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  Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe Preview  
  Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe kicks off the start of the 2015 World Cup series and is the main feature of three races in the Netherlands over four days. Last year Lizzie Armitstead took the World Cup lead here and never looked back to take the overall win. With the form many of the top names have been on in the opening two weeks of the European season it looks set to be hard race. Boels Dolmans have dominated the season so far and as they head on to Dutch roads expect them to be even better.

2014 Results

1 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD 3:51:03
3 Shelley OLDS +29
4 Chantal BLAAK +29
5 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN +29
6 Kirsten WILD +29
7 Eleonora VAN DIJK +31
8 Emma JOHANSSON +31
9 Amy PIETERS +33
10 Iris SLAPPENDEL +1:36

Past Winners

2014 Elizabeth Armitstead
2013 Marianne Vos
2012 Marianne Vos
2011 Marianne Vos
2010 Loes Gunnewijk
2009 Emma Johansson
2008 Chantal Beltman
2007 Adrie Visser

The Route

It is one of the more sprinter friendly World Cup rounds but it rarely sees a big bunch sprint. Everything that makes Dutch racing is here cobbles, crosswinds, narrow roads and road furniture but the major feature of the race is the man made climb of the VAMBerg (380m at 9.7% average) that riders will tackle on three occasions.

The peloton head out of Hoogeveen and the first ascent of the VAMBerg comes after 10.2km with the first opportunity for riders to pick up points for the World Cup Mountains classification at the top. The race mostly consists of a long counter clockwise loop. Being the Netherlands there is little undulation outside of the VAMBerg but riders have to navigate numerous sections of cobbles.

Cobble Sections

The first two sprint points come in relatively quick succession at the 68.2 and 77.2km marks. Expect to see riders chasing the points at the sprints to claim the leaders jersey in the World Cup standings. As riders complete the big loop, with just over 36km to go rider again tackle a small lap that includes the VAMBerg. While there is still some distance to go expect to see the peloton split as riders go on the attack. There is only a brief respite before tackling the VAMBerg again. Last year saw Lizzie Armitstead drop everyone and bridge across to the lead and take the win.

With 28.6km remaining over the top of the VAMBerg there is 10km further to the finish line. Regardless it is likely to see an elite selection made. Riders wanting to avoid a sprint will be looking to get away. The peloton heads back to Hoogeveen for two laps of a finishing circuit. With 7.9km to go riders cross the finish line and the third and final sprint point giving them an opportunity to see the finish.

The Contenders

Start list available here

Lizzie Armitstead and Boels Dolmans

Won the race last year as she went on to dominate the World Cup series leading from start to finish. Armitstead has been flying this year winning two bunch sprints in Qatar and the overall, then won the bunch sprint at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then finished runner up at Strade Bianche after teammate Megan Guarnier won solo. Armitstead started on the track, has a very quick finish but her finishing speed was dented last year as her climbing improved. This year Armitstead continues to be one of the best on the short steep climbs and her finishing speed has improved. Based on recent form and the strength of Boels Dolmans Armitstead will be hard to beat.

Boels Dolmans has dominated this year so far winning three stages and 1st and 3rd overall in Qatar, 2nd, 3rd and 4th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, won Le Samyn with Chantal Blaak and 1st and 2nd at Strade Bianche. They again bring a strong team. Chantal Blaak has good form and a win already under her belt. A strong finished from a select group and was one of the top riders at the week of races around Drenthe. Won Molecaten Drentse 8, fourth here and fifth at Novilon EDR Cup. With the form she is on don't be surprised to see her repeat it.

As well as two quick finishers Boels Dolmans have two riders who can attack and solo away to the finish. Ellen Van Dijk used this tactic at Ronde van Vlaanderen last year as she attacked and rode away to the win, as nobody wanted to chase and bring Lizzie Armitstead back. Megan Guarnier attacked at Strade Bianche to take a big win, and while she was strong with Armitstead again in the select group nobody wanted to chase. Whatever the scenario Boels-Dolmans have it covered. Christine Majerus is also worth watching.

Anna Van der Breggan and Rabo Liv

Marianne Vos is a three time winner between 2011-13 but with injury concerns she is not certain to start. Anna Van der Breggan is likely to lead the team in her absence. Won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening race of the European season, runner up at Le Samyn des Dames before another top five performance at Strade Bianche. Looked set to take the win here last year and it was only a charging Lizzie Armitstead bridging across in the closing stages that stopped her. On some of the form of her life Van der Breggan could take a big win here.

Another option for the team is Lucinda Brand who won the Energiewacht Tour and final World Cup round GP de Plouay-Bretagne last year from a solo break. Likes to attack but was sprinting better than ever in Qatar with three top six finishes.

