The 8th edition of the women’s Ronde van Drenthe takes place on Saturday, March 11 with the traditional start in Emmen, and finishing in Hoogeveen to cover a distance of 152.7km. Last season, Lorena Weibes won the classic racing for Team DSM, outsprinting Italian National Road Champion Elisa Balsamo, and Weibe’s current teammate at SD Worx, Lotte Kopeky, who finished third.
Despite being a one-day race, there are an astonishing 8 jerseys on tap for the riders to fight for. First is the overall winner, then a sprint leader, best young rider, VAM mountain leader, best Dutch rider, most active (aggressive) rider, Wall of Emmen prize, and a cobblestone classification.
Like many of the spring classics, the Ronde van Drenthe is famous for its cobblestones sections. As noted, the big change to the course for this 8th edition is the Wall of Emmen that is making its debut. Organizers included the climb to comply with a nature permit needed for the race. The climb was opened in 2021, taking over the VAM-berg in becoming the highest point in Drenthe at 48 meters compared to the VAM-berg that sits close to 37 meters. The max gradient of the Wall of Emmen is 18%, while the Vam-berg has pitches at 21%.
The Wall of Emmen will be the first obstacle the peloton will face before hitting the first of 11 cobblestone sections immediately after. Next on the menu will be the VAM-berg, with the traditional three ascents up the climb before the rider’s blast to the finish. Last year, the climb alone did not prove difficult enough to break up the bunch, ending in a sprint. Time will tell if the additions of the Wall of Emmen will add the challenge needed to allow a breakaway to escape.
Riders to Watch
Lorena Weibes will be going for her third straight win at Ronde van Drenthe next week. Weibes moved to SD Worx at the end of last season, transferring from Team DSM. Her form is right on point, starting her season finishing second on stage 1 at the inaugural UAE Tour Women, following that with a win on stage 2. Questions had emerged after the move to SD Worx, how the team would balance having two star sprinters on the squad, with Lotte Kopecky. The duo answered with a 1-2 finish at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with Kopecky taking the win last week. Weibes would win Omloop van het Hageland (a UCI 1.1 race) 24 hours later.
Hoping to spoil Team SD Worx plans will be Trek-Segafredo with Elisa Balsamo who took second last season. Her compatriot, Elisa Longo Borghini has been forced to skip Strade Bianche due to illness and has not yet announced her expected return to racing.
The start list has yet to be released, with many riders focused on Strade Bianche this weekend. Movistar Team’s star, Annemiek van Vleuten will skip the race to focus on other objectives. UAE Team ADQ’s Marta Bastianelli was 5th in 2022 and is on form for the Classics, winning Le Samyn des Dames (a UCI 1.1 race) last week. She was third behind the SD Worx duo at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and will be one to look out for as the UAE Team continue to forge their path in their inaugural season.
The women will take the start at 13:00 local time.
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport 2, NOS, RTV Drenthe, NEP, Heli Holland
When: Saturday, 11 March
Where: Drenthe, Netherlands
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Lorena Weibes *****
Lotte Kopecky ****
Marta Bastianelli ***
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By Rebecca Reza