Preview: Ceratizit Challenge

The Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta is set to begin on September 7, 2022 for a 5-stage trek around Northern Spain, beginning in Marina de Cudeyo, Cantabria before concluding in Madrid.

 

The Race

The first three years of the Ceratizit Challenge were held in and around Madrid, for a fast, 1-day classic. The American, Shelley Olds was the victor for the inaugural year in 2015 before Jolien D’Hoore would take the reins for following two.

In 2018, race organizers began their plan in expanding the event. They took it one year at a time, first adding a second day remaining in Madrid before eventually adding a time trial in 2019. In 2021, the introduction to the mountains began with the addition of a fourth stage that saw decorated veteran, Annemiek van Vleuten win for Team Movistar.

Celebrating its 8th edition, race organizers have added a 5th stage for 2022. Mimicking La Vuelta, the 5-stage challenge will begin with a team time trial in Cantabria, marking Cantabria’s debut participation in the event and the first time the race has included a team time trial.

 

Stage 1 – Marina de Cudeyo – > Marina de Cudeyo (19.9km)

The Autonomous Community of Cantabria hosts the start this season, making its debut in the Ceratizit Challenge. The race opens with a 19.9km team time trial that will test the teams eyeing the overall GC. The region is no stranger to cycling, having only missed two participations of La Vuelta in 2004 and 2009. Its winding roads have been the location of some of cycling’s most historic moments.

Stage 2 – Colindres – > Conlindres (105.9km)

Stage 2 will remain in the region, departing from Colindres for a 105.9km day facing no less than 5 category climbs, including two category 1 climbs up Campo de Layal and Fuente Las Varas. Expect a GC battle among the favorites with those who lost time on day 1, hoping to minimize their deficit.

 

Stage 3 – Camargo – > Aguilar de Campoo (96.4km)

Following the first two stages in Cantabria, the race heads towards Castilla y León for stage 3, taking place in Camargo only two weeks after the town hosts the start of stage 7 of La Vuelta before finishing in Aguilar de Campoo. After a short 3.8km category 3 climb up Alto de Hijas to warm up the legs, the race will look to the main climb of the day, up Hoces de Bárcena, a 16km climb before a bumpy road into the finish to complete the 96.4km.

 

Stage 4 – Palencia – > Segovia (160km)

Stage 4 and 5 take us back to the early editions, favoring the sprinters in the peloton who have recovered well after facing the mountains of Spain. Stage 4 boasts the longest course of the race at 160km, beginning with a bumpy start before heading on a long, flat terrain with a punchy category 4 climb up to the finish in Segovia

Stage 5 – Madrid – > Madrid (95.6km)

The finale will return to its traditional urban circuit, consisting of 17 circuits before the 2022 winner is crowned to add their names to the list of victors.

 

Riders To Watch

A start list has yet to be released, though defending Champion Annemiek van Vleuten of Team Movistar is expected to return for a hopeful defense of the title. Van Vleuten will be looking to gain time in the mountains to help buffer any time she may lose in the final two stages before the finale. Rival teams including Jumbo-Visma, FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope, EF Education – TIBCO-SVB, and SD Worx are sure to pull out all the stops in preventing a second title for van Vlueten, with final rosters forthcoming.

A total of 22 teams are expected at the start line, including 8 teams who have been awarded wild cards to participate. Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling is one of the 8, with German National Champion, and 2019/2020 Champion Lisa Brennauer expected to return. Spanish sprint specialist Sandra Alonso is also expected to race, hoping to assist Brennauer in fighting for a record third title for the team.

Young talent racing for Trek-Segafredo, Shirin van Anrooij has added the race to her calendar. The Dutch climber has had success in one-day races in the past and recently won the Best Young Rider classification at the Tour de France Femmes last month. The team has yet to confirm any other riders for the event.

Fan favorite and Danish National Road Champion Cecilie Ludwig is fresh off a GC win at the Tour of Scandinavia. She has not yet confirmed her participation, nor has her team FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope hinted at a preliminary roster.

Below is a top 5 list of our star rankings, based on race performances leading up the Ceratizit Challenge. Many riders have chosen to focus instead on the upcoming World Championships in Australia. Thus, this ranking is preliminary at best. We will see in the coming days how the roster takes shape.

 

Summary

When: September 7-11

Where: Cantabria – Madrid, Spain

What: 5-day stage race

 

Star Rankings:

Annemiek van Vleuten *****

Marianne Vos ****

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig ***

Shirin van Anrooij **

 

Top Outsider:

Anouska Koster *

 

Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: RTVE, TV3 Catalunya, TV2, NBCUniversal, Supersport, Zhibo.TV, GCN, CRTVG, DKTV2 Eurosport, ESPN, Eurosport Asia, JSPORTS.

 

Voxwomen works with brands that really do care about the growth and development of women’s cycling. MAAP is one of those brands. Please take a moment to visit them and see how they are progressing women’s cycling apparel and female cycling communities.

 

By Rebecca Reza

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