Preview: What’s going to happen (we think) at the Simac Ladies Tour
The next Women's WorldTour stage race is just a round the corner.
The next Women's WorldTour stage race is just a round the corner.
Another WorldTour stage race only nine days after the last one? We’re getting spoiled!
The Ladies Tour of Norway wrapped up on August 15th after it delivered four exciting stages with some unexpected winners and one expected winner. Annemiek van Vleuten won the overall in excellent fashion, by crushing the 11 km final climb of stage 3. The other three stages saw two race-long breakaway artists refuse to be caught by the peloton with Kristen Faulkner and Riejanne Markus, and a sprinter, Chloe Hosking, make a glorious comeback after months away.
After four exciting days of racing in Norway, it’s almost too good to be true that another multi-day women’s WorldTour stage race is already upon us, but the Simac Ladies Tour is right around the corner.
Formerly known as the Boels Ladies Tour, this top women’s stage race has gone on for 23 editions. The 2020 edition was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19, and the 2021 edition has seen some route adjustments due to a lack of police motorbikes.
The post-Olympic pre-World Championship lull is in full effect, opening the door to riders who spend most of their races in the service of team leaders. But with Worlds drawing closer and closer some big names are coming back onto the racing scene.
What better way to reintroduce yourself to the peloton after a month away than a six-day stage race in Holland? A short prologue, four road stages and one time trial offer ample opportunities for exciting and aggressive racing from the top women in cycling.
After a prologue to set the scene, the women will take on some technical road racing, and a very uneventful time trial. Following the disappointment of cancelling the long-running stage race, the organizers of the Simac Ladies Tour were determined to hold the event in 2021.
There’s a little something for everyone over the six stages. A flat and fast time trial, two likely sprint stages, and two technical circuits with a little extra elevation thrown in, for fun.
The prologue is very straightforward. It’s going to be fast, with only 2.4 km to cover. It’s going to be flat. Such a short effort opens the first stage up to a sprinter, not necessarily a time trial specialist.
The first real road stage of the race is pan flat. The real test will be the technical finish in Hardenberg. What was supposed to be two sprint finishes in Norway turned into two successful days for the breakaway, and it’s unlikely we will see this happen again.
This flat and fast time trial will most likely decide the overall, with not a ton of selective roads throughout the race, but at only 17 km long the time gaps might leave the race to bonus seconds in the coming days. The strong time trialists who are eyeing the leader’s jersey will be exciting to watch on stage 2, make no mistake.
Another flat day perfectly laid out for the sprinters, if their teams manage to bring the breakaway back in time.
Stages 4 and 5 are where the race could open up a little. Both stages have a bit more terrain for riders to work with, though there is still no significant climbing or mountains for Van Vleuten to fly up.
Nine circuits of a technical course will make for some exciting racing on stage 4. The race will be nearly down to the wire, with only two more chances to take time on the general. Since it’s the second to last stage as well, stage 4 looks like a good day for a breakaway.
The final stage of the Simac Ladies Tour is another circuit. Less technical than the stage before, stage 5 is 19 laps of a closed course outside of Arnhem. It’s another kind of flat day for the women and the last chance for any chaos. Stage 5 might be the longest stage of the race, but the nature of the course means it’s going to be a fast one.
As you can imagine, because the stages are relatively flat, the Simac Ladies Tour is a fantastic opportunity for the sprinters, those whom early season racing often passes over. Still, the overall often comes down to the time trial, one of the few chances to take significant time.
Marianne Vos took the overall title four times in a row from 2009 to 2012. Since the road stages are less selective, the time trial usually plays a key role in the overall. In 2017 and 2018 it was Van Vleuten who claimed the title.
The 2019 race saw the leader’s jersey change hands three times over the course of six days, with Van Vleuten losing it to Lorena Wiebes on stage 2, Klein taking it on stage 3, and Majerus eventually securing the overall.
The overall at the last edition of the Boels Ladies Tour was stolen on stage 4 by Christine Majerus. She finished second from a break of three, 44 seconds ahead of the peloton containing Lisa Klein who had been in the leader’s jersey after stage 3.
