On paper at least trip The world championship road race in Flanders on Saturday should suit me. Although there are plenty of climbs at 157.7km, the climbs are generally short and sharp rather than long and high. The type of terrain I tend to run over.
The problem we face – and it’s the same problem we face in every major championship up to a few years ago – is that the Dutch team is ridiculously strong.
This is madness. They probably have five riders who could win the race on their own. Indeed, Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak have won six of the last nine world titles between them. You can include Demi Vollering in the mixes this year as well. Vollering may only be 24 years old, but he has had a great season so far and is extremely talented at winning this course.
On top of that, I think the Dutch will be more motivated than ever this year, given what happened at the Olympics, while they really needed to triumph to completely lose track of Austrian rider Anna Kiesenhofer and allow her to ride unbeatable. I expected them to work together much more cohesively this weekend, making it even harder to beat them. Basically Our Mission Is Impossible.
And yet. This is never impossible, as Kiesehofer shows when tearing a leaf out of Tom Cruise’s book. I’m not saying that I’m going to attack with a gun like he did and sneak away unnoticed. Something tells me they will never fall for it again. But there will be opportunities.
I said I had to be ready to lose everything to win in Tokyo, and it’s the same on Saturday. I have to trust my instincts and if an opportunity comes up, go for it and commit 100 percent. It can backfire and I can’t finish anywhere. But I’ve been lucky enough to have won the rainbow jersey in Richmond in 2015, so I’m not interested in finishing the race ‘safe’ or aiming for the top 10. Win or fail for me.
I also have the added advantage of having five GB riders with me on Saturday compared to just one at the Olympics at Anna Shackley. This is a big help.
Actually, I think we have a pretty strong team this year. I’ve been really impressed with Anna Henderson this season. Clearly so too, as Jumbo-Visma has extended its contract with them. Anna is only 22 years old, but there’s something about her. In worlds in Yorkshire in 2019, he was the last man standing and was asking me what he could do for me. He really understood his role there. I think this weekend might have an opportunity in the right breakup, why not? I’m definitely not going to tell him not to ride.
Then there’s someone like Alice Barnes who’s been doing some really good sprints this season. Joss Lowden impressed me with his stand at the Olympics, where he was a substitute. And then Pfeiffer Georgi and my Olympian friend Anna Shackley. Anna is a mountaineer, so this course isn’t really for her, but she could get us out of trouble if we need to put someone ahead.