Sharon Laws previews Madrid Challenge

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Culminating in 46 days of racing, in 20 different races over 3 continents the Women’s World Tour wraps up on the 10 September in the tenth country – Spain – with the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta.

In 2015 La Vuelta added a women’s race on the final day of the men’s three-week stage race through Spain, taking the lead from the original La Course event, held in Paris, on the final day of the Tour de France. The race takes place in the heart of the capital on the same circuit where the men’s peloton will contest the final stage of La Vuelta later that day.

In 2016 Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta was given UCI World Tour status and over the next few years it is expected to grow even more following the agreement signed until 2020 with WNT Ibérica Herramientas de Precisión S.L.

The race 

Check out the website for more information about the race. www.letour.fr/madrid-challenge/2017/us

Course Map  

The 87km race consists of 15 laps of a 5.8km relatively flat circuit. The previous two editions have ended in a bunch sprint. In 2016 the race took 2hr 01 with an average speed of 43.13 km/h.

The course is a clover-leaf shape starting in the Plaza de Cibeles with its complex of marble sculptures and iconic fountains. It heads north along the wide boulevard of Paseo de Recoletos, before a tight hairpin turn to return to Plaza de Cibeles. It then turns west onto Gran Via, before another hairpin turn back to Plaza de Cibeles. The last section of the course is south down Paseo del Prado, with a final hairpin just before the one kilometre flag. It is a fast, straight run in to the start/finish line back at Plaza de Cibeles.

Sprint Classification

In addition to the overall win there is also a sprint competition. There are 12 sprints during the race on laps 2-13 as riders cross the start/finish in Plaza Cibeles. Points are awarded to the first 5 riders 5-4-3-2-1 for 1st-5th place respectively. The rider with the highest number of points at the end of the race wins the competition.

Prize Money

There is 17,000 euro up for grabs with the race winner taking 6,000 euro, second 4,000 euro and third 2,000 euro. Prize money is awarded down to 20th place.

The sprint competition awards a total of 3,500 euro:- 2000, 1000 and 500 euro for 1st – 3rd respectively.

The total prize purse for the overall and the sprint classification is 20,500 euro.

Previous Editions

Last year’s edition was fast and furious and there were numerous breakaways, the most promising with climber Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and track rider Simona Frapporti (Hitec Products). They escaped off the front with 20km to go and were only caught 3km before the finish as the sprint teams organised a chase. Wiggle High5 showed their strength with Jolien d’Hoore and Chloe Hosking making it 1-2 for the team ahead of Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini). Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) was particularly active during the race showing off her Women’s World Tour (WWT) leader’s jersey for the last race of the series.

The inaugural edition was won by American sprinter Shelley Olds (Alé Cipollini) ahead of Giorgio Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) and Kirsten Wild (Team Hitech Products).

What to expect

Expect to see a very aggressive, high pace race from the gun. With prize money for the intermediate sprints these will be hotly contested. I’m expecting a number of breakaways to form during the race but for it to finish in a bunch sprint.

The Teams

Eighteen teams will start in Madrid but unfortunately the proximity of this event to the Team Time Trial at the World Championships in Norway on 17 September means that a number of big teams have opted not to attend – these include Orica Scott, Boels Dolmans, Canyon SRAM and Bigla Procycling. This does give some smaller teams the opportunity to race in a World Tour event including the Spanish teams of Bizkaia-Durango, Lointek and the Spanish National Team. The British team, WNT Pro-cycling, has also been awarded a wild card entry as a result of WNT’s commitment to supporting this event in the future. This will be the first World Tour race for the Canadian Sas-Macogep and they will be looking forward this opportunity.

Despite the absences of some important teams the race will still be extremely competitive with powerful sprinters from Wiggle High5, Team Sunweb, Alé Cipollini and Cylance all aiming for a victory in the final Women’s World Tour race of the season.

Who to watch?

The start list is subject to change but based on what is available ….

Defending champion Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle High5) returns to try to replicate her 2016 victory. She will have a strong lead out with two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini, 3rd and 4th place finishers at the BeNe Ladies Tour Nettie Edmonson and Emilia Fahlin, super domestique Julie Leth and podium regular Elisa Longo Borghini.

One of her main rivals will be pocket rocket Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb), winner of the Prudential Classique in London in addition to 2 World Tour events (Ronde van Vlaanderen & Trofeo Alfredo Binda) and a stage at the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race empowered with SRAM. She will have a strong team supporting her including Giro Rosa stage winner Lucinda Brand and 4th G.C OVO Energy Women’s Tour finisher Leah Kirchmann.

Power house Kirstin Wild will also be eager for the victory but may opt to work for Giro Rosa stage winner Sheyla Gutierrez who would obviously love to win in her home country. They will have the support of Italian sprinter Marta Tagliaferro.

Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) will want to continue her run of podium places this season, which include a stage win at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour of Britain and the Ladies Tour of Norway, 2nd place on stage 4 of the Giro Rosa and stage 4 of the Boels Rental Ladies Tour naming only the most recent! Her strong ‘fluro clad’ squad includes previous world champion Marta Bastianelli.

Other riders to look out for include Roxane Fourneir (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal Ladies) and Emilie Moberg (Hitech Products).

How to follow?

Twitter: @MadChallengeLV #UCIWWT, #MadridChallenge #LV2017

Facebook: @MadridChallenge

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

T.V.

Last year the race was widely televised. Information of T.V. coverage for this year’s edition will be posed on the race facebook page. Follow for more details @madridchallenge. 

What do the riders and the sports directors think?

