The first WWT stage race of the season comes hot on the heels of a series of four 1.1 races in the region — which last year served as the first races back post-lockdown — and which many riders will undoubtedly use as a tune-up.
Starting on Thursday 20th May in Villadiego and finishing on Sunday 23rd May at the top of the gruelling Lagunas de Neila climb, the race traverses the type of punchy terrain that defines that area. This one is definitely for the climbers.
So, what does the race have in store?
Stage 1: Villadiego - Sargentes de La Lora 100km
There’s no easing into this race, with the first stage featuring a series of rolling, uncategorised rises before the first of two categorised climbs of the day, the Alto de la Coculina, comes at just over half-way through the stage. With an average gradient of 4.2% it’s unlikely to cause too much trouble but it could catch anyone who isn’t on their best day.
Two more short, sharp uncategorised climbs follow before the peloton descends into Covanera to start the final climb of the day, the Alto de la Lora. Again, the 3.5% average gradient is unlikely to cause trouble for the strongest riders but at 9km long it might whittle down the peloton to a small group to contest the finish at the top of the climb.
Stage 2: Pedrosa de Valdeporres - Villarcayo 97km
Stage two brings yet another saw-edge profile full of energy-zapping ups-and-downs. Once again there are two categorised GPM climbs on the stage, with the first, Alto de Bocos, coming just 27km into the stage. Just shy of 47km and plenty of ups-and-downs later comes the second, the much steeper Alto Retuerta.
Any fast finishers who might have held on over the climbs will be rewarded with a flat finish, unless a breakaway gets there without them.
Stage 3: Medina de Pomar - Ojo Guareña 115.4km
Stage three is another back-loaded day with just one dangerous-looking uncategorised climb early on, before the peloton heads to Manzanedo and the road begins to steadily rise before the first GPM of Alto de las Hoyas at km 95. We might see an attack or two over this or the next climb that quickly follows as riders look to get away before the final test comes with the finish at the top of Ojo Guareña — which is also home to a stunning heritage site.
Stage 4: Quintanar de la Sierra - Lagunas de Neila 121.6km
Somewhat cruelly, the final stage of the race is also the longest, and when you start at 1,100m you know it's going to be lumpy. While this stage features far fewer saw-tooth rises and falls, it's no less of a challenge, with the whole stage steadily building up to the summit finish at Lagunas de Neila. Not only is the climb long at 14km but the final 4km barely dip below 10%. With any luck we'll see a final GC showdown on the steep slopes between the best climbers in the race.
This race is definitely one for the climbers, and particularly those who have traditionally fared well in the now defunct Emakumeen Bira. While there is no start list for the race, given its WWT status we can expect the best of the peloton to take to the start line.
Annemiek van Vleuten took the win in all three of the one-day races in the region in 2020 and has already declared her intention to be on the start line for Vuelta a Burgos — which means she will also be racing to win. Van Vleuten will be especially keen to give her Movistar team a home win in Spain.
Also looking for a home win will be Spanish national champion, Ale BTC Ljubljana's Mavi Garcia. She will want to perform in her home country in a race she has won before in its former iteration as an amateur event in the Spanish national cup.
FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope's Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig had a frustrating Classics season, coming close almost every race but only making it onto one podium at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She'll be looking to show off her superior climbing talent on the tough terrain.
Kasia Niewiadoma had a similarly frustrating run in the Spring and like Uttrup Ludwig will be itching to flex her climbing legs for Canyon//SRAM.
SD Worx may finally give Ashleigh Moolman Pasio a chance to ride for the win and show off her climbing prowess if the South African can prove herself within her star-studded team.
Trek-Segafredo are likely to be riding for Elisa Longo Borghini at this race given the Italian's form so far this season. She'll be hoping to reclaim the WWT overall from Marianne Vos of Jumbo-Visma by out-climbing the fast-finishing Dutchwoman.
Amanda Spratt of Team BikeExchange had a steady start to the season with an underwhelming classics season by her standards. She'll be looking to carry some better form into the Spanish races and is a world-class climber when at her best.
Lucy Kennedy of Team BikeExchange has a track record in this region, having won the Klasikoa San Sebastian in 2019 and come second in Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa the same year. If she isn't riding for teammate Amanda Spratt then she could be one to watch.
Italian climber Soraya Paladin of Liv Racing had a decent classics season and in 2019 took third overall in Emakumeen Bira. If she lines up at this race she will likely be the team leader for Liv.