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After a busy spring packed with one-day racing, the peloton changes gears.
Due to COVID-19 disruptions, the women’s calendar has been thrown out of kilter, with just one stage race so far since the season began in February.
That changes with four key stage races filling the cycling landscape during the next few weeks, beginning Friday with the Festival Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg. Other stage races on the horizon include Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Vuelta a Burgos Feminas and the International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen.
U.S. national champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) will be among the contenders this weekend after a strong classics campaign that saw her win Brabantse Pijl. Winder was forced to miss Liège-Bastogne-Liège after she was considered a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Previous winners of the Festival Elsy Jacobs include Anna van der Breggen, Kasia Niewiadoma and Marianne Vos.
Not held last season due to the pandemic, it is back for 2021. If you haven’t watched it before than I urge you to rectify that this year, you won’t regret it.
“The distances are relatively short on all three days, but the past has shown that the Festival Elsy Jacobs, with the local laps, can be intense. Short but powerful, shall we say,” Liv Racing rider Jeanne Korevaar said of the race.
A Luxembourg legend
The parcours lends itself to the fast finishers in the bunch, but riders also need to be handy against the clock if they want to stay in contention. Its short stages provide plenty of action and little room for riders to make mistakes, and the race will be decided by a matter of seconds.
Even better, all three stages will be broadcast live on the race’s website.
Initially a single-day event, it was boosted to a stage race in 2012. While it might not get the same recognition as the classics, this three-day Luxembourg race has grown to be one of the most popular on the cycling calendar.
It is named for all-round Luxembourg cycling legend Elsy Jacobs, an hour-record holder, the first women’s road race world champion, and a 15-time national road race champion who dominated from the 1950s into the 1970s.
This year’s course gets going with a now-traditional evening prologue Friday. It may just be 2.2km but the opening time trial begins with a climb that boasts a 13-percent gradient. A short descent is followed by another climb to the line.
Stage 1 features a 125km hilly circuit race around Steinfort with an uphill slog to the line. The overall classification will then be decided with a fast and furious 105km lumpy final stage in Garnich, the hometown of Jacobs.
Alongside Winder, her Trek-Segafredo teammate and former world champion Amalie Dideriksen will be a rider to watch over the weekend. SD Worx will, of course, have a formidable team with Christine Majerus and Elena Cecchini both in action.
Also look out for Canadian rider Leah Kirchmann and her DSM teammate Lorena Wiebes, Marta Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana), Sofia Bertizzolo (Liv Racing), Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel & Service), Emma Norsgaard and Leah Thomas (Movistar), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) and Emilie Moberg (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur) as stage winners and potential GC contenders.
#FElsy "I have watched this race in previous editions and know that the GC battle is usually quite tight and fiercely contested due small time gaps in the prologue, as well as many possible tactics and time bonuses during the stages," Ella Harris ready for @Festival_Elsy tomorrow pic.twitter.com/eIrEb4d0ZP
— CANYON//SRAM Racing (@WMNcycling) April 29, 2021