably lead.

Anna van der Breggen @annavanderbreggen.nl

 Elisa Longo Borghini

The outstanding Italian rider heads to the Belgian classic after ten days of competition in which we barely have been enjoying her talent and audacity. Her fourth place in the Strade Bianche presaged a good season start for Elisa, however, an unfortunate flu prevented her from participating at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and has prevented her as well from performing at the highest expected level. But Elisa is a “Campeonisima”, able to bring some light at any time and shine and surely she will try to defend her previous edition victory, where she simply defeated her rivals with a brave solo far attack.


 Chantal Blaak 

Along with Leah Kirchmann (Liv Plantur) and her teammate Lizzie Armitstead, the Dutch rider has shown herself as one of the riders on best form in this spring classics season so far. The Dutch rider, as well as her team Boels Dolmans, live a joy moment where everything seems to work out right and where they count every UCI ranked competition as a podium appearance and a great performance. In nine competition days -at UCI categorised races- Chantal has delivered three top level victories for her team in Le Samyn, Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem. Thus, Chantal heads to the Belgian race in order to extend forward her winning momentum and to maintain her leading position at UCI WWT ranking.


 Emma Johansson

Emma is again one of the riders to watch at Ronde van Vlaanderen. The current leader of the Lotto Cycling Cup is on a good form, the Swedish rider just finished second behind Chantal Blaak on Le Samyn des Dammes and third at Strade Bianche behind Lizzie and Kasia. Perhaps she is not in her best form ever but she is such a tactically gifted rider that you need to have under control, otherwise as soon as action starts she may surprise you being part of any of the decisive moves. After her fourth place at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Emma finished ninth at Gent-Wevelgem (being the best “wigglette” at the classic) holding her third place on the UCI WWT individual ranking.


 Lizzie Armitstead

The reigning World, Commonwealth and National road race champion and twice winner of the UCI Women’s Road World Cup, winning the overall competition in 2014 and the final edition in 2015 is one of the top contenders of the fifth UCI WWT event. In 2016 the 27-year old British rider has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the first and third races of the newborn UCI Women’s WorldTour. Despite being only seventeenth at the previous UCI WWT round, Lizzie along with her Boels Dolmans teammates is living a very sweet moment where everything simply works out. With a mix of her technical and tactical skills and her winning momentum, Lizzie is one of the top riders to watch at Ronde van Vlaanderen.


 Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

During the 2015 season, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot became the first cyclist ever to simultaneously hold the world road, cyclocross and mountain bike titles. On November she suffered a tibial plateau fracture during training, forcing her to refrain from racing, missing the 2015–2016 cyclocross season and switching her middle term programme for Rio 2016. The 24-year-old French rider came back to competitive road racing at Strade Bianche (where she finished eleventh), missed due to illness Trofeo Alfredo Binda and came back this week at Pajot Hills Classic (where her teammate Marianne Vos won) where she finished fourth. Despite her unknown form due to her lack of competition she is one of the favourite riders for the fifth UCI WWT round.


 Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek is one of the most experienced and fighting riders in the peloton, overall winner of the 2011 UCI Women Road World Cup and of the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen edition. The Dutch rider will be the reference of her team Orica-AIS. Annemiek has shown herself in good form at the fourth rounds of the UCI WWT finishing seventh at Strade Bianche, ninth at the Ronde van Drenthe and eighth at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and seventh at Gent-Wevelgem. With her talent, the help of her teammates and her fighting spirit we will likely see Annemiek on the Ronde van Vlaanderen podium and why not celebrating again a top UCI ranked victory.


 Ashleigh Moolman 

The South-African rider has had a tough start of the season with an illness early on that prevent her from defending her time trial and road race national jerseys and a disqualification from Strade Bianche, the first UCI WWT event ever, as a result of a non-crossing rule violation. Ashleigh, who finished in tenth place at the 2015 Ronde van Vlaanderen edition she will share the leading role of the German team Cervélo Bigla with American rider Carmen Small, who has shown herself as a very solid and aggressive cyclist to take into account at spring classics. Despite not being on her best form, the South-African climber is one of the top riders to watch and control.


