The Women's 2021 Early Season: The Rouleur Racing Guide

The men’s season may have already kicked off with Grand Prix la Marseillaise but the pro women are still waiting for their 2021 to get started. With a few weeks left before racing begins, here is a look ahead to the early season races

With all Australian races long since cancelled and the two Valencian races postponed, the women must now wait until the 27th February to kick off their season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

News of race cancellations and postponements looked to be engulfing the optimism with which many began the new year. However, with men’s racing already going ahead successfully, it seems that we can look to the women’s early Spring calendar with some tentative optimism.

Related – Seven women's races to watch in 2021 
Related – The 2021 Men's Early Season

Grace Brown. (Photo credit: CorVos/SWPix.com)

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - 1.Pro (27/02/21)

One of the few races that managed to take place last Spring before lockdowns stopped play, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is guaranteed to bring a punchy start to the 2021 season.

Teams will be grappling each other on the cobbles to get the first win of 2021 in the bank. The new Jumbo-Visma Women’s Team will be looking to make their mark with Marianne Vos on board, and team BikeExchange will be testing out a Classics team formed around Grace Brown.

Although a 1.Pro event — one rung down from WorldTour — the race has always attracted a WorldTour line-up. This year will be no different as riders rush to get their season started and test their legs before Strade Bianche.

Strade Bianche. (Photo credit: CorVos/SWpix.com)

Strade Bianche - 1.WWT (06/03/21)

Although the 2020 edition of Strade Bianche feels like it took place only yesterday, the Tuscan classic will soon be back again in its usual spring calendar spot.

Fans will be watching with keen interest to see if the likes of Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana) can repeat their performances from last summer. Annemiek van Vleuten on her new team, Movistar, will be targeting a third consecutive win in Siena but anything could happen on the white roads.

Lisa Klein (Photo Credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Healthy Ageing Tour - 2.1 (09/03/21 - 12/03/21)

The last early-season stage race standing so far, The Healthy Ageing Tour should be celebrating its 10th edition in 2021 but, like many races, was cancelled last year.

Those who were hoping to test out their climbing legs over multiple stages will still be disappointed, however, as the race — which takes place in Northern Holland — is completely flat throughout. Lisa Klein of Canyon//SRAM took the win in 2019 by 8 seconds ahead of Ellen van Dijk of Trek-Segafredo.

 

Lizzie Deignan. (Photo credit SWPix.com) 

Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio - 1.WWT (21/03/21)

The standalone women’s race has been held as a World Cup and latterly WorldTour race since 2008.

Heralded as the WWT’s answer to Il Lombardia, the rolling 124km course comprises eight laps of a 15.5km circuit. The race favours punchier riders as the fact that the most recent winner was Marianne Vos (back in 2019) illustrates. Amanda Spratt and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig also made the podium last year and would not be out of place in 2021 either.

AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne - 1.WWT (25/03/21)

One of the final WWT races of 2020 — held on 20th October — will now be one of the first to take place in 2021. Young sprinting juggernaut and former winner of the WWT young rider classification, Lorena Wiebes, took the win last year ahead of Lisa Brennauer with Lotte Kopecky in third.

Related – WorldTour team bikes 2021 

De Panne is as flat as it sounds and, with nowhere to break away, usually culminates in a bunch kick between the pure sprinters. Look out for Chloe Hosking on her new team of Trek-Segafredo as well as last year’s podium finishers.

Lorena Wiebes

Gent-Wevelgem - 1.WWT (28/03/21)

Sprinters who can get over the short, sharp climbs usually rule this 136km race. Last year’s edition, held in October, was no exception as Belgian Jolien d’Hoore took the bunch kick from compatriot, Lotte Kopecky.

D’Hoore will no doubt want to replicate that win in her final season as a pro, but there will be plenty of competition chasing her up the Kemmelberg.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Photo credit: Anton Vos/Cor Vos/SWPix.com)

Tour of Flanders / Ronde van Vlaanderen - 1.WWT (04/03/21)

The 2021 Tour of Flanders comes a mere five months after Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won the previous edition.

While the men’s event has celebrated over 100 editions to-date, the women only began to race the Tour of Flanders in 2004. Brutal ascents of cobbled climbs such as the Muur and the Paterberg coupled with the aggressive racing of women’s peloton make Flanders as unpredictable as it is exciting.

Paris-Roubaix -  1.WWT (11/03/21)

Fans and riders alike will be crossing their fingers that the inaugural Women’s Paris-Roubaix can go ahead on Sunday 11th April. After the race was teasingly added to the calendar last year and then just as swiftly yanked away among Covid cancellations the anticipation is mounting.

As this will be the first women’s Roubaix, the only metric for predicting who might perform is by studying past cobbled Classics results. However, as this is Paris-Roubaix, unpredictability and chaos rule and any speculation will likely be thrown out of the window. Still, look out for the usual suspects like Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen at the front of the race.