The next stop in the Women’s World Tour takes us across the pond stateside, for the first and only time in the professional calendar. Here’s how things stand in the UCI Women’s World Tour….
The latest from the UCI Women’s World Tour
Flèche Wallonne, Annemiek Van Vleuten won Liege Bastogne Liege with a stunning solo attack. Lorena Wiebes (just 20 years old!) won three from three stages in China at the sprinters’s favourite, the Tour of Chongming Island. Picking up her first World Tour win.
Annemiek Van Vleuten retains the UCI Women’s World Tour leader’s jersey, while Wiebes claimed the best young rider’s lead after a stunning performance in Asia.
We also saw the professional peloton head to the UK for Tour de Yorkshire - while not a Women’s World Tour status race - the two day stage race certainly gave us a good insight into who would be targeting the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships come September.
Lorena Wiebes won the opening stage with a stunning sprint into Selby, while Marianne Vos outclassed her opposition, including Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen and home favourite Lizzie Deignan, to win in apocalyptic conditions on the seafront in Scarborough. That stage also saw the women’s peloton race the World Championships circuit and contest an intermediate sprint on the finish line in Harrogate, the first and only chance to race the circuit before Yorkshire 2019.
So what’s special about the Tour of California?
California offers remarkably different racing conditions compared to the cobbles, twists and turns, and narrow roads of Europe. With wide, sweeping boulevards and one epic mountain summit, the race is sure to be hotly contested by an ambitious peloton, some of whom are racing for the first time in the US.
The 2018 race was won by Katie Hall of United Healthcare Pro Cycling - the summit finish at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe suiting her specialist climbing abilities. She beat Tayler Wiles to second, while Kasia Niewiadoma, racing in California - and at altitude - for the first time, rounded out the podium in third. Organisers Amgen are changing the race up this year too.
Stage One - Ventura, 96.5km / 60 miles
This is an out and back course from Ventura through the immaculate Ojai Valley to the scenic coastal town of Carpinteria, before returning to Ventura. Despite being billed as a day for a bunch sprint, there are over 5000 feet of climbing and six QOM climbs, with the final obstacle coming just five kilometres from the finish line - a key moment that will decide the select group racing to the line.
Stage Two - Ontario to Mt Baldy, 74km / 46 miles
God, I love a summit mountain finish and I cannot wait for Mt Baldy. The peloton will climb for 22.5miles (with an average gradient of 6%) before taking on this “hors catergorie” climb (basically so tough, it’s unclassifiable…). Baldy is 4.5miles long, and will see the peloton climb over 2300 feet to the Mt Baldy Resort Ski Lift. The ascent is brutal - ten switchbacks averaging 9.4% with a max incline of almost 16%. The final 800m averages 12.8%. This will be where the Tour of California is won and lost.
Stage Three - Santa Clarita to Pasadena, 126km / 78.3miles
After two gruelling stages, there is no rest for the wicked, no circuit race in Sacramento this year. On a stage which almost exactly mirrors the men’s final stage, the peloton will race through the rugged San Gabriel mountains before making the final descent into the City of the Roses, to finish at the iconic Rose Bowl. This is the Amgen Tour of California women’s race first finish in southern California and is a historic backdrop for a new winner to be crowned.
OK, who are the contenders?
This year, Katie Hall switched allegiances to European superpower Boels Dolmans and has been racing in Europe with mixed fortunes as super domestique for the Dutch team.
Now she has the support of world champion Anna van der Breggen (who won the race from Hall in 2017 by just one second!). I wonder if we see the diminutive American triumph atop Baldy to claim the leader’s jersey in Pasadena. CCC-Liv climber and South African champion Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is coming stateside with ambitions and the mountain summit will definitely suit her. Climber Tayler Wiles is back for new mega team Trek Segafredo, a roster which also has 2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan in their ranks. It will be her first time racing stateside since claiming those rainbow stripes in Richmond in 2015, as she continues her comeback after having a baby in September last year. Kasia Niewiadoma is also back in action, having spent time training for the race at altitude once again in Boulder.