It's not where we, or the UCI, were expecting the rainbows to be contested, and we're not getting quite as many races as usual, but it is the same weekend as it was originally scheduled for. At this point we're just grateful the World Championships is taking place at all.
The Imola course profile is a bit different to the original Aigle one, containing two smaller lumps as opposed to one major climb. There's also no run-in before hitting the circuit, so it should start hard with no let up for a single one of its five laps.
But how will that affect the way it's raced, and the riders with a chance of winning it? Who do our panel reckon is in with a shot? And what does The Cycling Mole think of their picks?
Marianne Vos - The Netherlands
The news that AVV will be able to race the women’s event potentially throws all bets out the window. Crashing out of the Giro may even turn out to be an advantage for her, since she will have had a few extra days of recovery. But I still think Marianne Vos is the rider to beat, unless she has had a huge drop in form since the Giro. The Imola course is full of climbing, but the final climb is too far from the finish and unless we see another 100km escape à la AVV, the winner will be a skilled rider who climbs well and is cagey with a fast sprint.
Anna van der Breggen - The Netherlands
Having ridden the 28km circuit pre-race day with the German National Women’s Team and seeing how testing it is, this world championships is going to be a race of attrition.
5 laps, with a lot of climbing, some very fast and technical descents, and quite exposed to the wind in many places means you’ve got to always be saving energy, whilst also staying up towards the front of the race to anticipate any splits. I think Anna is a complete, all round rider, who is tactically very astute. She’s in extremely good form and has had a great confidence booster after her win in the time trial world championships yesterday and the overall Giro Rosa classification on Saturday.
The Dutch have a strong team on the start line, but the repetition of the climbing and efforts will suit van der Breggen.
Kasia Niewiadoma - Poland
Going against the Dutch? Have I taken leave of my senses? Quite possibly. Kasia has been there or thereabouts in so many races. Time for her to get one on the board and put a Pole in (women's, road) rainbows for the first time.
Elisa Longo Borghini - Italy
Although Van Vleuten has, ridiculously, said that she is planning to ride, surely she can't overcome a broken wrist to regain her rainbow stripes? Elisa Longo Borghini has been in great form since racing has restarted and the Italians have a strong team for their unexpected home Championships. It looks like a course that will suit her climbing ability and resilience and I think she will get a just reward for the panache she has provided in the races so far this season.
Anna van der Breggen - The Netherlands
VDB to do the double - her confidence, form and fitness from the Giro should make her the team’s outstanding leader, given AVV’s unfortunate crash. This course suits her well too.
Cycling Mole says...
I was hoping for a longer holiday, but the racing calendar didn’t agree. The world championship has arrived, and we have one of the hardest routes in living memory. The women have to complete five laps of the demanding circuit, which features two little climbs. Both hills contain steep sections, the first is 1.2km at 9.6%, which is quickly followed by 1.2km at 11.5%. This will blow the race apart and I expect just a handful of women to be involved in the final lap.
In terms of the winner, the big news is that Van Vleuten will take the start line. She crashed hard in the Giro Rosa, breaking her wrist, but it turns out she doesn’t really do pain. Will she be able to still win? It looks like the Rouleur team don’t believe so.
I’m going to make one of my bold predictions, the route is too hard for Vos, she won’t be winning. The rest of the picks are in the game, I expect to see all these women in contention for the win. AVDB recently won the Giro Rosa, Niewiadoma was second and Longo Borghini was third. The team have done their research. I would say that AVDB and Longo Borghini are very closely matched, they are both in great form.
And me? In preparation for this race, I watched all the stages of the Giro Rosa. Remember what they say, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The stages that featured steep climbs gave a huge indication of who wins this race. I think it’ll be a home win for Elisa Longo Borghini.