In keeping with August tradition, the peloton heads to Scandinavia for the twelfth round of the UCI Women’s World Tour with the Ladies Tour of Norway starting on Thursday.
Typically an exciting race with challenging stages, The Ladies Tour of Norway (ToN) is characterised by lumpy, attritional terrain with technical circuit style finishes. Often suiting the punchy riders it has delivered aggressive and dynamic racing over the previous 6 editions.
This year the 4 days of racing again take place on the roads of Østfold with stages 1, 2 and 4 featuring the synonymous Norwegian parcours and finishing circuits. However, the 7th edition of the ToN introduces a first for this relatively young race – a mountaintop finish on stage 3 – which will add a fascinating dimension to the GC battle.
The opening stage from Halden to Sarpsborg is an undulating 141.5km that will suit the peloton’s fast finishers. The 2 classified climbs come at 47km (1.1km/5.5%) and 88km (2km/3.5%) and whilst they may act as a launch pad for attacks, the race will most probably culminate in a bunch kick. Likewise, stage 2 is similar to the opener, with the 145.2km from Askim to Mysen looking like another day for the sprinters.
Saturday and stage 3 will bring the hotly anticipated mountaintop finish which will undoubtedly be crucial in deciding the GC battle. Starting from Drammen, the 145km Queen stage will see riders tackle a rolling 135km before the climb up to the scenic Norefjell ski resort. The 11.1km ascent averages 6.1%, but with segments topping 18%, the average gradient belies this challenging nature of this climb.
The fourth and final stage sees a return to ‘normal’ as the 141.6km from Drøbak to Halden is another undulating and ‘grippy’ affair. It is likely to be a very aggressive stage with the previous day’s result potentially forcing some teams to go on the offensive in order to overturn any time gaps. The finishing circuit in Halden will again favour the sprinters but they may not have it their own way if the GC teams decide to split things up.
GC Riders To Watch
Mid-season and in particular post Olympics can be a tricky time of year for riders, especially those with goals towards the end of the campaign. Indeed, several riders have opted for a period of mental and physical downtime to reset before they build back up towards the Simac Tour and the World Championships later in the year. Notable absentees from the start list include the Dutch trio of Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering, Lorena Wiebes as well as Amanda Spratt and Ruth Winder to name a few.
That said, Queen of Norway and the winner of the last 3 editions of the race – Marianne Vos – will be back to try and defend her crown. The 34 year old, Team Jumbo-Visma rider, is the most prolific ToN stage winner with 8 stage wins to her palmares. With stages 1, 2 and 4 potentially ending in bunch sprints, she could very well add more wins to this impressive tally. The long climb up to Norefjell may well see her lose some time in the GC battle, but Vos can never be discounted and she’ll want to make it a historic fourth consecutive victory in Norway.
Donning the purple jersey as UCI WWT leader, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), will look to extend her lead over the absent Demi Vollering in the overall rankings. Winner of San Sebastain a fortnight ago, the Olympic TT champion has been of scintillating form in the last month, so expect to see her attacking on the Norefjell climb in a bid to take her first GC win at the ToN.
The French squad, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, travel to Norway with a strong line-up and several tactical cards to play. Danish rider, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, will certainly be looking forward to the Queen stage where she’ll hope to capitalise on her climbing strength. Likewise, teammate Marta Cavalli, will also be another rider in contention for GC. The 23 year old from Cremona, Italy, has had a great season thus far with numerous top 10s. She’ll be looking to build upon the 6th place she achieved at the Giro with another strong performance this week.
Trek Segafredo’s Lizzie Deignan makes her ToN debut this year. The 32 year Brit is well suited to the Norwegian parcours and as both a fast finisher and a strong climber, she’ll be one to watch not just on GC but for stage wins too. She’ll lead the line for the American squad of Cordon-Ragot, Wiles, Brand, Worrack and Hosking which has experience and strength aplenty. The latter, Chloe Hosking, will also be a rider to watch in the bunch sprints. The Australian sprinter has had a quiet year in 2021, but with her impressive finishing speed and power expect her to be on the hunt for stage wins.
American sprinter Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) tends to perform well in Norway and thrives on the undulating terrain. With a 7th in the Olympic Road Race and a stage win at the Giro in July, she is clearly in great form heading into the second half of this season. After a 3rd overall in 2018, 2nd in 2019, can she continue this upwards trajectory and rise to the top step in 2021?
In the fluorescent yellow of Alé BTC Ljubljana, 36 year old Tatiana Guderzo, will be another rider in contention for stage wins and the GC. The Italian sprinted to 3rd at the recent San Sebastian Classic and has been riding well recently with top 10s overall at the Giro and Tour de Suisse. A canny and strong rider she could well shake things up.
Other riders to watch include former venture capitalist turned neo pro Kristen Faulkner of Team Tibco, Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing) and last year’s World Tour Youth winner, Liane Lippert (Team DSM).
When: 12-15th August
Where: Østfold , Norway
What: 4 day stage race.
Stage 1 – Halden – Sarpsborg -141.5km
Stage 2 – Askim – Mysen – 145.2km
Stage 3 – Drammen – Norefjell – 145km
Stage 4 – Drøbak – Halden – 141.6km
GC riders to watch:
Annemiek van Vleuten ****
Lizzie Diegnan ****
Marianne Vos ***
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig ***
Coryn Rivera ***
Top Outsider: Kristen Faulkner