In the men’s field, a lot of top players have not yet had their cards looked at since they chose an internship over the preparation races, but most women also have no or only a limited number of race days behind them.
Lotte Kopecky is in that boat, but the Belgian champion is one of the top favorites according to our judges. Will she finish it immediately in her first race for top team SD Worx? Her training trips in Spain suggest the best.
Kopecky is lightning fast, but in a sprint she has to compete with Elisa Balsamo† The world champion has switched to Trek-Segafredo and is surrounded by a good block. She won her first race day for her new employer: proof of fast legs and a strong head.
One of Elisa Balsamo’s lieutenants is Ellen van Dijk† The European champion has already raced in Valencia and also won a stage. She also paved the way for Balsamo’s daytime success in Spain. Van Dijk has to opt for the attack and can certainly solo towards Ninove.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is the second Dutch on this list. Last year she seemed to be aiming for her retirement, now her head is worry-free. Those plans have been shelved and the former world champion can resolutely opt for the attack. She won the Omloop in 2019.
Grace Brown close the second row. The Australian won Brugge-De Panne last year and was 3rd in the Tour of Flanders. She looked sharp in Valencia and feels completely at ease with her new team Groupama-FDJ.
And Annemiek van Vleuten than? The winner of Valencia gets 1 star behind her name. Only 1 star? She drove everyone home in the Spanish queen stage and at 39 she seems to have fully recovered from her serious injuries after a fall in Paris-Roubaix. She won the Omloop in 2020.
In her squad Movistar is Emma Norsgaard an outsider. Correction: it is now Emma Norsgaard-Bjerg. The Danish is married to compatriot Mikkel Bjerg, three-time world champion time trial with the promises. Norsgaard was second in Ninove last year.
Marlen Reusser is next to Lotte Kopecky the second major acquisition at SD Worx and the Swiss is masterly at work against the clock. She can also fully opt for a solo.
We close the shortlist with two fast women: on the honors list of Martha Bastianelli, a 34-year-old mama in the peloton, the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem and Lorena Wiebes is arguably the fastest of the whole pack.