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2019: The Review

For riders who stick to skinny tyres, the off-season provides a sense of calm; a period away from the hectic-ness of racing and a time to look back on the past season. And, just like the riders, this lull in action gives us an opportunity for reflection and a chance to admire a fantastic year.

‘A year to remember’

From Canada to New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago to Kazakstan, 93 different nationalities raced in 2019. The world tour itself spanned 3 continents and women’s cycling reached an ever growing global audience.

New challengers emerged from the bunch whilst the old guard looked to defend their rank. There were nail-bitingly close finishes as well as impressive solo breaks. Some individual performances left you in speechless-awe and there were days where the displays of team work merited loud recognition. New teams attempted to usurp the traditional hierarchy and new rivalries were born. There were a few crashes that made you wince, but there were also celebrations that moved even the most stoic of fans. It was simply – a year to remember.

‘Headlines aplenty’

Whilst Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) took the first European victory of the year in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it was Marta Bastianelli who dominated the early spring classics. The 32 year Italian, won Spar – Omloop van het Hageland , Ronde Van Drenthe, as well as the Tour of Flanders. In fact, in her first 12 races of 2019 her lowest finishing position was 8th; a remarkable start to a season that had headlines aplenty.

Onto the Ardennes and these classics produced some more thrilling racing; Niewiadoma’s attack on the Cauberg and the dramatic finale that ensued as she just held on for the win; Van der Breggen’s 5th consecutive Fleche Wallonne title; and van Vleuten’s 30km solo break to win Liege-Bastogne- Liege.

In May, Lorena Wiebes announced her arrival on the scene with a sprinting Masterclass in China at the Tour of Chongming Island. The Dutch youngster, won all three stages, the overall as well as the youth classification and the points competition. It would be the start of a stellar season.

And by the end of May, ‘the’ new team, Trek-Segafredo, were still hunting for their first big win. But, when one comes, more follow. And so it was they dominated the early summer stage races. Bira, Brittany, The Ovo Tour, – 3 successive stage race wins, the latter marking Lizzie Diegnan’s return to the top.

But not even Trek Segafredo’s strength or anyone else’s for that matter, could challenge the irrepressible van Vleuten in the high mountains at the Giro Rosa. Van Vleuten was dominant and added another pink jersey to her collection. The Giro Rosa also marked the return of Marianne Vos’ scintillating form: 4 stage wins – she was back to her best.

Vos went on to win La Course and the Tour of Norway as well as Ardeche. Her run of summer results was enough to leap-frog van Vleuten at the top of the World Tour Rankings and so she pulled on the purple leader’s jersey. Across the pond, another rider, was pulling on new jerseys too. Chloe Dygert-Owen, was in yellow, polka dot and white as she emphatically took a clean-sweep of all possible wins at the Colorado Classic.

And whilst the news may not have filtered through to Europe, Dygert-Owen, certainly announced herself in Yorkshire. A time-trial to remember – she obliterated the field by a minute and a half. But not to be out done, van Vleuten would 4 days later ride herself into the rainbow bands. Her epic 104km solo break to win the world championships will no doubt be indelibly inked into the record books.

As the season concluded in Guangxi, China, it was Chloe Hosking’s who celebrated as she won the final race of the year and ended her three years with Ale-Cipollini on a high.

After 10 months of racing, when the curtain finally fell on the 2019 road season it was the Dutch, who were ultimately victorious: Van Vleuten in stripes, Vos in purple, Wiebes in blue and Boels Dolmans topping the team rankings.

‘A new generation’

2019 will also be remembered for a new generation of challengers that burst onto the scene. At times it was difficult to believe that Lorena Wiebes was just 20 such was her strength, composure and tactical nous. The winner of the World Tour Youth classification, she also won the European Games and as well as outsprinting Vos to become Dutch national champion. Stage wins at the Tour of Norway and the Boels Ladies tour as well as the title at Ride London consolidated her place as the peloton’s preeminent sprinter.

Her teammate, Demi Vollering, also made heads turn. In her neo-pro season, the 22 year old came 3rd at Liege and 5th at Fleche Wallonne. Her first senior win came in September with victory at the Giro dell’Emilia and after such an impressive year she’ll be a rider to follow closely over the coming seasons.

Similarly, Juliette Labous (Team Sunweb) rode strongly all season, taking the youth classifications at the Tour of California and the Giro Rosa. Labous, who is a product of the Sunweb development system, showed strength and class beyond her years and no doubt Sunweb will be hoping they can nurture her into a senior champion over the next few years.

‘New teams. New rivalries’

The only official standalone team event of the season took place in Vargarda, Sweden with the team time trial. However, vying to be the top team is a season long competition within a competition. The three newcomers to the World tour (WNT ROTOR, Parkhotel and Trek-Segafredo) certainly made an impact and would all go on to be ranked inside the top 10 by the close of the year.

Indeed, WNT–Rotor Pro Cycling were the first to announce their arrival with the overall win at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana as early as February. World Tour wins at Driedaagse De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem and the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta meant their debut season was a successful one. For a relatively small team, Parkhotel Valkenburg, also made a big impact. The likes of Wiebes and Vollering brought them much success and clearly shows their system of developing young talent is flourishing.

And given the signings, the 1.5 million euro budget and the set up Trek-Segafredo created, the pressure was on to deliver. But with 17 victories, including Tayler Wiles’ memorable stage win in Spain, they didn’t disappoint. They animated races and raised the standard of the sport both on and off the bike. Incidentally, they also took the top honours in Vargada, securing TTT bragging rights for the year.

Yet despite the newcomers and the ever-deepening strength of teams, Boels Dolmans reigned supreme at the top of the standings for another year while CCC-Liv proved to be the most prolific winners.

2019 Rankings: The final standings

Team Classification:

Team

World Tour Points

Victories

Boels Dolmans

4045

18

Team Sunweb

2946

3

Trek–Segafredo

2547.98

17

Mitchelton–Scott

2517.02

18

CCC Liv

2451

22

Canyon–SRAM

2215.02

16

Parkhotel Valkenburg

2072.98

17

WNT–Rotor Pro Cycling

1578.02

15

Team Virtu Cycling

1548

18

Alé–Cipollini

1315

16

Most individual victories:

Rider

Number of Wins

Titles

Vos

19

Overall Word Tour Winner

Wiebes

15

Youth World Tour Winner

Dygert-Owen

13

World Time Trial Champion

Bastianelli

11

Van Vleuten

8

World Champion

Farewell to 2019

Many races and performances from 2019 will be etched into the history books such was the level of competition on display all year long . It was a year to admire; it had a bit of everything and ultimately demonstrated the pure excitement and excellence of women’s racing.

With just under two months until the peloton ‘clip in’ to race mode again, the riders will no doubt be beginning to lay down the foundations for 2020. Behind the scenes too, coaches, directors and management will be busy working away in an attempt to eclipse the achievements of the season just gone. And if they do; 2020 will certainly be another year to remember.

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