Between two worlds: Crescent Vårgårda road race preview

© Christer Hedberg

The Vårgårda WWT race may be seen by some as the start of the so-called third part of the season: once the Giro, La Course and the European Championships are done and dusted, it’s time to begin the build-up towards the World Championships. So, not many riders may have Vårgårda as a main goal of their season. Anyway, it’s a great race in its own right, with some interesting and unique features.

What happened last year?

© Christer Hedberg

The 2016 edition saw a relatively surprising outcome as local rider Emilia Fahlin, who wasn’t among the pre-race favourites, won it by being the fastest among a selected 9-rider breakaway which included some big names such as Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters and Lotta Lepistö. It was the biggest victory to date for the former Swedish national champion.

The parcours

Two main features define the parcours: the local lap around Vårgårda with its little hill, and the middle part, which includes four sterrato (gravel road) sections as well as the biggest climb of the race. None of them are too hard, but they contribute to the overall attrition, and it can be very selective when raced aggressively.

This year the race is a bit longer, as there’s an extra lap added. That makes a total of 152 km.

Who will win the race?

Vårgårda may very well be one of the hardest races to predict of the entire calendar. It suits escape artists, puncheurs/attackers and also sprinters who can climb moderately well provided the race is not too aggressive. It is often won by the smartest rider and not necessarily the strongest.

But who’s likely to win anyway? Marianne Vos (WM3) is a smart, aggressive racer who is also looking strong at the moment, as she recently showed in Herning. Even if far from her most dominant days, she’s still a threat. Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) can challenge the Dutchwoman with a similar set of skills.

If it comes down to a sprint of a selected group, riders such as Jolien D’hoore and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5), Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and maybe Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) will be the ones to beat.

A more hectic and attacking race may allow the strongest all-rounders and classic especialist to shine. The entire Boels-Dolmans team looks strong with Chantal Blaak and Amy Pieters, but also Anna van der Breggen and Megan Guarnier. Sunweb can play several options: Lucinda Brand, Leah Kirchmann or Ellen van Dijk.

Other outsiders worth mentioning are Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance), Gracie Elvin (Orica-Scott), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla), Hannah Barnes and Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), Alice Barnes (Drops), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Lensworld-Kuota) and Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljulbjana).

How to follow the race live

Eurosport will broadcast Vårgårda live from 10:30 to 13:30 CEST. The official Twitter hashtag seems to be #VargardaCycling.