Annemiek Van Vleuten and Shelley Olds

Van Vleuten was the overall World Cup winner in 2010, and the same year she finished runner up here just behind Loes Gunnewijk. Looks to be coming in to form at the right time. Finished ninth Strade Bianche and third at Molecaten Drentse Acht van Westerveld, a race that didn't overly suit her. Climbs like the VAMBerg are made for riders like Van Vleuten and she also packs a quick finish. Has signed with Bigla for this season and on paper it is a very strong team but they are still putting all the pieces together.

Shelley Olds found herself on the podium last year after winning the sprint for third from a select group. One of the fastest sprinters in the peloton and while it is a race that on paper doesn't seem perfect for her it is not the first time she has finished in the top 10. With nearly 30km remaining to the finish over the top of the VAMBerg olds is a real contender for the victory.

Iris Slappendel finished 10th last year, while Joelle Numainville and Ashleigh Moolman are also contenders.

Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS

Orica-AIS has two former winners in their line-up. One is Emma Johansson who won back in 2009, has finished on the podium on two other occasions and a total of five top 10 finishes. One of the most reliable riders in the peloton who is never far from the mark. Bad luck with a puncture just before the main selection was made at Strade Bianche so expect to see her want to take revenge here. In the past six years Johansson has finished either second or third in the overall World Cup standings. Short climbs are perfect for Johansson and her sprint from a select group is one of the best in the peloton.

Loes Gunnewijk is the 2010 winner having finished second in 2009, and is the biggest win of her career. Orica-AIS's road captain and in her final season as a professional will no doubt be looking to finish on a strong note. Had a lot of bad luck in 2014 but is one of the strongest and most experienced classics riders in the peloton.

Valentina Scandolara looks to have strong form at the moment. Started the year strongly in Australia winning a stage and the overall at the Santos Women's Tour and second at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The team had some bad luck but Scandolara bounced back finishing second at Molecaten Drentse Acht van Westerveld. Likely to be an important player here for Johansson.

Amy Pieters

Pieters had a very strong start to 2014 with two early wins before claiming ninth in here. Hasn't had a bad start to the year but hasn't seemed at the same level this year. Ninth overall in Qatar and seventh at both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn des Dames. At her best when the race has been hard and is sprinting from a select group. Part of the select group that contested the finish at Omloop van het Hageland but was unable to finish it off.

Tiffany Cromwell

Cromwell didn't have her usual strong start in January in Australia but it was by no means a poor performance. Peaking for the spring classics seems to be working for her and she claimed a strong fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad a race she has won before. Around the mark more times than one can count in 2014, a big win is just around the corner when everything clicks for her. Since 2010 has been inside the top 15 here every year other than 2015. Was sick ahead of Strade Bianche but if she is fully recovered will be a real contender here.

Kirsten Wild and Lauren Kitchen

Has a renewed focus on the track ahead of Rio 2016 and the three Drenthe races mark the start of her road season. Arguably the fastest pure sprinter in the women's peloton and also climb wells. With the final climb nearly 30km from the finish it increases Wild's chances in a race she has twice finished second at (2011-2012). Sixth last year, the biggest question is what is her road form like.

Oceania Champion Lauren Kitchen has had a strong start to the season, a top 10 stage finish in Qatar plus two podium appearances at the Women's Tour of New Zealand. Has finished on the podium at the Australian National Championships and the VAMBerg is a climb she is more than capable of getting over. Seventh last weekend at Omloop van het Hageland in a sign has brought her early season form with her.

Wiggle Honda

Giorgia Bronzini again started her season in Australia and picked up a win at the Bay Crits but has only raced Strade Bianche in Europe. The opening World Cup has proven to be a good race for Bronzini in the past, twice finishing third but the past few years have seen Bronzini off the pace here. One of the few riders to challenge the likes of Wild and Vos in sprint finishes. Claimed the win at Molecaten Drentse Acht van Westerveld from a select group of seven. The win shows she form is good and will also be a confidence boost.

The team has two other sprinters in Chloe Hosking and Jolien D'hoore, both have had strong starts to the season. Hosking who has finished fourth here in the past was second in Qatar and fourth at Le Samyn des Dames. D'hoore was sixth in Qatar and fifth at Le Samyn des Dames and in between claimed fourth in the omnium at the Track World Championships. It hasn't taken D'hoore long to find her legs on the road taking the win at Omloop van het Hageland from a select group of 11.

Elisa Longo Borghini rounded out the podium at Strade Bianche. A strong classics rider but is still chasing a strong performance here. A sprint finish is not ideal for Longo Borghini so expect to see her on the attack and make the race as hard as possible.

Elena Cecchini

The Italian Champion is a rider on the rise. Strong in the sprint but is better after a hard day or an slightly uphill finish. Always performs in big races, with her best result last year other than the national title second at the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup. Only two participations in the race DNF in 2013 and 30th last year but a top 10 is well within her.

Other names to watch: Claudia Lichtenberg, Tatiana Guderzo, Jessie Daams, Lisa Brennauer, Barbara Guarischi, Alena Amialiusik, Simona Frapporti, Pascale Jeuland, Alexis Ryan, Kendall Ryan and Coryn Rivera.
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