Feature Photo: Getty Images/Race Torquay
It’s a month of rising stakes on the road and an absolute peak for the cyclocross season, with the action kicking into top gear on the very first day of the month. It begins with the Women’s WorldTour season in the early time zone of Australia, then quickly moves onto the big battle to see just who will get to wear those cyclocross rainbow stripes for the rest of the year.
But before we head to the beachside roads of Australia for the first ever Women’s World Tour race or to a wintery Switzerland for what’s shaping up to be a thrilling battle for the cyclocross world title, lets catch up on the month that has been.
In the road racing all eyes turned to Australia in January. First there were the Australian Road National Championships, where last years surprise under 23 and elite road champion, Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), delivered another U23 and elite national title double up, just in the time trial this year. Then it was onto the criterium, with Chloe Hosking managing to secure the green and gold stripes, which she’ll be showing off regularly given she’s heading off to race on the crit heavy US circuit with her new team Rally Cycling. Finally in the road race, favourite Amanda Spratt reclaimed the green and gold stripes for Australia’s Mitchelton-Scott and secured her third national road race title.
With that coveted jersey and ambitions for a fourth Santos Women’s Tour win it was then quickly onto Adelaide for Spratt, and the rest of the peloton. Mitchelton-Scott had never lost the four-day UCI ranked tour, but with a powerful field stacked with Women’s WorldTour teams the challenge was on. In the end Ruth Winder (Trek Segafredo) delivered a perfectly executed win on the last road stage that also netted her the ochre leaders jersey. Holding firm in the final criterium stage, the US champion broke the domination of the race by Australia’s Mitchelton-Scott, with Spratt ultimately taking third after team Sunweb’s Liane Lippert.
Finishing off the month of road racing was the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race curtain raiser, Race Torquay. The eight lap 1.1 ranked race around a 13 kilometre circuit was expected to be one for the sprinters. Never one to let what’s expected get in the way of a good race, Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquataine Futuroscope) leapt out from the field laps and laps from the end and somehow managed to hold on in the scorching heat to deliver a popular upset.
In the cyclocross in January, the main focus was on who would take out the Telenet UCI World Cup series, with a close battle at the top between Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Annemarie Worst. In the final round at Hoogerheide it seemed almost certain that Alvarado was on track for the overall, right until the final stages of the final lap when certain victory turned into defeat with one wrong move. A slip on an off camber section and Alvarado watched her series dreams ride away as Worst raced toward the finish line with fellow Dutch rider Lucinda Brand. Brand took the win, with Worst’s second place more than enough to secure her the overall series. Sanne Cant finished third, showing she’s returning closer to that form that could make her dangerous at the World Cyclocross Championships.
Cant also will not have to contend with one of her fiercest rivals this year, seven-time world cyclocross champion Marianne Vos. Sadly her cyclocross season ended early, with a medical issue and operation taking her off the bike after the Dutch championships.
February 1 – UCI Cyclocross World Championships
February 5 – Parkcross Maldegem (C2)
February 8 – DVV Verzekeringen trofee Krawatencross (C1)
February 9 – Telenet Superprestige Merksplas (C2)
February 15 – Telenet Superprestige Middelkerke (C1)
February 16 – Vestingcross Hulst (C1)
February 22 – GP Leuven (C1)
February 23 – Internationale Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle (C1)
It’s the race all the riders have been trying to peak for on February 1, the World Cyclocross Championships in Switzerland.
There is a healthy bunch of contenders that look like they could be in with a shot of taking the rainbow bands. Defending champion and three-time winner Sanne Cant of course has shown she can never be discounted, but the Belgian rider is coming into Worlds with less than a stellar season behind her, having only taken one podium position in a World Cup race.
On the other hand her key competition, Dutch riders Lucinda Brand, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Annemarie Worst have barely been off the podium. Brand, in particular has been heading toward the World Championships in flying form, winning the last three World Cups she raced in. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her in the rainbow stripes this year, especially given she’d probably already be wearing them if it wasn’t for a bike change crash in the pits last year.
It’s also fantastic that this year we can watch the female Junior riders battle it out for the rainbow stripes, with the category being introduced for the first time.
