Stage racing continues in the UK with the Women’s Tour playing host to the fourteenth round of the Women’s World Tour series.
After a Covid enforced end-of-season edition last October, the Women’s Tour has returned to its customary pre-nationals June slot this year. Starting in Colchester on Monday 6th and finishing in Oxford on Saturday 11th, the 6 days of racing looks set to provide some exciting action.
Stage 1 – Colchester -> Bury St Edmunds (141.8km)
The 8th edition of the race gets underway with a relatively long and rolling opening stage from Colchester to Bury St Edmunds. The undulating terrain and the two third category climbs may encourage some attacks, but it is likely that the GC teams will look to marshal proceedings.
Expect to see a large bunch kick with the peloton’s fast-finishing rouleurs vying for the stage honours and a chance to wear the Blue leader’s jersey.
Stage 2 – Harlow (91.8km)
Stage 2, starting and finishing in Harlow, is the shortest of the six days of racing but it could prove a thrilling one as opportunists may look to capitalise on its backloaded profile.
The final 20km run into Harlow serves up a duo of third category climbs – Toot Hill and Epping – as well as a succession of unclassified ‘lumps’ which should induce some dynamic and aggressive action.
Stage 3 – Tewkesbury -> Gloucester (107.9km)
Leaving stage 3’s starting town of Tewkesbury the peloton head into the Forest of Dean for the first of three important stages in the GC battle.
Whilst there’s no mountains to contend with, the region’s topography – short, stinging climbs and narrow lines – will make for a demanding day. It’s not a stage where the GC will be won, but it could be lost.
Stage 4 – Wrexham -> Welshpool (144.7km)
Thursday and stage 4 is another big day as the peloton heads to Wales, where 2,108m of climbing awaits.
The jagged, sawtooth-esque profile will make for a day of attrition and one where we can expect to see the GC contenders trading their first heavy blows. The repetitive nature of the tough climbs combined with the exposed roads could see some sizable time gaps forming in the Blue jersey battle.
Stage 5 – Pembrey CP -> The Black Mountain (106.6km)
Friday’s Queen stage is likely to be the decisive day in this year’s tour. The unrelenting stage in Wales will see the peloton tackle three classified climbs as well as a summit finish atop the Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons.
The aptly ominously named Black Mountain is a gruelling climb. At 7.2 km in length with an average gradient of 5.3% (and sections topping out at 21%) its punishing slopes will likely decide the overall winner of the Women’s Tour.
Stage 6 – Chipping Norton -> Oxford (142.9km)
The sixth and concluding day of racing takes the peloton to the Cotswolds for an undulating and tricky final stage.
The terrain provides plenty of opportunities for attacks and with the narrow, twisting countryside lanes it may be a day for a successful break.
Riders To Watch
The tough Welsh double-header is likely to shape the outcome of this year’s Women’s Tour so we can expect to see the climbers vying for the overall win.
Defending champion Demi Vollering (SD-Worx) will be looking to retain her title next week. After her imperious display at Itzulia (where she took a clean sweep of victories) and her win on the Lagunas de Neila stage in Burgos, the 25 year old has shown she is climbing incredibly well. Supported by the likes of Anna Shackley and Niamh Fisher-Black, SD Worx will have plenty of climbing power to dominate the Welsh stages which is likely to prove key in the battle for Blue.
GC winner of the Vuelta a Burgos a fortnight ago, Juliette Labous (Team DSM), will be another rider to watch. The 23 year old is a strong climber who thrives on tough parcours and after coming second last October, the French woman will be motivated to go one better this year. Teammates Pfeiffer Georgi and Liane Lippert will also be riders to watch, particularly on stages that offer a chance of breakaway success like day two and six.
Ardennes stand out – Marta Cavalli (FDJ) – will also pose a threat as she looks to continue her excellent run of results. After her win at Amstel Gold and La Flèche Wallonne, the 24 year old Italian will look to add a third World Tour victory to her 2022 tally. Teammates Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Brodie Chapman will also be riders to look out for and they provide several tactical cards for FDJ to play particularly when the race heads into Wales.
Leading the line for Team BikeExchange Jayco is likely to be Kristen Faulkner, who, after a difficult spring, is getting back to her best shape. Faulkner was third at the Itzulia a few weeks ago and will look to build on that strong result. Teammate Amanda Spratt will also be in contention for GC placings and potentially a stage win atop the Black Mountain.
Trek Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini will be another climber to watch. The double Italian national champion took a fine victory at Paris Roubaix earlier in the year and thrives in races of attrition. Teammate and current World Champion, Elisa Balsamo, has also had a fantastic season to date with a trio of WT wins. 2nd last week in the RideLondon Classique she’ll be a rider to watch in the opening two stages when the rouleurs are at the head of affairs.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon Sram) is a rider with a great track record in the Women’s Tour with two stage wins to her name as well as the overall GC victory in 2017. She’ll be looking to continue her trend of top performances on British roads and will undoubtedly be focusing on the two Welsh stages. If the Polish rider can capitalise on her climbing prowess when the road tilts upwards, she’ll have a great chance of clinching the Blue jersey.
Other riders to watch include the British duo of Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) and Joss Lowden (Uno-X Pro) as well as Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ).
When: 6th-11th June
Where: United Kingdom
What: 6 day stage race
Riders to watch:
Demi Vollering ****
Juliette Labous ***
Kasia Niewiadoma ***
Marta Cavalli ***
Elisa Longo Borghini ***
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