This Sunday (August 13), the world's finest female cyclists will gather in Glasgow to compete on a challenging 154.1km route which will crown the new world champion. Following a format similar to the men's race, the course features a circuit finish around the city streets, incorporating the demanding Montrose Street climb. With an elevation gain exceeding 2,000 metres, this route clearly favours those adept at climbing. Nevertheless, the exhilarating circuit finish also presents a puncheur's paradise.
Annemiek van Vleuten, who secured her world champion title last year in Australia, further solidified her dominance throughout 2022. Nonetheless, this year introduces several formidable riders who could potentially challenge the 40-year-old cyclist for the coveted rainbow jersey. Let's take a closer look at the leading contenders for this year’s race.
Lotte Kopecky (Belgium)
After an unbelievably strong Tour de France Femmes, Lotte Kopecky is going into this year’s World Championships as a firm favourite. The Belgian rider proved that she can handle pretty much any terrain that is thrown her way – even on the long, gruelling mountain stages she can produce exceptional results. The Classics and track star came second in the GC, demonstrating her exceptional strength as one of the peloton's most well-rounded riders.
Speaking to Rouleur ahead of the eight-day race in France, Kopecky said she was dreaming of rainbows on the road at the World Championships. The 27-year-old rider has already done a recon of the course with her Belgian team and believes it is well-suited to her. She’s even been racing in multiple national level races in the junior men’s category in preparation for Glasgow. Last year she came second behind and has already proven this year she can out ride the winner on that occasion, Van Vleuten. With Kopecky in the form of her life (with two track world titles added to her palmarès already this week) and eyes firmly set on a rainbow jersey, might we see her storm to another victory this year?
Demi Vollering (Netherlands)
Demi Vollering has looked almost unbeatable this year. Kicking off her season she won Strade Bianche then the Tour of Flanders and then topped off her spring campaign by winning the Ardennes triple – Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She came second behind Van Vleuten at the Vuelta after a disputed nature break, but then went on to win the Tour de France Femmes just two weeks ago.
Going into this year’s World Championships, the Dutch national champion has a strong chance of winning with the Classics style course in Glasgow. Vollering also has a strong team around her from the Netherlands which features Annemiek van Vleuten, Lorena Wiebes, Marianne Vos, and Riejanne Markus.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)
The two time world champion will be back to defend her title, but she has a team packed full of strong contenders she’ll have to navigate. Annemiek van Vleuten secured the world title last year by just one second with Kopecky hot on her heels, topping off an exceptional year for the Dutchwoman. However, this year the 2022 world champion hasn’t had the same form as she did last year, placing fourth in this year’s Tour de France Femmes and (aside from GC victories) has only secured two first-place finishes this season.
Despite a similar, punchy course to the edition Van Vleuten won in Wollongong, this year’s course has a number of short, steep climbs, perhaps not an area best suited to Van Vleuten who excels more on long mountain passes.
Silvia Persico (Italy)
Silvia Persico had a strong 2022, coming fifth in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes, winning the points jersey in the Vuelta and finishing off her year with a third-place podium at the World Championships. The 26-year-old rider hasn’t had the same results this year, but has managed to secure herself two podium spots in the Women’s WorldTour stage races. She’s a strong rider and has been consistent in her results, she just lacks that bit extra when it comes to winning. But she has a skill in her back pocket that might just help her get over the line first, and that is, cyclocross.
The Italian is a strong 'cross race, coming fourth in the Cyclocross World Championships earlier in the year. So, she’ll have developed excellent bike handling skills (a skill we’ve seen needed on this race course), meaning the numerous tight corners and quick bursts of accelerations will give her an edge going into this year’s road race.
Liane Lippert (Germany)
Since her move to Movistar, the German rider has been looking stronger and stronger with each race. Before she moved teams, Lippert’s last victory was in 2020 at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but had not been able to secure herself another win since. That was until this year, where she finally celebrated victory on the biggest stage – the Tour de France Femmes.
Not only did she take the stage, but she managed to outsprint Kopecky, who is going in as one of the top favourites to this year’s Worlds road race. Lippert just missed out on a podium place last year in Wollongong, but with a new-found confidence from her recent victory and her ever-improving form, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Lippert on the podium.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland)
Kasia Niewiadoma has continued her run of consistent and solid form throughout this year, something that she has come known for in the peloton. However, she did look particularly strong on the Col du Tourmalet at the Tour de France Femmes, where she came second behind Vollering. She also demonstrated her aggressive racing style by taking any opportunity she could see for an attack in a number of stages. And while there are no long mountain passes in this year’s World Championships, there will be plenty of opportunities on offer to make an attack and attempt to get a lead over the main peloton.
Chloé Dygert (United States)
Another 2023 track world champion will be lining up for this year’s road race, and that is the United States’ Chloé Dygert. Following her crash at the 2020 Road World Championships that put a stop to the majority of her racing for the past two years, the 26-year-old rider this year has shown she well and truly on her way back to being her best self.
With all the races she has done so far this year, Dygert has stepped up onto the podium at least once, and even secured a win in the RideLondon Classique in May. While we haven’t seen her on the road since the Giro Donne, the American is certainly looking to be in winning form. However, it was made aware that Dygert had suffered an illness after her track win, so health might have a big impact on her ability to perform at her best after giving everything she had to take the women's time trial world champion title.
Elisa Balsamo (Italy)
Former world champion Elisa Balsamo will be looking to do well in Glasgow after her crash at this year’s RideLondon Classique which saw her fracture her jaw. She has raced since at the Tour de France Femmes, where she looked to be in good form, securing a fifth-place finish on stage three in a bunch sprint. However, she did not continue the race after stage six due to fatigue.
She took the world champion title two years ago in 2021 ahead of Marianne Vos and Niewiadoma, but last year came in 49th. Her fifth place at the Tour bodes well for the Italian rider, but it is a question of whether it will be enough against such a strong line up.
For the Netherlands, they also have Marianne Vos who is a formidable all-round rider and could excel on a course like this. They also have sprint sensation Lorena Wiebes if the race was to come down to a bunch sprint, however, with the finishing circuit in Glasgow we are yet to see that outcome and the course has favoured a solo winner.
Grace Brown (Australia) will be another rider to watch. She has said that she is mainly focused on the individual time trial, but she’s a strong contender for the road race with her aggressive style of racing. The Australian team have a number of cards to play also, with Amanda Spratt, Brodie Chapman, Alex Manly, Sarah Roy and Ruby Roseman-Gannon on the start line with Brown.
Top 10 for the past three years in the World Championships is Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), who could be a contender for the title. She is in a team with Tour de France Femmes stage winner Emma Norsgaard, who could work well together.
For the home nation, Lizzie Deignan and British road national champion Pfeiffer Georgi will be the UK’s best hopes. They’ve both had good results this year and looked in incredibly good form at the Tour de France Femmes. They’ll also be boosted by the home crowds, who will be lining the streets in Glasgow for them.
Lotte Kopecky has looked too strong lately for her not to be our prediction for the rainbow-striped jersey. So we will be backing the Belgian star to take the win in Glasgow on Sunday.