With the introduction of the UCI Women’s World Tour and the Olympics taking place in Rio later this summer, the 2016 season will be one to remember. Throughout the off season, new teams emerged, riders transferred and some influential riders are making a comeback out of injury or retirement. The excitement around this coming season is palpable. And of course you’ll be able to follow it all right here on Ella.
Looking back at the 2015 season and also at what lies ahead, we’ve picked 10 riders who will likely play a major role this coming season. Watch for them to come across the line first or animate the race or race their heart out in support of their teammate.
Top 10 riders to watch this season:
She has been a dominant force in the women’s peloton for the last couple of years, winning three World Cup races in 2015 alone, and taking home the World Cup Series jersey two years in a row. Her winning season culminated with the biggest win of the all: the Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, last September. She doesn’t believe in the curse of the rainbow jersey and is eager to show off the rainbow stripes this season.
For 2016, Armitstead has expressed a desire to win the Tour of Flanders after coming in among the top 10 in the last three editions. Of course winning the Olympic Road Race is the absolute goal for 2016, after Marianne Vos outsprinted her in London to claim the gold medal in 2012. She has also hinted at retiring after this year and would like to do so on a high note. Should she indeed win gold in Rio, she would retire as the reigning Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champion — a high note indeed.
After being sidelined with injury for most of 2015, 12-time world champion Marianne Vos aims to be back in 2016. She originally wanted to qualify for Rio on the mountain bike, but had to rethink her goals when she had to stop racing altogether in 2015 due to health issues.
She has now shifted her focus back to road racing, but has yet to name the date of her return as her health and race fitness remain Vos’ top priority. At the training camp of the Dutch selection in South Africa last December, Vos showed positive signs of progression. Vos is well known for her determination and ‘addiction’ to winning, so we are excited to see her return to the peloton in 2016.
In the absence of Marianne Vos, a massive talent has gotten her chance to shine. It was already clear that Anna van der Breggen had the potential to follow in Vos’ footsteps, helping her win gold at the Road World Championships in 2012 and 2013, but when Rabo-Liv needed a new leader, Van der Breggen rose to the occasion, adding some of the season’s biggest victories to her palmares.
She beat time trial powerhouse Ellen van Dijk at the national time trial championships, won the Giro Rosa and sprinted to victory at La Course by le Tour de France. She capped her season by winning two silver medals at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in addition to a bronze in the team time trial. Is there anything Van der Breggen can’t do? Whether it’s a climber’s’ course, a bunch sprint or a time trial; she is capable of winning any race. That makes 2016 a season to watch her closely.
The creation of the Orica teams has ensured that talented Australian riders are given the opportunity to compete at the highest level in cycling. There are now quite a few top female cyclists who came through that program, with many of them continuing to ride for the Australian green and blue team like Katrin Garfoot, Gracie Elvin, Melissa Hoskins and Amanda “Spratty” Spratt.
Spratt has been part of the Orica squad from the beginning in 2012 and just won the national road race in Australia for a second time, showing promising form for 2016.
Spratt started getting noticed in June of last year when she transitioned from top 10 finisher to podium candidate when she won the Giro del Trentino Alto Adige in June and continued making podium appearances in three stages of the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt, earning her a fourth place in the GC. The way her star is rising, 2016 could be an exciting season for Spratt.
In September Megan Guarnier made her home country proud when she won the bronze medal at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, a fitting finish for an extremely successful season. Boels-Dolmans emerged as the team to beat early on in 2015 and Guarnier quikcly proved to be a major asset. At the inaugural edition of the women’s Strade Bianche, Guarnier left the top favourites behind when she rode to a solo victory in Siena, Italy. It was her first victory in Europe and indicative of the progress she has made in recent years. It was also just the beginning of a very successful season.
In May, she became the US national championship for a second time, and continued on to show tremendous form two months later at the Giro Rosa, where she wore the pink leader’s jersey for six days. Her bronze medal at the World Championships earned her an automatic spot on the American Olympic team, which means she’s one step ahead of her competition who have yet to qualify.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is not only an excellent rider, but an ambassador for women’s cycling in South Africa too. She’s still in a league of her own though, winning just about every national championships she enters and she’s been dominant at the African Continental Games in the last three years as well. Since her professional debut in 2010, Moolman-Pasio has made steady progress throughout the years. The number of victories is still limited, but she’s always a contender for the podium. Who knows what the Olympic year might bring? You’d think she’d have a guaranteed spot in the Olympic team, but it’s more complicated than that, so she’ll do anything to show she’s worthy of representing her country in Rio. Particularly pay attention to her in the Flèche Wallonne, where she ended up in 3rd, 4th and 5th place over the last three years.
At just 21, Kasia Niewiadoma was given the task of leading the Polish team at the World Championships in Richmond last year, and lined up with a serious chance of earning herself a medal. She sprinted for victory amongst the group of favourites, with a seventh place as result. 2015 was a breakout year for the Rabo-Liv rider who won the European U23 road race and also took home the silver in the elite category of the European Games road race. She was best young rider at last year’s Giro Rosa and at 20 years of age, won the Spanish stage race Emakumeen Bira.
Surprisingly enough, a Polish national title still eludes her but given the talent she showed last season, this might be her year, For 2016, Niewiadoma hopes to qualify for the Polish Olympic team and make her country proud in Rio and at home in the inaugural women’s Tour of Poland.
While somewhat quiet in the road scene, 2015 was a remarkable year for the rainbow wearer who in 12 months time won no less than four world championship titles across as many disciplines: road, cyclocross, cross country and team relay mountain biking. And while she only participated in 10 road races during the 2015 season, nearly all those races resulted in top 10 finishes.
Going into 2016, Ferrand-Prevot is determined to combine her road race, time trial and mountainbike ambitions in Rio 2016, hoping for Olympic glory in all three disciplines. It will be very exciting to watch her get on the bike in 2016 and find out which victories she’ll be able to take home.
A cyclist that has been a serious contender for World Cup wins since she was just 20-years-old, Elisa Longo Borghini’s breakout season was followed by an horrific crash in 2013. She’s come back just as strong and has been steadily building her palmares, ending the 2015 season with a victory at the Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale Donne on home turf.
Having already won classic like the Trofeo Binda and the Tour of Flanders, Longo Borghini placed La Flèche Wallone to her wish list for 2016. She of course hopes to represent her country in Rio, but being Italian, qualification for the national selection will be highly competitive. It’ll be interesting to watch the development of Longo Borghini and all Italians as they vie for selection.
In 2015, Lisa Brennauer discovered that in addition to being an excellent time trialist, she’s also a great sprinter and GC rider as well. She won no less than three stage races in 2015, beginning with the Energiewacht Tour in April, then the Aviva Women’s Tour in June and winning the Boels Rental Ladies Tour in September.
Remaining true to her speciality, Brennauer took home the bronze medal at last year’s individual time trial world championships while also being part of the team time trial dominating Velocio-SRAM squad. After winning the world time trial title in 2014 and as a silver medal in the 2014 UCI World Championships road race, she has her sights set on the Rio time trial.
Although she officially retired in 2014, Emma Pooley in December announced she will be back in women’s pro cycling, aiming for a spot in Team Great Britain for the summer Olympics. With a hilly time trial course on the menu, it’s too good a chance to pass up, stated the climbing and TT specialist. Since her retirement, she’s been keeping busy by doing triathlons and she’s the current duathlon World Champion, so she is still in formidable shape. No news yet on whether she will sign with a (UCI) team in 2016 or will aim for Olympic gold on her own.