The course we'll have in Troyes is a classic. We've got planks, we've got stairs, we've got camber and off-camber sections. It's a race with very little climbing, where the differences will be made in these features, which are stringed across in a course that has plenty sharp turns and small descents off banks.
The European Championships also took place in France and on a similar track. There, the rain turned the track from a fast one to a muddy one where climbing was quite tougher. We've got rain on the forecast and the track will not be dry, but simultaneously it shouldn't be boggy as other circuits have over the past few weeks. Tactics are possible, a lot of the track is narrow and features bank sections where teammates can let gaps go. I wouldn't say that it's one where the winning differences will be made either early or late, but one where halfway through the race someone will feel they have the legs to take it up a notch and make the winning move.
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A technical and explosive course is going to suit Puck Pieterse. The multi-discipline phenomenon is back after a month-long break away from cyclocross and I expect good form, as most top riders are able to achieve that even without the racing. The Dutch rider does not have the fatigue of other big favourites into this race as she wasn't in Merksplas, which balances out her lack of recent racing. Her two big rivals will certainly be World Cup leader Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, last week's winner in Dendermonde, and Lucinda Brand who was second both there and this Saturday in Merksplas.
Zoe Bäckstedt took her first World Cup podium last week and should also be in the fight. It won't be as muddy of a course however at this point it is very viable to see her again in the battle. Sara Casasola, who was bronze in the Europeans, could be very well suited to this track as well since it's characteristics will be so similar. The Dutch contingent will hunt for a medal too: Inge van der Heijden, Manon Bakker, Annemarie Worst and Denise Betsema. Outside of them we've got Top10 contenders in Marion Norbert Riberolle, Hélene Clauzel, Marie Schreiber, Kristyna Zemanová and Maghalie Rochette.
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It will be an interesting race where Baloise - Trek Lions have got good chances, and will be the team to beat. Tactics can be used and they have four victory contenders. Four winners on their list. Joris Nieuwenhuis won this Saturday in Merksplas with an impressive performance in the mud. Last week Pim Ronhaar had an even more impressive brilliant win in Dendermonde. Both have strong hopes to perform here but come as secondary cards. Lars van der Haar is the most consistent out of their riders and was the winner in Maasmechelen, he stands a good chance of winning a second World Cup round. They won all three World Cup rounds with three different riders, the other was Thibau Nys who has a suiting track to his abilities, but may struggle with the tough weather conditions that are expected.
It will be hard for other teams to contest. Eli Iserbyt has been riding with good form but has been beaten by all of the above, and seems to be the best of the rest - with Michael Vanthourenhout out of the race with illness. Laurens Sweeck will want to perform but an 8th spot in Merksplas was not a good sign, Niels Vandeputte and Felipe Orts performed quite well and will have a good track for their specialty as technical riders, they can both end up in the fight for the podium. Add Gerben Kuypers, Kevin Kuhn, Jens Adams, Toon Vandebosch and Witse Meeussen to the fight for top spots.
The women's race will start at 13:40 local time and is estimated to finish at 14:30 local time. The men's race is set to start at 15:10 local time and is estimated to finish at around 16:15 local time.
You can watch the broadcast of the race at the UCI website; GCN+/Eurosport Player internationally. The channels which will broadcast the race will include Telenet PlaySports and Proximus (Belgium), Flobikes (Canada), NOS.nl (Netherlands), L'Équipe (France), Ceská Televize (Czech Republic), RaiPlay (Italy), TV2 Danmark (Denmark) and TV2 Norge (Norway).
*** Puck Pieterse
** Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Lucinda Brand
* Zoe Bäckstedt, Sara Casasola, Annemarie Worst
*** Lars van der Haar
** Pim Ronhaar, Eli Iserbyt
* Joris Nieuwenhuis, Niels Vandeputte, Thibau Nys
Preview written by Rúben Silva.