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The Women’s World Tour: What to Watch and When

Here are the dates for your 2016 calendar...

We’ve said it a lot of times – but it’s because it’s true: women’s cycling is on the rise and the introduction of the UCI Women’s World Tour for 2016 is a clear indication of that fact.

In his 2015 End of Year address, UCI president Brian Cookson highlighted the World Tour as the number one positive change in the sport. The introduction of the series of seventeen events sees a 60 per cent increase in the number of racing days compared to the previous Women’s World Cup.

He also said that increased media exposure was “at the heart of UCI’s strategy for developing women’s cycling”. Event organisers must now provide live streaming or highlight packages, plus a news clip to be sent to broadcasters after all races. 

Most of us relish the opportunity to watch our cycling idols thrashing it out in race mode – and the good news is that the more eyes on screens, the more confidence sponsors will have in putting money into the teams that make the magic happen. This really is a situation where the UCI have made changes to help women’s cycling grow, the teams are ready to perform – and now the fans need to step up and make themselves known by following racing, getting involved on social media and making a hellova noise about the whole thing.

We’ve outlined the UCI Women’s World Tour races here – put them in your diary now, because these are dates not to be missed!

5 March: Strade Bianche Donne, Italy

This Tuscan beauty of a spring classic appeared in the women’s calendar for the first time in 2015 and proved to be a fantastic success, unleashing a firework of excitement as Megan Guarnier took a solo first place, leaving Lizzie Armitstead and Elisa Longo Borghini battling for second.

Last year’s event covered 103 km with punchy climbs, and the race will always be characterised by sections of white gravel road – which in 2015 made up 57km of the overall distance – making this a race for a strong rider with the technical skills to succeed over difficult surfaces.

This one is run on the same day as the men’s event, with the same start and finish line. The organisers, RCS sport, have already created a promo video (below) to celebrate the inclusion of their race in the WWT, and you can keep up to date via the site and twitter feed.

12 March: Women’s WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe,  Netherlands

Held in the flat regions of the Netherlands, this course should be flat – but it covers a man-made ‘berg’, the result of a landfill, called the ‘VAM-berg’. At 750m long, it has a 20% stinger and is covered three times over the race. Add to that the fact there are some cobbled sections along the way as well as some intermediate sprints, and you’ve got an exciting race.

The event will suit a climber who can also hold their own on the flat – last year’s honours went to Wiggle-Honda (now WiggleHigh5) rider Julien D’Hoore, and in 2014 it was Lizzie Armitstead who took first place.

This year the race will be 138km, and you can keep up on route updates here, as well as staying in the loop via twitter, and tweeting using .

20 March: Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Comune di Cittiglio, Italy

This Italian Classic goes back to 1794, and the 2016 route covers 124 km, with two notable climbs where riders have the opportunity to break away: the Casale Alto, early on, and the climb of Azzio.

Once again, Lizzie Armitstead claimed this one in 2015, with previous winners including Emma Johansson, Elisa Longo Borghini, Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley.

There’s lots of course information here and you can stay in the loop via the regular news updates. 

27 March: Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields, Belgium

Image: Poly Peloton

Traditionally fairly flat, this 115km race begins in Ypres and is usually characterised by the weather conditions – often wet and/or windy at this time of year. Wiggle Honda rider Chloe Hosking gave us a great insight into the race and the qualities a rider needs to attack it with success here.

The race has celebrated a women’s edition since 2012, and last year was won by Liv-Plantur rider Floortje Mackaij.

Keep up to date with the race – its news and updates – here.

3 April: Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres, Belgium 

Borghini takes first place. Image: Wiggle Honda Facebook Page

Another Belgium classic, the Tour of Flanders features more cobbled sections and some short, sharp climbs which require technical skill and strong climbing legs. Last year’s edition was a victory for Elisa Longo Borghini.

The women’s race is held on the same day as the men’s, and shares the final 55km with the men’s race. Updates will be shared here. 

20 April: La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, Belgium

Image: ASO / G.Demouveaux

This 121km race consists of two laps – each featuring climbs up the Côte d’Éreffe, Côte de Bellaire, Côte de Bohissau and Mur de Huy, as well as the Côte de Cherave that pops up just 5.5km before the finish. The Mur de Huy is 1.3km long with a peak of 19 per cent (and 26 per cent on one bend) – this is a race for a climber. Typically a nail biting spectacular, expect splits on the climbs that are more often than not pulled back unless a rider can make a decisive break.

Last year, it was Rabo-Liv’s Anna van der Breggen who took the win, in lieu of her injured team mate Marianne Vos who has won five editions of the race. You can keep an eye on 2016 updates here. 

6 May to 8 May – Tour of Chongming Island, China

With the hard and fast Spring classics out the way, May heralds the first multi-day event of the Women’s World Tour.

The event consists of a two day stage race, and a stand alone race that in previous years has served as a Women’s World Cup round. Last year, Kirsten Wild of Hitec-Products won the stage race, whilst Wiggle Honda’s Italian sprinter Giorgia Bronzini claimed the one day World Cup race.

The terrain is pretty flat, making this a winner for a team that works together to protect their sprinter – check out the event website here (translation from Chinese to English is surprisingly good!).