Last year’s winner Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle High5) is excited ahead of the 2017 edition. ‘Having a Women’s event at the Vuelta is huge. The race itself is ‘only’ a criterium but if you can win it, it means so much in terms of exposure. I expect a fast and hectic race. There is not a lot of room for breakaways but you never know in Women’s cycling -that’s what makes our races so exciting. The sprint itself is for the powerful sprinters – something that suits me. Last year was my first time doing the race and I won so I hope to repeat it this year. Every sprint chance I get I like to take with both hands’.

Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) one of the favourites said ‘I am really excited to be doing the women’s Vuelta stage. I have never done it before so I’m going into it with an open mind. From what I hear it’s kind of London-esque with a bit of a downtown race in Madrid. Of course we will optimise our efforts to go for the best result, which historically seems to be a bunch sprint. We are going with a strong squad so I believe we will have a good chance at doing well. Having a women’s stage in some of the Men’s Grand Tours is definitely a start. It is not exactly what the peloton would like, but it is still better than nothing. It will be an honour to be there for the first time.’

Sheyla Gutierrez (Cylance Pro Cycling) is obviously excited to race in Spain she said ‘to race in my own country on the same place and day that the last stage of the men’s Vuelta España is awesome and a great opportunity to show how great is women’s cycling. I am looking forward to enjoying the race’. 

Roxanne Fournier (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) has had numerous top ten’s this season and is eager for a win. She said ‘It’s an important race for me because it’s a sprinter race and the last of the Women’s World Tour for this year. I’m in good shape so I have a lot of motivation and I want to do my best to take my first victory of this year. I have lot of good places but no victory so it’s a little bit frustrating. I have a good team to help me in the final sprint so I hope we have a good feeling and communication to do the best together’.

Roxanne thinks the Vuelta having a women’s race is important for women’s cycling. ‘It’s the same as La Course by Le Tour de France and I found it’s amazing because we have a lot of spectators, we have the media, the TV, so it’s very cool for women cycling. I think it’s the best solution for the development of women cycling to have a men’s and women’s race on the same day’.

Lucy Shaw (DROPS) loves circuit races having won the London Nocturne early this year said ‘I am really looking forward to racing in Madrid on Sunday. As more of a sprint focused rider, this type of course suits me. ‘I’m looking forward to building on what I have learnt throughout the season and at races such as Ride London with a similar format, and hopefully put in a good result’.

Like many of the riders Lucy hopes the Madrid Challenge will grow – ‘it’s really cool that the Vuelta have put on a women’s race and I hope to see it develop in the future with a few more stages!’.

Gaby Shaw (WNT Pro-cycling) said ‘I’m hoping to get involved at the front of the race and finish off my season with a strong ride. The Madrid Challenge will be my 3rd World Tour race of the year so I’m going to take everything I’ve learnt from the previous rounds into Sunday’s race. We have Katie Archibald riding and so we will be looking to get Katie in the best position to sprint’.

Having also participated in the Prudential RideLondon Classique Gaby said ‘the Madrid Challenge is a fantastic platform for women’s cycling and our sponsors to have a race at the Vuelta finale. The renowned fast racing on the streets of Madrid will showcase how exciting women’s racing is and hopefully reach out to a wider audience’.

Alex Greenfield (Wiggle High5, Director Sportive) will be directing the team with last year’s winner, Jolien d’Hoore. Ahead of the event she said ‘we’re really looking forward to racing Madrid Challenge. I think it’s another great opportunity to stage Women’s racing alongside the Men’s event and something we are in great support of. Last year we had a great race and came away with the win. This year we are going into the race with a strong team and we are focused on producing a great performance again’.

Manel Lacambra (Cylance Pro-cycling, Director Sportive) has worked in Women’s cycling for a long time and is thrilled to be directing a women’s race in his home country. He saidTo have a women’s race during a men’s grand tour like La Vuelta is very important for our movement. The media is bigger in these events and more people can enjoy and be attracted to our races. The organisers have said they will add more stages during the next years and this will attract new sponsors for us and encourage more young girls to cycle. The latest proof that women’s cycling is growing is that teams like Movistar have decided to have a women’s team.’

Bob Varney (DROPS, Director Sportive) is particularly looking forward to the event. Ahead of the race he said ‘We are delighted to be participating in La Vuelta for the very first time. We bring a young, ambitious team to Madrid, and will be working for our rising star, Abby-Mae Parkinson’.

Bob said he believes that ‘showcasing the improvements made in Women’s cycling to the world is a great opportunity, but it’s only truly positive if it leads to further development of the race programme. 2017 has seen the arrival of Amstel Gold and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a change of focus and an additional ‘stage’ at La Course, so hopefully 2018 will see further development at La Vuelta’.

WOMEN’S WORLD TOUR

With Boels Dolmans and Orica Scott skipping the Madrid Challenge to focus on World Championships the WWT competition was wrapped up at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour.

Anna van der Breggen takes this prestigious jersey for Boels Dolmans once again (Megan Guarnier won the inaugural competition in 2016) by a mere 27 points over Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott), who moved into second following her victory at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour. Kasia Niewiadoma dropped to third,160 points behind van der Breggen.

Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) is 153 points behind Niewiadoma so even if she wins in Madrid she will not make the podium in the WWT competition.

Standings ahead of the Madrid Challenge

Anna van der Breggen 1016 points

Annemiek van Vleuten: 989 points

Kasia Niewiadoma: 856 points

Coryn Rivera: 703 points

Boels Dolmans will also win the teams classification. They have 3273 points over Team Sunweb (2023 points) and Orica Scott (1821 points) so cannot be knocked off this top spot.

Despite not racing Boels Rental Ladies Tour or Madrid Challenge Cecille Uttrup Ludwig will win the young riders jersey with 52 points over Alice Barnes and Amalie Dideriksen who both have 16 points and are not racing in Madrid.