Highlights from the 2015 UCI Women Road World Cup

by Jessi Braverman

The UCI Woman Road World Cup series came to a close last weekend in Plouay, France. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) sprinted from a small group to win the tenth and final round – and repeat as the overall winner. The 18th edition of the World Cup series is likely the last as the UCI has unveiled plans to roll out the Women’s World Tour in 2016. Below is a retrospective of the the 10-round series. Using our favourite images from each race, video highlights and a written summary, we’ve captured the series as it unfolded from its spirited start in Holland at the Ronde van Drenthe to its exciting finale at GP Plouay in France.

Round 1: Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe — The Netherlands — March 14

Winner: Jolien d’Hoore
World Cup Leader: Jolien d’Hoore

Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) sprinted to victory at Ronde van Drenthe, coming off teammate Chloe Hosking’s wheel with the finish line in sight. The Belgian national road champion had a full bike length on Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) in second place. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) rounded out the podium in Hoogeveen.

“The final was quite hectic. We were a little group, but a few kilometres before the finish it all came back together,” said d’Hoore. “I felt really, really good. I was very sure about my sprint. The team did an amazing job with the lead-out.”

Boels Rental Worldcup women 2015

It was the first World Cup victory for d’Hoore, who notched her biggest result to date on her 25th birthday. Wiggle Honda perfectly positioned the Belgian national road champion to unleash her sprint. Audrey Cordon kept the speed high into the two kilometre mark. Elisa Longo Borghini assumed pace-setting responsibilities into the flamme route. The Italian brought Hosking into the penultimate corner.

Hosking’s pace was so high coming into the finish that she and d’Hoore had a slight gap at the 150 metre mark when d’Hoore sprinted off Hosking’s wheel. No one could challenge d’Hoore once she opened her sprint.

Read the full report.

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Round 2: Trofeo Alfredo Binda — Italy — March 29

Winner: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
World Cup Leader: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) outsprinted a six-rider breakaway in Cittiglio to win the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, taking the lead in the UCI Women’s World Cup in the process.

“I’m really delighted,” said Armitstead. “I was just hoping for some good feelings ahead of Flanders. To win and to win the way I did against two really strong Rabobank girls is great for my confidence ahead of next week.”


The two strong Rabo Liv riders Armistead referenced were double world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, in her first race back since she won the Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor in January, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Anna van der Breggen. The Rabo Liv pair and Armitstead were part of a six rider breakaway that took shape on the penultimate lap of the hilly course. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), who won in Cittiglio two years ago, Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM) and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) also made the move.

“Having gotten second last year, I didn’t want to leave it too late,” said Armitstead. “I opened the sprint.”

“Pauline is fast,” Armitstead added. “Her attacks were the hardest to counter today. It was hard to get back on her wheel. I knew she would have a good kick in the end, but I was stronger today.”

Read the full report.

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Round 3: Ronde van Vlaanderen — Belgium — April 5

Winner: Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda)
World Cup Leader: Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda)


Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) soloed across the finish line in Oudenaarde to win the Tour of Flanders. It was a spectacular victory for the Italian, who reached the finish 43 seconds ahead of a nine-rider chase group. Ronde van Drenthe winner Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) led the chasers home, sprinting in for second. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) rounded out the podium.

“I still don’t know how I feel to be honest,” said Longo Borghini. “For me, this is a dream.”

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2015 women WC

“The team plan was very clear after Wednesday,” said Wiggle Honda general manager Rochelle Gilmore. “We came out and did our recon on Wednesday, our dress rehearsal. The girls raced hard all day on the cobbles and climbs. At the Patersberg, we said they could go full gas, and Elisa just rode away from everybody. We even tried to get girls behind the car to get back to Elisa and they couldn’t.”

“We looked at her average speeds,” Gilmore added. “We knew if she could get over the Patersberg with a gap to the finish, she could win it. That was our tactic. If that failed, we wanted to have Jolien there for the sprint. That was our plan. Not every race goes to plan, but we knew, and Elisa herself knew, that she had the legs to do it.”

