Preview: Stages and contenders for the Tour of Scandinavia
A stage-by-stage preview of the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia.
A stage-by-stage preview of the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia.
After three years of anticipation and postponements due to COVID-19, the women’s peloton will finally race the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia, originally named the Battle of the North (the organizers changed the name in March when Russia invaded Ukraine). The six-day event is an updated version of the Ladies Tour of Norway that has been running since 2014.
The six-stage race will start in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 9th and make its way north to finish in Halden, Norway on the 14th with one stage touching down in Sweden. Organizers had originally hoped for the race to be ten days long and include Postnord Vårgårda, the team time trial and road race in Sweden, but announced in March of 2021 that the two-day event would remain separate.
From the start, the Tour of Scandinavia organizers promised live coverage and edge-of-your-seat racing, so the peloton and fans at home have long been looking forward to the event. It is finally here, so let’s take a look at what the stages have in store and who we think will perform well throughout the week.
What better place to kick off the Tour of Scandinavia than Copenhagen, the recent hosts of the Tour de France Grand Départ. Denmark came out in full force to support the men’s peloton and judging by the fans over those three days, they will be looking forward to another WorldTour stage race on their home roads.
After the start in Copenhagen, the peloton will wind its way north to a 14.8 km circuit in Helsigner. They will complete the circuit twice before sprinting to finish along the coast just outside the city centre.
Although the stage is relatively lumpy, with two category three climbs to grab some QOM points, it’s still likely to be a bunch sprint at the end. The final 3 km is a straight-shot flat road with a false-flat run into the finish.
After hopping on a ferry and driving roughly four and a half hours, the women will line up for stage 2 in Mollösund, Sweden. The 153.8 km stage from Mollösund to Strömstad is another lumpy day with two category three climbs.
The final 3 km includes a short climb with 2.8 km to go and another small incline in the final kilometre. Neither is going to impact another bunch sprint, although the final 200 meters is on a false-flat road. The tricky part will be once the peloton passes under 1 km to go. The road bends sharply to the right, then immediately to the left with another sharp right-hand soon after, so positioning will be key long before the final sprint.
For the third stage, the race is back in Norway, home of the Ladies Tour of Norway that was won by Annemiek van Vleuten in 2021. Stage 3 starts in Moss, crosses two category three climbs and finishes in Sarpsborg 119 km later.
For the finale, the women will race three laps of a 6.7 km circuit that includes a slight uphill to the line. The most technical aspect of the circuit is just after the finish where the road zig-zags through the city.
Again, the third stage looks like a bunch sprint, but it’s possible the peloton could be slightly reduced in, or even before, the circuits.
Stage 4 from Askin to Mysen includes two category three climbs with another flat run-in to the finish. The stage is another short one as well, only 119 km. The final 450 meters of the stage are a slight uphill, so it’s not a traditional bunch sprint stage.
The fourth stage is the final flat day before the race will do some proper climbing so perhaps it’s a day for a breakaway to succeed as all eyes turn to a challenging stage 5.
After four stages for the sprinters stage 5 has climbers written all over it. The stage ends with an 11 km climb to Norefjell, after starting 127.4 km before in Vikersund.
With a category two climb, 16 km into the stage and another category two midway through, the stage is the hardest in terms of altitude gained. The final climb on stage 5 is the same that crowned Van Vleuten winner of the 2021 Tour of Norway and will likely determine the overall general classification for the whole race.
The climb averages 6% grades but kicks up to 14% in the final 3 km before eventually evening out for a gradual finish.
The race will conclude with stage 6 from Lillestrøm to Halden. At 154.3 the final stage is the longest of the race, but only by one kilometre.
Two category three climbs pepper the first 130.4 km before the race enters the final circuits in Halden.
There the peloton will complete three laps of a 5.4 km technical circuit. The final 200 meters are relatively straightforward, but up to that point, teams will need to be on top of their game to keep their sprinters out of harm’s way.
We’re in a weird spot for picking riders who will do well. Off the back of the Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift a bunch of riders are either flying high, cracked and still racing, or taking a break. Last year the Ladies Tour of Norway saw a few surprise winners, and it’s likely the same will happen this year at the Tour of Scandinavia.
The general classification will be decided on the 11 km climb on stage 6. For that reason, any serious threat to the general classification will hide until the crucial climb.
Without the Tour de France and Giro Donne champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, all eyes will be on Demi Vollering for the overall victory. Vollering recently finished second behind Van Vleuten in the Tour and has said she is in the best form of her life. The Dutchwoman has a strong team to back her with Christine Majerus and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak leading the charge.
