Sharon Laws previews the Boels Ladies Tour

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There aren’t many long established races on the UCI calendar that I haven’t done but the Boels Ladies Tour – originally known as the Holland Ladies Tour – is one of them.

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Traditionally characterized by its flat, windy stages, echelons and bad weather I always opted for the sunny, hilly, Tour of Ardeche which overlaps. I wasn’t alone and Emma Pooley always joked she had it written in her contract that she didn’t have to do the Holland Ladies Tour – well at least I think she was joking.  It is a long established race and a solid fixture in the Women’s calendar and this will be the 20th edition. There will be no team time trial but a prologue and individual time trial (ITT) and substantially more climbing than in previous editions. The final, hilly, stage in Sittard is a significant 157km stage and, together with the prologue and ITT, is likely to decide the overall General Classification (GC).

THE RACE

For more information on the race check out the website.

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Summary of the Stages

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General Classification – the orange jersey is awarded to the rider with the lowest cumulative time.

Points Classification – the green jersey is awarded to the rider with the highest points obtained at each stage finish. Points 25, 20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for 1st-15th respectively.

Sprint Classification – the blue jersey is awarded to the rider with the highest points obtained at designated sprints in stages 2, 4, 5 & 6.  For 1-3rd place there are 3, 2, 1 points available respectively.

Young Rider Classification – best under 23 rider with the lowest cumulative time.

Mountains Classification – the polka dot jersey is awarded to the rider with the highest points obtained on designated climbs in stages 2, 5 & 6.  Stage 2 awarding points for 3 places (3-2-1) and stage 5 & 6 (5-3-1).

Day prize for the most competitive rider – the red jersey is awarded to the rider who is deemed to have made the strongest effort in a stage. It is not worn in the race.

THE STAGES 

Stage 1 Prologue – Wageningen

Fast and technical – this will be an exciting start to the Tour.

Start: 14.30h

Distance: 4.3km

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Stage 2 Eibergen – Arnhem

The first half of the race is very flat but it becomes more undulating towards the end and with a technical finishing circuit. Wind could be a significant factor on this stage.

Start: 12.00h

Distance: 132.8km

Mountain sprint: 6.7km

Sprint: 114.1km

Mountain sprint: 117.5km

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Stage 3 Individual Time Trial – Roosendal

This will be a significant day for the G.C particularly given the reasonably technical nature of the course with a number of turns.

Start: 13.30h

Distance: 16.9km

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Stage 4 Gennep – Weert 

A day for the sprinters and no mountain points. The wind could be a significant factor.

Start: 14.00h

Distance: 121.4km

Sprint 1: 104.8km

Sprint 2: 113.1km

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Stage 5  Stramproy – Vaals 

The race moves to the hilly Ardennes, this is the 2nd longest stage and will be a hard day.

Start: 12.00h

Distance: 141.8km

Mountain sprint 1: 69.4km

Mountain sprint 2: 111.4km

Mountain sprint 3: 131.3km

Sprint: 121.3km

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Stage 6  Sittard – Sittard 

The race finishes with the Queen stage, significant in distance and elevation. The race could be won or lost on this difficult stage.

Start: 12.00h

Distance: 159.7km

Mountain sprint 1: 28.1km

Mountain sprint 2: 33.8km

Mountain sprint 3: 80.6km

Mountain sprint 4: 86.3km

Mountain sprint 5: 129.9km

Mountain sprint 6: 136.7km

Sprint 1: 49.3km

Sprint 2: 101.4km

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HISTORY 

In the 19 previous editions a Dutch rider has taken the victory eleven times with Marianne Vos (WM3) holding the record for the most number of wins: four. She won’t be racing this year and is, instead, preparing for the World Championships with a training camp and the Lotto Belgium Tour. A German rider has won the race 4 times and an American and Swedish rider twice.

Last year Chantal Blaak and Ellen van Dijk achieved a 1:2 in the General Classification for Boels Dolmans with Alena Amialiusik (Canyon SRAM) finishing third. Boels Dolmans held the leaders jersey from day one with Amalie Dideriksen (who went on to win the Worlds Championships a few weeks later) winning the first stage and keeping the jersey when Boels Dolmans dominated the Team Time Trial (TTT) on Stage 2. Chantal Blaak took the jersey in stage 3 and defended it until the end of the race. In the past the TTT has provided a good indicator for the favourites ahead of the World Championships TTT. This year it is replaced with a prologue and ITT, which are likely to help shape the GC.

 The TeamsScreen Shot 2017-08-29 at 07.46.04

Ninety four riders from sixteen teams line up for the Boels Ladies Tour, fourteen professional and two National; Belgium and the USA.

