Watch out for these Women in the Climbing Challenge
Guest post by Max Leonard.
In a few days, the world’s top female cyclists will line up in Oundle for the first stage of the inaugural Women’s Tour. Team Strava will be on the ground bringing you all the action from the race for the yellow, green and all-important orange polka-dot Queen of the Mountains jersey. Here’s our guide for some riders to watch.
Competition among the 16 teams is going to be fierce, but for the overall title there’s only one place to start: Marianne Vos. The multiple Olympic and World track, road and cyclocross champion is perhaps the most successful cyclist ever. She has strong form in stage racing – having previously won the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Holland Ladies’ Tour – and will doubtless be keen to stamp her dominance on the new race. Although she’s pinning the number one to her race jersey, when she helped team-mate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot to win the Flèche Wallonne Femmes a few weeks ago, she showed that she’s also a team player, and her Rabo Liv squad is the world’s number one outfit right now.
Current individual world number one, Emma Johannson (Orica AIS), is also bound to be gunning for the overall, and another strong contender is Boels Dolmans’ Lizzie Armitstead. The British rider has put injury troubles behind her to have a fantastic season so far, and she is currently leading the UCI World Cup rankings.
Lizzie will be joined at the Women’s Tour by a wealth of homegrown talent. No fewer than 21 of the 96 riders are British (in addition to the trade teams, the UK, like the Netherlands and Switzerland, is sending a national development squad), and there’s no doubt the British girls will be gunning for home-ground glory.
Olympic gold medallists in the velodrome Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott all ride for Wiggle Honda, and Trott’s older sister Emma is riding in support of Lizzie Armitstead. You can follow Dani King, the track queen, on Strava as she works with her team-mates.
Lucy Garner (Team GB), a double junior World road race champion, is also one to watch for a stage win. As well as Hannah Barnes, the UK national criterium champion. She opened her season racing for the American UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team with a sprint win in Argentina’s Tour de San Luis and is a good bet to take stage one, which finishes in her native Northamptonshire.
Meanwhile, her team-mate Sharon Laws will be one of the contenders to take the orange polka-dot jersey in the Strava Queen of the Mountains competition.
Each Women’s Tour stage will have two classified climbs where the riders will battle it out for QOM points. In stages three and five, which take place in the notoriously flat East Anglian region of England, the climbs are fairly gentle – Holbrook in stage three actually starts one metre below sea level – but in the classically undulating terrain traversed by the other stages, any of the QOM classified segments have the potential to blow the race apart.
The Netherlands squad’s Amy Pieters is also a polka-dot contender, while Lotto Belisol’s experienced climber Emma Pooley and the Tour of Flanders-winning Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) should also be eyeing the jersey. But only time will tell, it could be that the unstoppable talents of Marianne Vos or Lizzie Armitstead.
We await the start, at 11am on Wednesday, 7 May, with bated breath.