After an incredible Tour de France, including a stage win, but a disappointing GC race, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is coming into the Tour of Scandinavia as a hot favourite. Uttrup had some bad luck in the opening stages in France and lost too much time to contend for the GC, but won the third stage in spectacular fashion and finished third on the Queen stage behind eventual winner Van Vleuten and Vollering. The Danish national champion looks to be the sole leader for FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope.
Movistar may not have Van Vleuten, but they will bring Aussie climbing super talent, Sarah Gigante, to the race. Gigante hasn’t raced all that much for her new Spanish team, but she is an incredibly strong climber. She will have to get through the sprint stages without losing time if she wants to factor in the GC.
Canyon-Sram has some interesting options for the GC including Zwift Academy winner Neve Bradbury who recently finished 10th overall at the Giro Donne. Alongside Bradbury is another Zwift Academy winner Ella Harris. Both are strong climbers but, like Gigante, may struggle not to lose time on the flatter days.
Trek-Segafredo is bringing a mostly sprinter-heavy team, including former world champion Amalie Dideriksen, so if anyone from the team will be in the GC conversation it will be the winner of the Tour de France youth classification Shirin van Anrooij. The Dutchwoman has had an incredible season but can’t quite contest with Vollering or Uttrup on the long climbs. Lucinda Brand will also be in attendance, and although she isn’t great at long ascents she did win Tour de Suisse with some sneaky attacks and skilful descending.
* Update: Van Anrooij will not start for Trek-Segafredo. It looks like the team is focusing on Hosking for the sprints based on their lineup.
A favourite for five of the six stages has to be Marianne Vos. The former world champion recently won the points classification at the Tour de France after winning two stages and wearing the yellow jersey for five days. She also won the sprint finish at the Postnord Vårgårda road race on Sunday but was disqualified for an illegal position on the bike. Jumbo-Visma knows how good her form is, so they are coming to the race with a team that can keep any breakaway in check and deliver Vos to the line.
The Australian duo of Alex Manly and Ruby Roseman-Gannon will be Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s chance for stage wins. Both are strong sprinters and their advantage on the rest of the peloton is their ability to work together. They can swap roles to give the other a break, they can lead each other out, they have a lot of options between the two of them. Plus, the race will be a bit quieter than a lot of the other WorldTour events throughout the season, so particularly for Roseman-Gannon who is relateively new to European racing, the sprints in Scandinavia will be a good opportunity.
Since they will lose their star sprinter Lorena Wiebes at the end of the season, Team DSM is putting their hope of a sprint victory on Charlotte Kool. With so many of the stages probably coming down to bunch sprints, this is a very intersting move from the Dutch team. They could have a sure-fire win with Wiebes but instead are dropping Kool into the deep end to figure out how to navigate the sprints as the leader. They did the same thing at the Giro, while Wiebes was preparing for the Tour, and Kool couldn’t beat Vos or Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Balsamo, but perhaps it will be a different story in Scandinavia.
Another rider who will benefit from some more laid-back sprints is Uno-X rider Susanne Andersen. The Norwegian rider has been up there in a few sprints this season, and with so many opportunites on home soil, she will be on top of her game.
Finally, Chloe Hosking is coming to the race with a leadout train. The Australian won the final stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway in 2021 but hasn’t had much success this year. Still, she is a very strong sprinter and there are a lot of opportunities for her throughout the week.
There’s very little chance all five of the “flat” stages will end in bunch sprints, at some point a breakaway has to succeed. It might not be easy to pinpoint who will be in the break on any given day but there are a few riders who stand out as possible escapees.
FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope will be all in for Uttrup’s GC chances but, should they let anyone try their hand in a break, look to Stine Borgli and Brodie Chapman. Borgli will be racing with the home-field advantage and Chapman has found herself in some great moves many times over the years.
Pressure will be on Uno-X to deliver a stage win. There are also both best Danish rider and best Norwiegen rider jerseys up for grabs (neither can be worn during the stages but would be presented after each stage) and since Uno-X the brand is in both countries they will really want the team to deliver something. Their best hope is Joss Lowden. The British rider won most combative at a stage of the Tour, is the former track hour record holder, and is incredibly strong. Aside from Lowden, Uno-X will want someone representing in the move every day so perhaps a young rider can make her dreams come true this week.
Another team who was very active at the Tour, and all season, is Le Col-Wahoo. They sent a few riders up the road at the Tour, most notably Gladys Verhulst. The young French rider spent the tail end of the first stage on the Champs Élysées up the road and was awarded with the most aggressive rider award on the day. If Le Col-Wahoo keeps sending their riders into breakaways they are bound to come away with a WorldTour victory one of these days, and the Tour of Scandinavia is the perfect place for that monumental win.
All six stages of the Tour of Scandinavia will be live on GCN+ and Eurosport with most of the coverage starting at 16.00 local time.