New races are the flavor for the women’s peloton in 2022 and another fresh challenge looms into view this week with the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia starting August 9.
The six-day race is the result of a project launched by the organizers of the Ladies Tour of Norway and sees the popular Norwegian loop replaced with this new multi-country event. Starting in Denmark, the race will head through Sweden for stage 2 before a four-day finale in Norway.
It will feature stars such as Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope), Demi Vollering (SD Worx), and Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo). North American representation comes in the form of Megan Jastrab and Leah Kirchmann (Team DSM), Alison Jackson (Liv Racing-Xstra), and Anna Gabrialle Traxler (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss).
The event has undergone a few changes since it was first announced back in 2019. It was originally planned to be a 10-day affair for 2021 in partnership with the organizer of the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden races involved.
However, the Swedish group pulled out as it wanted to maintain its two single-day events, which took place at the weekend, and the project was delayed. After spending several months amending its plans, a reformatted race was announced for 2022.
Due to the Vårgårda WestSweden races maintaining their August spot in the calendar, there was no longer space for a 10-day race in the calendar and it was reduced to just six days. The number of days spent in Sweden and Denmark had to be cut down as a result, but the organizer was still keen to keep the pan-Scandinavian feel.
The race’s name has also changed since the project was unveiled three years ago. Originally named the ‘Battle of the North’ the organizer decided to alter it in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. The moniker still remains as a subhead with the main race name becoming the Tour of Scandinavia.
The route: The Norefjell to decide the winner
Copenhagen has seen some great cycling moments this season with the start of the men’s Tour de France rolling out from the city last month and the hero’s welcome for Jonas Vingegaard after he won the French grand tour.
The women’s peloton will hopefully get a taste of the passion of the Danish fans on the opening stage from the country’s capital to Halsingør. The stage will set off from the stunning backdrop of the Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) in the center of the city and will head north before finishing on the north coast of Denmark’s Zeeland island.
The stage features two short, classified climbs that could form the basis of an attack but they’re not so difficult that the sprinters in the pack will be irretrievably distanced. Much of the Tour of Scandinavia’s parcours is defined by rolling terrain with short and sharp climbs that will see the sprinters and puncheurs duking it out for the stage wins.
Despite the flatter terrain, the stages won’t be simple, and the length of each day will play a factor as the race carries on. The average stage length is 136.6km with two stages, the first and the last, going over the 150km mark.
In 2021, the Ladies Tour of Norway saw several surprise breakaway wins so sprint finishes are not a guarantee.
The penultimate stage from Vikersund to the summit finish on Norefjell will be the day that will likely define the GC fight. The 11.6km climb to the finish made its debut at the Ladies Tour of Norway last season.
It is not the big climbs that we saw in France and Italy last week, but the ascent is sufficient to show off the peloton’s best climbing talent. Annemiek van Vleuten dropped the likes of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Mavi García to take the win on the climb last year.
The favorites: Vollering and Uttrup Ludwig lead the way
Following her impressive second place overall at the Tour de France Femmes, Vollering will be the big favorite for the overall victory at the Tour of Scandinavia. The SD Worx rider returned to racing action act the Vårgårda WestSweden at the weekend, helping her team to second in the team time trial while having a fairly quiet performance in the road race.
She should still have much of her Tour form at her disposal and will be hard to keep up with on the Norefjell climb. Another rider to watch out for on the SD Worx squad will be Blanka Vas, who has been enjoying a strong debut full season with the team.
With a start in her home country, and after a huge stage victory at the Tour Femmes, Danish champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig will be keen to keep the success going. Her explosive style will be well suited to the Tour of Scandinavia course, and she will be the biggest threat to Vollering for the overall title.
Lucinda Brand is not as strong a climber as the likes of Uttrup Ludwig and Vollering, but she is still a danger in the GC fight. Underestimate the Trek-Segafredo rider at your peril. Her teammate Shirin van Anrooij will also be interesting to watch after her strong ride at the Tour this summer.
While Movistar doesn’t have Van Vleuten in Scandinavia, it still brings the likes of Sarah Gigante and Sara Martín, who should be in the mix in the overall contest. Meanwhile, Tamara Dronova (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss), Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura), Liane Lippert (Team DSM), and Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) will be a few more to keep an eye on.
In terms of stage victories, Vos will be the headline name but there are plenty of strong riders coming to the race in the hunt for victories. Trek-Segafredo brings Amalie Dideriksen and Chloe Hosking as sprint options, while SD Worx has Elena Cecchini and BikeExchange-Jayco takes Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Alex Manly.
Mari Hole Mohr (Team Coop-Hitec Products) comes into the race off the back of a breakthrough win at the Tour of Uppsala. Meanwhile, Susanne Anderson will be hoping to give home team Uno-X a big win.