We weren’t quite sure if we’d be looking at the final race of the Women’s WorldTour this month, or if that ship had already sailed given the uncertainty surrounding the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. Even a week before no route had yet been announced, but such is life in this year of uncertainty. As the days ticked down to the the three-day season closer the course was announced and then the announcements of team rosters began to flow, so now it looks like we will get our November farewell of this ever changing 2020 series.
We’ll take a look at how to follow the last race of the 2020 Women’s WorldTour shortly, but first a quick refresher on the month that’s already been.
LOOKING BACK ON THE OCTOBER ONE DAY CLASSICS
We didn’t get the full adjusted race calendar for October, with the scheduled first ever women’s Paris Roubaix unfortunately failing to eventuate but, given the circumstances, we were still quite fortunate to get to watch a number of intriguing battles. The races were all hard fought and while Women’s WorldTour leader Lizzie Deignan again made her mark, taking her third win of this year’s series, this was really a month of opportunity for those who hadn’t yet had a chance to chalk up a big win so far this season.
October’s racing started with a wet edition of the hilly 135 kilometre Liege-Bastogne-Liege. When Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) launched off the front of the lead bunch on the La Redoute the lack of cooperation in the group behind saw her stretch out a lead of more than a minute. Not content to sit back and watch a potential breakthrough win disappear up the road, the final climb became a launching point for Mitchelton-Scott’s Grace Brown. The strong Australian time-triallist whittled down the gap and had Australian fans biting their nails as the final kilometres ticked down and the guessing game — will she or won’t she make it — began. She got close, pulling Deignan into view on the final straight but the Mitchelton-Scott rider ran out of time to bring her within reach. Deignan took another top step and the formerly under the radar Brown all of a sudden became a little less anonymous in the peloton after showing her strength and netting her first Women’s World Tour podium. Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) came third.
Just a few days later Brown had another spectacular race day in Belgium, capturing that breakthrough European win at the 1.1 ranked Brabantse Pijl.
Then it was onto the 142 kilometre Gent-Wevelgem, a flatter race that opened the door for the sprinters. There was attack after attack and the climbs and sections of rough terrain continued to whittle down the size of the peloton, but it wasn’t until an acceleration on the final climb of the Monteberg that a move stuck. This set the scene for a dash to the line with a group of 11 riders out the front, with some handy sprinters among them. In the end Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) pulled ahead of Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) in the final metres and Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) took third.
By the time we got to the cobbles and climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen or, depending on your naming preference the Tour of Flanders, the pressure was well and truly on. This year it was not only one of those classic big name races that so many dream of winning, but it was coming close to the end of a season when the chances to deliver a result had been thin on the ground.
At one point in the race it looked like we were heading for a predictable outcome, with Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) out the front and quickly creating a gap that no one could close, except of course World Champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans). But it wasn’t to be. Van der Breggen was intent on sitting on van Vleuten’s wheel, wanting to neutralise the move rather than stretch the gap as it was clear she was looking to make it a day for one of her teammates. Consequently van Vleuten, not keen to tow her Dutch rival to the line, sat up and the race for first was back on. The attacks continued until Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) pulled away. As her teammates in the chasing group leapt on any attempts to bridge the gap she continued to time trial her way to the finish line. The chasers then sprinted for the minor placings, with Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) taking second and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) again making it onto the podium.
Finally we had the flat roads of the wind-blown AG Dreidaagse Brugge-De-Panne. The cross winds played havoc throughout the race, so ultimately it was only about 20 riders in the lead bunch as the race headed into the final five kilometres. The attacks came thick and fast as the riders who knew they were likely to lose out in the bunch tried to get away, but it was ultimately a sprint for the line. The contest come down to a close battle between Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) and Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) and while D’hoore crossed the line first her relegation for irregular sprinting meant Wiebes was declared the winner. Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) was awarded second and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) again took third.
WHAT’S ON NOVEMBER: THE END OF THE ROAD
|6 Nov-08 Nov 2020||Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta||SPAIN|
The 2020 Women’s WorldTour ends in Spain with three days of racing at the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta. Day one on Friday November 6 will be an 82.8km hilly stage in the province of Toledo with an 800m uphill finish in Escalona.
Saturday it’ll be a 9.3 kilometre individual time trial.
Then on Sunday the race finishes on a Madrid circuit, with the 17 laps taking the total stage distance to 98.6 kilometres.
Not all of the big teams will be on the start line, but the competition will still be high, with the likes of Trek-Segafredo, Team Sunweb, Mitchelton-Scott, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Movistar and Canyon-SRAM lining up, along with defending champion Lisa Brennauer and her Ceratizit-WNT team.
Current Women’s WorldTour leader Lizzie Deignan isn’t on the roster for Trek-Segafredo , which is fielding a team of 4 that includes Elisa Longo-Borghini and time trial powerhouse Ellen van Dijk. It will also be the last race for Annemiek van Vleuten in Mitchelton-Scott colours as she switches over to Movistar next year. Other riders to watch include Marta Bastianelli (Ale BTC Ljubljana), who is returning to the fray after a challenge riddled season, Team Sunweb’s Lorena Wiebes, Leah Kirchman and Women’s WorldTour youth classification leader Liane Lippert plus Alice Barnes of Canyon-SRAM.
How to follow the action
There will be a live broadcast of the final stage, but up until then it’s a matter of sticking to the tried and true women’s cycling coverage tool of Twitter. The event hashtag is #CeratizitChallenge20 and as always you can also turn to #UCIWWT.
For a broadcast of the final stage, turn to SBS On Demand in Australia, in Europe and Asia turn to Eurosport, the Olympic Channel in the US and GCN Racing and Flo Bikes in Canada.
MEDIA ROUND UP
For this edition’s media round up here are some more opportunities to keep delving into the details of the final race of the Women’s WorldTour season with previews from across the world’s sporting media:
Fans told to stay away as Madrid prepares for season’s last UCI Women’s WorldTour race, Inside the Games
Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 to see Brennauer, Longo Borghini, van Vleuten face off in final race of season, VeloNews
Preview: What you need to know about the Ceratizit “Madrid” Challenge, CyclingTips
Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 – Preview, Cyclingnews
Women’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile, Pro Cycling UK
We haven’t forgot that the cyclocross World Cup’s also start at the end of this month, but in an uncertain year like this we keep being reminded just how much can change in three weeks. That’s why we’ve strayed from our normal monthly format again and will instead be back before the first World Cup of the season at Tabor on November 29. To keep up to date with all the action in the meantime follow The Women’s Race on Twitter.