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:
- 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…