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Vos is undisputed favorite in women’s road race

September 26, 2013

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — When it comes to the women’s road race at the cycling world championships, Marianne Vos is the undisputed favorite.

The Dutchwoman has finished either first or second in each of the last seven years and is again expected to be on one of the top two steps of the podium after Saturday’s 140-kilometer (87-mile) race from Montecatini Terme to Florence.

Vos first inspected the course in March, and she liked what she saw. The route concludes with five laps of a hilly circuit in Florence, meaning the steep climb to the scenic town of Fiesole overlooking Florence will be ascended five times.

“I like it. It’s really hard. That’s going to be good for the race, because the best (riders) will end up in front for the finish,” Vos told The Associated Press before official on-course training on Thursday. “I hope to be there. For sure it’s going to be a real good champion.”

Vos won this race in Salzburg, Austria, in 2006 and again last year before her home fans in Valkenburg. She was also runner-up five straight times from 2007-11.

She also won the road race at the London Olympics and has world and Olympic titles in cyclo-cross and track cycling.

So who can challenge her?

“The whole Italian squad is very strong,” she said. “They have several cards to play. Then there are some individuals, and the Americans.”

Italians have won the race four times in the last six years. Maria Bastianelli won it in 2007, Tatiana Guderzo in ’09 and Giorgia Bronzini in ‘10 and ’11.

Another contender is Emma Johansson of Sweden, who finished second to Vos in this year’s World Cup.

Among the U.S. riders, there’s Carmen Small and Evelyn Stevens, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the individual time trial on Tuesday, and Mara Abbott, who won this year’s women’s Giro d’Italia.

“With the climbs,” Vos said, “for sure (Abbott) is one of the favorites.”

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