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All About the Women’s Peloton at The 2022 Road World Championships

By Megan Flottorp

The 2022 Road World Championships get underway this weekend, and we can’t wait to see what kind of action-packed racing the women’s peloton will pull off! Held from September 18 to 25 in Wollongong, Australia, 13 road cycling world titles will be awarded as the UCI’s pinnacle event heads Down Under for the first time in 12 years.

A highlight of the UCI road season, the championships, which consist of the road race, individual time trial and mixed team relay, have been held since 1921—but the women’s race was only added in 1958. As they are used to having to make up for a lost time, the women have been doing us proud ever since. With a boatload of talent on display, there’s no doubt all of this year’s events will be hotly contested ones.

Last year, Elisa Balsamo of Italy won gold in the women’s elite road race, with Dutch veteran Ellen van Djik taking the top spot in the individual time-trial events. Germany, meanwhile, triumphed in the second edition of the mixed team relay, which replaced the men’s and women’s team time trial in 2019. So, who are the top picks for this year? Let’s dive into what we can expect when things get underway on Sunday!

Women’s individual time trial

On Sunday, September 18, 2022, the women will take to a technically challenging 16.8-kilometre loop twice around Wollongong’s city centre, amounting to 34.2 kilometres. The route, which is the same one the men will race, boasts about 30 corners. As such, superb bike-handling capabilities will be the name of the game here.

In addition, the route isn’t completely flat. There is one small hill on each lap – Mount Ousley. With a total elevation gain of 312 metres, the rider who takes this one will have to outlast any leg fatigue and prove that beyond sheer power, they are a well-rounded racer who can combine technique and speed.

Women’s road race

The Road World Championships routes for the elite women’s and men’s races – which will be held on September 24 and 25, respectively – are made up of two key elements: the Mount Keira Loop and the Wollongong City Circuit. Both races will complete one Mount Keira Loop before the men’s peloton tackle 12 city laps in Wollongong while the women complete six.

With a decidedly punchy vibe, it is worth pointing out that the women will also be tasked with climbing the punishing Mount Keira later in their race than the men—with 122 km remaining. Although attacks might still be ways off, we do often see impressive long-range efforts in the women’s peloton. Following this, there is indeed a chance that this could be a defining moment in the race if someone decides that their moment to act is now.

Regardless, this is certainly one of the most demanding World Championships routes in recent history, and fans will get to enjoy attacking, aggressive racing, which will likely include plenty of drama.

Under 23: For the first time!

The 2022 UCI Road World Championships is the 95th edition of the event, and this is the first edition of the race where titles are being given out in the women’s Under 23 category. This is a big step forward for the women’s program, as there are currently very few opportunities to help younger riders make the transition to the elite bracket. The U23 and junior races will be held on the Wollongong circuit in their entirety, and we can’t wait to see who makes it to the podium for this inaugural event!

Riders to watch

Back to the elite women riders, though, here are a few you’ll definitely be wanting to keep an eye on.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Her skills need no introduction and we can be sure that Annemiek van Vleuten will be looking to put a cherry on top of what has been an incredible season. She has already taken the treble of Giro d’Italia Donne, Tour de France Femmes and Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta. In addition, she has announced her retirement for the end of 2023, so she’s undoubtedly eager to enlarge her collection of world championships medals (three golds, three silvers and two bronzes) before bidding farewell to the sport that has made her a legend.

Marianne Vos

As usual, van Vleuten isn’t the only Dutch powerhouse vying for the number one spot. Used to facing competition from within her own team, multiple world-medal winner Marianne Vos is another favourite for the road race. After 15 years at the top of the sport, she just keeps on winning. This season alone, she claimed a handful of stage wins at the Tour de France Femmes and Giro d’Italia Donne.

Elisa Balsamo

And, of course, road-race defending champion Elisa Balsamo will be fighting with everything she has to hang on to her title. Her first season with Trek-Segafredo has been a resounding success and she has won nine times in 2022. Most recently, she polished off her time in the rainbow jersey in perfect style, with a commanding win in the final stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

Elisa Longo Borghini

Two-time Olympic medallist Elisa Longo Borghini proved to us all that she’s capable of pulling off a hilly win with her historic Paris-Roubaix victory. She also took Women’s Tour victory at the last moment with a characteristically bold performance, was fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia Donne and fifth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. So, if this one comes down to a nail-biter of a finish, we just might see Longo Borghini be the one to emerge from the pack.

Grace Brown

Brown grew up just 75 km north of Wollongong in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown, so she’ll be giving it everything she’s got as she looks to grab a podium spot while on home turf. Likely to have a strong showing in both the time trial and the road race, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège runner-up is the kind of rider who is ready for any minor breakthrough she can get her wheels on. She has won a Women’s Tour stage, a stage at the recent Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta and the Commonwealth Games time trial this year.

Kasia Niewiadoma

As an incredibly consistent all-rounder with a knack for climbs, this could very well be the race that breaks the streak of Kasia Niewiadoma’s elusive top spot finish. Although she has finished second or third 19 times since, including this summer’s Tour de France Femmes, her last victory was over three years ago at the Women’s Tour. With a course well-suited to her skill set, this could very well be the win she’s after.

Lotte Kopecky

In her first season with Team SD Worx, Kopecky kicked things off strong, taking victories at both the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche. This course suits her well too. Her riding style has shifted into the puncheur-sprinter territory but she’d never let us forget that she can handle challenging hills. That said, last month, she sat out the European Road Championships with a reported back injury, so let’s see if she can regain the momentum she had going in the spring.

We wish all the riders the best of luck in Wollongong! You can find a complete schedule of the action below.