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Women's Tour favourites: Our pick of the riders to watch

Maria David
7 Jun 2019

Our selection of the racers who could make their mark at the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour, which runs from Monday 10th to Saturday 15th June

Scenic Suffolk will be the setting on Monday for the start of the 6th Ovo Energy Women’s Tour. The first stage will see the 96 competitors roll out for a 157.6km race from Beccles to finish with a sprint into Stowmarket. This year’s event has been lengthened to six stages and deemed to be the toughest edition yet, with riders covering 790km and climbing a total of 8,400m over the six days.

Two of the stages will be around 160km, while other stages will be similar at 142km. There will be a 64km 'respite' for a circuit race at the Cyclopark, Gravesend, and the final stage will be a mere 125km, culminating in an unprecedented summit finish in Pembrey Country Park, Wales, a week on Saturday.

This Women’s WorldTour race is a popular appointment in the diary of top women racers in the world, given its organisation, prize money parity with the men’s Tour of Britain, and the enthusiastic crowd support. With so many of the high-ranking cyclists gracing Britain’s roads the stages have had a variety of riders take the win, and we have yet to see a winner successfully defend their title.

Could this be the year that the 2018 winner, Coryn Rivera achieves this? We look at the form of some of the top racers across the 16 teams that will be looking to don the Ovo Energy leader's green jersey next week.

Some may not get to wear green, but they could be in with a chance of wearing the Breast Cancer Care pink points jersey, the Skoda black QOM jersey, the Eisberg red sprints jersey or the HSBC British Cycling pale blue Best British Rider jersey.

Women’s Tour 2019: Key information

Dates: Monday 10th June to Saturday 15th June  
Start: Beccles, Suffolk, England  
Finish: Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, Wales  
Stages: Six  
UK television coverage: Hour-long highlights of every stage will be shown on ITV4 each evening  
Website: womenstour.co.uk

Riders to watch at the 2019 Women's Tour

Marianne Vos, CCC-Liv

Women’s Tour record

2014: 1st overall, Points jersey. 2016: Points jersey, 4th overall. 2017: DNF. 2018: Points jersey, 2nd overall

Notable performances this season

Winner, Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Winner, Tour de Yorkshire. 3rd, Amstel Gold Race

Marianne Vos is back to the winning form that we have long associated her with. This year has seen her take impressive victories at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Tour de Yorkshire with a podium place in the Spring Classics. She was unlucky at the Tour of Flanders when a puncture on the last climb (the Paterberg), while in a select group, put her out of contention.

Vos seems to be lucky in the UK and has had some notable victories, in particular her win at the London 2012 Olympics just ahead of Lizzie Deignan, and her recent win on the Bridlington to Scarborough stage of the Tour de Yorkshire. So it is no surprise that Vos is currently second in the UCI World rankings.

At the Women’s Tour last year Vos worked very well with her then team co-leader, Dani Rowe and both of them finished on the podium behind Coryn Rivera. Rowe, who retired last year, has been replaced by the equally experienced Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. This pairing could also prove successful on Britain’s roads next week.

Marianne says: 'The Ovo Energy Women's Tour is a beautiful race that I have fond memories of. It's the first one after my altitude training [in Sierra Nevada], so I have to wait and see how it will go. But I'm very much looking forward to it.

'There is always a huge crowd and the performance level is high. This is one of the most highly competitive races in our calendar. The course is rather tough. For the first time, there will be an uphill finish. The organisation manages to set up a professional event every year and since the first edition, it feels like this race is a permanent fixture on our calendar.

'The cycling sport is very much alive in England. My last race with CCC-Liv was in Yorkshire, with a perfect final day. I hope we continue on the same footing. Anyway, there is a lot of competition. We will look at it from day-to-day. It will be clear that I and CCC-Liv harbour ambitions.'

Among those supporting Marianne will be Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. The South African national road race champion recently finished in third place at the Tour of California. This year has not gone according to plan as a heavy crash in the finish straight at the Amstel Gold Race put her out of action for a month, but her recent performance at the Tour of California has shown that Moolman is on her way back.

