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World’s best sprinters set to rule the Classique

The second edition of the Prudential RideLondon Classique looks set to end in a sprinters’ showdown as some of the world’s fastest women gather in the capital for the richest one-day race in cycling.

Leading the way at the UCI WorldTour event will be reigning champion Kirsten Wild, who will be looking to repeat her bunch-sprint win of 12 months’ ago to take her second victory on The Mall on Saturday evening.

“I’m really looking forward to defending my title,” the Dutch rider said today. “This is a race that’s really good for sprinters; there aren’t that many races that are really built for sprinters, so the team is looking forward to it.”

The Dutch sprinter followed up her win at last year’s Classique with a silver medal at the World Road Race Championships and has two victories at the Santos Women’s Tour and one at the Tour of Chongming Island to her name in 2017. She is also being backed as the woman to beat by Race Director Mick Bennett.

“Kirsten Wild is the quickest rider in a power sprint,” said Bennett earlier this week. “When the riders come through Admiralty Arch the finishing straight is then a good 350m long and I don’t think there’s anyone to catch her when it’s that type of sprint.”

The 34-year-old Cylance Pro Cycling rider admitted that she doesn’t mind the added pressure of being defending champion.

“I do feel a bit of pressure, but I quite like feeling it because I think it makes me perform well. The biggest pressure comes from myself. I want to win so the pressure isn’t a big deal.”

Wild won’t have it all her way though, as the field is stacked with super sprinter and Classics specialists, including Marianne Vos of WM3 Pro Cycling who loves racing in London even more since her victory at the London 2012 Olympic road race.

After crashing out of the Women’s Tour in June, Vos is looking forward to competing in the Classique for her team WM3 Pro Cycling.

“I’ve always loved the competition in cycling; when everything comes together in a race it’s the best feeling,” said the 30-year-old.

“Coming to London brings back great memories from the London 2012 Olympics, seeing landmarks like the London Eye brings back feelings of the spirit of 2012.

“We are here to do well on Sunday. It’s an open race featuring very fast course that suits sprinters, so we’ll try to get in a good position for the sprint – but everyone will be trying to do the same so it will be a difficult task.”

Up to the task could be Belgian rider Jolien d’Hoore of Wiggle HIGH5, who has proved herself to be the most consistent sprinter in the world this year. She has seven victories to her name in 2017, including the overall title at the Tour of Chongming, a stage at the Giro d’Italia and the final stage of the Women’s Tour, which was also held in central London.

Looking relaxed ahead of her RideLondon debut, the 27-year-old revealed that she can’t wait to get back onto the streets of the capital after her win at the Women’s Tour in June.

“I have some great memories from my recent win, so I’m looking forward to racing here again,” said d’Hoore. “I’m not sure what the team’s tactics will be, but we have a very strong team for the race so there are many cards we can play.”

Those ‘cards’ include 2014 Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix champion Giorgia Bronzi and Australian rider Annette Edmondson, who has been riding for the team since 2015.

The Classique field also features some of the best young stars of British cycling, including Canyon SRAM’s Hannah Barnes. The 24-year-old is one of Britain’s most exciting prospects and her results this year show she is now one of the WorldTour’s elite riders.

Barnes had a fantastic 2017 Women’s Tour, finishing second on two stages and coming third overall. She backed this up by winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia earlier this month and is looking forward to testing her good form on the streets of the capital.

“I love racing in London – it’s a great opportunity for my friends and family to come to the capital to support me – and the atmosphere is always great at this event,” she said.

“I’ve had two good months in June and July. The Giro wasn’t really part of the plan but I got called up a couple of days before the start so to come away with a stage win was great.  I always get a buzz out of racing on the streets of London

“I’ve raced at RideLondon every year since the event started in 2013 and I’ve loved every one. There are definitely more people cycling in the UK since the first edition; the whole weekend is a great celebration of cycling.

Other sprinters who will be confident of being in the mix on The Mall are Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling), Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) and Hannah’s younger sister Alice, who rides for the Drops Cycling Team.

There will be plenty of other British riders for the London crowds to support too, including a Great Britain national team that features promising young riders like Emily Nelson and Ellie Dickinson, as well as Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker who both won gold in the team pursuit at the 2016 Rio Games.

The race will start on The Mall at 17:00 on Saturday 29 July and is expected to attract big crowds keen to see 20 of world’s best teams take on the 12-lap 5.5km circuit around St James’s Park, Whitehall and Parliament Square. For those not lucky enough to make it along in person, the race will be broadcast live on the BBC Red Button from 17:00-19:00 and live on BBC Two from 18:00.