Hooray, the racing is back and so are we.
It’s been quite a while since we put out our last monthly What’s On, which just as quickly turned into a What’s Not On. As you’d no doubt expect from a site called The Women’s Race, we are excited as anyone to see the riders on the start line again and to be able to bring you the information you need to follow along.
Though, before I get onto the exciting prospect of having some superb racing to watch at one of my favourite events, the Strade Bianche, let me first tell you about some changes we are making to the What’s On. There will be a shift away from the monthly format, for now at least.
Let’s face it, this isn’t any normal month in women’s racing and it may be a little — or maybe wildly — optimistic to think we can have any certainty about what is happening in two, three and particularly four weeks time. Before the Women’s WorldTour racing reboot even began, we saw the revised calendar of the Women’s WorldTour revised again. The races that had been packed in tight over August, September and October to try and make up for the months of the pandemic pause have already thinned. So, to make sure you can get the latest news on whatever racing is on we will be moving to a shorter, sharper and more focussed format just for the moment. We’ll be doing this so we can publish more regularly, when and if the racing is on, to deliver the up to date news you need to follow along.
WHAT’S ON AUGUST
Road – Revised WWT calendar
August 1 – Strade Bianche (WWT)
August 8 – Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda West Sweden TTT (WWT) CANCELLED
August 9 – Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda West Sweden RR (WWT) CANCELLED
August 13-16 – Ladies Tour of Norway (WWT) CANCELLED
August 26 – GP de Plouay – Lorient Agglomération Trophée WNT (WWT)
August 29 – La Course by Le Tour de France (WWT)
The Women’s WorldTour season reboot starts with the 136 kilometre Strade Bianche, a race always worthy of excited anticipation but even more so this year. The plumes of white dust kicked up by the rolling tyres of the peloton add to the drama and suspense of that desperate shuffle for position on the gravel sections, the scenic rolling hills momentarily sate our pandemic constrained wanderlust and that steep climb to the Piazza del Campo is laden with the promise of an exciting finale.
It was the cancellation of this Italian classic back in March which signalled that the season was grinding to a halt, with just one Women’s WorldTour race having being run, the Deakin University Elite Women’s race in Australia. Since then it seems like everything has changed but when it comes to the race favourite, nothing has.
Just as was the case back in March defending champion and world champion Annemiek van Vleuten is the one to beat. The Mitchelton-Scott rider is in proven form after a stellar run at last week’s 1.1 classified races in Spain and will be closely watched on the Tuscan roads.
Still, the Dutch-rider will have plenty of strong competition, with riders not only itching to race after the delayed season but also trying to make the most of the limited opportunities to prove their worth in difficult economic times, particularly with sponsorship looking a little shaky even among some of the big teams. The form, though, across the peloton could well be unpredictable given the lack of racing and varied training constraints amid the pandemic.
Some of the other key favourites we will be keeping an eye out for are past winners Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), Lizzie Deignan and home country favourite Elisa Longo Borghini, who are the joint Trek-Segafredo team leaders. Having two strong cards to play is always a definite advantage, particularly in this race which favours the brave.
“Strade Bianche is one of the toughest one-day races I’ve ever attended,” said Deignan in a statement. “It’s a selective race that requires an aggressive approach; you can’t play defense or have a wait-and-see approach. When you reach the final steep climb, entering in Siena and before the arrival in Piazza del Campo, there is only a very small group of riders who can have a chance.”
“This is the moment in which you feel the strongest push,” said the 2016 winner.
Borghini, the 2017 winner, drew attention to her strong form in the three Spanish 1.1 classified races last week. However neither, Borghini or van der Breggen could manage to budge Annemiek van Vleuten from the top step of the podium in Spain. Only time will tell if anyone can manage to do this in Italy.
Canyon-SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma, who has managed to snare a place on the podium of the Strade Bianchi the last four years, will also be hoping this is the year she can move up to that top spot. Team Sunweb will also be aiming for a high finish to try and hang onto that Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey which Liane Lippert secured in Australia.
We also shouldn’t ever forget Marianne Vos or CCC-Liv teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who came in seventh and sixth in the race last year. Then there is another formidable duo, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Brodie Chapman of FDJ – Nouvelle Aquitaine – Futuroscope. Both riders are crowd favourites known for their ability to make a mark on a race, whether or not they hit the podium, so it will be exciting to see what the audacious pair can do now that they are racing together on the same team.
For a closer look at the route, which starts and finishes in Siena see this course graphic:
How to follow the Strade Bianche
The Strade Bianche women’s elite race will start at noon local time on Saturday 1 August, which is 8pm AEST and 6am EDT. Depending on where you are based your viewing options include Eurosport, FloBikes and the GCN Race Pass. To follow along on Twitter, look to #UCIWWT, #StradeBianche and keep an eye on the official twitter @StradeBianche.
Have a little more time up your sleeve and want to continue delving into the world of women’s cycling? Here’s some recent coverage we’ve enjoyed from across the cycling media:
- Find out more about Kasia Niewadoma’s hopes for the Strade Bianche in this inCycle video
- Jose Been writes on CyclingTips about why we should all start paying more attention to Demi Vollering
- Cyclingnews women’s editor Kirsten Frattini delivers a great overview of what to expect from the revised WWT season
- Plus, Cyclingnews also takes a look at the newly announced 2021 WWT season
- VeloNews spoke to Iris Slappendel from The Cyclists’ Alliance on COVID compliance
Follow The Women’s Race on Twitter for updates in the meantime.