With 25 races planned for the Women’s WorldTour in 2022, there is a hectic and busy season ahead for the women’s peloton. We’ve seen the first major race of the year already with Omloop het Nieuwsblad, but this isn’t yet a registered WorldTour event for women. This means the actual WWT kicks off on the white roads of Tuscany with Strade Bianche this year.
In 2022, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is one of the most exciting races on the Women’s WorldTour calendar – it's set to be a historic moment in the sport that will provide us with some riveting racing. The second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes will likely be another highlight, as will races like the Tour of Flanders which have a rich heritage in cycling. With the UCI stipulating that Women's WorldTour events have to show a minimum of 45 minutes of TV coverage, we should be able to watch each of the races live and direct, too.
So, from Italy to the Ardennes, Flanders to France and everything in between, here’s your definitive guide to the Women’s WorldTour season in 2022.
Strade Bianche Donne (05/03 1.WWT)
The Women’s WorldTour opens with one of cycling’s most beautiful and popular races. Strade Bianche takes place in Tuscany and finishes in the old town of Siena. Famous for its steep white gravel roads and the demands it places both technically and physically on riders, Strade Bianche is always notoriously difficult to predict. In 2021, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak – a rider who doesn’t normally suit the steep sharp climbs that frequent the area – won the race solo after she broke away from Elisa Longo-Borghini in the closing stages. This year, Longo-Borghini will hope to go one better and delight a home crowd by taking her first Strade win.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in Strade Bianche 2021 (Image: Getty)
Ronde van Drenthe (12/03 1.WWT)
Held in the Netherlands, Ronde van Drenthe is the perfect opportunity for the sprinters of the women’s peloton to target their first WorldTour win. However, it’s by no means an armchair ride to the finish line in Hoogeveen, as the riders have to tackle VAM-berg three times throughout the race – a narrow 750m long ascent which kicks up to over 20% gradient. Intermediate sprint points and cobbled sections also make this race challenging. It was won by Team DSM’s Lorena Wiebes in 2021 from a 7-rider strong group, and the Dutch rider will be back to defend her title in 2022.
Trofeo Alfredo Binda (20/03 1.WWT)
Named after five-time Giro d’Italia winner Alfredo Binda, Trofeo Alfredo Binda is the second Women’s WorldTour race on Italian soil. This year will be the 46th edition of the race which begins in Cocquio Trevisago and finishes in Cittiglio. Riders will complete one long circular loop before taking on four finishing laps, each including the challenging climb of Azzio which is usually a crucial point in the race. Talented climber Elisa Longo-Borghini took the win in this race last year, over a minute and a half ahead of Marianne Vos in second place.
Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne (24/03 1.WWT)
Back to Belgium means back to the flatter roads which suit the sprinters and crosswind specialists of the women’s peloton. Brugge-De Panne skirts the Belgian coastline which means a high possibility of echelons depending on the weather conditions. If the wind is calm, then we will likely see a flat race here that ends in a bunch kick for the line. In 2021, Grace Brown snuck away to take a solo victory as Emma Norsgaard took the sprint win from a chasing group. With only 165m of elevation in 2021, it's unlikely we’ll see riders like Annemiek van Vleuten contest this pancake flat race.
Grace Brown wins Brugge-De Panne in 2021 (Image: Getty)
Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields (27/03 1.WWT)
The first Women’s WorldTour race in the Flanders Classics series, Gent-Wevelgem has some of the least demanding parcours of all of the most famous one-day races in Belgium. The climb of the Kemmelberg often proves the most decisive – in 2021, the race split here on each of the two ascents. Marianne Vos is the defending champion, she won a bunch sprint to the line after catching the duo of Elisa Longo-Borghini and Soraya Paladin in the closing metres of the race. Top contenders in 2022 include Belgian Champion Lotte Kopecky, Emma Norsgaard of Movistar and Marta Bastianelli of UAE Team ADQ.
Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour of Flanders (03/04 1.WWT)
The Tour of Flanders serves as the most important one-day race on both the men’s and women’s cycling calendar. The bergs and cobbles of De Ronde are rich with cycling legend, and any rider who wins this race is regarded as a true connoisseur of the Classics. In 2022, the women’s peloton will take on the Koppenberg for the first time which forms part of a series of short, steep bergs that are a characteristic of the Flanders region. The reigning Tour of Flanders champion is Annemiek van Vleuten, a rider who really can do it all. With her current form, Van Vleuten could take the win again in 2022, but she’ll be challenged by the likes of Elisa Longo Borghini, Demi Vollering and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
Tour of Flanders (Image: Getty)
Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (10/04 1.WWT)
Arguably the most important road race in the Netherlands, Amstel Gold Race is an event which suits the puncheurs of the women’s peloton. The route features four ascents of the Cauberg, a 1.5km climb averaging 4.7%, which often form the decisive point of the race. While individually the climbs aren’t so difficult, the succession in which they come makes this race challenging and one for riders who can cope with repeated efforts. Marianne Vos won this race last year with Demi Vollering in second place, and we can expect similar riders to be fighting it out for victory in 2022.
Paris-Roubaix Femmes (16/04 1.WWT)
The first ever women’s edition of the Hell of the North was one of the most iconic moments of the 2021 season. Savage weather, slippery cobbles and aggressive racing made Paris-Roubaix Femmes arguably the most dramatic race to watch, and it was a historic moment for the women’s peloton as they were finally able to race on the famed cobbled roads of northern France. Lizzie Deignan took a long-range solo win last year, but it's unlikely the peloton will be complacent enough to let this happen again in 2022. Cyclo-cross world champion Vos has the skills and strength to fight for the win, and after finishing second in 2021, she’ll be even hungrier for victory in this year’s edition.
Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021 (Image: Getty)
La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (20/04 1.WWT)
Following the retirement of Anna van der Breggen, who has won this race for the past seven years consecutively, the door is finally open for a new winner of La Flèche Wallonne. Van der Breggen knew exactly how to tackle the brutally steep Mur de Huy, which maxes out at a gradient of 26%, and it's going to be intriguing to see who takes up the mantle in 2022. Van der Breggen’s ex-teammate, Demi Vollering, will have all the tips she needs from the 7-time winner, so this could give her the upper hand. However, Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma has consistently performed well on the Huy, and she’ll be keen to get that elusive win in this race as soon as she can.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes (24/04 1.WWT)
Also held in Belgium’s Wallonia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège features similarly challenging, steep climbs as the race that comes before it. It's likely we’ll see the same crop of riders who are in form in Flèche Wallonne fighting it out for the win in Liège a few days later. There are four main categorised climbs on the route, with the final one coming 5.5km from the finish line. This could be a decisive point in the race and will likely decide the group that will sprint for the win in the town of Ans. Demi Vollering is the defending champion after SD Worx dominated the race last year. Riders like Marianne Vos will be doing their best to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself in 2022.
Itzulia Women (13/05-15/05 2.WWT)
2022 will be the first year that the Itzulia Women stage race is run. It was scheduled in 2021, but ended up being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The race will span three days and take place in the Basque Country and this is the extent of the current information on the route and parcours. When looking at the terrain of the Basque region, though, we can ascertain that this will be an event for the mountain goats of the peloton who will relish long, steep climbs that are common in the area.
Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (19/05-22/05 2.WWT)
A race of four stages around the Burgos region of Spain, the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas was arguably one of the most exciting women’s stage races of 2021. The mix of hilly, flat and mountainous terrain gave opportunities for a multitude of different riders to fight for the win, with the Queen stage on the final day being a gripping showdown between Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten – the two strongest climbers in the women’s peloton. We can expect to see similar scenes in 2022, but with Van der Breggen now retired, it will be intriguing to see who can challenge Van Vleuten in the high mountains. Vuelta Burgos 2021 Stage 1 (Image: Getty)
RideLondon Classique (27/05-29/05 2.WWT)
The RideLondon Classique was previously a one-day race around central London. The technical corners and short laps lent themselves to criterium-style racing, which meant the sprinters often came to the fore. In 2022, however, it will be upgraded to a three-day event with a lot more variety. The first stage will take place in Maldon, Essex, the second will begin in Chelmsford, Essex and finish in Epping Forest, while the last will start and finish on the Victoria Embankment in Central London. While there are certainly no mountains in Essex, the roads can be tough and rolling — meaning this race could suit riders who performed well in the Classics earlier in the season. The likes of Elisa Balsamo and Emma Norsgaard will be targeting a sprint win in London on the final stage.
Women's Tour (06/06-11/06 2.WWT)
Keeping things British, the Women’s Tour is the next race in the Women’s WorldTour following RideLondon. Spanning six stages in 2022, the race will begin in Colchester. The full route is yet to be announced, but last year the race organisers included an individual time trial and circuit race stage, so we expect to see the same sort of variety in the 2022 edition. Demi Vollering won this race last year when it took place at the end of the season, and SD Worx will want to retain the Women’s Tour title in 2022, especially given the race’s famously generous prize pot.
Giro d'Italia Donne (01/07-10/07 2.WWT)
Much to the frustration of teams such as FDJ, the full route and parcours for the 2022 edition of the Giro d’Italia Donne have not yet been revealed. What we know is that the race will take place in the Sardegna, Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Trentino and Vento regions and it will span for 10 stages. The race organisers have also confirmed that it will be shown on Eurosport/GCN for the first time, a welcome – albeit overdue – announcement. Based on previous years, the route should suit the climbers and include some tough mountain stages, as well as a few sprint stages. The reigning Giro Donne champion is Anna van der Breggen, as SD Worx took a clean sweep of the podium in 2021.
Anna van der Breggen at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (24/07-31/07 2.WWT)
Undoubtedly the pinnacle of the women’s cycling season will be the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. After race organisers ASO put on a one-day race, La Course, in previous years, they have finally opted to give the women’s peloton a proper stage race in 2022, spanning eight days and beginning on the Champs Elysees the day that the men’s event finishes. The route is exciting and varied: the opening two stages are flat, the middle three stages are rolling (with stage 4 featuring multiple gravel sectors) and the race finishes with two mountain days. It will come to a dramatic conclusion atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a steep and challenging climb.
For the earlier sprint stages, riders like Emma Norsgaard, Marta Bastianelli and Chloe Hosking will be targeting the win and hoping to wear the yellow jersey for the first part of the race. In terms of the overall GC, Annemiek van Vleuten will start as the hot favourite, with Kasia Niewiadoma, Cecile Uttrup Ludwig and Elisa Longo Borghini also on the list of contenders. It's going to be an exciting week of racing, and a monumental moment for women’s cycling as a whole.
La Course 2021 (Image: Aurelien Vialatte/ ASO)
Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT (06/08 1.WWT)
The only team time trial in the Women’s WorldTour will take place in Sweden after the Tour de France Femmes. The Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT hasn’t been run since 2019, curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic in both 2020 and 2021. This means that the defending champions are Trek-Segafredo women, who won the race 25 seconds ahead of Canyon-SRAM in second place two years ago. With new riders and teams developing in the peloton in recent seasons, it's going to be intriguing to see which teams are dialled in their TTT positions – a notoriously difficult and technical cycling discipline.
Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden RR (07/08 1.WWT)
The day after riders compete for the win in the TTT, they will be back to the road bikes for the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden road race. While the route for 2022 is not yet announced, the race is normally run on flat roads that suit the sprinters. In 2019, it was Marta Bastianelli who took the win ahead of Marianne Vos and Lorena Wiebes. It should be noted that the bunch was only around 35 riders strong by the finish in 2019, implying that the roads are difficult and that the eventual winner could be unexpected.
