Cobbles, hills and enchanted forests. Ronde van Drenthe preview

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After a rather exciting showing at Strade Bianche in Italy, the Women’s WorldTour 2017 moves to the Netherlands for a completely differente type of race. Gone are the gravel roads and the numerous climbs. Instead, narrow cobbled roads roaming through beautiful forests will be the key. Oh, and the infamous VAMberg, the very short but sharp manmade hill. That is the Ronde van Drenthe, which has carved a well deserved niche in the calendar thanks to its unique features.

The course

The Ronde van Drenthe takes advantage of the new UCI rule that allows WWT races to be up to 160 km long. That’s nice but, on the other hand, the harder sections will be far from the finish line this time – even more than usual. Much like the men’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the way the race unfolds will be strongly dependent on the team’s tactics and attitude.

The cobbled sections are long and difficult enough to make a selection, as we’ve often seen in previous years, and the VAMberg may create some small gaps between the top riders and the rest. But will it be enough to avoid a bunch sprint? Looking back at the recent editions of the race it’s safe to say it’s likely indeed, but far from guaranteed. So it’s this unpredictabily which makes the Ronde van Drenthe such and open and interesting race.

The favourites

The Ronde van Drenthe is a race for smart, strong all-rounders as much as it is for endurance sprinters. It is therefore challenging to make a reasonable prediction of what will happen.

It’s hard to see past Jolien D’hoore if there’s a sprint finish. She’s fast, she’s on form, can race on the cobbles and has a strong Wiggle-High5 team to help her, including the current WWT leader Elisa Longo Borghini, who’s less suited for this race than her Belgiam teammate. There are a number of other good sprinters such as Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini), Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling), but none of them has proved to be such a good classics rider as D’hoore.

Jolien D’hoore | Marianne Vos | Chantal Blaak

The all-rounders will surely have their say, too. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) won in 2016 after being part of the winning breakaway created by her formerly rival and now teammate Anna van der Breggen after one of the cobbled sections. The team can also count on Amy Pieters and it will be interesting to see the performance of the world champion Amalie Dideriksen.

Marianne Vos, who has won this race three times in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013) will be the sole leader of WM3 Pro Cycling. She wasn’t exactly brilliant at Strade Bianche but her form should be on the rise day by day.

Orica-Scott has two options with Gracie Elvin and Annemiek van Vleuten if it’s an attrition race. In case of bunch sprint Sarah Roy may try her own luck. Team Sunweb may animate the race with super strong all-rounders Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand, but Leah Kirchmann can sprint if needed.

Others riders to watch are fast finisher Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance Pro Cycling) and almost the entire Canyon//SRAM squad, especially Elena Cecchini, Trixi Worrack, Lisa Brennauer and sprinter Barbara Guarischi.

How to follow Ronde van Drenthe

Good news here: the race will be shown live on RTV Drenthe and RTV Oost on Saturday starting at 14:00 CET. It should finish around 15:15.

The official hashtag for Twitter is #RondevDrenthe.

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