The 2021 edition will be another fight. The time trial will likely decide the overall, with the sprinters hunting for stage victories, but the race is never over until it’s over and Anna Kiesenhofer’s solo Olympic road race win has had an effect on the peloton. The women aren’t going to back down from a strong team.
Speaking of strong teams, SD Worx remains one of the strongest teams on the start list with Demi Vollering returning to racing after some healthy post-Olympic rest. They also have 2019 champ Majerus and 2016 winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. Two women no one would want to mess with.
For sprinters, SD Worx has Amy Pieters, who hasn’t raced on the road since winning the Dutch national championship road race. Pieters has been spending all her time on the track which means speed is not something she will be lacking.
There are still others to watch beyond SD Worx, however, and that list of riders can be broken down into two categories: the time trialists and the stage hunters.
For those looking to walk away on Sunday with a fancy new jersey, Marlen Reusser (Alé BTC Ljubljana) is someone to keep an eye on. The Swiss national time trial champ and Olympic silver medalist just recently inked a deal with SD Worx and has been growing in strength over the last two seasons. A 17 km flat time trial has her name written all over it.
Another time trial specialist to look out for is Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT). Brennauer is also really quick in the sprints, so if it came down to bonus seconds she would have the upper hand.
Ellen van Dijk of Trek-Segafredo did not get to go to Tokyo, like Brenauer and Reusser, and instead had a few weeks off of racing after the Giro Donne and before San Sebastian. She finished tenth at the Spanish one day that was won by Van Vleuten, not a bad ride from the Dutchwoman. Going into the Simac Ladies Tour, she will be one to watch for the time trial, but also for some sneaky moves in the final two stages.
As expected, the race is not left wanting when it comes to strong sprinters. Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) is without a doubt the strongest on the start list. Wiebes has won nine bunch sprints in 2021 and the prologue at the Lotto Belgium Tour in June, making her a possible GC contender and a definite sprint contender.
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) returns to racing after a month of training and relaxing since the Olympic Games where she finished fifth. Having won the overall at the tour four times she’s capable of the win, but she’s up against some steep competition. She’s no longer a shoo-in to win bunch sprints, in order for her to win the peloton would need to shed some riders.
After her performance on the final stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) can’t be counted out for the sprints. The stages won’t be the same, with so many riders getting dropped before the pointy end, but she still proved the legs are there. Hosking has a strong team behind her, and even if they aren’t present in the final lead-out, she’s a master at slotting herself into other team’s trains.
Canyon-SRAM will line up in Holland with a very strong time trial hopeful in Lisa Klein and a very strong sprinter with Alice Barnes. They have a few different cards to play, which means they hopefully make the race exciting. They also have Kasia Niewiadoma back after a month away from racing. The course doesn’t suit her, but it’s still worth mentioning her presence. Overall, Canyon-SRAM has been one of the most aggressive teams in a lot of the races in 2021, with nearly nothing to show for it. Their young and energetic squad is bound to have luck on their side one of these days.
Finally, Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-Travel & Service) is someone to watch out for in the sprints. Like Klein and Pieters, Balsamo has had her wheels on the track in the leadup to Tokyo and returns to the road at the Simac Ladies Tour. She’s been up there in a lot of sprints this season, with a few podium finishes behind Wiebes and one win, at GP Oetingen in March. She has four chances to win a stage and we will definitely see her on at least one podium.
One final rider worth a mention is Megan Jastrab. The Simac Ladies Tour will be the first race with Team DSM for Jastrab. She has been racing full time with the USA Olympic track team. Now that Tokyo is behind her, she finally gets to break out her trade team kits.
Honestly, it’s just exciting to see Jastrab at a bike race again. She’s an incredible talent, very down to earth, and a sensational prospect for American cycling.
All six stages of the Simac Ladies Tour will be available in all the available GCN+ territories on GCN+. It looks like there will be over an hour of coverage for each stage too!