Though racing has already kicked off in the land Down Under with the Australian National Championships, the majority of riders in the women’s peloton are yet to pin a number on their backs so far in 2022. This will all change, however, on the 6th of February, when 21 teams will take to the start line at the Vuelta CV Féminas, a one-day race in the Valencia region of Spain.
When looking at results of previous editions, and the relatively flat profile, it's fair to say that this is a race tailored to the sprinters. Those with the fastest legs in the peloton will relish the long, flat roads and the slightly downhill run-in to the chequered flag in Valencia, which they will reach after 92km of racing.
Last year, Valcar - Travel & Service took the victory at the race with 22-year-old Chiara Consonni – they are a team known to consistently have a dominating and well-drilled leadout train. The young Italian produced a powerful sprint which left her a whole bike length ahead of her compatriot Barbara Guarischi, whose Movistar teammates could not compete with the strength of Valcar when fighting for position on the run-in to the line.
With Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky winning the inaugural edition of the race in 2019, and former-world champion Marta Bastianelli taking the victory in 2020, the parcours of the Vuelta CV Féminas certainly suit a rider who can pack a punch at crunch time.
Beginning in the town of Paterna, the route is relatively straightforward, with no climbs truly significant enough to whittle down the peloton. However, the first half of the route does climb steadily, and should a team race aggressively and decide to take the race on from the gun, it could sting the legs of a few pure sprinters.
Once the riders hit the town of Marines, the route turns back towards Valencia, meaning the riders will face a downhill section before reaching the first, and only, sprint point of the day in Betera. A relatively built-up area, the risk of road furniture and technical navigations of roundabouts in Betera could prove problematic, and it will be important for teams to position their key riders well ahead of the fight for the intermediate sprint points.
The finish in Valencia is similarly technical, with a sweeping corner before the line. Leadout trains are going to be crucial to the sprinters so they don't burn their matches too early. After what could potentially be a relatively easy and short race, there will be lots of fresh legs ready to fight for the win, so the bigger teams will have to ensure that they aren’t complacent when it comes to positioning early on.
They will also need to be aware of riders who don’t want it to come down to a bunch gallop trying sneaky attacks earlier on in the race. With all of the big name sprinters looking at each other, a rider who is able to maintain a long and steady effort might just have the chance of getting away from the bunch and heading solo to the line.
Only three Women’s WorldTeams will take to the start of the Vuelta CV Féminas, with many others opting to skip the normally more popular Spanish season opener. However, this does give the chance for some smaller teams to gain important results and get some UCI points in the bank right at the beginning of their 2022 race campaigns.
Barbara Guarischi at the Tour of Flanders 2021 (Image: Luc Claessen/Getty)
Of the WorldTeams, Movistar likely bring the biggest contender for the overall race win with Barbara Guarischi, a rider who has finished second in this race for two years in a row. Although she’s never taken the victory, the Italian rider has proved that she is well-suited to this course, and getting so close twice in the past will only add motivation for the 31-year-old.
New team for 2022, Uno-X Pro Cycling, will also be racing the Vuelta CV Féminas, and will be hoping to begin their first ever season on a high note. Though the official line-up for the race hasn’t been announced yet, the team’s Norwegian sprinter, Susanne Andersen, will likely be their protected rider. Andersen had an impressive season in 2021 while riding for Team DSM, securing four podium finishes at UCI level races, but she was largely in a supporting role for her former-teammate Lorena Wiebes. Andersen will be relishing the chance to go for her own results in that striking red and yellow jersey of Uno-X this season.
Marta Bastianelli wins stage 1 of the Women's Tour 2021 (Image: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix)
The final WorldTeam taking to the start is UAE Team Emirates who could bring former race-winner Marta Bastianelli. The experienced Italian rider finished her 2021 season well with a win in the Women’s Tour, so it will be intriguing to see if she has maintained her form moving into 2022. Supported by strong Classics rider Sofia Bertizzolo, UAE Team Emirates have a big chance to contend for the win.
Other possible winners include Sandra Alonso who rides for Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling and finished 6th in the Vuelta CV Féminas last year. The Spanish rider is known to perform well on home soil and it will be interesting to see how she has settled in with her new team for 2022. Alessia Bulleri could start for the smaller Spanish team, Eneicat - RBH Global, and clearly is well-suited to the race style, finishing 4th in 2021. However, she could be held back by a weaker leadout train that will struggle to compete with the WorldTour outfits.Chiara Consonni at the Women's Tour 2021 (Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Valcar - Travel & Service will hope to have a repeat of last year’s victory and they have a multitude of sprinters who could help them do this. The team’s line-up hasn’t been announced, but former winner Chiara Consonni could come to defend her title, or the team could opt to support up-and-coming sprinters such as Eleonora Gasparrini or Silvia Persico.
We think that Movistar will finally get it right in 2022 and deliver Barbara Guarischi to the line first. Unlike the other two WorldTeams, Movistar have now had multiple seasons together to get their leadout train drilled, giving them a big advantage. It won’t be easy, though, and we expect a fierce challenge from the likes of Marta Bastianelli and the Valcar - Travel & Service team.
Cover image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix