The 2018 Women's WorldTour is winding down with the WNT Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta marking the penultimate round on September 15 and 16 in Spain. Held just a week ahead of the UCI Road World Championships, trade teams will be looking to fine-tune their team time trial skill before the championship race in Austria.
The event started four years ago as a short circuit race won by American sprinter Shelley Olds, followed by victories from Dutchwoman Jolien D'hoore over the next two consecutive editions. Organisers of the race, Unipublic, announced that they increased the event to a two-day stage race after adding a team time trial the day ahead of the original circuit race.
The racing will begin on Saturday with a 12.6-kilometre team time trial on a completely closed course in the Boadilla del Monte area of Madrid. On Sunday, the peloton will once again take on the 100km circuit race in downtown Madrid that includes 17 laps [two more than last year] on a 5.8km circuit around the iconic Plaza Cibeles, Paseo de la Castellana, Plaza de Colon, Gran Via and the Prado Museum.
The new stage has attracted some teams that are looking for a final tune-up ahead of the team time trial the Worlds, but some of the top teams will not be in attendance.There will be 19 teams participating in the Madrid Challenge, but Boels Dolmans, Canyon-Sram, WaowDeals and Cervelo Bigla have opted to skip this round of the Women's WorldTour.
Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) moved into the series overall lead after her victory at the Boels Ladies Tour. She now has 1,411 points, while compatriots Marianne Vos (Waowdeals) is in second place with 1,394 and Anna van der Breggen is in third place with 1,323.
Van Vleuten, the current individual time trial world champion, will not be participating in the event as she prepares for the world title in the road race but Mitchelton-Scott will field a strong roster led by Dhoore, Gracie Elvin and Sara Roy.
Sunweb are the current world champions in the team time trial and they will be looking to add another victory to their success this year, after already winning the TTT at the Giro Rosa and at the Ladies Tour of Norway. Time trial specialist Ellen van Dijk, along with Lucinda Brand, will back the team in the opening stage. Newly crowned American road race champion Coryn Rivera will be looking for victory in the circuit race having placed second behind D'hoore last year.
Participating teams also include Ale Cipollini, BePink, Bizkaia-Durango, BTC City Ljubliana, Cogeas-Mettler, Cylance, Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport, FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope, Hitec Products, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, ParkHotel Valkenburg, Sopela, Valcar PBM, Wiggle High5 WNT Rotor and the Spanish national team.
D'hoore will focus on winning a third time on the circuit race in Madrid, but she will have some tough sprinters to contest against. Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope), Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini), Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling) and Kirsten Wild (Wiggle High 5), who have all stood on the podium in previous editions of the one-day event, will be targeting victory. As will Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High 5), Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) and Elisa Balsamo (Valcar PBM).