Lizzie Armitstead goes into Fleche Wallonne Femmes as Women's Road World Cup leader

Words by Owen Rogers

Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne Femmes sees both Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) and Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol Ladies) return to World Cup racing for the first time in 2014. Both have won the race before and are starting their seasons late in the year, though for differing reasons.

2010 winner Pooley has targeted Flèche this year, but isn’t sure it’s her favourite race, “Do I like it? It’s an awesome race to win, but it’s very difficult because it’s all about position and being in the right place at the right time,” she told Cycling Weekly, “It’s a race that suits my profile as a rider, it’s hilly and finishes on a very steep climb, but it’s sketchy and I’ve only finished two of the four times I’ve started.”

Five time winner Vos is tipping 24 year-old compatriot, Anna van der Breggen to lead the Rabo team this week, telling us, “Anna has done a great job and will be there for the team. Of course I’m going to try to be fit, but I won’t be at 100%, so it’s going to be difficult to to be in the final and still fresh and ready for a sprint up Mur de Huy, it’s not easy if that’s your first race.”

Though Pooley raced and won in 2013, her priority was completing a PhD and has only just returned to Europe following a period of training in Australia. “I went out there in January and had a lot to catch up on because I was a bit sick at end of last year. I didn’t start training until January really, so that’s why I’m only coming back now.”

Vos, on the other hand needed time off the bike after a year which saw her convincingly defend the World Cup, win Mountain bike races and retain both her Road and Cyclo-Cross World crowns. “I’ve had tough season, and I finished with the World title, so I’m really, really happy, but I needed some rest and that’s what I did.”

The 127 km Women’s Flèche Wallonne, the fourth race in this year’s Women’s Road World Cup, comprises two circuits of a route starting and finishing at the top of the Mur de Huy, which averages 9.3% but exceeds 19% in places.

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) leads the World Cup standings with healthy 80 point advantage over second placed Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) and 100 points ahead of van der Breggen in third, so has a good chance of retaining the jersey in Belgium.