Yesterday I told you my predictions and hopes for the Olympic women's road race, and yes, it's true, I did pretty much predict that everyone will win!
But today I want to do something different - I'll tell you about how to spot the different riders when they're out on the road, and for people new to women's cycling, I'll throw in some links to some of the best races of the year. The links will take you to a timestamp in the video, but of course you can watch the whole things
So, because I've got to start somewhere, I'll start with Marianne Vos! OK, OK, it's just an excuse to look at her giant room of trophies again...
The four Dutch riders are very easy to tell apart on the road. Marianne Vos is the smallest - she's very petite in real life - and has a little ponytail of brown curls that tucks out from her helmet. (Marijn de Vries was very funny on the importance of ponytails in the peloton, and how it should help that Vos is growing out her hair, but it really doesn't!) I say this a lot, but she's a very physical rider, pulls her bike around all over the place when she's working - and she does some great painfaces. Look out for her especially on the descents, she has NO fear and is one of the best in the world. Here she is sprinting out of a group to win the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup 2012, ahead of Emma Johansson, Kirsten Wild, Giorgia Bronzini and Trixi Worrack.
Of the other Dutch, Annemiek van Vleuten has longer blonde hair, and always wears ear-rings when she's racing (although they're not a lucky pair - I know, because I asked!), Loes Gunnewijk has short, very bright blonde hair (check out Gunnewijk & Vos in their Dutch kit on the top of Box Hill, Van Vleuten's blog on the Box Hill experience - and a NOS video on the Dutchies practising there) and Ellen van Dijk, who'll be aiming at the ITT and the Team Pursuit, but who'll be working hard in the road race, too, is the tallest rider there.
If it does get to a bunch sprint, you'll be able to spot Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, as she'll be on the front! She's got short hair, and has got a powerful sprinter's built. Here's a race photo from the Giro, and watch her beat everyone in the EnergieWacht Tour this year.
Judith Arndt has the tall, slim build of the incredible time trialler she is - watch out for her in breakaways, as when she won this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen, and killing it on the front of the sprint train, stretching the peloton to pieces and make everyone else work to keep up.
Trixi Worrack regularly wins the Most Aggressive Rider jersey - she's small and scrappy, and looks exactly like the kind of rider who's planning her next attack, and Claudia Häusler looks like a little pixie on the bike - here she is leading a Thüringen break.
You probably won't see Giorgia Bronzini, becauase she'll have her invisibility cloak on! She's got a labret piercing (below her lip) and short dark hair, and like the track star she is, makes herself very small on the bike. Watch her win the 2010 World Road Race, just because it's a gorgeous sprint, beating Vos and Johansson.
And speaking of Worlds, videos of Tatiana Guderzo and Noemi Cantele harassing poor Vos until Guderzo sped off to win, with Cantele foiling Vos' every effort to chase (the initial break and the end game). Guderzo has long blonde hair, but you generally can't see it on the bike, Cantele is tall and rangy, with a really distinctive riding style - and the fourth member of the team, Monia Baccaille, has the build of a power-sprinter, with a dark ponytail.
These are another easy team to tell apart. Emma Pooley is tiny, blonde, with a very upright position - here's what she looks like in her Team GB kit. Dear Emma, I'd LOVE to see you attack in a lunatic solo effort, yours sincerely, Sarah. The best Pooley moments are on the hills - watch this amazing attack in the 2010 GP Plouay!
I'm really, really excited to see what Lizzie Armitstead will do if it comes to a sprint. She's such a great rider, and the patriotic side of me (it does exist) doesn't dare think about it! Lizzie is very svelte, usually rides with a long, dark ponytail streaming behind her. Here she is, winning Gent-Wevelgem.
I've said this already, but I honestly have no idea what Nicole Cooke will do in this race. If she does win, expect to see something as emotional as this Giro win last year. She's got a brown ponytail, and often looks like she's fighting the whole world on her bike. Finally, Lucy Martin has a shorter dark ponytail, and is the one riding lead-out.
The USA team kit is so stars'n'stripes, it's impossible to mistake them! Shelley Olds looks like the trackie she was - check her out, winning the Giro Donne Stage 6 ahead of Vos and Bronzini. Evie Stevens is the tall, dark-haired one - who'll hopefully be making the fantastic faces she's known and loved for! It's not at all like the London course, but watch her win the Flèche Wallonne ahead of Vos.
Emma Johansson is petite, blonde, with a short ponytail - you'll easily tell her apart from Emilia Fahlin as Fahin is tall, with a lot of long blonde hair. Watch them in the Swedish Road Championships - Johansson for the win, and Fahlin for the best sweary bike toss in ages!
There are two French riders you should look out for - Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who you can always spot by her long, blonde braid down her back. She's very slim, very pretty - and very, very good indeed - a former Junior World Champion on the road, ITT and twice in MTB. She's here for the MTB, but as Monty says, look out for her in this race - and her dark-haired team-mate, Aude Biannic, who came 7th in the 2011 World Champs.
Clara Hughes is practically guaranteed to attack at some point, and she's easy to spot, because she's got a lot of long, red hair - and she's either grimacing with pain as she works her heart out for team-mates, or she's got the world's biggest smile. Here's a video of her talking about the Canadian National Road Race, because it's lovely - and Denise Ramsden telling the same story from the other side! Joëlle Numainville has huge eyes, and long dark hair - watch her win at Redlands.
I'm trying to pretend I haven't seen the Aussie team kit! It's eye-burning! But Chloe Hosking is the sprinter - she's got that great trackie aggressive sprint posture on the bike. Watch her beat Vos and Bronzini to take her first big European win at the Drentse 8 this year, and give a very emotional mini-interview! Shara Gillow's tall, slim and blonde (here she's winning Stage 3 of last year's Giro in a breakaway with Sharon Laws) and when I saw Amanda Spratt in Thüringen Rundfahrt last year she never stopped smiling, no matter how hard she worked - as when she became Australian Road Champion this year!
There's only one rider representing New Zealand here - Linda Villumsen - and the Kiwi kits are always striking. I'm really hoping we see Villumsen attack like crazy and animate the race as she's so well-known for, but she might be holding fire for the ITT, where she's a favourite for a medal. Watch the Villumsen style in the highlights of this year's Giro Trentino - this is how I hope the Olympic road race turns out, attacking and breakaways from the ITT champions and escape artists!
So that's my guide on how to spot riders! If you have any top tips, or any riders you want me to find you video of, leave a comment! It's going to be a better year than usual in terms of commentators being able to spot the riders too - I'll be watching Eurosport, where Australian sprinter Rochelle Gilmore will be giving her insights on the race and riders, and following another Aussie, Bridie O'Donnell, who'll be providing the best in uncensored & unofficial commentweeting for men's & women's RR/TT on twitter - so there'll be lots of opportunities to get high-quality race updates!
And, of course, come over to Podium Café for the livethread, where we can cheer along with the race, chat, ask questions and, as usual, make lots of jokes throughout the race. I can't wait to watch it with you!