Road Cycling Events

Aviva Women’s Tour Route Announced

Route is announced with an increase in climbing that many riders asked for last year

The Aviva Women’s Tour is renowned in the female pro peloton for being a race that attracts incredible crowds and the media attention that is crucial to the progression of the sport. The only criticism in the past has been the lack of tough climbing along the route – but this year that’s set to improve, and the riders will also see new parts of the country.

Last year Sweetspot, the organisers, expanded the programme by adding a tougher stage from Marlow to Hemel Hempstead which explored the hills and dales of the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty.

However, as with every other stage of the race, though there was a breakaway the winner was still decided in a bunch sprint. Though this suits some riders, others claimed that there just weren’t enough climbs to force a large enough gap to make the race tough enough or allow it to fulfill its potential.

Emma Johannson, then racing for Orica AIS and now Wiggle High5, reportedly told race manager Guy Elliot: “It’s too easy. You need to make it harder. I’m not going to come back next year if it’s like this again.”

“Not hard enough” and “protected roads”

When we discussed the race with Canyon//SRAM’s Tiffany Cromwell at their recent training camp, she told us: “The wind could play a role in forcing splits but the roads are all protected by hedges so the bunch stays together.”

It seems that the organisers, eager to make their already fantastic race even better, have taken the criticism on board. Whilst the 2015 route featured a little more climbing that in 2014, the coming edition is set to include even more – with a visit to the Peak District National Park guaranteed to provide a look at our country’s stunning terrain as well as more elevation.

In fact, looking at the figures from the last three routes created by the organisers – it’s clear that the race is getting gradually harder with both elevation and total distance increasing – all over five days of racing a time:

Total Distance

  • 2014 – 498.9 kilometres
  • 2015 – 596.2 kilometres
  • 2016 – 616 kilometres

Overall Total Ascent

  • 2014 – 4,621 metres
  • 2015 – 5,874 metres
  • 2016 – 7,600 metres

Interestingly, despite being longer and hillier, 2015’s overall average speed worked out at 39.6 km/h compared to 2014’s 39.2km/h. We’re certainly intreagued to find out how this new jump will affect the speed.

“The longest race I’ve ever done”

The added climbing will certainly play well to the strengths of some of the peloton – but we still remember seeing one exhausted younger return to the team van after a 138km stage stating: “That was the longest race I’ve ever done.” She’d have raced the same distance again the next day, and this year it’ll be tougher.

“Well, that’s women’s racing.”

When I asked the team at Canyon//SRAM about this huge difference in experience – former Road and Time Trial World Champion Lisa Brenneaur told me: “Well, that’s women’s racing.” It goes without saying that we can expect the new route to show some big gaps in the field.

The race will begin on Wednesday June 15 and as before there will be five stages, taking us up to Sunday June 19. Being one of only four multi-day events in the new Women’s World Tour this is an opportunity for the riders to showcase their strength and the new route should help them to do so.

The race also graces new areas of the country with its presence this year – it will visit seven counties in total, five of which have not experienced this trilling event before. The exceptions are Northamptonshire and Suffolk – both of which have featured on all three editions.

Here’s a look at the stages and their highlights…

Stage One

Distance: 132 km / 82 miles

Total Ascent: 888 metres / 2913 feet

The stage will kick off in Southwold, and loop along the coast – where the wind could come into play. There are some quick power ramps in the opening miles, before terrain flattens out, with the longer climbs featuring as the peloton gets closer to the finish line in Norwich – a town which is yet to hold a stage and therefore is likely to pull out all the stops to welcome the race.

Stage Two

Distance: 140 kilometers / 86 miles

Total Ascent: 1,722 metres / 5,649 feet

Starting in Stratford-upon-Avon, the route will loop up to Atherstone

This midlands stage ramps up the climbing, with some notable inclines and a long descent before a flat finish – it’ll be nail biting it anyone breaks away and tries to hold the peloton off on that descent…

Stage Three

Distance: 112 kilometres / 70 miles

Total Ascent: 1,999 metres / 6,558 feet

Starting in Ashbourne, the race enters the Peak District – and though the distance has dropped, the elevation has again increased. On the winding route to Chesterfield via Buxton we’d expect to see the bunch start to break up as the climbers begin to shine.

Stage Four

Distance: 119 kilometres / 74 miles

Total Ascent: 1,507 metres / 5,944 feet

Saturday’s Stage Four from Nottingham to Stoke-on-Trent will take the riders through the stunning terrain around Cannock Chase. Most of the climbing is loaded towards the end of the route, through the Staffordshire Moorlands before the finale  in the aptly chosen 2016 UK European City of Sport.

Stage Five

Distance: 113 kiometres / 70 miles

Total Ascent: 1,484 metres / 4,868 feet

The final stage runs from Northampton to Kettering, which hosted the final of Stage three last year. The climbing is pretty evenly spread but consistent – will we see some time gaps extending or closing up? We’ll have to wait and see…

What have the riders said?

This year’s edition is the hardest yet – something that the rider’s asked for. Commenting on the 2016 route, Marianne Vos, who did not race last year but hopes to be fit for the 2016 Olympics and therefore might use this race as preparation – said: “It’s great to see how fast Aviva Women’s Tour is developing. The route was already challenging, but now it’s going to be even harder, with the stages increasing in length and a lot more climbing added.

“The route was already challenging, but now it’s going to be even harder… This will take the Women’s Tour to the next level in 2016.”

“This will take the Women’s Tour to the next level in 2016. To have attractive events like the AvivaWomen’s Tour means a lot for women’s cycling. Great Britain is one of the front runners regarding professionalisation of our sport. I hope the crowd welcomes the adjusted route schedule as well. It’s partly thanks to the crowd the Women’s Tour has grown into an outstanding stage race.”

Wiggle High5’s Dani King is focusing on road racing this year, hoping to be part of Great Britain’s line up in Rio – she said: “I’m really looking forward to coming back to the UK to race in the Aviva Women’s Tour, it’s a great week for me personally being able to race in front of a home crowd. It’s always been a big focus for the team and now its a part of the Women’s World Tour we are extra motivated to do well.

“The event has grown so much in three years, it makes me really proud that a British race has become so big.”

Commenting on the route announcement, Aviva Women’s Tour Race Director Mick Bennett said: “We are delighted to present the route for the 2016 Aviva Women’s Tour with a significantly tougher parcours than the previous editions, as requested by the team’s following last year, allowing us to take the race to some new areas. The interest from venues around the country to host the race has been huge, allowing us to put together an attractive route that will make not only for excellent racing, but also big crowds from the major towns and cities on, or close to the route.

“When we created the Women’s Tour in 2014 we said that our aim was for the event to be the world’s best women’s race within three years and it is our firm belief that being a part of the new UCI Women’s WorldTour sees us well on course to do so.”

As before, highlights of each stage will once again be shown by ITV4 every evening during the race. We can’t wait to see the race arrive come summer. We’ll be following each stage – for a little background on the race, check out all the updates and news from last year here. 

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