The victory was Longo Borghini’s second World Cup win. Her first was on home soil two seasons ago at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. It was the second World Cup victory for Wiggle Honda out of three contested already this season. With her win at Ronde van Drenthe, coupled with her second place finish at Flanders, d’Hoore moved into the World Cup series lead following round three.

Read the full report.

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Round 4: La Flèche Wallonne Feminine — Belgium — April 22

Winner: Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv)
World Cup Leader: Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv)

Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) emerged victorious from a spectacular finale to La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, beating Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) who survived from a two-rider escape that formed nearly 20 kilometres from the finish. Strade Bianche winner Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) rounded out the podium.

It was a rare happy podium. Van der Breggen was elated with the strong team performance that netted her a career-first World Cup win. Van Vleuten was thrilled to hang on for second following her bold attack. Guarnier expressed pride in her result. Despite an impressive palamares, the American had never appeared on the podium at a World Cup until the 2015 Flèche Wallonne.


“I feel that this is a team victory,” said Van der Breggen. “I can tell that this is the feeling of my teammates, too. Everyone contributed to my win. We were very strong as a team.”

Van der Breggen’s teammate Roxane Knetemann played the most obvious role in the result. Knetemann and Van Vleuten were up the road with a 45 second advantage when Van der Breggen attacked out of an elite chase group to bridge across to the two leaders. Knowing that her chances of beating van Vleuten up the Mur were slim, Knetemann hadn’t been working the break and had fresh legs when Van der Breggen made contact. Sacrificing her own chances, Knetemann drove the break up the lower slopes of the Mur.

“This was the plan today,” explained Van der Breggen. “My attack was one of our options. The other option was Pauline [Ferrand-Prévot]. We had her for the finish if my attack didn’t work.”

The plan played out to perfection. Van der Breggen jumped 450 metres from the finish, ultimately winning the race by 12 seconds.

Read the full report.

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Round 5: Tour of Chongming Island World Cup — China — May 17

Winner: Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda)
World Cup Leader: Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv)

Giorgia Bronzini sprinted to victory on round five of the UCI Women Road World Cup. The two-time road world champion (2010-2011) out-kicked Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products) and Fanny Ribérot (France National Team) on the Chinese island of Chongming.

The Tour of Chongming Island World Cup was the third World Cup victory for Wiggle Honda who claimed round one (Ronde van Drenthe) with Jolien d’Hoore and round three (Tour of Flanders) with Elisa Longo Borghini. The result was especially poignant for the British-registered squad following Bronzini’s disappointment on missing out on a win during the three-day Tour of Chongming run the same week as the Chinese World Cup.

Tour of Chongming Island 2015 Worldcup

The circuit was sprinter-friendly, and barring very unexpected circumstances, the Chinese World Cup always comes down to a field sprint. Now in its fifth year, the only instance in which the race was not decided by a sprint was in 2013 when a lone leader held off the chasing peloton because the peloton was misdirected in the final kilometres of the race.

Chloe Hosking was the sprinter-elect for Wiggle Honda on Sunday, but the Australian was caught out in the final kilometre and unable to make full use our her train. Bronzini stepped up to the plate.

“We were together for the lead-out for Chloe but there was some chaos before the last corner that divided us, so I remained with Nettie [Edmondson] in my wheel,” said Bronzini. “At 700 metres to go, the best thing was go out in the right side to pull for a sprint, but I had no space so I decided to wait.”

“At 300 metres to go I checked behind me and also Nettie wasn’t in my draft so I decided to defend my position and keep Wild’s wheel,” Bronzini continued. “Fortunately for me there was a strong head wind and she had to take a long sprint, so I could come out the last moment.”

Read the full report.

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Round 6: The Philadelphia International Cycling Classic — USA — June 7

Winner: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
World Cup Leader: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) unleashed her explosive sprint up the final ascent of Manayunk to win the Philly Cycling Classic ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) and Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM). With her win in the sixth round of the UCI Women Round World Cup, Armitstead moved into the lead of the UCI Women Road World Cup series. It was Armitstead’s second World Cup win, and her sixth victory of the season.

