Ladies Tour of Norway: Annemiek van Vleuten’s leadership under threat

Photo :|23-Aug-2019 16:29

After the Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda West Sweden, the Ladies Tour of Norway is an opportunity for a change of leader in the UCI Women’s WorldTour led by Annemiek van Vleuten since Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes at the end of April. With the leading Dutch lady absent, her rivals are on the hunt…

Italian national champion Marta Bastianelli’s victory in the Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda West Sweden RR ahead of Marianne Vos and Lorena Wiebes has revived the close battle in the 2019 UCI Women’s WorldTour. Van Vleuten still leads the individual competition with 1367.67 points, but now has an advantage of just under 200 points over her compatriot Vos who has accumulated 1168 points. Two hundred is precisely the number of points awarded to each winner of each of the 23 rounds of the 2019 UCI Women’s WorldTour, but in stage races like the Ladies Tour of Norway, stages also award points to the top 10 riders (with 25 going to the winner) and the holder of the leader’s jersey (5 every day). It means Katarzyna Niewiadoma, now third with 1106.17 points, is also a potential number 1 after the Ladies Tour of Norway – and Bastianelli, currently fourth with 935 points, and Wiebes, fifth with 918.33 points, aren’t far off.

GP de Plouay - Lorient Agglomération Trophée WNT (31 August), Boels Ladies Tour (3-8 September), WNT Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta (14-15 September) and the Tour of Guangxi Women’s WorldTour (22 October) are the remaining four races. Just as she missed Sweden last weekend, van Vleuten isn’t competing in the Ladies Tour of Norway as she’s busy with an altitude training camp.

The Norwegian event was created in 2014 and has been part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour since 2017. Vos is the defending champion, having won the last two editions. She emerges as the hot favourite and appears to be in her best shape since taking a break from the sport in 2015.

Vos has won two events of the 2019 UCI Women’s WorldTour so far: the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio in March and La Course by Le Tour de France in July. Four stage wins at the Giro Rosa, also in July, definitely put her back at the top of the hierarchy of female cycling. It makes the end of the season very interesting with another highlight to come at the UCI Road World Championships women’s road race in Yorkshire, Great Britain, on 28 September and an incredibly strong Dutch team likely to feature Vos, van Vleuten and defending UCI World Champion Anna van der Breggen.

The Ladies Tour of Norway is contested over four stages in the south of the country, from Åsgårstrand to Halden, only 200km away from the recent Swedish event on the 2019 UCI Women’s WorldTour. The challenges on the course are introduced gradually with an uphill finish (1.3km at 7.3%) to Fredriksten Fortress on the penultimate day and the queen stage scheduled at the very end. It includes gravel sections that cyclo-cross and mountain bike star Vos should find to her taste once again, but she possibly hasn’t faced such fierce competition in her long career so far.