WHO TO WATCH 

With a shared title sponsor it is obviously a very important race for Boels Dolmans. The prologue, ITT and hilly last stage is likely to favour Anna van der Breggen but, with such a strong team, they will have other cards to play. It is a special race for Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott) with the prologue held in her hometown and she will also enjoy the long, hilly final stage and the ITT. The race this year also suits Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) who is having a great season. I also expect Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) to be a contender particularly with the support of Lucinda Brand and her other teammates. Team Sunweb have an aggressive racing style and always ignite the races.

For stage wins expect to see some exciting battles in the bunch sprint stages. Look out in particular for Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling), Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini), Hannah Barnes and Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM), Christine Majerus and Amalie Dideriksen (Boels Dolmans) and Sarah Roy (Orica Scott). Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) won the hilly Limburg stage last year and is likely to do well on the final stage this year.

WHAT THE RIDERS THINK 

Kirsten Wild (Cylance Pro Cycling) said she would like to try to win a stage but noted “it won’t be easy this year since there are only two flat stages and both after the time trial, so the classement will be sorted already and the big teams will possibly save energy for the lasts two stages.” Racing in her home country is something Kirsten loves about this race but she also highlighted that the race can be stressful because of all the ‘road furniture’.

Gracie Elvin (Orica Scott) said “I’m really looking forward to the Boels Ladies Tour because for once I am coming into good form late in the season instead of previous years where I am just managing to get to the end. Regardless of fitness, I always like coming to this race because it is well run and there is a good mix of stages. I’m hoping for some classic Dutch style racing with a bit of wind and am also looking forward to the hillier last two stages to test my legs as I am trying to be selected for the World Championships. This time of year is always interesting for racing as every rider is at a different point of their season, so this tour will definitely be exciting and I’m sure will have some surprises!”

Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott) really likes the new look for the Ladies Tour  – We have serious long stages. I look forward to the prologue. It is in my hometown. It is also very special course with special historic meaning, because it starts at the hotel where the end of the World War was announced. The stages are long, and I am happy with this: it will be good preparation for Worlds. The TT will be a nice last TT before Worlds too. The last two days are in Limburg, the hilly south. The stage on Sunday will be hard and with some fireworks I expect!”

Lucinda Brand, Team Sunweb, has missed the last few editions and is looking forward to racing on home ground. “I think the organization have made a nice combination of stages with a hard weekend to finish. I do not know all routes clearly but I do not expect the totally flat stages that there used to be. If the wind is good there will be a possibility for echelons. With a long time trial and the prologue I think the race is interesting for riders like Ellen van Dijk, Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and Lisa Brennauer.”

Hannah Barnes (Canyon SRAM) said: “We have our TTT team for the Worlds doing the race. This is so we get to race together for the week and we believe it’s also the best preparation leading up to the Worlds week. I am looking forward to it and I believe we can have a successful GC race and also get a stage win.”

Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) won the points jersey in the 2016 edition and explained “it is an important race for my team as it takes place in Holland and all sponsors are usually there watching us! Our goal is a stage win. Personally I don’t like ITT as I’m not good at it and I am aware of loosing time there. The last two stages are interesting; long and hard so I will try to look for my opportunity there.”

Nettie Edmondson (Wiggle High5) has done this race a number of times and described it as “a typical Dutch race, hard and fast and this year with more hills, particularly on the final two stages. Positioning is hard on the small roads and it is often very windy”. She is looking forward to the prologue, which suits her due to her track background. She thinks the addition of a prologue and an ITT is good as it will shake up the G.C. Nettie said “everyone is really fit and uses the race as a hard hit out before the World Championships, which makes it very exciting but also very, very hard.”

HOW TO FOLLOW 

Follow online with Twitter @ladiestour

#BLT2017

#UCIWWT

Race highlights on the race youtube channel 

The UCI Women’s World Tour YouTube channel will also have highlights.

WORLD WOMEN’S TOUR 

There is everything to play for in the WWT rankings with Kasia Niewiadoma only trailing Anna van der Breggen by 61 points and Annemiek van Vleuten 96 points behind the leader. With 120 points up for grabs for the overall G.C. and points available on every stage (maximum 25) the jersey could easily change hands in the penultimate WWT event.

Anna van der Breggen 859 points

Kasia Niewiadoma WM3: 798 points

Annemiek van Vleuten: 763 points

Boels Dolmans however have a big lead in the teams classification with 2948 points over Team Sunweb (1860 points) and Wiggle High5 (1608 points).

Cecille Uttrup Ludwig has a commanding and unchallengeable lead in the young riders jersey (52 points) over Alice Barnes (16 points) and Amalie Dideriksen (14 points).