Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling heads to the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic on Sunday with a team hoping to build on the success already achieved in the 2015 UCI Road World Cup. Black and orange riders have won three of the five rounds of the season-long competition so far, with Belgian Champion Jolien D'hoore taking the Ronde van Drenthe in March, Elisa Longo Borghini winning the Tour of Flanders in April and former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini sprinting to victory in last month's Tour of Chongming Island.
The Philly Classic sees the World Cup return to the United States for the first time since its previous incarnation, the Liberty Classic, left the series in 2001. The challenging 115km race will consist of six laps of 19.2km circuit, which follows the Schuylkill River, and finishes at the top of the Manayunk Wall, whose slopes reach up to 17% in parts.
Eager to welcome her teammates to her home nation for the first time is two-time former US Champion Mara Abbott, whose climbing skills will be well suited to the race finish at the top of Manayunk, and has finished in the top ten of the last two editions. The 29-year-old Coloradan has been training hard since her victory in May's Tour of the Gila, and is looking forward to the biggest one-day race in the United States.
"I've never raced a world cup in the US - there hasn't been one since I started racing!" she exclaimed. "Philly is always one of our biggest events of the year. There is always a huge fan presence, and the race has a lot of prestige in the US.
"I am so excited to get to spend a few days in my country with my team," Abbott continued. "It's a huge honour that they are coming across the ocean and I hope that the race lives up to the big hype I have been giving it to the girls!"
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Longo Borghini will be among the top favourites for victory on the race's uphill finish, where a good result could give her the lead in the World Cup. Despite this, the ever-modest 23-year-old is thinking only of supporting her teammates on the road, including Italian compatriot Bronzini, who won the Liberty Classic in 2011.
"Philadelphia is a new World Cup event this year and I'm very excited to race it," Longo Borghini said. "I know Giorgia can do a good race there because she did already the race before and I'm ready to support her 100%.
"It will be my first race in the USA and I'm pretty curious to see how is racing out there!"
Along with American Abbott and Italians Bronzini and Longo Borghini, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's international team will be completed by Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara, who finished on the podiums of two tough events last weekend, former Swedish Champion Emilia Fahlin, whose selfless attitude makes her invaluable to her teammates, and Australian Chloe Hosking, whose tireless work has been at the centre of so much of the team's success this year.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for the Philadelphia International (8th June)
Mara Abbott (United States), Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan), Chloe Hosking (Australia), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
Courtois Straight Through to the Semis
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day