Battle of the North (09/08-14/08 2.WWT)
A race which will be especially important for the new Norwegian women’s Team Uno-X, the inaugural Battle of the North will last six stages that will take in the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The full route is not yet announced, but the organisers have confirmed that it will be varied with a mix of hilly and sprint stages.
GP Lorient Agglomération - Trophée CERATIZIT (27/08 1.WWT)
Formerly known as GP de Plouay, the GP Lorient Agglomération - Trophée CERATIZIT takes place in the hilly Plouay region of France. The riders normally tackle 10 laps, each of which includes two climbs of around 1km in length. This means that there are 20 climbs throughout the course of the race, making it an extremely challenging, attritional event that suits riders with a strong endurance base. Last year, Elisa Longo Borghini took an impressive solo victory and her teammate, Lizzie Deignan, won it in 2020. The race is commonly won by a lone rider or from a small breakaway sprint. The route is often too challenging for the fastest riders at the finish, and suits those who can make it over the climbs and still have a kick in the legs left in the gallop for the line.Lizzie Deignan wins GP Plouay in 2020 (Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Simac Ladies Tour (30/08-04/09 2.WWT)
With the first edition being held in 1998 – it was then known as the Holland Ladies Tour – the Simac Ladies Tour is one of the longest standing races on the women’s racing calendar currently. It takes place in the Netherlands which means there is often a mix of sprint stages which take in the flatter roads of the country and punchy stages which tackle the steep climbs that are common in certain regions. Last year, the organisers also included a prologue and individual time trial stage which attracts ITT specialists such as Marlen Reusser and Ellen van Dijk. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won this race in 2021 with Reusser finishing in second place in the overall GC. These riders will both be in the colours of SD Worx in 2022, meaning they could be a force to be reckoned with in the Simac Ladies Tour for a second year running.
Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta (2.WWT 08/09-11/09)
The final ‘Grand Tour’ of the women’s cycling season is the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. Whether it can be given the name of a Grand Tour at only four stages long is questionable, and, like the Giro Donne, there is still a lack of information about the route and profile of this race. Going off last year’s race, we can assume that there will be both hilly, flat and mountain stages spanning the four days. The winner of the race overall and taking two stage wins in 2021 was Annemiek van Vleuten, with Lotte Kopecky and Marlen Reusser also winning two stages respectively.
Tour de Romandie Féminin (07/10-09/10 2.WWT)
Another new race for 2022 is the Tour de Romandie Féminin. The organisers have announced that the race will last for three stages: the first will be a circuit race in the town of Lausanne, the second will be in the mountains between Sion and Thyon 2000 and the last will finish in Geneva, where the very first men’s Tour de Romandie ended in 1947. The high mountains will likely attract the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten and Kasia Niewiadoma, but the race’s position at the tail-end of the calendar will mean that the quality of the field will depend on which riders are still continuing their season come October.
Tour of Chongming Island (13/10-15/10 2.WWT)
Returning for 2022 is the Tour of Chongming Island, a race which has been part of the women’s elite race calendar since 2007. Taking place in the municipality of Shanghai, the 3-day stage race often features flat parcours that suit the sprinters. Lorena Wiebes dominated this race in 2019 when it was last held, winning every single stage, all of which started and finished in the Chongming Xingcheng Park. This year, Wiebes will have the likes of Marta Bastianelli, Elisa Balsamo and Chloe Hosking to contend with, and we can expect to see some aggressive sprints for the line.
Tour of Guangxi (18/10 1.WWT)
The Women’s WorldTour finishes with the Tour of Guangxi, a one-day race that was last won in 2019 by Chloe Hosking. The parcours of the Tour of Guangxi are generally not as flat as those of Chongming Island, with the riders tackling two climbs in the 2019 edition of the race. However, they come so far from the finish that the race normally regroups ahead of the finish line, meaning the Women’s WorldTour is back loaded with opportunities for the sprinters.
Cover image: Sean Hardy