Photo: Kyosuke Takei

Preview: Simac Ladies Tour

The peloton heads to the Netherlands for the Simac Ladies Tour and the thirteenth round of the Women’s World Tour series. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 edition was cancelled and there was a concern that the race would again fall to the same fate this year. However,  with a few late changes to the route and additional safety measures, organisers have ensured the largest stage race in the Netherlands will go ahead.

 

The Route

The 23rd edition of the Simac Ladies Tour, formerly known as the Boels Ladies Tour, spans 6 days of racing and covers a total of 578 kilometers on the roads of the Gelderland province.

The tour kicks off with a short and sharp 2.4km prologue in Ede on Tuesday. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar) has won the last 3 prologues of this race, however with the Dutch woman opting for a midseason training camp in Italy, they’ll be a new winner this year. Expect to see the likes of current Dutch TT champion – Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) – as well as Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) and Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing) all vying for the win.

The first road stage is a flat 134.4km from Zwolle to Hardenberg via van der Breggen’s hometown of Hasselt. Whilst it would be befitting for the 31 year old to take a win on home roads before her retirement, stage 1 is likely to end in a sprint finish. Stage 2, however, is one for van der Breggen and will certainly shake up GC.  The 17km individual TT in Gennep is a fast, flat and non-technical out and back route which will favour the power houses and pure time trialists. 

Stage 3 is another one for the sprinters with a flat 125.9km from Stramproy to Weert on the ‘top tube menu.’   The weekend racing has seen a COVID-19 enforced change of plan with the introduction of two kermesse style stages rather than the selective point to point routes that were initially planned. Nonetheless the two days will still bring fast and aggressive racing in what looks set to be an exciting finale in the battle for the overall win.

The penultimate stage is 148.9km starting in Geleen and finishing in Sweikhuizen. The 9 lap race is relatively flat, but with the technical nature of Dutch roads it should encourage attacks. Similarly, the concluding stage is likely to be another exciting one with a 19 lap, 149.4km race in the capital of Gelderland – Arnhem. The flat, 7.9km lap around Sonsbeek park will be fast and although aggressive will most probably culminate in another bunch sprint.

 

GC Riders To Watch

To triumph on the roads of the Gelderland province a rider must possess pure strength, bunch craft and race nous in equal measures. It’s of no surprise, therefore, that riders from the host nation tend to dominate this tour with 7 of the last 10 overall GC victories falling to a Dutch rider. 2021 looks set to be no different, with the main protagonists all hailing from the Netherlands.

As ever, home team, SD Worx, bring a strong squad to the race with the likes of Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering and defending champion – Christine Majerus – leading the line. Van der Breggen has never won her home tour and after coming 2nd in 2017 and 3rd in 2018, she’ll be motivated to finally win the Orange jersey this year.

Compatriot, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), was 2nd overall in 2019 and she’ll hope to go one better this time round.  The 22 year old also took 2 stage victories in that tour and has since consolidated her place as the peloton’s preeminent sprinter. With several wins to her name already this year, including 2 stages at the Giro, she’ll certainly be one to watch over the 6 days of racing.

Fellow Dutch sprinter, Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma), will be looking to replicate the form she displayed between 2009-2012 which saw her clinch the overall victory on 4 consecutive

occasions. With 10 stage wins to her name, Vos, will be looking to add more to this impressive tally.

Another Dutch sprinter who has amassed 10 stage wins in this race is Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling). The 38 year old is retiring next season and she’ll be motivated to perform well in her last Dutch race. With stage 1 passing through her home region she’ll want to bid a ‘victorious fond’ farewell to her supporters with a sprint win.

The Dutch strength continues, with Trek-Segafredo’s Ellen Van Dijk  – another rider who performs well in this race. Winner in 2013, second twice and 3rd four times, the 34 year old from Harmelen, has the strength and know-how to win this race. Just as she did in this year’s Healthy Ageing Tour where she took the overall win, she’ll be looking to impose herself in the GC battle with her time trialling capabilities.

Looking to upset the Dutch dominance will be German national TT and road champion Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling). Winner of this tour in 2015 and with 5 stage victories from this race on her palmares too, Brennauer will certainly be in contention. The former World TT champion will look to make her mark in the Gennep TT and having ridden very strongly this season, particularly in the spring classics, she’ll be a rider to watch.

Fellow German, Lisa Klein (Canyon SRAM Racing) is another rider who performs well on Dutch roads possessing the combination of power and nous needed in these tough races.  Winner of this year’s Baloise Ladies Tour in Belgium, Klein has proved once again that she thrives in Benelux races. She’ll no doubt be hoping she can improve upon her 2019 performance of third overall this week.

Other riders to watch include Liv Racing’s Lotte Kopecky, Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) and Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Marta Bastianelli.

 

Summary

When: 24-29th August

Where: Gelderland, Netherlands

 

What: 6 day stage race.

Prologue Ede, ITT,  2.4km

Stage 1: Zwolle to Hardenberg, 134.4km

Stage 2: Gennep, ITT, 22.2km

Stage 3: Stramproy to Weert, 120.3km

Stage 4: Geleen to Sweikhuizen, 148.9km

Stage 5: Arnhem 149.4km

 

GC riders to watch:

Anna van der Breggen ****

Lorena Wiebes ****

Ellen van Djik ***

Lisa Brennauer ***

Marianne Vos ***

 

Top Outsider: 

Lotte Kopecky 

 

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