Women’s road season: The ultimate guide to the under-the-radar races and riders to watch in 2019

The 2019 women’s road cycling season may already be well underway in Oceania but there’s still a couple of weeks until the European race calendar starts.

For this season preview, we will go down the road less travelled. Instead of telling you about the big names and the women’s editions of well-known men’s races, we want to focus on races and riders that are not always centre-stage in the big spotlight.

The Races

Ronde van Drenthe – March 17

The Ronde van Drenthe in the eponymous Dutch province is held in mid-March. Like much of the Netherlands, Drenthe is rather flat, not offering much climbing for a cycling race. Fortunately, there is a rubbish tip (quite literally!), the VAM-berg, rising 40 metres above the sea level.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’Q8FDbVaVTgxnElJ3Lp5SAw’,sig:’uWd4ll5j4ZPctDYBpEBJfyeBJN5plGSwfjo5u1q9R4M=’,w:’594px’,h:’395px’,items:’930544484′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Several roads lead to the top, including one with a 200-metre cobblestone section. The race passes over this iconic artificial climb three times, and together with numerous cobblestone sections along the race route, it all but guarantees that only a small group or at most a reduced peloton remains to fight for the victory.

Emakumeen Euskal Bira – May 22-25

The Emakumeen Bira – the Basque name translates simply to ‘Women’s Tour’ – is the oldest continuously-running stage race on the women’s calendar.

First held in 1988, this year sees its 32nd edition. The introduction of the Women’s WorldTour for 2016 almost spelled the end for the Bira when the Women’s Tour of Britain got WWT status, pushing the Basque race from its traditional calendar slot in mid-June.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’QS8FuzvGSQFRTbrttwxkJw’,sig:’y6ltJvv2_5KsCQWJU2FgxisCjX7Mys1ckFH9c-wgrDg=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’961461568′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Now held in mid-May, the Bira finally got the WWT label last year. The four-day race offers the challenging climbs of the Basque Country and often an ITT, making it one of the relatively few climber-friendly women’s stage races.

The Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour – May 27-June 2

The Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour started out in 1986 as the Thüringen-Rundfahrt in what was then still the German Democratic Republic. It has developed into one of the most prestigious stage races for women.

Like the Bira, it saw hardship in recent years, being overlooked for the Women’s WorldTour and having to move from the second half of July to a new slot in late-May/early-June. With its excellent organisation and large, passionate roadside crowds, the race would certainly be deserving of WWT status.

The rolling terrain with longer climbs in the Thüringer Wald mountain range and short walls like the Steile Wand von Meerane of Peace Race fame and the Dörtendorfer Berg (nicknamed Hanka-Berg for local hero Hanka Kupfernagel) ensures that every stage is hard-fought.

Giro Rosa – July 5-14

Since the demise of the Tour de l’Aude in 2010, the Giro d’Italia Femminile, colloquially known as the Giro Rosa, is the sole remaining Grand Tour in women’s cycling. Ten continuous days of racing without a rest day are the maximum possible under the rules.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’x-72v_jJQZR62oCTpGWWWg’,sig:’EQ9AGRmHZv-sL_91t8qQG5bhJflrwaypIfXAzcdAqRI=’,w:’594px’,h:’395px’,items:’996376806′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Every year, there are sprint stages, individual and/or team time trials, and hard mountain stages, using famous climbs such as the Stelvio, Mortirolo, or Zoncolan.

In 2019, there will be two mountaintop finishes on the Passo del Gavia and the Altopiano del Montasio, making the Giro Rosa the pinnacle of women’s stage racing.

Vårgårda – August 16/18

Vårgårda, a small municipality of 12,000 inhabitants some 60 km northeast of Göteborg, is not the most obvious host for a top-level cycling race.

But with history as the hometown of the four Fåglum brothers including 1971 Giro d’Italia champion Gösta Pettersson, the decision to start a women’s World Cup race in 2006 was understandable.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’8aZys_TVSbt0a014GhH0_w’,sig:’BNypw6tSbMTcbEdXlsOv4F2kzzO6ChdQB-dWiZQJVt4=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1016196866′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Two years later, a TTT was added, making it a three-day, two-race event. The road race takes the peloton on a loop through the Swedish countryside with several gravel roads before reaching the finishing circuit around Vårgårda with the one-kilometre ascent of Hägrungabakken as the main difficulty.

