Map and profile
Line up here.
The weather along the route will be: 8 to 9 degrees C, winds up to 10mph/17kmh.
Cobbles turn up at 26km, 56km, 59km, and a further 6 six times between 67km and 80km.
The short but steep Vamberg climbs (up to 23% in some places) come at 9km, 102km and 109km.
The narrow lanes make positioning even more important than ever with this race, but the usual crosswinds don’t look like they will be quite as bad as previous years. If the peloton can keep loosely together by the second Vamberg climb then a bunch sprint on the technical finishing is the likely outcome, and even Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) will have to fight hard for the win if that’s the case. But there are ample opportunities for breakaways, especially the last few sections of cobbles.
Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle H5) is defending the title this year, but this is her first road race having just come back from the Track Cycling Worlds. Her team is packed with consistent finishers in this race (Giorgia Bronzini, Emma Johansson, Chloe Hosking, Elisa Longo Borghini and Amy Pieters) with Pieters and Hosking both finishing in the same time last year. Wiggle H5 have only had podium places since Qatar, time is running out for a classics win. Boels Dolmans did get a win in 2014 with Armitstead, and were very close last year albeit 3 seconds behind the first group. She’s got one hell of a support rider in Nikki Harris this year, plus Chantal Blaak if things don’t work out. Lizzie Williams of Orica AIS mentioned in February that she had prepared far more for the classics this year than before, and the whole team is certainly looking good so far. Annemiek van Vleuten is probably their best bet, along with Gracie Elvin and Sarah Roy for any breakaway. It really is an open race though, with strong performances expected from Canyon SRAM (Elena Cecchini), RaboLiv (Lucinda Brand, Anna van der Breggen), Cylance (Shelley Olds), Hitec (Lauren Kitchen), Ale Cipollini (Marta Tagliaferro, Malgorzata Jasinska, Marta Bastianelli), Liv Plantur (Floorte Mackaij, Leah Kirchmann) and Cervelo Bigla (Lotta Lepisto). From the other teams Lares Waowdeals have both Kelly Markus and Monique van de Ree, TSVL Etixx Guill D’or have a strong team around Kelly Druyts and Parkhotel Valkenburg have Natalie Van Gogh. Lotto Soudal Ladies (Lotte Kopecky), UHC (Coryn Rivera, Iris Slappendel), Tibco-SVB (Lauren Stephens) and BePink (Lex Albrecht) round off the contenders.
It funny that womens cycling is described so heavily as attacking, seems to me riders tend to back off quickly or are too willing to work with the big names at their own expense. Probably going to be Armitstead or D’hoore, but I’ll plump for Cecchini to win. Surprises might be Jasinska, Rivera and Van de Ree.
You can watch the race live on RTV Drenthe at 12.30pm UK time, 1.30pm CET.
Marianne Vos opted to skip this race and go for Drentse 8 on Sunday instead when discussing her return to racing with the organisers. Preview up tomorrow.