Miron Ronde van Drenthe 2024 Preview

The 17th edition of the Ronde Van Drenthe takes place on Sunday 10th March in the Netherlands. It marks the sixth round of the 2024 Women’s World Tour and by now, the top teams have a few races under their belts, and most of the main contenders have had a chance to size one another up.

While the first two one-day Classics of the spring have seen the riders tackle the cobbles and gravel of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche, the Ronde van Drenthe shifts to the roads of the north of the Netherlands, and the punchy ascent of the VAM-berg, though despite the climb, it’s a race that ordinarily ends in a bunch sprint.

The race’s history of fast finishes is in evidence as you cast your eye down the list of names of previous winners. The past three editions have been won by Lorena Wiebes, and she will take to the start line looking to make it four in a row. In doing so, she would overtake Marianne Vos to become the rider to have won the most times at the race. However, with changes to the course, and a stacked field, it may not be as straightforward a prospect for Wiebes in 2024, as it has been in previous years.

 

The Route – Beilen – VAM-berg (158km)

The Drenthe province of the Netherlands plays host to the women’s edition of this race, which has been sanctioned by the WWT since its first edition in 2016.

With new start and finish locations, the 2024 edition of the Ronde van Drenthe increases slightly in length from previous years, covering a total distance of 158km. It begins in Beilen and follows a slightly altered route through the province, covering a series of cobbled sectors and finishing on the VAM-berg. This is a significant change for 2024; it means that the women tackle the berg six times instead of five, and it’s a shift which could see a change in tactics and will certainly ensure that a bunch gallop to the line is far from a certainty.

The VAM-berg itself is a manmade climb, built atop a landfill site. Although it is just 500m in length and has an average gradient of 4.2%, it’s an uneven climb with pitches of up to 20% to really test the legs.

In addition to lumpy terrain and cobbles, the peloton may well have difficult conditions to contend with, and with several open sections where they will have to pay close attention to wind direction and stay alert to potential echelons.

 

Riders to Watch

So far this season, we have been denied the opportunity to see the very best of the women’s peloton go head-to-head in a sprint. Charlotte Kool was absent from the UAE Tour due to illness, and Elisa Balsamo only began her season at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, so the Ronde van Drenthe offers the first opportunity for the fastest women on two wheels to test their mettle head-to-head – assuming it comes down to a sprint, which given the course changes is absolutely not guaranteed

A sprint finish is a thrilling prospect, though. First up, the three-time winner and defending champion Lorena Wiebes (Team SD Worx-ProTime), who proved she was very much up to speed in the UAE, winning two stages, and both possible opportunities to sprint. She will be supported as always by an SD Worx team filled with hitters, including European champion Mischa Bredewold who won on the VAM-berg back in September, and offers a great alternative for SD Worx should the race break up.

Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) had a difficult 2023, undergoing facial surgery following a crash at RideLondon in May, so she will be boosted by her performance in Valenciana in February, during which she too won two stages. Her primary support comes from Clara Copponi who will offer a second sprint option for the team, who have stacked their side with sprinters and rouleurs and will be looking to control for a fast finish.

Charlotte Kool is the dark horse among the fast women currently, as she has yet to begin her season. While it could be assumed she may take time to reach her best form, Wiebes and Balsamo will be watching her closely, as she is fully capable of beating them both on her day. Team dsm-firmenich PostNL back her up with one of the most well-drilled lead-out trains in the women’s peloton, who will be hoping to launch Kool at the perfect moment.

Of the other teams at the race, UAE Team ADQ have arguably the best set of sprinters in their squad. They bring options including Chiara Consonni, who pushed Wiebes close in the UAE, Eleonora Gasparrini and Sofia Bertizzollo. All three Italian women are fast at the finish and could disrupt the script. Uno-X Mobility also bring a team stacked with sprinters, including Anniina Ahtosalo, Maria Giulia Confalonieri, and former winner Amalie Dideriksen. Human Powered Health will count on Daria Pikulik to deliver victory, should the likely bunch sprint transpire.

Having said that, with a new-look finish on the VAM-berg and a number of teams bringing attacking riders rather than pure sprinters, there’s an outside chance the race final may not even come down to a bunch sprint. Teams such as Canyon//SRAM, FDJ-SUEZ and Fenix-Deceuninck may be interested in launching long-range breakaway attempts, and this season has already seen successful escapes on otherwise nailed-on bunch sprint finishes, for example in the final stage of the UAE Women’s Tour. Liv Jayco Alula also have a range of options with sprinters and punchier riders.

As the 2023 European championships showed, a finish on the VAM-berg can lead to unexpected outcomes, and powerful breakaway groups may upset the balance of power. It will be down to the sprint teams to control the race to bring about a bunch sprint finish, but with SD Worx Protime and Lidl-Trek with the resources to go for such an outcome, it’s still highly likely.

 

Riders to watch

5-stars Wiebes, Balsamo

4-stars Kool, Bredewold, Guazzini

3-stars Consonni, Baker, C.Schweinberger

2-stars D Pikulik, Copponi, Manly

1-star Ahtosalo, A Fidanza, Confalonieri

 

Summary

When – Sunday 10 March 2024

Where – The Netherlands

What – One-day race

TV Coverage: Discovery+, Eurosport

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