19 May to 22 May: Amgen Tour of California, USA This race added volume to its women’s edition last year – increasing the offering to three days, and the 2016 version has grown still further to four stages including a time trial.

Stage one circles the South Lake Tahoe – the largest alpine lake in North America at 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. It’s likely to throw up climbs before stage 2’s time trial around Folsom Lake. Stage three will explore Santa Rosa before the finale – a hard and fast crit around Sacramento – on the same day as the men’s stage 8 finish.

Last year it was light and lean climber Trixi Worrack who took the overall win, and we were chuffed to see British interest Hannah Barnes win best young rider.

5 June: Philadelphia International Cycling Classic

This American race covered 74 miles last year (lengthened from previous years) and consisted of six laps, each of which included a climb up the staple feature – the Manayunk Wall. The ‘Wall’ tops out at 17 per cent and riders enjoy a section of well worn cobbles.

It was this event that put Lizzie Armitstead into the World Cup lead in 2015 and it’s certainly one that will favour someone who can force gaps in the group on that climb.

Keep an eye on the site here.

15 June to 19 June: Aviva Womens Tour, Great Britain

Come June, the Women’s World Tour will be visiting our green and pleasant lands.

This is the third edition of the five day race, and organisers promise that it will be even “bigger and better” to honour its inclusion in the WWT.

Last year saw a couple of slightly hillier stages, but none hilly enough to cause a solo win. In fact, every stage resulted in a breakaway that was eventually caught, forcing an exciting sprint finish which gave spectators a finale to cheer for.

Keep checking the race website here for route details – and of course you can expect lots of TWC coverage come race day!

1 July to 10 July: Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, Italy

The longest stage race in the calendar, the Giro Rosa attracts some of the biggest names in women’s cycling as riders battle it out for the Pink Leaders Jersey, as well as the Purple Points Jersey, Green Queen of the Mountain Jersey, White Young Riders and Blue Best Italian Jersey.

Covering ten days and nine stages, there’s plenty of scope for multiple leader shake ups as the race progress. Last year, it was Anna van der Breggen who took the overall win, after she took a minute out of the former leader Megan Guarnier during the technical time trial.

Check out the race page here, and follow the twitter feed for updates here.

25 July: La Course by Le Tour de France, France

The product of petitioning from a group of pro cyclists, including Marianne Vos, La Course by Le Tour de France has been seen as a breakthrough event by riders and fans alike since its creation in 2014.

Last years sodden event was a chance for the peloton to demonstrate fortitude racing the short, hard, fast crit over wet cobbles. 

The 89km race covers 13 laps of the route the men use to finish off the three week Grand Tour – and being flat all the way around, you’d expect it to culminate in a bunch sprint. However, last year’s event saw a break away from Anna van der Breggen succeed right to the finish line, where she took the win just a whisper ahead of the chasers.

The race website is here, and you can follow on Twitter here. 

30 July: Prudential Ride London, Great Britain

A traditional crit race, this 50 minute event is made up of 1.3 mile laps of St James’ Park in London and takes place over the Festival of Cycling which also features the RideLondon Surrey 100.

Last year, the win went to Barbara Guarischi of Velocio-SRAM (now Canyon//SRAM). Previous victors have included Laura Trott and Giorgio Bronzini – so really it’s anyone’s race, as long as they’ve got a strong team and an even stronger sprint!

19 August: Crescent Vargarda & 20 August: Crescent Vargarda TTT, Sweden

This race was the only one in the 2015 World Cup that managed nationwide live coverage. The Team Time Trial covered a 42km course, and this is typically flat, though crosswinds usually play a serious role in team tactics as they’re often strong.

The road race – over 133km in 2015 – covers laps of around 50km, each of which includes a long gravel section where tactics and skill come into play. The finale features seven laps of a short 11km circuit.

In 2015, the road race was won by Jolien D’Hoore whilst RaboLiv took the Team Time Trial – check out the details as they unravel on the website here.

27 August: GP de Plouay-Bretagne, France

A 121km race, this one covers four laps of 27km before a final 14km loop. The course is known for its ability to whittle riders down thanks to the climbs along the way.

The battle kicks off almost immediately, with the 1km Côte du Lézot, which averages at 6 per cent. Not long after is the six kilometer Chapelle Sainte-Anne des Bois, before a little flat relief that is followed by the 10 per cent stinger in the Côte de Ty Marrec.

There is a short downhill section before the finish, so a chance for sprinters to claw it back, if a climber hasn’t already got away. And guess who won it last year? Hint: See image.

See the race website here, and tweet ’em up here.

 

11 September: LA MADRID CHALLENGE By La Vuelta, Spain

By September, we’ll probably have a pretty good idea who is on form for the win in Spain. Copying the format of La Course, this race makes use of the crowds gathered for the final stage of the men’s Grand Tour – La Vuelta.

The race covers laps of the city centre, eventually totaling to 87km with a few lumps and bumps along the way, but not enough to force a break away likely to stick.

Last year, Shelley Olds (Ale-Cippolini) won the race amid a bunch sprint, and we expect we may see a similar finish this year. See updates here and follow the race on twitter here. 

Still not excited enough? Check out this trailer for the series… and get excited!

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