The 2018 Ladies Tour of Norway marks the 20th round of the Women's WorldTour, held from August 17-19. The race was reduced by one day after organisers removed the opening prologue, and instead formed a standalone Women's WorldTour-ranked Team Time Trial held on August 16, won by Sunweb.
Last year at the Ladies Tour of Norway, Marianne Vos (WaowDeals) won the overall title ahead of Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) and Ellen Van Dijk (Sunweb). Vos will return to the race in top form after having won the Postnord Vårgårda West Sweden Road Race one week earlier.
On an overall scale, Vos has had a good season with second places at the European Championships in the road race and at the Prudential RideLondon Classique, and she won the overall title at the BeNe Ladies Tour. Earlier this summer, she won a stage at the Giro Rosa and was second overall at the OVO Energy Women's Tour, and she started her season with a pair of third places at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Brabantse Pijl.
Waowdeals director, Jeroen Blijlevens, said that he feels confident that the rolling parcours in Norway will suit his team in their bid for success. The team also includes Jeanne Korevaar, Anouska Koster, Riejanne Markus, Paulien Rooijakkers and Dani Rowe.
"These are stages that might provide opportunities for our team. We have several riders who are in good form. We hope that one of them will be in a position to take a stage win. From there on, we will assess what can be achieved in terms of the general classification."
Boels Dolmans returns with runner-up Guarnier, who will be looking to improve on her performance last year. Even though she hasn't secured a victory on the Women's WorldTour this year, she has had a good season with a podium at Flèche Wallonne and overall victory at the Tour de Yorkshire, and fifth overall at the Giro Rosa followed by fifth place at La Course.
Ellen Van Dijk will not line up with the Sunweb team, but they will field a roster capable of stage wins and overall victory with Lucinda Brand, Leah Kirchmann, Liane Lippert, Floortje Mackaij, Coryn Rivera and Ruth Winder.
Mitchelton-Scott's Annemiek Van Vleuten returned to racing this week for the first time since winning both the Giro Rosa and La Course, and she'll be joined by Amanda Spratt, Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Alexandra Manly and Jessica Allen.
"We are going to have a pretty strong team with Spratty and Annemiek coming back in. We have cards to play, and it's good to have these two strong and fresh riders coming in," said Mitchelton-Scott's director Martin Vestby. "The race is a bit different to the last years, with them taking out the prologue and adding in the team time trial as an individual event."
Canyon-SRAM's Kasia Niewiadoma and Alexis Ryan returned to racing at the Ladies Tour of Norway Team Time Trial and will continue at the stage race with teammates Christa Riffel, Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein and Trixi Worrack.
Niewiadoma hasn't raced since July's Giro Rosa and La Course, and is looking forward to re-joining her teammates in their aim for stage wins.
"I'm super-stoked about coming back to racing mode. I really feel like it's perfect timing. Being around the team always makes me feel better and I just want to compete and fight for our victories," Niewiadoma said.
"The girls were fantastic in the road race in Sweden on Monday, and I want to be part of this crazily aggressive squad and add my own hard work from the last four weeks to bring a great result to our team."
Other riders to watch are Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini), Kirsten Wild and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5), Roxane Fournier (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Eugenia Bujak (BTC City), Susanne Andersen (Hitec Products), Sofia Mertizzolo (Astana), Christina Siggaard (Virtu Cycling), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar PBM), Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal), Tatiana Guderzo (BePink), Shannon Malseed and Valentina Scandolara (Tibco-SVB), Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) and Aude Biannic (Movistar).
The three days of racing offer a total of 1,600m of elevation, which is just enough to make for unpredictable racing that could end with breakaways or bunch sprints. The first road stage is one of the hilliest stages in the event's history, and the longest stage comes on the final day at 154km in length.
All stages include 'Queen of the Mountains' hill sprints and intermediate points sprints.
Stage 1 held on Friday, August 17 will start in Rakkestad and finish in Mysen, with a total of 127.7km of racing. This stage will be the hilliest with a climb at Skoro mid-stage. There are also two point sprints: Skjonhau (30km) and Askim (100km) before the finish in Mysen.
Stage 2 held on Saturday, August 18 will start in Fredrikstad and finish in Sarpsborg, also over 127.7km. The day will start with a mountain sprint in Vikane (15km), and follow an undulating parcours that covers two intermediate sprints in Karlshus (55km) and on the local finishing circuits in Sarpsborg (110km).
The Ladies Tour of Norway will end with stage 3 on Sunday, August 19, which will start in Svinesund and finish in Halden. The longest stage, the women will race 154km, which will also include two mountain sprints at Dafto (35km) and Glende (60km), along with two intermediate sprints in Stene (15km) and on the local finishing circuits at the 114km-mark before finishing in Halden.
If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to be part of a top-level cycling team, and to be on the ground, inside the barriers, at the Tour de France, then RUNNING WITH WOLVES will take you there. It is available to rent for $3.99 USD or buy for $6.99 USD.