Sarah Roy, Mitchelton-Scott

Women’s Tour record

2015: 67th overall. 2016: DNF. 2017: 45th overall. 2018: 16th overall

Notable performances this season

Points jersey, Women’s Tour Down Under. 3rd, National Championships road race

Sarah Roy is one of a number of strong riders in the Mitchelton-Scott team who can bring success in the absence of Annemiek van Vleuten. Her strength is in sprinting, having gained top 10 finishes in sprint races in the WorldTour race at Chongming Island and in the sprint to Bedale at the Tour de Yorkshire.

Gracie Elvin, a regular visitor to the Women’s Tour has also recorded solid results at the race.

Sarah Roy says: 'The Women’s Tour is one of my favourite events on the calendar. I love the vibe there with the crowds and the local schools getting involved no matter what the weather throws at us.

'The racing is always tough and a little unpredictable over dead roads similar to those of the Australian country roads. We have an extra stage going from five to six days this year as well which will add another layer to things.'

Mitchelton-Scott Sports Director, Alejandro Gonzalez-Tablas says: 'We have a strong team for the Women’s Tour, most of the team has been showing a great level in the last few weeks and although we don’t have a clear leader for the GC, we have clear aims towards the stages.

'It will be the first race back for Grace Brown since she broke her collarbone and it will be interesting to see how she responds. Similar for Georgia Williams, who is coming from a long break, but she is really motivated for a good comeback.

“Sarah Roy will be our sprinter, but we have the chance to play it openly on the stages and not necessarily aim for a sprint finish with some other strong riders with Gracie Elvin, Alexandra Manly or Jessica Allen.”

Jolien d’Hoore, Boels-Dolmans

Women’s Tour record

2015: 2nd overall, Stage 2 winner. 2016: 44th overall. 2017: 53rd overall, Stage 5 winner. 2018: Stage 1 winner, DNF

Notable performances this season

2nd points classification, Health Ageing Tour

With a world title in track cycling Jolien d’Hoore can transfer her sprint speed to the road. She enjoyed back-to-back wins at the Women’s Tour when she won the final stage of the 2017 edition, a criterium around Central London, and went on to win the first stage of the 2018 race from Framlingham to Southwold.

This year did not start well for D’Hoore when she broke her collarbone, and has taken her time coming back to form. She has had some good performances, notably when she won a sprint stage of the Women's WorldTour race at Emakumeen (Basque Country).

D’Hoore will be hoping to do a hat trick and win a stage for the third year running at the Women’s Tour. The crowds will be out in force to will her along.

Jolien says: 'I always love to come back to the UK. It’s a great combination of hard racing and great crowds who are all big fans of women’s cycling.'

Boels-Dolmans is currently the number one women’s racing team in the UCI World rankings and WorldTour rankings. This is helped in no small part by the strength and depth in the team.

Current World Champion Anna van der Breggen is not racing at the Women’s Tour, but teammates Amalie Didericksen and Chantal Blaak, both former World Champions will be there.

In addition, Christine Majerus another sprinter, and 2017 winner of the points and sprints jersey at the Women’s Tour will mean that there is a strong possibility of a victory in some shape or form coming to the Dutch team.

Lizzie Deignan, Trek-Segafredo

Women’s Tour record

2014: DNF. 2015: Stage 1 winner, DNF. 2016: 1st overall, Best British Rider. 2017: 42nd

Notable performances this season

7th, Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Lizzie Deignan has made an accelerated return to competition following maternity leave and is keen to get back to the top of her game, particularly as she eyes the World Championships in Yorkshire later this year. Deignan resumed racing less than two months ago when she contested the tough trio of Spring Classics - Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, before racing up the challenging hills in her native Yorkshire.

Her performance is taking her ever closer to the podium, having achieved 5th in the mountains classification at the Tour de Yorkshire and top 10 finishes in stages at the Tour of California.

This year’s Women's Tour course, with its hilly stages, will suit Deignan’s attacking style. With a strong team around her, and former world champions as Sports Directors in the shape of Giorgia Bronzini and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Deignan will have a solid structure backing her.