The Riders

Lorena Wiebes burst onto the sprinting scene in 2018 with four UCI victories and about two dozen top-tens in her first year out of the junior ranks.

Though many of those results came in smaller races, Wiebes showed her potential with a.o. fourth in Brugge-De Panne, ninth at the European Championships, and two stage podiums in the Boels Ladies Tour.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’smj_CjNIR8RvBUY9DklnhA’,sig:’ptimVK5gpqtCwXSqVUN78yyWDcIyIU-GrA2pQoiVleg=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1026119590′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

With a strengthened roster, her Parkhotel Valkenburg team is now ranked within the top-15 teams and automatically invited to all WWT races, meaning that 19-year-old Wiebes gets an even bigger stage to show her talent.

Two years older than Wiebes, Sofia Bertizzolo’s name is more established already. In three years with the Astana Women’s Team, her performance progressed well with results in both classics and stage races.

In 2018, she took the lead in the Women’s WorldTour U23 ranking at the second race, the Ronde van Drenthe, and held on to the light blue leader’s jersey all the way to the end of the season.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’S8tuvfUHQFdiv2jtjvr2Zg’,sig:’RNfrtY7lwh8D4aafEzpML-xFwttnGg-ry0ncsFPGEYY=’,w:’594px’,h:’395px’,items:’997144128′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

She also came close to her first pro victory with a second place in the Italian Championships and finished a creditable 21st in the Giro Rosa where she also was the best U23 rider.

Having moved across to Danish Team Virtu Cycling for 2019, Bertizzolo will now have to make the next step in order to mount a challenge for victory in the biggest races.

Susanne Andersen was touted as a big talent at a young age, finishing fifth in the Richmond Junior World Championships in her first junior year.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’y4V8dL9ETrRBHkWTh6Abog’,sig:’DqYnGk4dZkF7Usp0Qep_x1ElwZN3_ohX_yHL7gtfUOo=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1019341272′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

This led to a three-year contract with the Hitec Products team. The Norwegian has shown what she is capable of with a third place in the Doha Junior Worlds, seventh in the elite race in Bergen the following year and 15th in the 2018 Ronde van Vlaanderen, but still lacks some overall consistency.

She has been signed by Team Sunweb for 2019, a team with an excellent record of developing young riders.

In her junior years, Letizia Paternoster won numerous Italian, European, and World titles both on the track and the road. She even became team pursuit World Champion while still a junior rider.

In 2018, she won a total of four medals at the track World and European Championships.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’41eIvLZ5QFVcTPwy3P5bKg’,sig:’VHqOp8HGVut8wN2cyhESn4vtZNVH9RBQ2RxaE694JEE=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1080631546′,caption: false ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

Racing for the Astana Women’s Team, she confirmed her sprinting prowess with wins at the GP Liberazione and Festival Elsy Jacobs and bronze in the U23 European Championships road race.

Paternoster hit the ground running in 2019 as she won stage 1 of the Tour Down Under, the first race for her new team Trek-Segafredo.

At 26, Erica Magnaldi is a bit older than the other up-and-coming talents we present. There is a very good reason why the Italian came to road racing late: competing in cross-country skiing in her youth, Magnaldi then turned to studying medicine and racing Gran Fondos.

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’82ipsqOwSuNhlfFzVPNKsA’,sig:’aJ3h3OS4rv2XsBAup70-sgRYMzXx5Dqy7kE5sq1jcPo=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’997032608′,caption: true ,tld:’co.uk’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

In September 2017, she raced the Tour de l’Ardèche to try out road racing– and finished 16th overall. She signed for the small Italian team BePink for 2018 and accumulated a string of excellent results including 13th overall in the Giro Rosa, 10th at La Course and a stage win in the Tour de l’Ardèche.

Having defended her doctoral thesis in October and signed for the strengthened WNT Rotor Pro Cycling Team, Magnaldi will focus solely on cycling in 2019.

Main image courtesy of The Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour with thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close