Once Dubendorf is in the rear vision mirror the focus turns to a cluster of races mainly in Belgium, including the final round of the 8 series Telenet Superprestige in Middelkerke on February 15.
How to follow the cyclocross action
Red Bull TV will be showing the UCI Cyclocross World Championship. Unfortunately a number of places around the world are geo-blocked. Flobikes is another option. If you are looking for coverage of other cyclocross races, the GCN Racing YouTube channel is also often a good spot to check.
February 1 – Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – Elite Women’s Race (WWT)
February 5 to 6 – Lexus of Blackburn Womens Herald Sun Tour (2.1)
February 6 – National Road Championships, South Africa
February 9 – Vuelta CV Feminas
February 21 to 23 – National Road Championships – Namibia
February 29 – Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-vrouwen elite / Circuit Het Nieuwsblad-Femmes Elite
The first Women’s WorldTour race of the season is also the first ever in Australia. Bringing the top series to the Southern Hemisphere makes it not only it a great chance for the Aussie locals to finally get that home ground advantage, but it provides an important boost to the development of the sport locally and internationally. Six of the eight Women’s WorldTour teams have come out to Australia for the summer of racing, making it the most competitive so far. The unpredictable and exciting racing is bound to continue on Saturday.
It is a 121 km course at the elite women’s event of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean road race, known as the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race. There is the potential for coastal breezes and it has enough climbing that there is an advantage for those who are comfortable getting over a hill. Still the hills aren’t necessarily difficult enough to completely shake the non-climbers, just as Chloe Hosking (Rally Cycling) showed when she won in 2018.
That means it is a fairly open race, but no doubt Mitchelton-Scott will try and make it tough enough to drop anyone that hasn’t got their climbing legs honed. They’ve got Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy as contenders. Trek Segafredo’s Ruth Winder no doubt has the potential to be a thorn in their side again, along with second placed rider at the Santos Women’s Tour Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) and even after her Race Torquay win you can still probably count on FDJ’s Brodie Chapman to have a dig.
After the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season, many of the riders will be rounding out their time in Australia with the 2.1 ranked Lexus of Blackburn Womens Herald Sun Tour. The first stage rolls past the orchard’s and dairy farms in and around the regional centre of Shepparton. The second stage heads to Victoria’s high country, where they’ll be pleased to welcome an influx of cycling tourists back to the town after nearby fires not only threatened towns, but also the livelihoods of those reliant on tourism. The Herald Sun Tour will ultimately be a race for the climbers, like defending champion Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott), with a thirty kilometre climb with over 1,000 metres of ascent taking the riders up to the final finish line at Falls Creek.
After the Herald Sun Tour the attention turns back to Europe. To finish off February, there is one for the classic specialists to warm up their legs at the 1.1 ranked Omloop Het Nieuwsblad through the Flemish hills.
How to follow the action on the road
There will be widespread coverage of the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race at the Cadel Evans event, with Channel 7 the home broadcaster, but a plethora of other viewing options across the globe. They include Eurosport and Fubo TV but if those options don’t work for you there are many more to be found here: https://www.cadelevansgreatoceanroadrace.com.au/about/broadcast-information/
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 talks to Ina Teutenberg on challenges, finishing a cycling career and now life as a DS.
- Australian Cycling Insider celebrates the rise of the Santos Women’s Tour.
- CyclingTips captured the atmosphere surrounding yet another national championship surprise from Sarah Gigante.
- Soigneur captures a picture of contentment in their interview with Marianne Vos.
- An insight into the seemingly unstoppable Annemiek van Vleuten from Mitchelton-Scott, with episode 1 of the What it Takes documentary.
- The tale of that nail-biting final round of the Telenet UCI World Cup series from CyclingNews
- The story of the growing strength of women’s cycling in Australia from The Guardian (*self promotion alert … yes the author of this article and the one you are reading is the same).
See you in a month for What’s on in Women’s Racing March, which will be out at the start of the new month.
In the meantime, follow The Women’s Race on Twitter for updates on what’s happening and where to find coverage during the month.