The 2016 road season was a momentous one in which the Women’s WorldTour was introduced, Olympic champions were crowned and Lizzie Deignan passed the rainbow jersey onto her younger teammate Amalie Dideriksen. Things may seem more routine in 2017, but thanks to a series of transfers, the formation of new teams and addition of new Women’s WorldTour events, there is plenty of buzz about the 2017 season.
The season is already off to an unusual start. Due to the cancellation of the 2017 Ladies Tour of Qatar, many riders opted to find their early season legs Down Under where the official start to the 2017 UCI road season got underway at the Santos Women’s Tour.
Looking at the season ahead, we’ve picked 10 riders who will likely play a major role in the second edition of the Women’s WorldTour. If you’re looking for a new cycling star to follow, you might find her here:
10 riders to watch this season:
The UCI ranks Megan Guarnier as the number one rider in the world. She finished the 2016 season as the first ever winner of the Women’s WorldTour, a title she won after dominating the Amgen women’s Tour of California, Philadelphia Cycling Classic and the Giro Rosa. Guarnier also successfully defended her US national road championship title, and was part of Team USA in the Rio Olympic road race.
It’ll be hard for Guarnier to top her 2016 performances, but you can count on her to give it her best try.
Sidelined due to injury for most of the 2015 season, Marianne Vos aimed to make a full comeback in 2016. And boy, did she ever!
After a cautious start to the season, she was back on the podium in no time, winning the Pajot Hills Classic, Rabobank 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg and stages in the Amgen Women’s Tour of California, Aviva Women’s Tour and Thüringen Rundfahrt. She went on to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio and supported Anna van der Breggen to gold in the road race.
And that was just the road season. Vos really showed her old dominating ways during her short but victorious cyclocross season.
On December 17, 2016, Vos returned to the dirt after having been absent for nearly two years. She came in fourth, just barely off the podium. But this was the only warm-up she needed as she won the Superprestige race in Diegem that following week and continued to win three straight World Cup races and the Dutch national title. Within just a few short weeks, Vos rode herself back to the top and, as though she had never been gone at all, lined up as a favourite for the rainbow stripes at the 2017 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in January. In a nail-biter of a race, Vos would make do with a silver medal but there’s no doubt that Vos is back, and the peloton had better be ready.
When the 2016 season was coming to an end, much uncertainty surrounded the continuation of the Rabo-Liv team. So Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen grabbed her many medals and jersey and found a new home in the already star-studded Boels-Dolmans team.
While 2015 was Van der Breggen’s most prolific year to date, 2016 was a golden one. Timing her fitness just right, Van der Breggen won the Olympic road race in Rio, and took bronze in the Olympic time trial days later as well. At the European championships she again came away with two medals; gold in the road race and silver in the individual time trial.
In her new team, Boels-Dolmans, she’ll have to share the spotlight (and surely some wins) with Guarnier, Lizzie Deignan, Chantal Blaak and world champion Amalie Dideriksen, but there’s no doubt that the Olympic champion will be one to watch whenever there is a race against the clock or in the hills.
Still only 22 years of age, Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) is a serious contender whenever there’s a climb. Her climbing prowess and consistency earned her the win at two stage races in 2016 as well as the Polish national road championships. She also won the young rider’s jersey in the two additional stage races she started – among them the only remaining Grand Tour in women’s cycling, the Giro Rosa.
Part of the new WM3 Pro Cycling team, Niewiadoma will be given more chances to shine and there’s no doubt that she’ll take them.
Olympic bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini holds every quality to be a cycling superstar. She can climb, she time trials well and shouldn’t be undermined in a sprint either. She’s had some great performances these past few years, and we’re just waiting for her breakout year. 2017 may just be it.
After an Olympic medal, the climber’s jersey in the Giro Rosa, and wins at Giro dell’Emilia and in the Italian national championships, Longo Borghini is ready for fewer fourth places and more wins.
Her first goal of the 2017 season is the Ardennes week in April, but don’t be surprised to see her snag a win in the Spring Classics.
Finnish sprinter Lotta Lepistö had some great top 10 finishes in 2015, but really showed her power last year, when she took a number of great wins, including stages in the Aviva Women’s Tour and GP Elsy Jacobs, the Euskal Emakumeen Bira prologue, GP Cham-Hagendorn and saw her outsprinting Vos for a second place finish at La Course.
She then sealed her season by winning the bronze medal at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar, where she finished behind Kristen Wild and world champion Dideriksen.
If she continues to improve like she did the last two years, we will be seeing much of her in 2017.
Always in the midst of the mad dash for the line, Chloe Hosking had her career-best season in 2016 with wins in the Ladies Tour of Qatar, at the Giro Rosa, Tour of Chongming Island, La Route de France and at La Course.
She even went into the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar as a top favourite. And while we won’t be seeing her in the rainbow stripes this season, we will be seeing her in a new kit; the neon of Alé Cipollini.
Prioritising life at home, Alé Cipollini offers Hosking the flexibility of combining a cycling career with her studies and family. As such, we’ll see less of Hosking alltogether as she’s limiting her racing to two dedicated blocks of racing in Europe.
This new and balanced way of life seems to be suiting her well, as she has kicked off the season with a stage win, two podium spot finishes and the points jersey in the Santos women’s Tour Down Under. When a bunch sprint is imminent, watch for this Aussie sprinter to be taking the win.
Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) fell ill during the national road championships in 2016, losing her red-and-white national championship jersey (but still came in second). She got a more colourful one back for it at the end of the year though, when she beat race favourite Kirsten Wild at the line at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar. This victory makes her the second youngest world road champion ever, behind Marianne Vos, and takes over the rainbow jersey from teammate Lizzie Deignan.
Dideriksen isn’t new to wearing rainbow stripes, however, with two junior world road titles already on her palmares.
With the rainbow stripes on her chest, will she be given a new position within the team? We can’t wait to find out!
Australian Katrin Garfoot has started off the 2017 season with a bang, as she not only defended her national title in the individual time trial but also secured the road title. While impressive, these victories are not surprising as she’s had a great 2016 season with wins in the Santos women’s Tour Down Under, the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the Oceania individual time trial championships and the Chrono Champenois. She then capped her 2016 with a bronze medal in the individual time trial at the world championships.
While the individual time trial is her strong suit, her newly earned national road title shows she’s capable of more. You’re going to want to keep an eye out for the green-and-gold jersey.
Even without the rainbow jersey, Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead) will be coming into the 2017 season with a target on her back. Last year she and her Boels-Dolmans teammates absolutely dominated the early season with Deignan winning Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Tour of Flanders. When she wasn’t winning, her teammates were.
But following a stellar spring, Deignan’s season went into a bit of a turmoil when she had allegedly missed three doping tests. With one missed test overthrown successfully, she was allowed to compete at the Rio Olympics but finished only fifth.
She’s back now though, and ready to built on her successes from 2016.
Who will you be following this season?
As a freelance journalist, Jeanine Laudy works in a variety of areas in women’s cycling. Not only does she report on women’s races for Ella Cycling Tips, Laudy is also the Dutch content manager for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team. To avoid any conflict of interest, this list was set up in close consultation with Ella editor Anne-Marije Rook.