The competitive vibe will rise to new heights at the 2016 La Flèche Wallonne Feminine as Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) takes the start line at her first Women’s WorldTour race of her comeback season. Vos, a five-time champion on the Mur de Huy and multiple-time world champion, always aims to win but she will have to face the new world champion and series leader Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans). It is this type of clash between the old guard and the new guard that the cycling world has been waiting to see.
Vos returned to cycling this spring after taking nearly a year off to recover from a hamstring injury and fatigue. She won Pajot Hills Classic in the kind of overpowering style that has made her one of the greatest woman cyclists of all time, but whether she has made the improvements necessary to win a race like La Fléche Wallonne Feminine remains to be seen.
Vos won the editions in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and will have a powerful Rabo-Liv team that includes Pauline Ferrand Prevot, who won in 2014, and Anna van der Breggen will start as the defending champion.
Armitstead is currently leading the Women’s WorldTour rankings after the first five rounds, where she won Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Cittiglio and the Tour of Flanders. She will have a strong support crew as well with former winner on the Mur de Huy Evelyn Stevens and Durango-Durango winner Megan Guarnier, but she will be without Chantal Blaak, who won the round at Gent-Wevelgem and briefly held the ranking lead.
Also on the start list are current UCI world ranking leader Emma Johansson, fresh off an overall victory at Emakumeen Bira, where she won two stages. Wiggle High5 will also have Elisa Longo Borghini, never to be discounted for a victory.
Other contenders will be Alena Amialiusik (Canyon SRAM Racing), Jolanda Neff (Servetto Footon), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo Bigla) and Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS).
La Flèche Wallonne Féminine marks the sixth round of the Women's WorldTour. And it is one of the more challenging one-day events on the calendar.
This year's event will host a 137km race on two circuits in Belgium. Both circuits will travel over sharp climbs; Cote d'Ereffe, Cote de Bellaire, Cote de Bohissau, Cote de Soliere and the Mur de Huy. However, on the last circuit, the peloton will also travel over the Cote de Cherave before the final trip up the Mur de Huy where the winner will be crowned.