A new year of racing is about to begin and we are glad you’ve joined us to find out what’s ahead in this very first what’s on from The Women’s Race.
January is the month when road cycling migrates to Australia, leaving the focus in Europe squarely on the mud, sand and ice of the cyclocross. The competition in the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup series peaks as the riders battle to nail down that all important form ahead of the World Championships.
On the other side of the world, where the only ice you’ll find is being stuffed in stockings to cool the sweltering riders, it is a month of riding the sometimes melting tarmac during the scorching Australian summer of racing. The initial professional international race of the year will be at the ProSeries ranked four-day Santos Women’s Tour. First, though, the home country riders battle it out at the Australian National Road Championships to decide who will be wearing the green and gold for the next 12 months.
We’ll get to all the details shortly, but first lets catch up on the month that has been.
December is always a quiet month in the world of road racing, with a lull in the competition and a well-earned off season for much of the peloton. In fact some of the biggest bits of news weren’t about things that happened, but about the things that won’t.
First there was word from the queen of cross-discipline cycling, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, that we shouldn’t expect to see her racing on the road anytime soon. The French rider and current world cross country mountain bike champion told Velonews she’s choosing to drop her least favourite discipline and focus on cyclocross and mountain biking. Then it emerged that the world’s number one ranked rider Lorena Wiebes may also be absent from the peloton if she can’t resolve a contract dispute with her team Parkhotel Valkenburg, who she wants to leave so she can join a top-tier squad.
In complete contrast, it was a non-stop month for cyclocross. For one, the United States got a new women’s national champion for the first time in 15 years, with Katie Compton’s phenomenal run in the stars and stripes coming to an end. It was a gutsy performance from 22-year-old Clara Honsinger to take the win and bring to the fore a new generation of riders. Then she topped it off by jetting off to Europe and finishing sixth in her new stars and stripes jersey on a brutally technical and muddy course at the Namur World Cup. Honsinger came across the line ahead of her two key National Championship rivals Compton and Rebecca Fahringer.
It was definitely an impressive performance from the three Americans on December 22 at Namur as they capitalised on that National Championships form to all fly in and ride into the top-ten of a European World Cup. However, the unstoppable Dutch riders weren’t going to lose their grip on the podium. In the sixth round of the World Cup series, Lucinda Brand held off compatriots Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Annemarie Worst to take the win on the treacherous mud and rain soaked course.
Four days later at the Zolder World Cup the podium was a carbon copy of Namur, but the race itself couldn’t have been more different. The fast hard-packed course was the first World Cup of the season where we saw Marianne Vos start to assert herself at the front of the field. The seven-time world cyclocross champion launched from her third row start position straight to second place and was a constant presence at the front of the field during the race. She ended up finishing fourth after things didn’t go quite to plan in the final corners. Still it is a performance that will leave her rivals in no doubt that, despite a late start to the season again this year, there’ll be no budging her from the favourites list come World Championships time.
There was also a new series leader after Zolder with Alvarado’s fifth World Cup podium finish this season moving her a single point ahead of Katerina Nash.
January 11 to 12 – Luxembourg, Czech, Spanish, British, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Austrian, Portuguese, French, Swedish, German, Italian, Hungarian, Swiss, Danish, Croatian and Irish National Championships.
January 19 – Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup Nommay
January 26 – Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup Hoogerheide
The cyclocross season continues to gain momentum in January, with a spate of national championships to be decided in Europe and the final two rounds of the Telenet UCI World Cup. The first is Nommay, France on Sunday January 2, then there is the series final at Hoogerheide, where the already formidable troop of Dutch riders will have home territory advantage.
The race for the series win will also be on. It is particularly tight at the top with Czech rider Katrina Nash sandwiched between the Dutch duo of Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Annemarie Worst. Alvarado has 360 points, and there is a gap of just 15 separating the top three.
The other recurring battle we are likely to see will be among the key World Championship contenders of the past three years, Lucinda Brand, Marianne Vos and three-time winner Sanne Cant. They’ll all be trying to fine tune their form and gain the mental and physical advantage they need to secure the rainbow bands in 2020. (Editors note: Vos had to take herself out of the running mid-month, finishing her season early due to a medical issue)
How to follow the cyclocross action
Red Bull TV have been showing the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup this season, and a big bonus of this coverage is the commentary from the eloquent and well informed Helen Wyman. Unfortunately a number of places around the world are geo-blocked, including North America. Still there you can often find coverage of the World Cups, and a number of other key cyclocross races on Flobikes. The GCN Racing YouTube channel is also another source that has regularly been delivering coverage of key cyclocross races.
January 12 – Australia’s 2020 Federation University Road National Championships, U23/Elite Women road race
January 16 to 19 – Santos Women’s Tour (2.Pro)
January 30 – Race Torquay (1.1)
At Australia’s Road National Championships, it always feels a little bit like it’s Mitchelton-Scott against the rest of the peloton. The nation’s only top-level UCI women’s team certainly has strength in numbers and quality aplenty, with their trump card being two-time Australian champion and silver and bronze medallist at Road Worlds, Amanda Spratt. Still the hilly circuit at the Federation University Road National Championships and the peloton dynamics can easily conspire to rip to shreds what looks like an unbeatable advantage on paper.
