Preview: RideLondon Classique 2024

Taking place around London and Essex, the tenth edition of the RideLondon Classique once again features three stages, mainly geared towards sprinters, with rolling terrain in places but no major climbing challenges, meaning the general classification will likely be very close once again.

Taking in a total of 392.7km and 3,218m of altitude gain, the route features the same start and finish locations as last year’s edition of the race, but adds 22km to the total distance.

The first winner of the race was Dame Laura Kenny back in 2013, and the reigning champion is Team dsm-firmenich PostNL’s Charlotte Kool, who won two of the three stages in 2023’s edition.

The race has been part of the Women’s World Tour since 2016, and suffered a two-year absence as a result of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This year’s edition takes place from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May.

 

The Route

Stage 1 – Saffron Walden – Colchester (159.2km)

The first stage of this year’s race is once again the longest, and though it features a not inconsiderable 1,585m of elevation gain, the profile lends itself to the fast women among the bunch, of which there will be a significant number.

Heading east from the medieval market town of Saffron Walden, the peloton face two category four climbs very early on in the day, which will allow a breakaway to establish itself and riders interested in fighting for the Queen of the Mountains jersey to score some early points. The peloton passes through Essex visiting a number of towns and villages along the route, before one final climb, Sandy Hill in Wormingford. Then around 50km of relatively flat roads will likely allow the bunch to regroup before a likely sprint finish in Colchester, the first capital of Roman Britain.

 

Stage 2 – Maldon – Maldon (142.6km)

Though it’s somewhat shorter than stage 1, and features less climbing, with 1,280m of altitude gain, the second stage of the RideLondon Classique offers a slightly more competitive profile for the non-sprinters, with a launchpad for a potential late breakaway winner, one which given the short nature of the race, may decide the overall winner.

The race begins in the historic market town of Maldon, situated on the Blackwater estuary on Essex’s east coast, which has featured on the race route for the past three years. Once again, the profile features three category four climbs, but unlike stage 1, the first of these doesn’t come until 60km into the stage, when after an initial loop, the riders take on three laps of a circuit which features the category four Little Baddow climb. The final ascent of the climb is taken on with just 12km remaining on the stage, so anyone looking to launch an attack for both the stage win and the general classification is likely to use the final climb for this purpose. From there, it will be peloton versus breakaway to see who will triumph on the stage.

 

Stage 3 – London – London (91.2km)

The final stage of the race takes place in London city centre and is a marquee event for the sprinters. Though the profile looks lumpy, there’s only 354m of altitude gain, and the spectators will have a great view of the riders and the city as the peloton passes by plenty of London landmarks along its relatively short route.

Beginning and ending on the Mall, the race takes on eight laps of a cycling tour of London, passing Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey among other famous landmarks, and heads along the River Thames, before a sprint showdown that will be both entertaining and decisive.

 

Riders to Watch

Following a Spanish block of racing which has seen the climbers and GC riders take centre stage, it will be the sprinters once again in the spotlight at the RideLondon Classique.

Defending champion Charlotte Kool will return to London with her Team dsm-firmenich PostNL teammates in the hope of winning two consecutive editions of the race. The Dutch sprinter has struggled to produce victories so far this season with her rivals in scintillating form, but a second place at La Vuelta Femenina will boost her confidence. British Champion Pfeiffer Georgi has also recently confirmed her attendance and will be a vital link in Kool’s lead-out train.

Kool’s primary adversary will this year be Lorena Wiebes. In Wiebes, Team SD Worx-ProTime has the top sprinter in the world and she has proven this with a number of wins already this season, including notable sprint showdowns at the Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem. She will have a deluxe support crew that includes World Champion Lotte Kopecky, who herself could deliver wins depending on the race situation.

Lidl-Trek are missing Elisa Balsamo, who would have hoped to banish bad memories of last year’s edition, in which she crashed out, suffering fractures to both her hand and jaw. Following her crash last week in Vuelta Burgos she is absent from the start list so her team will support Clara Copponi in the sprints, with Lizzie Deignan providing experience as they seek to secure both stage victories and the overall win.

Of the other teams in the race, UAE Team ADQ have the greatest number of options, with Chiara Consonni, Sofia Bertizzolo and Eleonora Gasparrini all potential prospects in a bunch sprint. Letizia Paternoster (Team Jayco-AlUla) had a really strong spring Classics campaign and she will hope to challenge the top trio and take them all the way to the line.

There are a host of other sprinters on the startlist who will all be vying for victory, including Susanne Andersen (Uno-X Mobility), Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health), Martina Fidanza and Mylene de Zoete (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling), and even cyclocross World Champion Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease A Bike), who is impressing in her first road season.

 

Riders to watch (GC)

5-stars Wiebes, Kopecky

4-stars Kool, Coponni

3-stars Paternoster, Consonni, Pikulik

2-stars Van Empel, Baker

1-star Andersen, Bertizzolo

 

Summary

When – Friday 24 – Sunday 26 May

Where – United Kingdom

What – 3-day stage race

TV Coverage: Eurosport, Discovery+

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