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Big races are coming thick and fast for the women’s peloton and next up is the six-day Simac Ladies Tour.
Now into its 23rd edition, it is one of the longest established races on the calendar and offers aggressive racing over lumpy terrain. It has gone under many different names over the years with IT company Simac coming in as the title sponsor last season.
Despite the country dominating the peloton, the six-day race is the only WorldTour stage race in the Netherlands with the one-day Amstel Gold Race and Ronde van Drenthe the two other top-tier races on Dutch soil.
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Unsurprisingly, it’s a race that the home nation has dominated with 14 of the 22 editions won by a Dutch rider. Marianne Vos, who else, has the absolute record for overall titles with four GC victories.
Last year saw Chantal van den Broek-Blaak win the race for the second time after grabbing the overall lead from her soon-to-be teammate Marlen Reusser with an attack on the lumpy and technical stage 4.
With often narrow and twisting roads to contend with, stage winners and overall victors need to be alert at all times. Positioning in this race is as key as form.
After it featured two time trials in last year’s race, this season will see just one test against the clock. It will likely open up the GC a little bit, but the overall winner will need to have a strong TT in her arsenal if she’s to win.
The race will start with a technical circuit race around Lelystad, which is just west of Amsterdam. The riders will take on just under 2.5 laps of the 60.4km circuit with the stage topping out at 141.2km.
It may be one of the only days of racing that takes place almost entirely below sea level, though it still has a classified climb. The stage should end with a bunch sprint, but anything could happen as the peloton sweeps its way around the plentiful bends that litter the course.
Moving south from Lelystad, stage 2 will start and finish in Ede and takes the riders on another circuit course. At 40km, it is a shorter circuit than what was on offer on day one and it will take the riders on a winding route north before returning to Ede. It is another technical finale that should conclude with a sprint finish.
Stage 3 sees the race skirting the border with Germany as it heads further south to Gennep. Another fast and furious circuit race is on offer with two classified climbs along the way. The stage will be run over two laps of a bigger 62.7km course before it finishes with one loop around a shorter 16.3km circuit.
The final days of the race see some far more undulating roads, starting with stage 4. Another circuit lies before the riders, but with a small difference. The peloton will ride a short distance out of Landgraaf before riding three loops of the 41.6km circuit and then returning back to where it started. Four classified climbs litter the route, providing plenty of opportunities to launch an attack off the front of the group.
Stage 5 features the only time trial of the whole race. The 17.8km route takes the riders from Sittard-Geleen to Beekdaelen. Last year’s primary TT offering was an out-and-back route that suited the power riders, but this one could hardly be different. It twists and turns itself around the area with hardly a straight section of road for the TT purists to really get into a groove.
The race closes out with possibly its toughest stage, which takes place around Arnhem. Once again, the riders will have to tackle some technical circuits that could see the bunch split up. It begins with five laps of an 8km circuit before switching over to complete seven laps of a 14km loop.
To finish, the riders will come back to the shorter circuit for one final lap before the rush to the line. At 15.3km, it is the longest stage of the race and its relentless up and down will make for a difficult day out. If the gaps are still close after the time trial, we can expect a lot of attacking.
With so many sprint-style stages, the time trial will surely have a defining role to play in the overall classification so anyone looking to take away the title will need a good TT under them. Defending champion Van den Broek-Blaak will be a favorite again with a good engine that will keep her close in the TT and an aggressive style of racing to help her make up any time lost.
Time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk will fancy her chances after finishing third overall last year. She lost time in some of the road stages last year, but she’s in good form and has a stage race win under her belt already at the Baloise Ladies Tour. Her teammate Audrey Cordon-Ragot could be another option, depending on how the road stages play out.
Jumbo-Visma’s Riejanne Markus will be a serious threat, too, and she’s due a stage race win soon. She finished second to Ellen van Dijk at the Bloeizone Fryslan Tour earlier this year and reached the podium in the TT at the European Championships. Anna Henderson is also a strong GC option for the team.
The sprints will be hotly contested with a host of fast talent on the start line. Recently crowned European champion Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) is the standout rider in the sprint contest with more wins than anyone else this season.
She will face tough competition from Lonneka Uneken (SD Worx), Chloe Hosking and Amalie Dideriksen (Trek-Segafredo0, Clara Copponi and Emilia Fahlin (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope), Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM), Chiara Consonni (Valcar-Travel & Service), Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra), Georgia Baker and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Julie De Wilde (Plantur-Pura).