On the eve of the elite women’s road race it would be easy to bet the house on Olympic champion Marianne Vos to take the title on home soil, but after a thrilling time trial on Thursday, lets not be so hasty.
:The results sheet of the women's time trial from the UCI Road World Championship reads like a form guide, with only a few names missing. Such a tight top five, representing five nations, indicates the road race should be equally entertaining and hard fought.
The course is a challenging one, raced over 129km; eight laps of a 16.1km circuit. Each lap the ladies will be challenged by the 900m, seven per cent Bemmelerberg climb, and the make-or-break 1.5km, 12 per cent Cauberg.
It is not a course for the faint-hearted, and we can expect to see a very select group challenging for the title up the final ascent of the Cauberg, only 1.7km from the finish.
The current depth in women’s cycling means there are many riders who will legitimately take the start line expecting to challenge for the win, but there are nine particular names to watch out for.
The major contenders
Marianne Vos (NED) With two Olympic titles and eight world titles on her palmares, she seems a natural pick for a home soil victory. Motivated by silver medals in the last five world road championships, expect to see her, and her Dutch compatriots, animating the race from the early kilometres.
Judith Arndt (GER) The German stalwart has been one of the most consistent performers in the women’s peloton for over a decade, and was the 2004 road race champion. After her impressive time trial win earlier in the week she will be a player in the final stages of the race.
Evelyn Stevens (USA) Two medals from two events so far at this championship – gold in the team time trial and silver in the individual time trial, Stevens is in the form of her life. While not as experienced as some of the other big hitters, her current form should see her challenge for the title.
Linda Villumsen (NZ) Renowned as a time trial rider, Villumsen is powerful over the shorter climbs and known to be impatient in the final kilometres. She is one to watch for a late solo break.
Emma Johansson (SWE) This talented Swede has been one of the most consistent riders in the last few years, but 2012 has seen her lack some big wins. She is well known for taking care of herself through tough races, and will no doubt be on the hunt for the big win which has so far eluded her.
Trixi Worrack (GER) The German team is known to be one of the most tactically astute and Worrack has been an integral part of their success over the years. She is an opportunistic rider who may force the break when the bunch starts to tire.
Emma Pooley (GBR) In the time trial, Pooley finished 4th, but it was her dance up the Cauberg that got many talking. Whilst the 2010 world time trial champion has never medalled in the road race, the ease in which she tackled the toughest elements of Tuesday's time trial shows this course is right on song for her capabilities.
Tiffany Cromwell (AUS) The leader of the Australian team, Cromwell comes in with strong form. She is tenacious and we can expect to see her glued to Marianne Vos’s wheel when the going gets tough. An outsider for a medal, she may slip under the radar and take an opportunity late in the race.
Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) World champion in 2009, Guderzo has proven herself on tough courses, where attrition plays a big part. She is known for hiding in the bunch until crunch time, and with the Italian team winning four of the last five world championships, will be keen to keep the tradition going.
Lizzie Armitstead was also expected to be a top contendor however the Olympic silver medal winner has withdrawn due to illness.
SBS will be broadcasting the elite women's road race live on Saturday night from 2300 (AEST) on SBS TWO, and streaming online at Cycling Central from 2200.