Philadelphia International Cycling Classic

The Philly Cycling Classic, previously called the Liberty Classic, last held World Cup status in 2001. Many of the strongest European-based teams and riders made the trip across the Atlantic for the first World Cup in the States in 14 years. Although Armitstead only had four of the allowed six teammates, her small squad was mighty. Teammates included the recently crowed US national champion Megan Guarnier, two-time Philly winner Evelyn Stevens and Luxembourgian national champion Christine Majerus. The four-rider squad saved their legs for the final two of six circuit laps that comprised the 117km race.

“It was a real team effort today,” said Armitstead. “We have Megan, the new American champion, and Evie, two times winner here and both Americans. We really wanted to work for Evie, but it didn’t quite work out on the climb. I had to think on instinct and go for the win. It wasn’t exactly to plan, but at least one of us was on the top step of the podium.”

“The plan was for me to go for the win as well – up until the fifth lap,” Armitstead added. “I said to the girls that I wasn’t in the best shape to do it and Evie was riding around so easily, so we should go to Evie. In the final, it didn’t work out that way. We have to race on instinct. That’s what I was taught, and so that’s what I did.”

Read the full report.

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Round 7: Sparkassen Giro — Germany — August 2

Winner: Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM)
World Cup Leader: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)

Less than 24 hours after winning the Prudential RideLondon, Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) took her first World Cup win at Sparkassen Giro. The Italian sprinted across the finish line in Bochum, Germany ahead of Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) and Emilie Moberg (Hitec Products). Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) managed 11th place to maintain her spot atop the UCI Women Road World Cup series following the seventh of ten rounds.

“In the first lap, I didn’t feel good,” admitted Guarischi. “After three laps, I spoke with our captain Trixi [Worrack] about how I felt, and she convinced me to be patient. In the middle, I still didn’t feel great, but the team put their confidence in me. And in the end, I could still deliver.”

“This team is amazing,” Guarischi added. “It’s really too much.”

Sparkassen Giro Bochum 2015 women WC

There were two former winners amongst the 153 starters in Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) and Hanka Kupfernagel (German National Team). Both won the race before it achieved World Cup status last year – Majerus in 2013 and Kupfernagel in 2007. Defending champion Marianne Vos was sidelined with injury, as she had been for much of the season, and while she did not start the race, she was on hand to support her Rabo Liv teammates.

Earmarked as a race for the sprinters, Sparkassen Giro featured eight laps of a 15.5km circuit. Each lap included a technical final kilometre and a mid-lap ascent of the Henkenbergstrasse, a short but sharp climb. Although the likely outcome of the seventh round of the World Cup was a field sprint, that did not stop teams from attempting to get riders up the road.

“For the sprint, it was all about the lead-out,” said Guarischi. “It started with Alena [Amialiusik], and Tiff [Cromwell] was there in front at 600 metres to go. It was early, but we didn’t panic. “

“Before the last corner, I saw [Lucinda] Brand try and come fast,” Guarischi noted. “She was the first into the corner with Jolien [d’Hoore] (Wiggle Honda) on her wheel. Tiff kept it high through the corner and kept our good work going. She gave me the space, and I was exactly hard on the wheel of Brand.”

“It was exactly like the Giro,” Guarischi added, referencing her stage win over Brand at the Giro Rosa in July. “Then we sprinted. I won it only in the last metre. It was just the throw of the bike.”

Read the full report.

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Round 8: Crescent Vårgårda World Cup – team time trial — Sweden — August 21

Winner: Rabo Liv
World Cup Leader: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)

As Rabo-Liv climbed atop the podium in Vårgårda, it marked the end of an era. For the last three years, Velocio-SRAM (racing previously as Specialized-lululemon) dominated the team time trial. Between 2012 and 2014, Velocio-SRAM won the Vårgårda team time trial and followed up the World Cup win with team time trial gold at the Road World Championships. In 2014, so dominant was the Velocio-SRAM squad that it beat out second-placed Rabo-Liv by an astounding 1:21.

World Cup Vargarda TTT

But the reigning world champions were forced to settle for second place as Rabo-Liv took out the eighth round of the UCI Women Road World Cup. Lucinda Brand, Thalita de Jong, Shara Gillow, Kasia Niewiadoma, Moniek Tenniglo and Anna van der Breggen powered over the 42.5-kilometre course, ultimately stopping the clock at 52:51. Velocio-SRAM came in 26 seconds later. Boels-Dolmans, just three seconds slower than Velocio-SRAM, rounded out the podium.

