It is the Autumn of the Spring classics, with a shift in seasons and a packed October schedule thanks to COVID-19. If that isn’t enough change the schedule also includes a long awaited first, a women’s edition of the Paris Roubaix. (Editors note: Very sorry to say that since the time of writing this has been cancelled)
The addition of a women’s race to one of the oldest events on the calendar has generated plenty of excitement among riders and fans alike, but with climbing COVID-19 numbers in France it’ll be a matter of crossing the fingers and hoping that 2020 is the year another chapter will be added to the story filled history of the Paris Roubaix.
Though, before we contemplate the cobbles, climbs and competition ahead, let’s look back at September’s race for rainbows and La Flèche Wallonne.
LOOKING BACK ON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS AND FLECHE WALLONNE
Do we need to say more than Anna van der Breggen?
Ok, we probably do but she was undoubtedly the overwhelming force at both the World Championships and La Flèche Wallonne. The Dutch Boels Dolmans rider again proved just what a phenomenal athlete she is by coming fresh off her third Giro Rosa win to deliver the Road World Championships individual time trial and road race double. Then, just days later, she backed up that rare double by taking out her sixth consecutive win at Fleche Wallonne.
The 30 year old is certainly making the most of her opportunities before retiring at the end of 2021. Not that her competition is letting her have an easy ride. Even her bandaged up Dutch teammate Annemiek van Vleuten was off in fierce pursuit when van der Breggen leapt off the front of a select group at Road Worlds. In the end, van der Breggen extended the gap and sailed towards another rainbow jersey while defending champion van Vleuten and Danish rider Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig struck out the front together to secure second and third on the World Championships podium.
The field again lined up in Belgium four days later for La Fleche Wallonne, this time minus Annemiek van Vleuten who was giving her fractured wrist some more recovery time. As the gradients steepened on the climb to finish on the famous Mur de Huy Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) accelerated with van der Breggen sticking to her wheel. Uttrup Ludwig was also up out of the saddle climbing her way across with the Danish rider seeming determined to make up for the disappointment of World’s where a mechanical issue hampered her run in the final stages.
As the finish line approached van der Breggen took to the front, and as the punishingly steep and slow sprint played out she managed to hold that spot till the line, despite a determined chase by Uttrup Ludwig in second. Vollering faded a little but still held on for third.
WHAT’S ON OCTOBER
|04 Oct 2020||Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes||BEL|
|11 Oct 2020||Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields||BEL|
|18 Oct 2020||Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres||BEL|
|20 Oct 2020||AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne||BEL|
|25 Oct 2020||Paris-Roubaix Femmes||FRA||(CANCELLED)|
The run of one-day classics that started with La Fleche Wallonne at the end of September continues on Sunday October 4 with Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It’ll be a strong line-up searching for victory, with defending champion Annemiek van Vlueten (Mitchelton-Scott) returning to the fray.
The final climb of the hilly 135 kilometre peaks more than 10 kilometre from the finish line so it’ll suit that rider that can not only climb but has the ability to hold and extend any advantage with solid descending and, if they are solo when they hit the end of the descent, time-trial like pacing on the flat.
Of course that means the Dutch current and former World time trial champions van der Breggen and van Vleuten will be high on the list of riders to watch, along with able descenders Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) and teammate Lizzie Deignan who can deliver a solid turn of speed if she comes to the line in a small group.
After Liege-Bastogne-Liege it is the 142 kilometre Gent Wevelgem as Amstel Gold, which was meant to run on the 8th in The Netherlands, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Gent Wevelgem, on October 11, is flatter than the previous two events on the Women’s WorldTour calendar so has a tendency to favour the more sprint-oriented riders, with Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) lining up as defending champion (Well she was but sadly a positive COVID-19 changed that). However, it has still got enough hills and challenging terrain that we could also see the race play into the hands of the strong all-rounders like Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), the winner of the first edition in 2012.
On the 18th of October we then move onto the Ronde van Vlaanderen or, depending on your naming preference, the Tour of Flanders. After the cobbles and climbs of the 135 kilometre event, which was last year won by Marta Bastianelli, it will be onto the flat and often wind-blown AG Dreidaagse Brugge-De-Panne on the 20th.
(CANCELLED: Finally, to close out the month of racing it is the debut of the women’s Paris Roubaix . The long awaited and much welcomed women’s race is bound to be fiercely contested. Not only will the riders be battling to put their names down in the history books as the winner of the first women’s edition, but also to take one of the last opportunities to deliver a result in this shortened season. A constant this year though, is the knowledge that plenty can change in between now and then so we will back with an update before this race, which promises to be a highlight of this year’s unusual racing calendar.)
How to follow the action
For many years following the Spring classics has been, to say the least, a little frustrating. Too often it was a matter of being left to constantly refresh Twitter and fill in the dots of what was happening on the race course with a bit of guesswork as there was no live coverage. This year, though, that has all changed. We can watch the races unfold not only on social media but also through the eyes of the television cameras with widespread live footage. Hopefully the fans will flock to watch and deliver ratings that encourage continued increases in coverage.
In Australia you’ll be able to watch Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix on SBS with the full schedule here. You’ll have access to Gent Wevelgem and AG Dreidaagse Brugge-De-Panne with a GCN Race Pass. Elsewhere, there is extensive coverage on Eurosport and with the GCN Race Pass, plus there is a handy guide to exactly what you can access in your home region on GCN here. In the US Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Flanders and the Paris Roubaix will be on FloBikes.
You can also, as always, follow along all the Women’s World Tour races via #UCIWWT on Twitter.
Additionally there seem to be plenty more previews of the women’s racing rolling out across the cycling media with Cyclingnews, VeloNews, SBS Cycling Central and ProCycling UK all having delivered previews for Fleche Wallone. That means if you want to dig deeper than the broad brush overview delivered in the monthly What’s On it is worth checking in on key cycling media outlets in the days before the race begins.
Given we’ve just been talking about the increased number of previews out there, let’s take a look at some options for Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
- Preview: The route and riders to watch for the women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège on CyclingTips
- Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 2020 – Preview on Cyclingnews
- Women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2020 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile on ProCycling UK
We will back before the start of November with our next What’s On as even though the road season will be winding down the Cyclocross World Cup season will be in full swing.