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The 2022 Women’s Tour marks the sole top-tier event held in June and the last major stage race ahead of the double-headers Giro d’Italia Donne and Tour de France Femmes in July. 

Nearly all of the highest-level teams will be on the start line as some riders look to fine-tune their form while others aim for stage wins and overall victory at the six-day race held from June 6-11 in the UK.

Defending champion Demi Vollering (SD Worx) will not participate in the race this year and nor will World Champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) but the field is packed with talent sure to provide roadside fans and viewers watching the race on live broadcast with an action-packed week of pro bike racing.

Cycling News selected a handful of riders to watch in the sprints, breakaways and overall victory at the 2022 Women’s Tour.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)

Kasia Niewiadoma is one of two former overall winners on the start line at this year’s race, along with Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), and she will undoubtedly aim to add another title to her palmares. The Polish all-rounder is perfectly suited to the event’s pitchy terrain that, this year, includes a summit finish at Black Mountain. 

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The last time Niewiadoma won the Women’s Tour was back in 2017 when she secured a solo win on stage 1 and held the leader’s jersey for the remaining four stages. There were no significant ascents that year but her breakaway racing style and team support is what led to her overall success.

She opened up about her struggle through ‘uncomfortable feelings’ during a winless spring campaign this year, but has told Cycling News that she is grateful that there are more opportunities for success this season. Another win at the Women’s Tour would be a marked accomplishment and it would most certainly add a boost of confidence for Niewiadoma ahead of races like the Tour de France Femmes.

Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM)

Nothing short of exceptional in the sprints, Lorena Wiebes comes into the Women’s Tour fresh off of three back-to-back stage wins at RideLondon Classique where she also secured the overall title. Team DSM will aim to continue their dominance in the UK during the opening stages of the Women’s Tour.

The opening two stages and the final well-suit the Dutch woman and with a lead out that includes Charlotte Kool, Leah Kirchmann, Megan Jastrab, Wiebes will be the sprinter-to-beat in the flatter stages.

The team also field British champion Pfeiffer Georgi, who will likely be the team’s GC hopes for the hillier stage 3, 4, and 5.

“After a successful three days at RideLondon Classique, we continue our block of racing in the UK at the Women’s Tour. We head to the race with two strong and fast finishers in the form of Lorena and Charlotte, and we have a few sprint opportunities that we are looking forward to with them. In the harder stages, we can look for our options to go into the breakaway and on the attack, looking to ride an open race as we look to do the best we can on the hilly days and mountain-top finish,” said the team’s director, Albert Timmer.

Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma)

As one of the biggest race in the UK, Anna Henderson will fly the colours of Jumbo-Visma at her home race the Women’s Tour. She arrives fresh off of winning the mountain classification at the three-day RideLondon Classique and prepared to give another strong performance during the next six days of racing. 

Although Henderson has been racing professionally since 2019, this will be her first-ever participation at the Women’s Tour.

“This is the second race in ten days in my home country. This spring, I stayed in the Netherlands and Belgium for the most part; now I will be in familiar surroundings for a few weeks. It is very special to race here. I know my family and friends are around to support me. The British crowd is also very vocal. They cheer very loudly for ‘their’ riders. It’ll give me energy,” Henderson said.

“In the Netherlands and Belgium the roads are generally straight and quite wide. Here, the course is more winding and narrow. That suits me. The hills don’t scare me either, although I expect more from the second and sixth stages – which have fewer steep climbs – than from the first and fifth. We’ll see how it goes. In any case, I feel fit and I am looking forward to it. That’s a good basis for a nice race.”

Henderson will be joined by former overall winner Labecki, who will be vying for stage wins, as well as Riejanne Markus, Teuntje Beekhuis, Karlijn Swinkels and Romy Kasper. 

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SD Worx)

In her final year of racing before retirement, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is still competing at her best, and while working for teammates, securing top-10 results at many of the Spring Classics and Itzulia Women. 

Stage racing season is another area of strength for Moolman Pasio, who has won the overall title at the former Emakumeen Bira in 2017 and has placed on the podium in many top-tier stage races. Watch for her to both compete for stage wins on the hilly stages at the Women’s Tour, as well as the for the overall victory. 

Her triumph atop the Monte Matajur at the Giro Donne last year was spectacular, at a race where she took second overall while working for her teammate and overall winner Anna van der Breggen. 

Capturing an overall victory on the Women’s WorldTour would be an exceptional way to end a sparkling career.

Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)

Grace Brown will be the go-to contender for FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, as Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marta Cavalli take a well-deserved rest. The Australian has had some strong results through the Classics and opened her stage racing season with a 19th overall at Vuelta a Burgos.

Watch for her to come into form this month ahead of July, as most riders aim to target one or both of the Giro Donne and the Tour de France Femmes. 

The Women’s Tour route is punchy and perfect for a rider like Brown, who thrives in breakaways and aggressive racing tactics. Although there is no time trial for her to excel in, the mountain stages are just hard enough, but not too hard, to suit Brown’s strengths and to hold her own against the climbers in the race.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)

After a sparking Spring Classics campaign that included with a victory at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, it’s time for Elisa Longo Borghini to turn her attention to the stage racing season. She has not raced since the Ardnennes Classics and so the Women’s Tour will, in many ways, be an opener for the Italian Champion to test her legs against across varied terrain over six days.

She will undoubtedly be the team’s GC contender, but they also field riders for every stage. Arguably the strongest team on paper, Trek-Segafredo will field Lauretta Hanson, Chloe Hosking for the sprints, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Ellen van Dijk and Elynor Backstedt for the breakaways. 

The Women’s Tour offers a rider like Longo Borghini an opportunity to test her legs, race aggressively while still focus on the hillier GC-deciding stages.

Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)

A revelation of the late-spring racing season, Veronica Ewers captivated the cycling world with a stage win and second place overall at Festival Elsy Jacobs. 

She continued with strong performances in the series of Spanish one-day races; second at Emakumeen Nafarroako, a victory at Navarra Women’s Elite Classics, and second again at Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria.

In the stage races she finished 10th at Itzulia Women, and while she had less impressive results at Vuelta a Burgos and RideLondon, watch for her to once again come into her own at the Women’s Tour.

EF Education-TIBCO-SVB will have a strong team that also includes Omer Shapira and Krista Doebel-Hickok, for a team that should do well on the hilly terrain.

Alexandra Manly (BikeExchange-Jayco)

While Demi Vollering was dominating Itzulia Women and Lorena Wiebes was doing the same at RideLondon, both riders capturing all stages and the respective overall titles, Alexandra Manly was doing something similar at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour.

The Australian won four stages and the overall title at the six-day race, while BikeExchange-Jayco collectively won all but one stage.

When you’re good, you’re good, and so it makes perfect sense for the team to support Manly at the Women’s Tour while she’s on great form.

“Across the team we’ve had a really good month in May and we are all feeling confident ahead of the Women’s Tour next week,” Manly said. “It’s a WorldTour event and a notoriously hard week of racing, but we are all ready and eager to race together again. I think we’re all really excited to try and carry the momentum we have from our May race block into this tour.”

The team will also include Kristen Faulkner, third at the Itzulia Women, Arianna Fidanza, Teniel Campbell, Georgia Williams and Nina Kessler.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Kirsten Frattini
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