“That was the fastest team time trial I have ever ridden,” Australian Shara Gillow told Ella CyclingTips as she waited for the podium presentations. “I’ve ridden with the likes of Judith Arndt when she time trial world champ and even then, it wasn’t this fast. It was an amazing ride by the team. I think we surprised ourselves a lot.”

Largely non-technical, the course featured two brief but highly technical sections through towns. These sections had several sharp corners in quick succession. Aside from these two key points out on course, the main obstacles were a few small hills and a narrowing of roads.

The first intermediate time check came at 16.4 kilometres and offered an early hint of a potential changing of guards. Velocio-SRAM was the first of the top five teams to hit the checkpoint. Race radio called out their time – 18:45. Bigla was the next through with a time of 18:57. Wiggle powered through the checkpoint next with a time of 19:14. They were quickly followed by Boels-Dolmans at 18:46. Then Rabo-Liv matched Boels-Dolmans with an 18:46 of their own. With only one second separating the top three teams, the race reached edge-of-your-seat excitement levels.

By the second intermediate checkpoint, 32 kilometres into the race, Rabo-Liv took the lead, stopping the clock at 38:49. They had gained 10 seconds on Boels-Dolmans, and Velocio-SRAM had slipped to third place at 39:06. Bigla was only 10 seconds behind Velocio-SRAM. Ten kilometres remained between the second intermediate check and the finish.

Rabo-Liv had been the last team to start the team time trial and would be the final team to finish. The six-rider squad had lost two out on the road, so Lucinda Brand led four teammates across the line. Rider number four determined the team’s time, stopping the clock at 52:51. Between the second intermediate time check and the finish, Rabo-Liv had found another nine seconds to put into Velocio-SRAM. It was the first time Rabo-Liv had beat Velocio-SRAM in the team time trial in Vårgårda, and they had done it by 26 seconds.

“We were shouting and screaming at the end,” said Gillow. “We were so ecstatic not just because we won but because of how we won. We were so fast and so smooth.”

Read the full race report.

Round 9: Crescent Vårgårda World Cup – road race — Sweden — August 23

Winner: Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda)
World Cup Leader: Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda)


Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) sprinted to victory at the Crescent Vårgårda Road World Cup on Sunday ahead of teammate Giorgia Bronzini, who played the role of wheel sweep to perfection. Lisa Brennauer (Velcoio-SRAM) came off her team’s sprint train to take third.

“In the last kilometre, Gio was on my wheel the whole time,” d’Hoore told Ella CyclingTips before the podium presentation. “I took the perfect position in the last corner. I started my sprint with 200 to go maybe. It was the perfect scenario.”

World Cup Vårgårda Road Race

A new large loop of 56.5 kilometres that came before seven laps of the 11.5-kilometre circuit was intended to liven up the ninth round of the Road World Cup series here in Vårgårda. Instead the consensus was that the addition of the large loop and consequential reduction in number of small laps completed made in fact for an easier race.

A much-discussed gravel section in the middle of the large lap did minimal damage. There was a crash toward the back of the peloton just as the race entered the gravel. Around 10 riders were spotted on the side of the road as the caravan rolled past, and the race radio later reported two riders involved in the crash as withdrawals. While several small groups came unglued from the main bunch over the gravel, the descent that followed offered ample opportunity to latch back onto the peloton before the finish circuits.

In recent years, constant attacks have broken the peloton to pieces as the laps counted down until eventually a small breakaway of overall contenders would slip away to do battle until the finish. Although Boels-Dolmans assumed control at the front of the field between each passage of the finish line and the short, punchy climb, they were unable to force a break. Coming into the flamme rouge, the sprint trains had begun to jostle for control.

“Me and Gio were talking on the second to last lap,” added d’Hoore. “She said to me: ‘I can do my own sprint and be on your wheel, and if you are slowing down in the finish, I will pass you. But otherwise you do your own sprint, and I have your wheel.’ That’s what we did. I was slowing a bit, but I could hold it to the finish line.”

Read the full race report.

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