The dust has settled on the Tour de France Femmes and the World Championships, but it’s far from the end of the season as far as the Women’s World Tour is concerned, and the next instalment of top level racing sees a visit to Denmark and Norway for the second edition of the Tour of Scandinavia, otherwise known as the Battle of the North.
The race takes place from Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th August and with Sweden unfortunately out of the picture for this year’s race, hosting duties are split between Norway and Denmark.
Stage 1 – Wednesday 23rd August – Mysen – Halden (124.5km, Flat)
Beginning in Norway, the first stage of this year’s race features an undulating parcours which will suit the sprinters and puncheurs. With three classified climbs, two of them coming very late in the route, there are chances to attack, and the most likely outcome is a late breakaway winner, or a bunch sprint, should the peloton work well enough together to keep the bunch intact all the way to the finish line.
Stage 2 – Thursday 24th August – Vikersund – Norefjell (157.6km, Mountain)
The second stage in Norway is a beast. A significant distance at almost 160km, and with a major climb to contend with at the finale, it’s the stage that last year’s winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig won solo, and used to launch her successful GC attack. This year’s stage is slightly longer but should still offer opportunities for the climbers to excel, and will set up the GC for the days to come.
Stage 3 – Friday 25th August – Kongsberg – Larvik (134.9km, Mountains)
Another day with significant elevation, stage 3 is a slightly shorter test, and though there are two tough categorised climbs on route, there is around 40km after the climbing has been completed for the riders who have been distanced to fight their way back to the bunch and try to avoid losing time. That being said, it’s the perfect stage for a breakaway win, with the climbs likely to prove excellent launchpads for breaking up the peloton and going for glory at the finish in Larvik, which features a final test of a 1.4km climb up to the line.
Stage 4 – Saturday 26th August – Herning – Herning (16.5km, Individual Time Trial)
Transferring to Denmark for the final two stages, the riders will experience a contrast in landscape and parcours as they take on stage 4. The first of the two Danish stages is an individual time trial. 16.5km against the clock over almost completely flat terrain, the specialists will have the chance to shine on a course that’s probably not long enough to have a major impact on the overall standings.
Stage 5 – Sunday 27th August – Middelfart – Haderslev (143.7km, Flat)
The final stage of the Battle of the North is relatively long, but with just one categorised climb it’s not going to trouble the bunch too much, and is likely to come down to a bunch sprint for the line.
The race finishes with three laps of a 7.5km circuit in Haderslev. Though it looks to be a day for the fast women, it’s not an easy finale, with an 800m drag up to the line set to test the legs of the sprinters and potentially provide an opportunity for the punchier among them.
Riders to Watch
Despite the rigours of the past few weeks for the women’s peloton, a full complement of World Tour teams will line up at the start of the Tour of Scandinavia, with a host of big names ready to do battle in the north. Annemiek van Vleuten of Movistar has confirmed this will be the penultimate race of her career and her final race on foreign soil, as she closes out her season at home with the Simac Ladies Tour. She will hope to go out on a high, and though her form hasn’t been as high as it was earlier in the season, never write off the former World Champion.
Defending champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ SUEZ) will aim to retain her title on home soil, and by contrast with Van Vleuten her form seems to be peaking at just the right time. She was third in the World Championship road race and will hope to put on a show for the home crowds when the race arrives in Denmark.
Riders to watch (GC)
5-stars Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
4-stars Annemiek van Vleuten
When – Wednesday 23rd – Sunday 27th August
Where – Denmark, Norway
What – 5-day stage race