With Jolien D'Hoore taking the first World Cup of the year the campaign is off to an exciting start. Boels-Dolmans finally hit a bit of a speedbump in their early season dominance which was probably healthy. For Binda they once again have a silly strong lineup but there is no shortage of opposition. The field here is slightly more specialized towards climbers especially because there is also a big-ish race in Belgium on Sunday, the women's edition of Gent-Wevelgem. That race is an almost pure sprinters race so the peloton is fairly rationally split between that and Italy. Riders like Kirsten Wild and Jolien D'Hoore who would have little to gain in Trofeo Binda are doing Gent-Wevelgem.
Sadly we won't see defending champion Emma Johansson as she will be missing the main races this spring with a broken collarbone but with her and Vos out we are left with a far more open field and a bit of change of scenery from the last couple of years.
The Website! Seriously the race has well established working formula but the info and website is much improved this year. The event is in reality so much more than the WorldCup, it's an entire cycling festival with the WC as the big finale.
What will the team-dynamics be on the impressive Rabo/Liv team? With Marianne Vos out for what looks like a longer period it will be fun to see how the rest of the riders respond. They have some of the absolutely most exciting riders for a hilly course in Pauline Ferrand Prevot, Anna van der Breggen and Katarzyna Niewiadoma and if the team can ride with the same confidence as they do with Vos then it could be a sight to see.The prospect of the stronger climbers taking control of a race like this is thrilling since they are fairly rare.
Where Will the Race Be Won?
This course has some serious height differences but the ultimately deciding factor is quite often not the climbs, even in attacking editions. The true test comes on the descent into the finish where it's often a duel between attackers and whatever team-leader has helpers left to close down the escapee/s and turn the finale into a sprint among the remaining riders. Weather is quite often a factor too. The weekend is supposed to offer nice warm and sunny conditions which will be a relief for riders. In the wet and cold, Binda is a gruesome challenge with treacherous wet descents as extra icing on the cake.
Who Do I Need to Know?
Evelyn Stevens. We haven't seen Stevens on the top of her abilities for a while but if she's coming back to form she would make a formidable weapon in the Boels-Dolmans arsenal with her punchy climbing ability. We already saw Megan Guarnier come of age winning a fabulous Strade Bianche so with her the team already has a two-pronged attack with strong climbers and Armitstead to play it cool and hang around for an explosive finale. Stevens at her best though would be an asset on par with the crazy attacking Emma Pooley who has lit up this race several times in the past.
Pick to Win:
Elisa Longo Borghini
This is home field advantage for the Wiggle-Honda rider who will captain her team this weekend. Main support will be her loyal lieutenant Auddrey Cordon, who showed fine form in France last weekend, and the team also has tactical options in climber Mara Abbott and sprinter Giorgia Bronzini. So with a strong team presence Longo Borghini is well equipped to match the onslaughts of Boels and Rabo/Liv if she has managed to regain fitness after a little bit of illness after Drenthe. When in form her combination of climbing and rouleur qualities is fairly uniquely suited for Trofeo Binda and she could give the home crowd something to cheer for.