The Amgen Tour of California Women's Race is one of the most celebrated races on the Women's WorldTour. As the only race of its top-tier stature in North America, the three-day event – held from May 16-18 – will draw the very best riders in the world, including three former overall winners in Canyon-SRAM's Trixi Worrack, and Boels-Dolmans teammates Anna van der Breggen and Katie Hall, who is the defending champion.
The women's race will be held in conjunction with the final three days of the men's seven-day event, sharing the stage 1 finish in Ventura, along with the starts and finishes for stage 2 from Ontario to the summit of Mount Baldy, and stage 3 from Santa Clarita to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
This year's race is only held across three stages, but they're more challenging than in previous editions. Stage 1 starts and finishes in Ventura along the Pierpont Bay coastline on Figueroa Street. The women will race 96.5km, and although that is a relatively short distance compared to other stage races, they will face five 'Queen of the Mountains' summits: Casitas Pass Road four times (after 29.5km, 34km, 57km and 61.5km) and Gobernador Canyon once, at the 39.5km mark.
There's also one intermediate sprint as the race heads back into Ventura at 91.5km, before a fast finish down to the waterfront along Harbor Boulevard and back onto Figueroa Street.
Stage 2 will be the most decisive of the three stages. It may only be raced over 75km, but the stage features a summit finish on Mount Baldy for the first time since the inclusion of a one-day women's race in 2008. Hall applauded the addition of a summit finish, telling Cyclingnews, "I love the mountain-top finish for myself. I understand that some riders want to see more different types of finishes at the Tour of California, but I love a good mountain-top finish."
The stage will begin in Ontario on Course Street, and head out of town toward the foothills of Glendora for the only intermediate sprint of the day. Once the peloton passes through the park gates and onto Glendora Mountain Road, the climbing will officially begin at 33km. Some riders in the field will know the climb because it is used as the uphill time trial for the local San Dimas Road Race – one of the staples of spring racing in the US.
They climb for 13km and pass through the first category 1 summit of Glendora Mountain Road (45.5km). The toughest part of the climb is still to come, however, as they turn onto Glendora Ridge Road for roughly 20km before reaching the bottom of Mount Baldy Rd. The hors-categorie climb to the finish starts at 65.5km, and the race will undoubtedly heat up on the nearly 10km to the summit finish line.
Stage 3 won't be an easy finale for the women's field, either, featuring 126km from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, with 2,286 metres of elevation gain. It includes one intermediate sprint in Acton (45km) and one final climb up the Angeles Forest Highway (64km).
The race will start at the Town Center Mall in Santa Clarita. The route will then turn north out of the city on Soledad Canyon Road, and through the Antelope Valley to the first sprint of the day in Acton. Turning onto Aliso Canyon Road, the riders will work their way onto Angeles Forest Highway, and the QOM will start at 60.5km up to the summit of Angeles Crest Highway, with the official climb lasting roughly four kilometres. The riders then drop down into Pasadena to complete one lap of the finishing circuit before crossing the line at the Rose Bowl.
Who to watch
There are no conflicts on the Women's WorldTour calendar this year, and so the field descending onto the Tour of California Women's Race will feature one of the strongest rosters in the history of the race.
American, Hall won the race under the UHC Pro Cycling banner last year, but she has signed a contract with the powerful Dutch team Boels-Dolmans for the 2019 season. She is a pure climber, and this race suits her capabilities to perfection. Since the start of the season, Hall has only raced in Europe, and recently completed a stint at the Ardennes Classics, where she helped her teammate Van der Breggen win a fifth consecutive Flèche Wallonne.
Van der Breggen won the overall title at the Tour of California in 2017, but chose to skip the race last year to focus on more one-day races to prepare for the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. She proved that to be the right decision after winning her first world title in the women's road race. She hasn't, so far, been as dominant in 2019 as in previous seasons, with her only victory coming at Flèche Wallonne, and thus her form is a little bit of an unknown as she crosses the Atlantic to bring her rainbow jersey to the US. That said, she can never be discounted as a contender, especially in a race she knows well.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) is having the season of her dreams, particularly after her victory at the Amstel Gold Race in April. She has been primed to take a big Classics victory since turning pro with Rabobank in 2013. Earlier in her career, the Polish rider had won overall titles at the OVO Energy Women's Tour, the Giro del Trentino, Emakumeen Bira and the Festival Elsy Jacobs, and she won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda last year.
Winning Amstel Gold showed that Niewiadoma had turned a corner in her career to become one of the most accomplished and versatile riders in the peloton. Look for her to be a key player in the mountains, and since she's never afraid to jump into a breakaway, she is a real threat to the overall classification.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) had a tough Classics campaign, with crashes that affected her performances through to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After some rest and recovery, she'll be ready to restart her season at the stage races and in the West Coast mountains across California. Areas of the race that will suit her best are the climbs over Casitas Pass Road, Gobernador, Mount Baldy and the Angeles Forest Highway.
Trek-Segafredo arrive with Worrack – a knowledgable champion on this route – who will be able to help her teammates Tayler Wiles, Ruth Winder and Lizzie Deignan. Wiles was second overall last year, and will no doubt want to go one better for her new American team.
Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) has proven time and time again that she is not just a sprinter, particularly with victories at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders and with her day-long breakaway performance at the mountainous World Championships in Innsbruck last year. California is her home stomping ground, and she regularly trains on Glendora Mountain Road – a climb she did multiple intervals on while preparing for the Worlds road race last year. Don't be too surprised if Rivera wins one of the stages at the Tour of California this year – perhaps even stage 1, where she could take the first leader's jersey.
Arlenis Sierra (Astana), a three-time Cuban national champion, is a rider no one will discount for stage victories. She can climb, sprint and she is a savvy breakaway rider. She won the final stage of the Tour of California Women's Race last year. Some of her hillier results include overall classification wins at the Tour de Bretagne Feminin and the Vuelta Femenina a Costa Rica. She was also second at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in 2017.
Other riders to watch include Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (WNT-Rotor), Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally UHC), Brodie Chapman (Tibco-SVB), Tatiana Guderzo (BePink), Chloe Dygert (Twenty20-ShoAir), Leigh Ann Ganzar (Hagens Berman-Supermint), Joscelin Lowden (Drops), Elisa Balsamo (Valcar) and Edwige Pitel (Cogeas Mettler Look).
Check back at Cyclingnews for full race reports, results, galleries and news during the Tour of California Women's Race.