Lizzie says: 'I’m really excited to be taking part in this year’s Women’s Tour. It’s always good to race on home soil and not only does the event attract the biggest crowds along the way but it is now one of the hardest races on the women’s calendar.

'There are longer stages with more climbs than ever before so I can’t wait to challenge myself on this year’s route. I will be there supporting the team and hopefully continuing my return to form following the birth of Orla just over eight months ago now.

'I’m pleased that I’ve been making steady progress so far this season and you can’t rush these things. The Women’s Tour was originally my goal return race so it’s good to already have racing under my belt at this stage.'

Elisa Longo Borghini, Trek-Segafredo

Women’s Tour record

2014: 25th overall. 2015: Combativity award, 20th overall. 2016: 3rd overall. 2017: 10th overall. 2018: QOM, 6th overall

Notable performances this season

Winner, Emakumeen XXXII.Bira

Elisa Longo Borghini has a solid track record at the Women’s Tour and is one of the most consistent riders, having been mixing it at the top level for 10 years even though she is still only 27-years-old. A former leader in the Women’s WorldTour rankings Elisa’s strength is as a rouleur.

She is not a pure sprinter like some of her teammates, but she is capable of winning thanks to her strength on punchy, hilly courses. She may well contest the QOM competition, where she has had success at the Women’s Tour. Longo Borghini is on fire at the moment, having recently won the Women’s WorldTour race at Emakumeen (Basque Country).

Elisa says: 'I’m in good shape and the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour will be a good test for my legs. Lizzie will probably be the captain since it’s her home race and her shape is growing incredibly fast. I’ll be at her service trying to get her a good result.'

Other racers to watch from Trek-Segafredo are Abi van Twisk, the young rider from Peckham, South London, and the experienced Ellen Van Dijk whose time-trialling strengths will be useful. Van Dijk will be buoyed by her recent success at the Thuringen Ladies Tour.

Kasia Niewiadoma, Canyon-SRAM

Women’s Tour record

2017: 1st overall, Stage 1 winner. 2018: 20th

Notable performances this season

Winner, Amstel Gold Race

Kasia Niewiadoma burst into the Women’s Tour in 2017 as 22-year-old firebrand who raced like she had nothing to lose. She famously made an audacious breakaway on Stage 1, outfoxing the stellar peloton and leaving them in her wake for the rest of the week.

Niewiadoma eventually won the Women’s Tour by a 1:18 margin – the largest winning margin in the race’s five-year history. Needless to say, the peloton has since got the measure of Niewiadoma so when she returned to the roads of Britain she was a marked rider.

However, this did not stop her from contesting the QOM competition where she finished 2nd. This season has seen another strong start, with a number of top 10 finishes and a win at Amstel Gold, putting Niewiadoma in second place in the UCI WorldTour rankings.

Kasia says: 'I haven’t sat down and thought about how my season has been so far. If I answer spontaneously now, then I can say that I’m happy with it. I’ve had a nice time with the team, I haven’t cracked physically or mentally at any point, and I’m still in good shape now.

'There were a few races where I regret what I did or how I raced, but at the same time I took a lesson from those races so that’s also a good thing. When I won the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour I was young and free! I am looking forward to it, and afterwards I will go and look at the Worlds course in Yorkshire.'

Hannah Barnes, Canyon-SRAM

Women’s Tour record

2014: 8t overall. 2015: 5th overall, Stage 5 winner, Best British rider, Best young rider. 2016: 27th overall. 2017: 3rd overall, Best British rider, Best young rider. 2018: 45th overall.

Notable performances this season

8th overall, Tour de Yorkshire

Hannah Barnes’s season has been solid, though her results have not necessarily reflected her performance as she has generally ridden for the likes of Kasia Niewiadoma. On her last visit to the UK, at the Tour de Yorkshire where sister Alice was also present, it looked like the spoils could have been divided between themselves with Alice sprinting for a win on Stage 1, while Barnes the elder would dig in on the climbs to contest Stage 2.

