Last year’s edition of the Women’s Tour had dramatic, rain-soaked, punchy stages, hectic bunch sprints, gutsy breakaways and a flat, fast time trial which resulted in Team SD Worx’s Demi Vollering taking the overall victory. The only problem: we didn’t see any of it live. While the riders fought it out for the big prize pots and produced fiery, exciting racing, the rest of us were left frantically refreshing Twitter for live updates and waiting hours for the stage highlights to be published online.
Luckily, in 2022, the organisers of the race have remedied this with a partnership with GCN+ and Eurosport which commits to showing each day of the race, live and direct. It’s a good job, too, because we expect this year to provide some unmissable racing with a varied course that takes in some of the UK’s toughest bergs.
The organisers have pulled out all the stops with this year’s route with the highlight being the summit finish atop Black Mountain on stage five. A 7.2 kilometre climb which averages 5.3% and ramps up to 21%, it's sure to cause splits in the general classification. Stunning panoramic views across the Brecon Beacons will reward the rider who reaches the top first and, with a flat stage in Oxfordshire on the final day, the overall will likely be sewn up atop the Welsh mountain.
Route profile for the Queen Stage on 10th June (Credit: Women's Tour)
But the main challenge for those looking to contest the overall is to not lose time on the days leading up to the Queen stage. Before the riders hit the ominous climb in Wales, they will have already had four days of racing to contend with. Things start off relatively tame from a GC perspective, with two flat sprint stages in Colchester and Harlow, but begin to get difficult as the route heads West.
Stage three sees a tough rolling stage beginning in Tewkesbury before heading into the Forest of Dean. The riders will take on two second category climbs on route to the finish in Gloucester, so this could ruin the plans of any teams hoping to keep things together for another bunch kick. Rolling roads continue into stage five which includes both a second and first category climb in the backend of the route. 2108m of climbing are packed into this 140km stage, meaning it could decide some GC positions even before the riders take on Black Mountain the following day.
Overall, it’s a route that gives opportunities to the sprinters on the opening stages, offers terrain for breakaways in stages three and four, while building up nicely for a general classification showdown in Wales on stage five. The final day in Oxford will see the fastest finishers come to the fore once more, providing they have hauled themselves over Black Mountain the previous day.
Last year, the Women’s Tour took place at the end of October, just a few days after the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, meaning many riders went to the race fatigued and carrying injury (Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini had to leave the race as she was unable to hold the bars due to the blisters she’d sustained during the Hell of the North.) In 2022, however, it’s back to its usual place on the calendar meaning it serves as perfect preparation for the longer stage races coming up later in the summer such as the Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes.
Lorena Wiebes wins stage 1 of the Ride London Classique (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
It’s for this reason that we can expect a plethora of climbing talent to take to the start of this race. Unlike RideLondon a few weeks before which consisted of flat stages (Team DSM sprinter Lorena Wiebes won every stage as well as the overall) the route of Women’s Tour is well-suited to the mountain goats of the peloton. While the full start list won’t be announced until the day before the race, the names that are down so far to ride is an indication of the calibre riders we can expect to take to the start.
Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma is the standout name on the current list. The Polish rider is well-suited to the steep inclines of a climb like Black Mountain and has the experience and endurance to perform well over a multi-day race. Niewiadoma will miss the support of Canyon//SRAM’s other climbing talent, Pauliena Rooijakkers who was hit by Covid-19 after her win in the UCI 1.1 race Durango Durango, but will be backed up by Elise Chabbey who is a valuable domestique. Chabbey will also likely be able to go for individual wins on the punchier stages earlier in the race.
Elisa Longo-Borghini on the way to winning Paris-Roubaix Femmes (Image: ASO)
For Trek-Segafredo, Elisa Longo-Borghini will return to racing after a mid-season break following the block of Spring and Ardennes classics. The Italian champion showed she was in incredible form during that period, winning Paris-Roubaix Femmes and securing two top-10s in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After a period of training and rest, we expect her to come back even stronger ready for the Women’s Tour. Trek also bring new hour record holder, Ellen van Dijk, who will be an asset in the lead out train for their sprinter, Chloe Hosking.
British National Champion Pfeiffer Georgi will be hoping to impress in front of a home crowd and is well-suited to the terrain. Her Team DSM teammate Lorena Wiebes also enters as the hot favourite for the sprint stages after her performances in RideLondon. Coryn Labecki of Team Jumbo-Visma will also relish the punchy climbs on stages three and four which could distance the pure sprinters. Anna Henderson is another option for the Dutch squad – she’ll be familiar with the demands of British roads.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of Team SD Worx (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Team SD Worx come without Demi Vollering, the defending champion, who is currently at an altitude camp preparing for the Tour de France Femmes later this year. Still, the Dutch squad have a strong line-up including Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, both of whom are suited to the punchy parcours of the Women's Tour. Swiss champion Marlen Reusser will be a very valuable domestique for the aforementioned riders, but could also go for her own result if she finds herself in a the winning breakaway.
From EF-Education Tibco SVB, the American duo of Veronica Ewers and Krista Doebel-Hickok are worth keeping a close eye on in the hillier stages, after they both performed exceptionally well in the recent block of Spanish races. Team BikeExchange’s Alexandra Manly and Georgia Baker have proven themselves to be exceptional sprinters in the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and will be hoping to repeat these performances at a WorldTour level race. Marta Bastianelli from Team UAE-ADQ could round out a strong sprinting field in the Women’s Tour this year.
Grace Brown of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Finally, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope have shown themselves to be one of the strongest teams this season on hillier terrain with the likes of Marta Cavalli, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Evita Muzic all proving they are on excellent form. However, those riders won't start in the Women's Tour this year, with Grace Brown as the team's standout rider on the roster. She is well-suited to the hilly terrain on stages three and four, especially if she manage to get herself into a strong breakaway. FDJ's sprinter, Vittoria Guazzini also has a good chance in the fast finishes and has shown she is on strong form with her win in the recent Bretagne Ladies Tour CERATIZIT.