Not because I've got any more to say than you'll find in any of the other previews of this race, such as Gav's (which I'm sure will be excellent when it appears - could some kind person post the URL because I get a bit lost over at Steephill) or the nice one over at Cicloweb (or even the other nice one over at Cicloweb), but because it gives us somewhere to discuss the race. So who, as they say, is hot.
[Update, by Chris] Steephill... bah!
The GB team is led by the defending champion, Nicole Cooke who hasn't had too great a year since Varese, possibly due to the stresses of trying to run a team on no money, but still can't be ignored. She looked strong in Plouay and tactically is one of the best in the bunch. But quite astoundingly, as anyone would think who has followed Nicole's progress over the years, this year's British team also has real depth to it. Emma Pooley can't be ruled out as this course gives her the best chance of winning the rainbow jersey that she is ever likely to get. She can't sprint, but the hills of Mendrisio may well let her climb her way to victory. The only problem is that everyone in the bunch knows that and they won't be keen to give her a gap. And Lizzie Armitsead has been developing nicely over the season. She's not up there with the top rank right now, more of a Greipel like rider who cleans up when the stars take a holiday, but if she gets in a good break she may hit it lucky.
Not a deep team, but a focussed one. Think of Lance versus the rest of USPS, A star and her entourage. Marianne Vos has to be the number one favourite for this race. She's raced the Worlds three times, won one and come second twice. And to go with the pedigree she's got the form, with two stage victories in last week's Tour of Toscana where she would have won the overall too, but for a fluke break.
This year's World Cup has been fought out between Vos and Swedish star Emma Johansson. Johansson is another of the peloton's great tacticians, good at getting others to do the work then jumping in at the last to grab the glory. And she's got the dedication too: she spent a year working as an au pair in Holland in order to improve her racing (as opposed to sheer pedal power) and will be somewhere at the end of the race. The big doubt is whether she can psychologically beat Vos to whom she conceded the World Cup long before she needed to. Among her teammates is Emilia Fahlin who has had a quiet season, but could surprise if she discovers some of her form of 2008.
The Germans have a remarkably similar team to the British, certainly in terms of balance and tactics. If the race comes down to a sprint, or a battle of wits between "le big" then Judith Arndt will probably be there. She's had what gets described in the press as an "unlucky" season, although there are probably other words that most of us would use if we broke our arm three times in one year at work. She's apparently recovered now, but is probably not race fit. Even so watch out for her because smart usually beats strong at the Worlds. Filling the Pooley role is Cervelo's Claudia Hausler, winner of both the Tour del'Aude and the Giro Donne this year. She can climb well, but unlike Pooley she can sprint at the top of the climb too. Expect Trixi Worrack to provide strong support in the later laps.
The Italians have a strong team, but are probably missing someone to strike the killer blow at the end of the race. Fabiana Luperini might have been expected to do well on a course like this, but seems to have stayed around one season too many. Noemi Cantele and Tatiana Guderzo should be good for top 10 placings but not medals.
The US has a strong looking team on paper, but like the Italians there's no-one there that you can picture finishing off the race. Too many of them seem to come late to riding a bike, and while they can sit churning out the watts for hours at a time, they will probably lose out to someone who spends the rest of the day sucking wheels. Mara Abbott might be there best chance, joining all the other climbers hoping to make a solitary escape on the hills, but I can't see Kristin Armstrong retiring both this year's jersies.
A team put together with half an eye on next year's Worlds in Melbourne, so I guess from the inclusion of sprinters Rochelle Gilmore and Emma Mackie, but they have a few girls to keep an eye on in Ruth Corset, Tiff Cromwell and Vicki Whitelaw. Whitelaw has been particularly impressive in keeping her form even as her team collapsed and left her half a globe from home, racing wherever she could scrounge a lift to.
It's always a surprise that Lithuania has such strength in women's cycling, but a team that includes Diana Ziliute, rainbow jersey back in 1998 and winner of three sprints plus the overall in the Trophee d'Or last month, Edita Pucinskaite, rainbow jersey 1999, and Modesta Vzesniauskaite is likely to keep the little man with the chalk board busy.
Well if you've not heard the name Jeannie Longo then chances are you've never read a word about women's cycling. Thirty years among the top ten riders takes a certain amount of dedication. Watch out too for her training partner Edwige Pitel who would be the one attracting the "Isn't she old" comments were Longo not there, and for current French champion Christel Ferrier Bruneau. I don't expect them to win, but they should go down fighting.
Lots of other riders may make a show on the day, but there aren't many with decent team support. But who are we kidding, there are two things likely to happen on Saturday. Either Emma Pooley rides off into the distance on the hills, or she gets caught and Vos wins the sprint. Everything else is just filling time.