The Emakumeen Bira marks the 12th round of the Women's WorldTour and the third stage race after the completion of the Tour of Chongming Island and Tour of California earlier this month. The historical stage race will take place in the Basque Country from May 22-25, and this year it has attracted the world's best climbers including Mitchelton-Scott's defending champion Amanda Spratt and runner-up Annemiek van Vleuten.
Organisers of Emakumeen Bira announced in March the 2019 route for the four-day race would be more mountainous than in previous editions. The most significant change to this year's competition is the removal of the individual time trial in favour of adding more climbing.
Last year's race conflicted with the Tour of California Women's Race and saw thinned-out rosters and staff at both events. This year, the UCI separated the events on the calendar, to allow for a few days in between, and for teams to have a better opportunity to field rosters and staff at both races.
Emakumeen Bira will begin on May 22 with a 118km that will start and finish in Lurreta. The stage will include two ascents: Artebakarra that is 2.9km with an average of 3.4 per cent grade and Astoreka that is 1.5km with an average grade of 4.5 per cent.
Stage 2, on May 23, will take the field on a 112km race from Aduna to Amasa with two climbs: Altzo that is 2.4km at 6.1 per cent average grade and Alkiza that is 4.4km with 6.1 per cent grade. The race could regroup through the undulating valley roads before finishing on a punchy climb to Amasa.
Stage 3, on May 24, is a 100km race from Ametzaga to Santa Teodosia with two climbs separated by just 10km: Opakua is 7.4km with an average grade of 5.7 per cent and the second and final climb is to the finish line in Santa Teodosia. That summit finale is 2.7km with an average grade of 9.4 per cent.
Stage 4, on May 25, is the hardest of the four stages. It is the longest stage at 156km and includes four climbs: Udana at 4.8km and 4.6 per cent, Atagoiti at 8km and 5 per cent, Untzilla at 3.5km and 2.8 per cent and lastly, Asentzio is 8.7km and 4.9 per cent and concludes the race.
Mitchelton-Scott teammates Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten placed first and second in last year's edition, while Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) was third. Spratt and van Vleuten will be back to defend their title from last year with a powerful team that also includes recent Durango-Durango Saria winner Lucy Kennedy.
After recently securing overall victory at the Tour of California Women's Race, van der Breggen will not be racing Emakumeen Bira. However, Boels-Dolmans will line up with Christine Majerus, Jip van den Bos, Eva Buurman, who is a strong up-and-coming climber, Jolien D’hoore, Amy Pieters and Amalie Dideriksen.
WNT-Rotor field strong climbers in Ane Santesteban and Setmana Ciclista Valenciana winner Clara Koppenburg. Koppenburg competed in the Tour of California where she placed fourth overall and will be anticipating a higher placing in Emakumeen Bira.
Team Virtu Cycling field contenders in Rachel Neylan and Sofia Bertizzolo, and they could both be among the top 10 in the four-day race.
Also making the trip from California to Spain is Canyon-Sram's Omer Shapira. She was fifth on the Mt. Baldy summit at the Tour of California where she placed eighth overall. She will no doubt be a contender at Emakumeen Bira, as will her teammate Alena Amialiusik.
Former world champion Tatiana Guderzo will line up with BePink. She showed her climbing strengths at the World Championships in Innsbruck last September to earn the bronze medal. She also raced in California last weekend where she was building her form for the Giro Rosa. She will be a dark horse at the Emakumeen Bira, and possibly best suited for a stage win.
Trek-Segafredo brings a strong team with Tayler Wiles, who was 11th overall in California, along with Elisa Longo Broghini and Abigail Van Twisk.
Bigla line up without their GC contender Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig but will have cards to play for stage success and in the GC with Sophie Wright and Leah Thomas.
Movistar will field one of the most active teams, outside of Mitchelton-Scott, with a dominant home-team roster. Mavi Garcia, Sheyla Gutierrez, Lorena LLamas and Spanish road champion Eider Merino are all potential contenders for the GC. Also, Paula Patiño and Jasinska Malgorzata only add to the team’s strength for stage success.