Race Preview: WNT Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta

As the season draws to a close the penultimate round of the UCI Women’s World Tour beckons as the peloton head to Spain.

UCI Women’s World Tour

Having lost the purple jersey in August, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott), regained control at the top of the standings following her prologue win and 6th place overall in the Boels Ladies Tour last week. However, with just two rounds to go things couldn’t be tighter at the top with just a mere 5 points separating van Vleuten from second placed Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv).

Nipping on the heals of the leading Dutch pair is fellow country woman and leader of the young rider’s ranking – Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg). After her second place on GC last week as well as two stage wins, Wiebes not only retook the blue jersey, but also moved up to 3rd place in the overall standings just 170 points behind her compatriots.

With the trio missing from action this weekend there will be no change at the top of affairs, meaning the overall title will be decided in Guangxi next month in what looks set to be an exciting three-way Dutch showdown.

The WNT Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta

The 5th edition of the WNT Madrid Challenge takes on a slightly new format for 2019 as the race continues to evolve and develop. This year the weekend of racing comprises of a 9.3km individual time trial on Saturday, followed by a 98.6 km circuit race on Sunday.

In 2018 we saw the event grow to become two days and with the introduction of a team time trial, the circuit race was much more dynamic and interesting. With the trade team TTT now omitted from major championships the Madrid Challenge organisers have decided to switch the TTT to an individual one in a move that could provide even more unpredictable and animated racing on Sunday.

The weekend kicks off in the Boadilla del Monte area of Madrid and riders face a flat 9.3km TT loop. With several long straights, plenty of roundabouts and tight corners it is a technical course suited to strong time triallists and explosive riders. Expect to see riders like Brennauer (WNT- Rotor), Brand (Sunweb) and Cavalli (Valcar Cylance) battling it out for the win.

The 17 lap circuit race on Sunday in central Madrid remains unchanged from previous editions and races around the iconic Plaza Cibeles, Paseo de la Castellana and Plaza de Colon. The traditional pan flat, 5.8km loop is a hard circuit featuring three tight u-turns at the end of each straight. Although a race for the sprinters the 98.6km are far from processional as the time bonuses offered at the intermediate sprints invokes dynamic racing.

Strategically, the combination of the TT time gaps, the time bonuses, the fight for GC as a well as a the battle for the stage win creates both tactical and exciting racing. Indeed, last year, we saw the first successful break in the event’s history with Georgia Bronzini sprinting to the stage win from a select group of 17 riders. The overall win went to Team Sunweb’s Ellen van Dijk courtesy of the time gap established in the TTT. The Dutch rider and TT specialist would have certainly been eyeing up a back to back win in Spain this weeknd but is unfortunately side-lined with multiple injuries sustained in last week’s Boels Ladies Tour.

Giorgia Bronzini (ITA) of Cylance Pro Cycling wins Stage 2 of the Madrid Challenge – a 100.3 km road race, starting and finishing in Madrid on September 16, 2018, in Spain. (Photo by Balint Hamvas/Velofocus.com)

Although the defending champion and some of the big teams are missing this year the racing still looks set to be fiercely fought, with many of the top sprinters vying to end their season on a high.

Trek-Segafredo have a strong team lead by Letizia Paternoster who has both the sprinting prowess and time trial form to challenge for the overall win. The 20 year old Italian is current u23 European road champion and her 4th place in the Boels Ladies Tour prologue last week shows she comes to Madrid in top shape.

Another very strong team that will be hoping to stamp their authority on this race is the German team – WNT Rotor. They are bringing both TT specialist Lisa Brennauer and sprinter Kirsten Wild so they will no doubt be attempting a clean sweep of victories this weekend. With the added motivation coming from their sponsors, they will definitely be the squad to beat.

Meanwhile, two time Challenge Madrid winner (2016 and 2017), Jolien D’Hoore (Boels Dolmans), will be hoping she can make it a hat-trick of wins in Spain. The Belgian sprinter who has had an injury plagued road season will be hoping the effects of her collarbone break are long gone and that she can finish what has been a difficult year with a win before her focus switches to the track.

Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) will be another sprinter to watch out for on Sunday. The 2018 Commonwealth Games champion has had a quiet season by her high standards so she’ll be hoping she can grab that elusive world tour win this weekend. She recently won a stage of the Giro di Toscana and having been selected for the World Championships it appears she’s in great shape.

Another Italian team who will be looking for the win is the young squad of Valcar Cylance. Balsamo, Cavalli and Consonni (who took her first big win on stage 5 of the Boels Ladies Tour last week) will all be riders to watch.

A very young rider who had an excellent race last week and is one to watch in Madrid is Hitec Product’s Lonneke Uneken. The 19 year old Dutch sprinter achieved three top 10’s in the Boels Ladies Tour last week and she will be hoping she can make her big step up this weekend.

It looks set to be an interesting weekend of racing with the new format potentially inducing a more unpredictable and exciting race.


When: 14th – 15th September


Madrid, Spain


Stage 1: 9.3km TT
Stage 2: 98.6km circuit race

Who to watch:

Brennauer *****

Hosking ****

Wild ****

Paternoster ***

Balsamo ***

Top Outsider:

Lonneke Uneken

TV Coverage:


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