That’s exactly what happened the past two years, with riders straight from the domestic ranks snatching victory. Last year, in particular, was one for the history books when the then 18 year-old Sarah Gigante left the crowd and competition awestruck after she managed to beat a field of seasoned pros. This year Gigante will again be out there on the Buninyong circuit in country Victoria trying to keep those green and gold stripes on her back. Having just signed with US-based Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, she’ll be joining forces with Shannon Malseed, who won in 2018. (Editors note: Sadly Malseed had a nasty accident at the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits so Gigante will now be flying solo.)
They are also not the only powerful new duo in contention. Brodie Chapman has joined Shara Gillow at FDJ Nouvelle Aquataine Futuroscope this year and the experienced Gillow’s time-trialling prowess combined with Chapman’s feisty downhill style and sprint could end up being a dangerous combination. The pair have both finished in the top ten the past two years and with 2018 silver medallist Lauren Kitchen also on the squad, FDJ will definitely be a team to watch.
Once the Aussie Road Champs have been run and won, the attention will quickly turn to the Santos Women’s Tour, which starts just four days later. The tour of Adelaide and its surrounds will kick off the year of international professional racing, with more of the big teams than ever making their way to the notoriously hot season starter.
Since beginning in 2015 the Santos Women’s Tour has been raising the bar, lifting from a domestic National Road Series event to UCI ProSeries level. Six of the eight Women’s WorldTour teams will be competing, along with some power-packed continental squads. It has four stages, with three out on the road and a crit based finale for the event, which two years ago lifted its prize money to equal that of the men’s Tour Down Under.
The addition of more strong teams this year is going to make it tougher for the power packed squad of Mitchelton-Scott to continue their complete domination of the event, which Amanda Spratt has won for the past three years. At the time of writing team line-ups hadn’t been revealed but it is a pretty safe bet that all the Aussie riders with teams attending will be clambering to line up at their home races. That means some of those Spratt is likely to have to keep a watch on are again the FDJ trio of Gillow, Chapman and Kitchen, along with Chloe Hosking when it comes to the battle for stage victories. With her impressive record at the race the formidable sprinter, who has moved over to the U.S. based team Rally this year, is a clear pick for at least one win.
The tour will also be an interesting indication of just who is in top form heading into the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season. This year that will be the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race on February 1 in Victoria. There is also the accompanying criterium, Race Torquay (1.1), which takes place before the road race on January 30.
How to follow the action on the road
There’ll be more of the women’s cycling in Australia available to watch than ever before this January. It starts even before the Aussie Championships, with streaming of the local Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits on the Cycling Central Facebook page from Friday January 3 to Sunday January 5.
The Australian National Road Championships includes live coverage from the criterium on Friday January 10, starting at 17:00 AEDT (6:00 GMT) on SBS’s Cycling Central. Then the under 23 and elite women’s race will be available online at Cycling Central from 10:00 AEDT on Sunday January 10 (23:00 GMT Saturday January 9).
It’s fantastic to see that the Santos Women’s Tour will also be stepping up with a live broadcast. There will be streaming of all four stages from Thursday 16 January to Sunday January 19 on 7Plus and you can find more on international broadcast partners close to the race date on the Santos Women’s Tour website.
Have a little more time up your sleeve and want to continue delving into the world of women’s cycling? Here’s some of the great coverage we’ve enjoyed from across the cycling media over the past month:
- Voxwomen’s chat with Lizzie Deignan on perspective, motherhood and Olympic aspirations
- Cycling Weekly’s top nine races of the Women’s Worldtour for 2019.
- Rachel McKinnon’s thought provoking piece “I Won a World Championship. Some People Aren’t happy” in the New York Times spans individual experience and the broader issue of transgender women in sport.
- CyclingTips new Freewheeling Podcast with Abby Mickey, which launched with an extremely worthy topic, RED-S, or Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports, which is all too common in the women’s peloton and includes the absence of periods and decreased bone density.
- Bicycling’s article “Shannon Galpin isn’t done yet” on the highs and lows of Galpin’s efforts to support Afghanistan’s first women’s cycling team.
- Cyclocross Magazine’s interview with new U.S. champion Clara Honsinger, “A champ from Oregon”
- CyclingNews has also been rolling out the team previews, a handy reference guide to help cycling fans scope out the lay of the land before a new season starts, with CCC-Liv and FDJ Nouvelle Acquitaine-Futuroscope among those featured so far.
See you in a month for What’s on in Women’s Racing February, which is going to be a big one. We’ll be putting the February edition out on January 31, so you’ve got time to plan your viewing of the first ever Women’s WorldTour race in Australia and the Cyclocross World Championships, both of which are on February 1.
In the meantime, follow The Women’s Race on Twitter for updates on what’s happening and where to find coverage during the month.