Words by Amy Jones | Photo by Zac Williams/SWpix.com
We’re over half-way through the classics and there’s been plenty of races so far to give us an idea of the landscape of women’s WorldTour racing in 2022. Over the off-season there were some big-name retirements, interesting new signings and plenty of shake-ups within teams. With that in mind, who has managed to make it work and who is still missing that top step of the podium?
Top of the class
Last season, Movistar went for a two-pronged approach with Emma Norsgaard in the sprints and Annemiek van Vleuten in – well – everything else. This season, with Norsgaard having a slightly slower start to the season – at least by 2021’s standards – new signing Arlenis Sierra has picked up the mantle with aplomb. Much like Norsgaard, the Cuban champion isn’t only a sprinter as she demonstrated on the Cauberg at Amstel Gold recently when in the breakaway.
Katrine Aalerud and Aude Biannic have also played an invaluable team role for van Vleuten this season and Movistar appear to be riding well as a team on the whole. However, van Vleuten has been lamenting that recent races have not been ‘hard’ enough – which seems an odd statement to make if you are not easily winning them. Indeed, the 39-year-old has only netted two wins so far this season, one, the GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, and the second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. A pretty slow start by the former world champion’s standards.
Canyon//SRAM have yet to deliver a big win this season but, for the first time in a while, they seem right on the cusp of doing so. New signings Shari Bossuyt, Soraya Paladin, and Pauleina Rooijakkers have proven invaluable so far for their team leader, Kasia Niewiadoma. After seemingly bouncing back last year Tiffany Cromwell is another string in the Canyon//SRAM bow and, although Niewiadoma has expressed frustration at her performances so far (in fairness, she did have Covid just a few weeks ago) her second place at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday might be the confidence boost she needed to finally stand on the top step again soon.
Given the way they have raced in previous years, it’s good to see that Team DSM are not messing around this season. All four of their wins this year have gone from their unparalleled sprinter Lorena Wiebes – who at just 23-years-old already has 40 victories to her name – but Floortje Mackaij, Liane Lippert, and Juliette Labous also appear to be circling in on a victory. Elsewhere in the team, British national champion Pffeifer Georgi has stepped up and played an invaluable team role throughout the Classics so far.
As always, Valcar Travel and Service have in their ranks some of the most exciting emerging talent and, as a result, have racked up more WorldTour top-1os than most WorldTeams. Many of the most exciting riders in the Women’s WorldTour have emerged from the Valcar ranks, not least the current world champion, in recent years and this year is no different. Sprinter Chiara Consonni is the latest in that line of succession, with two WorldTour top-10s and a win at the 1.Pro Dwars door Vlaanderen already under her belt.
Consinni isn’t the only rider in hot-pink Valcar kit to make an impression this season, however. Italian Cyclocross champion – who also placed third behind Lucinda Brand and Marianne Vos at the world championships in Fayetteville – Silvia Persico has three WorldTour top-10s to her name so far including Trofeo Aldredo Binda and Gent-Wevelgem.
Le Col-Wahoo (formerly Drops) have always punched well above their weight. Last year, notably, Marjolein Van ‘t Geloof rode to 13th place at the inaugural Paris Roubaix Femmes. This season, van’t Geloof has continued to impress , including riding to 5th at Nokere Koerse, and her teammates have also stepped up. Portuguese champion Maria Martins finished 5th at Brugge-De Panne (after an impressive leadout from van’t Geloof), meanwhile returnee Lizzie Holden has been, just about, inside the top-20 at the previous two WorldTour races and has been active at the front, getting into breaks and making solo moves. With van’t Geloof on the startlist for Paris Roubaix Femmes on Saturday, could we see something even bigger this year?
Room for improvement
While the wins have indeed been coming for Team SD Worx, they haven’t come as easily as in recent years. New signing Lotte Kopecky’s Flanders win was of course a huge one and the Belgian champion has shown that the move to SD Worx was a smart one both for herself and the team. Marlen Reusser, the team’s other new transfer, has also given the team a huge boost in power, using her time trial prowess to either drive breakaways or bring them back.
However, the team appear to be lacking cohesion at times – something that they have been renowned for pulling off perfectly in the past. The bungled Amstel Gold finish wherein communication between Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Demi Vollering left the latter sprinting for second instead of the win was an example. Both riders did, however, right that wrong at Brabantse Pijl but let’s hope they can learn from those mistakes at a WorldTour race, too.
