The Women’s WorldTour wheel keeps turning.
Thanks to COVID-19 forcing some races to reschedule, the women’s peloton has a very busy end to the season with a relentless trail of big-ticket events. Just two days after contesting a historic first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes, the women’s peloton heads to Britain for the return of the Women’s Tour.
The winner of the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Lizzie Deignan will be in town to defend her 2019 Women’s Tour title along with a star-studded start list. Deignan romped to a solo victory in France on Saturday after she attacked on the first cobbled sector.
Blighted by the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the six-day race has not been held since 2019. After delaying its appearance this year from its usual spot in June, the race can finally take place in October.
With the Tour de Yorkshire looking like it may never return, and the RideLondon Classique on hold for another year, the Women’s Tour is the only British WorldTour race for the women’s peloton.
Organizers of the race, SweetSpot announced this week that there would be no live TV pictures, despite previously announcing there would be. The race hopes to have them for 2022, but its lack of live images could put its place on the WorldTour calendar at risk.
However, there will be daily highlights available on GCN+ and Eurosport, and VeloNews will be on the ground. So, here is everything you need to know about the Women’s Tour.
Lizzie Deignan takes on world champ Elisa Balsamo and more
Fresh from her astounding win at the first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) will be jetting back to the UK to pin the number one on her back as defending Women’s Tour champion. She won the race for the second time back in 2019, edging out Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) by two seconds.
While Deignan certainly has a chance to take some stage victories, but with the reasonably flat parcours and a time trial in the mix, the race is more likely to go to a TTer with a decent kick in them. Niewiadoma won’t race, despite being on the bill, after she crashed at Paris-Roubaix.
Given the propensity for the Women’s Tour to deliver on the unexpected, such as Niewiadoma’s daylong break in 2017, let’s not count them out entirely just yet.
New world champion Elisa Balsamo will make her debut in the race this year and stands a good chance of claiming her first win in the rainbow bands, and who knows, maybe a strong GC result too.
Trek-Segafredo would have hoped TT world champ Ellen van Dijk could challenge for the win but she’s out with a concussion after a heavy crash at Paris-Roubaix. The team does have Chloe Hosking, who will be looking to mop up a few victories for the team. For Canyon-SRAM, Elise Chabbey has been on good form all season and mixes a fairly fast finish with a big engine.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is another huge favorite for this race, especially after her grinding win at the Simac Ladies Tour earlier this year. She’ll want to put the disappointment of missing out on the podium at Paris-Roubaix Femmes behind her with another GC victory.
Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Marlen Reusser has enjoyed a very fruitful breakthrough season in 2021 and this course will suit her characteristics well. With that in mind, new hour record champion Joss Lowden will also be a strong contender for the GC podium by the end of the week.
Other riders to watch out for throughout the six days of racing are Lorena Wiebes, Sarah Roy, Sheyla Gutierrez, Lotte Kopecky, and Hayley Simmons.
A decisive TT
Unusually for a race in the UK, there will be no steep climbs for the peloton to tackle. In total, there is 4,848m of ascent throughout the six days of racing.
However, the twisting, grippy roads of England will provide plenty of tough terrain to pick out a winner.
The race will depart from Walsall in Oxfordshire, a first-time host of the race, on Monday, October 4, and head to the nearby Banbury via a loop into the Oxfordshire countryside. From there, the race will travel into the West Midlands, North Warwickshire, Suffolk, and Essex, taking in a veritable tour of England’s southeast.
There will be some picturesque views as the race skims along the coast for stages 4, 5, and 6. The riders won’t have much time to peruse the views on offer as they fight it out on the narrow and winding roads.
With a relatively flat parcours, the stage 3 time trial will prove a crucial element for anybody hoping to finish the week with the overall win.
The 16.6km effort that begins and ends in Atherstone is fairly flat, like the rest of the week, but it is very technical in sections and there are only a few short moments where the bigger TT engines will be able to lay down their power.
The overall winner may not be the victor in the TT, but the stage will help define how the final three days are ridden.