There is no rest for the wicked…or professional cyclists. The 2016 Olympic road races may be done and dusted, but you won’t be seeing the riders lounging on the beaches of Copacabana. Instead, the women’s peloton has traveled to Sweden for a double weekend of Women’s WorldTour racing.
There is a team time trial (TTT) on the docket for Friday, Aug. 19, followed by the road race on Sunday, Aug. 21.
Historically part of the women’s WorldCup, the Vårgårda team time trial has always been a crucial dress rehearsal for the world TTT championships, while the Vårgårda road race has been the penultimate World Cup race in the last couple of years.
The Vårgårda races
No changes in the route of the team time trial, which is once again 42.5 kilometers from Vårgårda to Herrljunga and back.
The first team starts at 5.30 p.m. CEST (11.30 a.m. EST, 1.30 a.m. AEST August 20), with three minutes between each team.
The road race consisted of a number of laps on a 11.5 kilometer circuit for years, but a large circuit was added last year.
Slight alterations have been made to those circuits in the 2016 route, with the small circuit now 11 kilometers instead of 11.5 and 3.5 kilometers taken off the bigger one, totalling at 53 kilometers now.
The race starts with four laps on the small circuit, followed by the big loop, which contains four gravel sections, followed by yet another four laps on the 11 kilometer circuit, adding up to 141 kilometers in total.
The red sections in the profiles above are the gravel sections, so there’s some uphill offroading involved.
The riders take off at 8.15 a.m. CEST (2.15 a.m. EST, 4.15 p.m. AEST) to finish approximately three hours later.
Round 14 and 15 in the Women’s WorldTour
Both races are part of the Women’s WorldTour, which means points are awarded for the UCIWWT ranking. In the team time trial, the winning team receives 140 points towards the team classification, with another 35 individual points for each rider crossing the line in the winning time.
The road race has the usual number of points awarded to the top 20, with points for the team classification and young rider classification as well.
While Women’s WorldTour leader Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) isn’t on the start list of either races, her advantage is big enough for her leading position not to be in any danger.
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) – 886
2. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 545
3. Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) – 542
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) – 493
5. Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) – 484
Young rider classification
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) – 30
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) – 18
3. Jip van den Bos (Parkhotel Valkenburg) – 14
1. Boels-Dolmans – 2529
2. Wiggle-High5 – 1839
3. Rabo-Liv – 1596
Our race favourites
As both races are individual events, teams may line up with different riders for each event. The organisation has published the provisional startlists of both the team time trial and road race, but the reserve riders are included in that list as well. Women CyclingFever has the quickest updates on riders actually starting in the team time trial and the road race. Based on these lists, here are our race favourites.
Unbeaten in the discipline at the world championships, Canyon-SRAM is the team to beat in the Vårgårda team trial.
Over the years, several time trial specialists have left the team and they lost another one with Karol-Ann Canuel transferring to Boels-Dolmans this year, but there are still some time trial powerhouses left to ride towards victory once again.
Boels-Dolmans was very close to a world championship title in 2015, when they only lost to Velocio-SRAM by six seconds. The sheer disappointment showed on their faces when they collected silver at the podium ceremony. They are more determined than ever to set things straight this year.
Boels-Dolmans won the Energiewacht Tour TTT back in April and with time trialist Canuel new to the team, they might well be going for the win in the only Women’s WorldTour TTT.
Rabo-Liv took a surprise win in the Vårgårda team time trial last year, when they beat both superfavourites Velocio-SRAM and Boels-Dolmans.
In 2015, Lucinda Brand, Thalita de Jong, Moniek Tenniglo, Dutch time trial champion Anna van der Breggen, Kasia Niewiadoma and former Australian ITT champion Shara Gillow were part of the Rabo-Liv squad. Anouska Koster, Roxane Knetemann and Marianne Vos will replace Brand, De Jong and Niewiadoma this year and have the task to repeat the team’s suprise win of last year.
Canyon-SRAM, Rabo-Liv and Boels-Dolmans are the main teams to look for in Vårgårda. With a decent team time trial result in the Energiewacht Tour in April though, Wiggle-High5 shouldn’t be ruled out either.
With Amy Pieters, Dani King and French TT champ Audrey Cordon-Ragot as pacers in the team, Wiggle-High5 should be able to give a strong performance at the team time trial in Vårgårda.
Notably absent from the team time trial: Orica-AIS
Orica-AIS took third in the Vårgårda team time trial in 2013, but as the Australian team has no interest in the world TTT championships this year, they also decided to skip the Vårgårda team time trial. They do plan on starting in the road race.
UPDATE AFTER THE VÅRGÅRDA TEAM TIME TRIAL
Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
Cervélo-Bigla Pro Cycling
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
Boels-Dolmans took their first Women’s WorldTour team victory as they finished 36 seconds ahead of suprise runners-up Cervélo-Bigla and 1’16” ahead of Rabo-Liv.
Current world team time trial champions Canyon-SRAM disappointed with a fourth spot, while Wiggle-High5 were happy with their fifth place as they hadn’t practiced much in the discipline this year.
Riders to watch in the road race
The Vårgårda road race has been one for the Dutchies. Before Jolien D’Hoore’s (Wiggle-High5) win in 2015, the race was won by Marianne Vos (twice!), Kirsten Wild (Team Hitec), Annemiek van Vleuten, Iris Slappendel (United Healthcare) and Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans).
Only Marianne Vos and Chantal Blaak take to the start as returning winners, so it looks like it’s going to be one of them, or a sprinter or Dutchwoman. Here are our favourites for the Vårgårda road race.
Anna van der Breggen
Fresh off the Olympics with two medals, Anna van der Breggen returns to racing with Rabo-Liv in Sweden.
There is no pressure for Van der Breggen in the Women’s WorldTour as she’s only 6th in the individual ranking and the team won’t be going to the final Women’s WorldTour round in Madrid, Spain, in September. She is no contender in the GC, so she’s free to take the race as it comes.
Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) finished on the podium of the last Women’s WorldTour race, the Prudential RideLondon.
With her un-sprinter-like petite frame, the climbs in this race shouldn’t be a problem for her, so she counts as a favourite at her debut in this race.
Wiggle-High5 has several cards to play, with La Course winner Chloe Hosking in the line-up, who has a superfast finish if she’s able to overcome the climb on the long lap. Then there are Amy Pieters and Rio road race bronze medallist Elisa Longo Borghini on the startlist as well.
But the plan with Wiggle-High5 is to go for Giorgia Bronzini. She showed she’s still got it with her two Giro Rosa stage wins, so she’s a dangerous one to take to the line.
Putting Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) with the favourites is more of a wishful thought than based on her results this season. Her only win this year was the first stage in the Auensteiner Radsporttage.
But I would love for the friendly former German champ to take a big win this year and where better than in the Vårgårda road race, where she finished third last year?
For riders who might take a shot at victory if the conditions are just right, turn your attention towards sprinter duo Nina Kessler and Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Lensworld-Zannata, Loren Rowney (Orica-AIS), British champion Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) and the two Marta’s of Ale Cipollini, Marta Tagliaferro and Marta Bastianelli.
How to follow the race
After La Course by le Tour de France and the Prudential RideLondon, Eurosport will also broadcast the Vårgårda road race in Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
While the La Course and Prudential RideLondon broadcasts were delivered in connection with men’s WorldTour races, Vårgårda is Eurosport’s first direct investment in the Women’s WorldTour.
More information about the race can be found on the official website.
Who are your favourites for the team time trial and the road race?