Trek Segafredo would have passed with flying colours were it not for the fact that, in recent weeks, they have shown themselves to be leaning very heavily on world champion Elisa Balsamo. With Lizzie Deignan out for the season on maternity leave, Elisa Longo Borghini suffering from a lingering illness, and one of their most dependable lieutenants, Tayler Wiles, suffering from iliac artery endofibrosis, the team have less horsepower than they are used to.
While Shirin van Anrooij and Ellen van Dijk make up for a lot and have proven themselves to be worth their weight in gold so far, in races where Balsamo struggles to make it to the finish fresh enough to sprint they appear to lack leadership.
FDJ narrowly avoided the bottom category thanks to Marta Cavalli’s Amstel Gold win on Sunday. With their multi-leader strategy seeming to cause more harm than good to the team’s chances of netting a win it looked like the French squad were destined to repeat the same mistakes race-after-race. In the absence of the two other leaders, Grace Brown and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, on Sunday, Cavalli was the clear leader on the day and, lo and behold, it worked out. If they want to keep winning this season maybe they ought to take note.
Team UAE have five WWT top-10s this season but no win. They do have two wins on the board this season thanks to Marta Bastianelli sprinting to victory in both the Vuelta CV Feminas and Omloop van het Hageland – both 1.1. Both Bastianelli and Spanish national champion, Mavi Garcia, are regular sights at the front of WorldTour races when it matters but often lack the backup that other teams benefit from in the later stages. With the Spanish stage races coming up, however, we could see Garcia’s luck change.
Could do better
Jumbo Visma has been the model team when it comes to working together on the road. Most notably, Anna Henderson, Romy Kasper, Anouska Koster and Riejanne Markus have thrown the kitchen sink at every race so far. While they have the formula to win, they’ve been missing the woman who usually finishes the job: Marianne Vos. After illness and opting out of Flanders to focus on Roubaix, the cyclocross world champion will return to racing for the Big One on Saturday – can they pull it off and get the Dutch rider the win she was chasing for nearly 20km last year?
Team BikeExchange have all the ingredients for a big result but with a lot of new riders coming into the team this season they haven’t quite got the winning recipe just yet. Australian track riders Georgia Baker and Alexandra Manly have been getting close, as have Italian sprinter Ariana Fidanza and fellow sprinter and new signing, Nina Kessler but they have yet to do better than 8th at WorldTour race so far this year.
Would-be leader Amanda Spratt is on the comeback after surgery for iliac artery endofibrosis but has nonetheless been active in recent races, attacking in both Flanders and Brabantse Pijl. Spanish climber Ane Santesteban has also been looking strong in her second season with the team. A few of the riders in the team have been hit with injury and illness this season including Teniel Campbel, Ruby Roseman-Gannonl and Kirsten Faulkner, which is bound to be a factor too.
Liv Racing Xstra are another team who are regular animators but are yet to net a big win. In fact, the team does not even have a WWT top-10 to their name so far this year. Sprinter Rachele Barbieri gave the team a win at the 2.1 EasyToys Bloeizone Fryslân Tour, but in the absence of Lotte Kopecky, the team are missing the finishing touch at WorldTour races this season.
Double Canadian national champion (and TikTokker extraordinaire), Alison Jackson, ended 2021 on a high but has had a quiet start to 2022 so far. Her best result so far is second at the 1.2 Drentse Acht van Westerveld but she was more visible on Wednesday at Brabantse Pijl – a result can’t be far away from the 33-year-old.
The remaining WorldTeams, Human Powered Health, EF Education First TIBCO, Roland Cogeas Edelweiss, and Uno-X can be given some slack on the grounds of being new to the WorldTour.
Uno-x have been besieged by illness and injury, and have one star rider on maternity leave in the form of Elinor Barker. Roland Cogeas have been active in races, attacking and getting into breakaways but haven’t had results – as is the case for EF Education first Tibco and Human Powered Health. What they also need to do, perhaps, is attend all of the WorldTour races.
While many of the WorldTeams have passed through the Classics with flying colours, those who have some way to go still have 64 of the 71 WWT race days to make up for lost ground. With the transition from Classics to stage racing coming up, a different set of riders will have the opportunity to get their team’s colours on the top step of the podium.