 Kasia Niewiadoma

The 21-year-old Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma enters her third year as a professional cyclist in 2016. Overall Bira winner and a regular winner of the “best young rider” classifications, is one of the riders to watch for this race. The lightweight Polish climber will try to improve her twenty-second place last year. In 2016 she only has five competition days, coming second at the Strade Bianche and seventh at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, proving herself as one of the strongest climbers of the peloton. She is the current leader in the youth classification of the UCI WWT along with the Dutch rider Floortje Mackaij.

Katarzyna Niewiadoma at Bira's podium as overall winner @sport.pl

 Jolien D’hoore

After participating at 2016 London Track World Championships, where she finished sixth at the omnium event just after her teammate Annette Edmondson, Jolien D’hoore got back to the road at Dutch race Ronde van Drenthe. Belgian rider could not repeat the 2015 feat where she finished off a perfect lead-out manoeuvre by Wiggle-Honda (winning her first UCI World Cup race the day she turned 25). Jolien started her road season with a disappointing 70th place. Last week Belgian race seemed to have better legs, however, she suffered and could hold the leading group pace at the final Kemmelberg ascent. Thus, the “Belgian Bullet” heads to the classic hoping she will recover the “good legs” she had last year where she finished second, only being her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini.


 Ellen van Dijk

After a remarkable start to the season at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, where the Dutch rider extended her love affair with the race, winning at the same stage as in the previous edition and finishing third overall, Ellen had to stop after OHN due to broken ribs. After a month off, the competitive Dutch rider came back last weekend at the Gent-Wevelgem, where she managed to finished in a very creditable eighth place. The Dutch rider is one of the favourites to watch in Flanders as she will certainly try to repeat her 2014 edition feat.


 Jolanda Neff 

After a hand injury earlier in December that made her end up her cyclocross season and switch slightly her 2016 programme to the Rio Olympics, and the various training camps she has attended away from home, in both Spain and South Africa, Jolanda heads to Gavirate (where she finished sixth last year) with only one day of competition at Strade Bianche (where she finished twelfth). The 23-year-old Swiss rider is always one of the most dangerous riders in the peloton regardless of previous accumulated competition days. Neff heads to the fifth UCI WWT round confident of herself after her excellent performances at Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Gen-Wevelgem. With no doubt whatsoever her superb performance at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, where she was only caught due to Armitstead impressive counterattack, will have boosted her morale and she will be 100% confident on her extraordinary capabilities.

Yolanda Neff with Annemiek van Vleuten training on the Canary Islands @jolandaneff
Yolanda Neff with Annemiek van Vleuten training on the Canary Islands @jolandaneff

 Elena Cecchini

Italian rider started her European Road season with an average result at Ronde van Drenthe after participating at 2016 London Track World Championships, where she finished eleventh at the women’s points race. The Italian national road champion finished in fourteenth place at last week Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Elena, as her teammate Lisa Brennauer is way more than a sprinter. Needless it to say that if the race ends in a reduced bunch sprint she will be one of the most controlled riders. Elena as well as her teammates will try to bring a victory for Trixi Worrack, who is recovering after a crash that occurred at Trofeo Alfredo Binda

©Tino Pohlmann
©Tino Pohlmann

 Gravie Elvin

Australian rider proved two weeks ago her “good legs” at Ronde van Drenthe, where she hastily launched the sprint trying to surprise her breakaway partners with an attack at about 400m to the finish line, just before the last corner on to the finishing straight. However the Dutch rider Chantal Blaak took her wheel and overtook her to claim victory. Previously she had already proved her good form, getting away with Lizzie Armitstead at OHN. Along with her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten they are a fighting duo who will  intensively attack and try to get away on the Ronde van Vlandereen.


 Leah Kirchmann

First overseas European season for the Canadian rider, who has shown herself as one the most solid riders for the spring classics. After riding in the desert in the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Leah Kirchmann got her season in Europe of to a strong start. The Canadian rider finished fourth at OHN and second at OvhH during the first Belgium classics weekend. Leah carried forward her momentum at Strade Bianche where she finished tenth, position that she repeated at Ronde van Drenthe before winning her first race of the season at Drentse Acht van Westerveld. Canadian rider will try to complete her great classic season with a victory at the fifth round of the UCI WWT. Last week she finished seventh at the demanding Gent-Wevelgem race.


Written by:
Diego Martín

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