The 2019 OVO Energy Women's Tour, held from June 10-15, is set to be an exciting race with all five former champions lining up to contest for the overall victory. The women will also be racing in the longest and toughest edition after organisers announced that they had added a sixth stage and a first-ever hilltop finish. Continuing its efforts for parity between its women's and men's events, organisers will once again offer equal prize money compared to the Tour of Britain. The peloton will compete for €97,880 in 2019 – up from €89,999 last year.
Defending champion Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) will face previous title winners in Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor) and Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv).
"The Women's Tour is very much suited to my strengths," said Rivera, the US national champion, also noting that she has prepared, once again, to be at her best during June ahead of the OVO Energy Women's Tour and the USA Cycling National Championships.
Rivera will line up with a strong team that includes recent winner of the Grand Prix Gatineau Leah Kirchmann, Floortje Mackaij, and Susanne Andersen.
Rivera faced a battle to the final day against Vos last year, and fans can expect a similar showdown next week. Vos was the first overall winner of the OVO Energy Women's Tour in 2014, and she has won a record five stages in the five editions of the race. Vos returns with a strong CCC-Liv team in Jeanne Korevaar and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who has recovered from a vertebral-compression injury sustained after a crash during the Ardennes Classics.
Brennauer, who won the title in 2015, will continue her record of having participated in every edition of the race. She brings her WNT-Rotor squad to the race with new signing Janneke Ensing, recent winner of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour Kathrin Hammes and climber Ane Santesteban.
Niewiadoma, the 2017 champion, had an outstanding spring campaign with a victory at Amstel Gold Race. She will have support at the Women's Tour from a strong Canyon-SRAM team that includes Hannah and Alice Barnes. The team will wear a special kit that highlights sponsor’s Rapha Women’s 100.
Deignan won the title in 2016 and will line up as the dark horse contender. She returned to competition after taking some time off to have her first child. She started her season at the Ardennes Classics, Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of California Women's Race, where she had strong showings in the sprints and on the climbs. She had planned to continue her racing programme through the Women's Tour to improve her high-end form, but no one will count her out as a contender for a stage win. Her Trek-Segafredo team will include overall contender Elisa Longo Borghini, who won the Emakumeen Bira last month, Ellen Van Dijk and Abigail van Twisk.
Italy's Marta Bastianelli will not line up with Team Virtu Cycling, even though she is the team's top performer having won Tour of Flanders and, most recently, Gracia-Orlova in May. She went on to win a stage at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour but didn't finish the six-day race. The team will instead field young up-and-coming talent Sofia Bertizzolo.
Mitchelton-Scott are without their top contenders Annemiek van Vleuten, who is leading the Women's WorldTour, and Amanda Spratt, but they do have options in Georgia Williams, Gracie Elvin and Grace Brown.
Boels Dolmans have a powerful team, as always, with Chantal Blaak, Karol-Ann Canuel, Jolien D'hoore, Amalie Dideriksen, Christine Majerus and Amy Pieters - and any one of these riders could win stages and the overall title.
Other riders to watch are Brodie Chapman and Shannon Malseed (Tibco-SVB), Aude Biannic and Sheyla Gutierrez (Movistar), Sophie De Boer (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Alice Maria Arzuffi (Valcar), Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini), and Elizabeth Banks (Bigla). Drops has also received an invitation to the race and will field an entirely British team.
This year's stage race will be the longest edition of the OVO Energy Women's Tour at six days. Organisers announced last September that they had added one stage, and then more recently announced that there would be a first-ever hilltop finish in Warwickshire, which has hosted the event for four seasons, through Burton Dassett Country Park, that will take place on stage 4.
The race will open on June 10 with a 157.6km race from Beccles to Stowmarket. It includes three intermediate sprints at Honnington, Fornhamst Martin and then in Stowmarket, on the first pass through the finishing circuit. There will also be two category 3 climbs at Little Welnetham and Buxhall.
Stage 2, on June 11, will offer the riders a 62.5km race at the Cyclopark Gravesend. It is a pan-flat circuit with intermediate sprints at laps 10, 15 and 20 - a definite route for the sprinters.
Stage 3, on June 12, will be a 145.1km race from Henley-on-Thames to Blenheim Palace. The climbing begins on this stage with two ascents straight out of the gates; a category 2 climb up Pishill is directly followed by a category 1 climb up Britwell Hill. An undulating section follows with two intermediate sprints in Wallingford and Didcot before finishing in Blenheim Palace.
Stage 4, on June 13, will be 158.9km from Warwick to the hilltop finish in Burton Dasset. The first two-thirds of the stage undulating with intermediate sprints in Brinklow and Pillerton Priors. There are four category 2 climbs in the last 40km at Sun Rising Hill and three times up Burton Dasset Country Park where the race will end.
Stage 5, on June 14, is a 140km race from Llandrindod Wells to Builth Wells. The climbing continues on this penultimate stage with two category 1 ascents at Gorddwr Bank and Epynt, mixed in with two intermediate sprints at Beguildy and St Harmon. The race descends to the finish line in Builth Wells.
The OVO Energy Women's Tour will end with stage 6 on June 15 with a 125.9km race from Carmarthen to Pembrey Country Park. It's no easy finale. There are two intermediate sprints in Talley and Penygroes, but in between, there is a category 1 climb up Black Mountain, which could make the final separations in the overall classification.