Sarah Roy is a decent enough sprinter, and the fact the team is, apart from Annemiek, all-Aussie may limit some of their selection aims. Obviously in that context, the bonanza signing would be Chloe Hosking. From people not currently established, maybe they hope for something from Lauretta Hanson or Shannon Malseed, both of whom are 22-23 and did well on the BeneLux crit circuit last year.
Excitingly, if you go here
on Sunday you will be able to watch the Trofeo Alfredo Binda - GP Cittiglio live. This is one of the more hilly/climber-friendly races in the World Cup, featuring one long circuit around the Varese area before four loops of a circuit around the mythical Binda's hometown including a 3km " 7% climb called Orino.
The lineup will be strong and we'll get to see defending champion Lizzie Deignan go for her third win in a row, making hay while the sun shone with Vos absent or out of form and Pooley retiring, after the two duelled over the race crown for several years. However we won't have a chance to see the other two athletes from last year's podium; Boels did a 1-2 last year after the chase was caught on the line, but Megan Guarnier is still absent as the team tries to juggle all of its stars and will not be on the startlist, while having ceased riding for Servetto and focusing on mountain bike means that there will be no Jolanda Neff either unless she rides as a guest for her old team, which is a shame as she's added plenty to the race the last few years. The Boels team therefore looks like a two-headed beast, with Deignan and van der Breggen the two major threats, and the opposition will have to make it brutally hard to drop Deignan, and if they do they've still got Anna to contend with. Majerus and Canuel give them some strong race controlling legs while Blaaki and Pieters will offer up options for counterattacks and to try to force other teams to go hard in the hills and produce a race favourable to Boels' hilly riders.
They're far from the only team with a strong lineup though. Canyon look formidable, though a lot will depend on how PFP's form is as she returns to the road after a disaster-ridden 2016 season. Opposition will have to really go hard to drop Amialiusik, while the team has very solid sprinting options in Barnes and, in a more selective race, Cromwell, and Elena Cecchini on home roads will be very dangerous owing to her incredible racing brain. Cervélo-Bigla have probably the strongest pure sprinter announced, in Lotta Lepistö, while if the racing is punchy they have the in-form Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and if it's really hard they have Ash Moolman-Pasio. While for Cylance the race is a bit too tough for Gutiérrez, they'll be reliant a bit more on their Italian contingent, hopefully this is the year Ratto gets it together. For Orica, their most likely threat is Annemiek, but the course suits Amanda Spratt well too and she had her best year to date last year. Also they have Katrin Garfoot who's one of the top CQ scorers to date but then, given the high percentage of her points coming from the Aussie calendar, it's hard to quantify what her form will be like. Among the Sunweb lineup, VeloNews have for some reason decided that Ellen van Dijk is the main threat, which will probably be news for the TT powerhouse on one of the hilliest courses of the year (she laughed at holding a QOM jersey last year because "this can only happen in the Netherlands". A more pragmatic choice to ride for would be Leah Kirchmann, who possesses a very strong kick in a sprint finish and was 8th overall in the Giro in her breakout year last year. They also have former junior sensation Juliette Labous, another sprint option in Coryn Rivera and a sentimental pick for one to watch, Sabrina Stultiens, who is a very good rider for this type of parcours but has been on the long-term injury list for some time. Wiggle have the reduced sprinter par excellence, Giorgia Bronzini, but they also make use of their hydra-headed onslaught on climbing races, with two of the pélotons best climbers, who double up as two of the péloton's worst sprinters, Elisa Longo Borghini (who is great at climbing and terrible at sprinting) and Claudia Lichtenberg (who is even better at climbing and even worse at sprinting). Elisa will be looking to defend the WT leaders' jersey and is probably the better shout for the win given her all-round skills and abilities on the flat for opportunism, but again Claudia is a sentimental pick because I'm a huge cheerleader for her. And finally, WM3 have at least two valid options for the victory in Marianne Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma, but the latter needs a really hard race to be able to get away given her lack of a sprint weapon which has all too often cost her in the recent future, having to do a lot more of the work to pull groups back or get away from the group she's in due to not having a chance if it goes to the line and then losing the sprint from them. They also have Lauren Kitchen who has the capability to make an impact in both styles on this kind of parcours, and Anna Plichta who can prove a tactical star to set up her personal friend Kasia as we've seen from the Polish national team over the last couple of years.
Among the smaller teams also some intrigue. Not least from the Lares-Waowdeals team, whose signing of Thalita de Jong opened a few eyes in the off-season. Though the final climb isn't as long nor the run-in quite as long, this finish is reminiscent of the final day of the Giro last season, which was just the other side of Lake Maggiore, which Thalita won, while the team also has some useful backup in veteran Brazilian journeywoman Flavia Oliveira (a former Giro QOM) and Alice Cobb, the 21-year-old Briton having been very promising in the Tour de l'Ardêche last season. Lensworld also have a couple of threats in Tatiana Guderzo, who won the not dissimilar Mendrisio World Championships course eight years ago, the Ukrainian climber Tetyana Riabchenko and the versatile Maria Giulia Confalonieri. Rasa Leleivyte is there for Aromitalia and likes this kind of parcours, or at least she does since her suspension ended (she was more of a sprinter who then learnt to climb before her positive test); her history makes her an outsider given that she seems persona non grata among the big teams, but she regularly crops up in the top 10-15 of races like this, especially in Italy, and she has a very good finishing kick on her owing to her past life as a sprinter.
Most of the national péloton haven't finalized squads though. Astana have confirmed Arlenis Sierra will be capitalizing on her current form, while Alé have only confirmed Janneke Ensing but have plenty of choice for people who can make an impact, most likely Daiva Tuslaite, Carlee Taylor and Soraya Paladin in this type of route. BePink could feasibly make a real impact with Zabelinskaya but I'd be more excited to see Tuhai, the 21-year-old Belarusian grimpeuse who made the top 10 of the Giro. Hard to believe BTC won't have Stricker, Bujak and Bagatelj on hand.