Both had good showings during the race, but it was no cigar. However, Hannah Barnes shouldn’t be underestimated during the Women’s Tour given her consistent record at the race. The Women’s Tour usually passes near her family home in Northamptonshire, though this year the route is not going that way. That won’t stop her from being spurred on by the crowds, though.

Hannah says: 'The Women’s Tour is notorious for doing stages that are longer than most races we do. I’m really looking forward to racing at the Cyclopark because in Britain I think you grow up doing those kind of races on those circuits. I’ve been third overall in 2017 so I’d quite like to better that if I can. The competition’s huge.'

Lisa Brennauer, WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling

Women’s Tour record

2014: 16th overall. 2015: 1st overall, points jersey. 2016: DNF. 2017: 22nd overall. 2018: 30th overall

Notable performances this season

Winner: Festival Elsy Jacobs

A previous winner of the Women’s Tour, Lisa Brennauer’s strength is in her time-trialling, having been World Champion in 2014. In the WNT-Rotor team and also in her former team, she tended to be the chief lead-out rider for sprint queen, Kirsten Wild. So it wasn’t always clear to see Brennauer’s true potential.

This season we have had a taste of what she is capable of when she took overall victory at the Festival Elsy Jacobs and gained top 10 places at the Tour de Yorkshire and the Thuringen Ladies Tour. With Wild currently racing in France, at the Tour de Bretagne, we will get the chance to see if Brennauer can repeat her Women’s Tour victory from 2015.

Lisa says: 'My season has been great so far. It started successfully on the track with a silver medal at the World Championships before I met my new teammates of WNT Rotor on the road. Pretty soon I found the right drive on the road and could celebrate some nice victories and great results together with my teammates, lately winning the final stage and the General Classification at GP Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg.

'This year’s edition of the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour looks like it’s going to be the hardest so far and the last two stages will show who’s really ready to go for the overall victory. For sure my teammates and I are ready to fight for it and we’re definitely looking forward to coming back to the UK for this great event!'

Coryn Rivera, Team Sunweb

Women’s Tour Record

2015: DNF. 2018: 1st overall, Sprints jersey

Notable performances this season

8th, Trofeo Alfredo Binda. 3rd, Brabantse Pijl

As the defending champion in the Women’s Tour Coryn Rivera may well feel the pressure to claim the crown again this time around. However, the 26-year-old Californian manages to take things in her stride.

Her breakthrough in racing came in 2017 when she moved to Europe full-time and had a very successful Spring Classics campaign. She also won the RideLondon Classique that year.

Yet to score any victories this year Rivera has shown some form when she gained top 10 places in stages of the Thuringen Ladies Tour. It remains to be seen how she will do in the Women’s Tour. With a team that includes Leah Kirchmann, Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij (2016 best young rider) she will have strong support.

Coryn says: 'Winning the Women’s Tour last year was the biggest achievement. I think typically I’m a one-day racer, and I didn’t really see myself as a GC rider, but the courses were really suited to my strengths. So we were able to get ourselves into a position to be in the GC lead, and defend it, and so that was something really special and different for me.

'All the girls there were amazing, and I think what helped us win was that everyone was on form. This year I want to do well, and defend [my title in] the Women’s Tour.'

Lizzy Banks, Bigla Pro Cycling

Women’s Tour Record: First participation

Notable performances this season

3rd, Festival Elsy Jacobs. 9th, Tour de Yorkshire

This will be Lizzy Banks’s first appearance at the Women’s Tour and she will be the team leader given that Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is currently racing in France. For the former medical student from Sheffield, this must be a phenomenal opportunity for her.

Having shown form through her perfomances at Festival Elsy Jacobs and at the Tour de Yorkshire, where she featured heavily in the breakaways, Lizzy is definitely hungry for more success next week. She will once again be feeding off the home crowd.

Photos: CCC-Liv, Mitchelton-Scott, George Deswijzen, Trek-Segafredo, Canyon-Sram, Tino Pohlmann, WNT-Rotor, Maria David, Sean Robinson/Velofocus