Sprinters take your mark! The one-day Classics have come to an end, and the Women's WorldTour makes its transition to stage racing at the Tour of Chongming Island April 26-28 in China.
The three-day race marks the 10th round of the 2018 Women's WorldTour, where following the one-day racing block, Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) leads with 808 points ahead of teammate Chantal Blaak with 538 and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) with 520.
The stage race was once held in conjunction with a one-day World Cup, and, historically, both events catered to the fastest women in the peloton. Previous winners include Ina Teutenberg, Shelley Olds, Kirsten Wild, Giorgia Bronzini, Choe Hosking and Jolien D'hoore.
Last year, D'hoore won the final stage and the overall title, while Kirsten Wild won stages 1 and 2. Hosking, Anna Zita Maria Stricker and Sarah Roy also featured in the bunch sprints.
The Tour of Chongming Island will once again be a race for the sprinters. The parcours show no bumps in the road, with all three stage profiles looking pan flat. Each stage includes two intermediate sprints, which carry time bonuses, for a total of six in three days.
Remarkably, there is one intermediate queen of the mountain (QOM) per stage, for a total of three category 4 climbs to contest. The stage profiles show no deviations (up or down) from the number zero on the elevation scale. However, race organisers have set up the mountain classification over gentle rises: 52km into stage 1, 12km into stage 2 over a bridge connecting Chongming Fenghuang Park to the main island, and at 91km (lap 9) of stage 3.
Given that the race historically finishes in bunch sprints each day, time bonuses play heavily in the outcome of the overall classification. Time bonuses are awarded to the first three finishers: 10 seconds for 1st place, six seconds for 2nd place, and four seconds for 3rd place.
Eighteen teams that were among the top teams based on the 2017 season will feature in the 2018 edition, including 10 teams from Europe, three from the Americas, one Oceania, and four from Asia. There will be 108 riders on the start line including D'hoore, Wild, Hosking, and Bronzini at Chongming Xincheng Park on Thursday.
D'hoore is the defending champion after winning last year's title by five seconds over Wild and one additional second ahead of Hosking. Sarah Roy, Christina Siggaard, Stricker, Emilie Moberg, Kseniya Dobrynina, Maria Sperotto, and Annette Edmondson made up the top ten.
Mitchelton-Scott will back D'hoore, who raced with Wiggle High5 last year, with a good lead-out team of Gracie Elvin, Roy, Alexandra Manly and Janelle Crooks. This year D'hoore won Driedaagse De Panne, a one-day race on the Women's WorldTour, and spent a brief time in the series lead.
Wild, who now races with Wiggle High5, has won the title three times. After a successful track season where she won three world titles, Wild started her road season at the spring Classics. She went on to win a stage of the Healthy Aging Tour, where she earned the points competition jersey and placed fifth overall. She will have support from Amy Cure, Lucy Garner, Grace Garner and Julie Leth. The team also lines up with Edmondson, who won the opening stage of the Santos Women's Tour and recently closed out a successful track season.
Hosking won the overall title in 2016 and will look to stand on the top step of the podium once again. In January, she won a stage of the Santos Women's Tour and won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. She finished her European one-day race campaign with four podium finishes, and then returned to Australia where she recently won the Commonwealth Games road race title. Ale Cipollini team will field Soraya Paladin, Martina Stefani, Karlijn Swinkels and Anna Trevisi to support the Australian.
Bronzini, who won the Tour of Chongming Island one-day World Cup in 2015, will be Cylance's top sprinter in China. The former double world champion has shown good form during the Classics, particularly at Amstel Gold Race where she rode into the winning breakaway and climbed over the Cauberg to finish seventh. Earlier in the season, she stood on the podium in two stages of the Santos Women's Tour and at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Tibco-SVB brings two capable sprinters with Shannon Malseed and Kendell Ryan. Emile Moberg returns with Team Virtu, Simona Frapporti lines up with Hitec Products, Chiara Consonni joins Valcar PBM and Kelly Druyts lines up with Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport.
Teams to watch also include China Liv Pro, Thailand Women's Cycling, Malaysia, Hong Kong China, Dukla Praha, Minsk Cycling and Swapit Agolico.
2018 Tour of Chongming Island
Stage 1: Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 111.5km Chongming Xincheng Park - Chongming Xincheng Park
Stage 2: Friday, April 27, 2018 - 121.3km Chongming Fenghuang Park - Chongming Fenghuang Park
Stage 3: Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 126.5km Chongming Xincheng Park - Chongming Xincheng Park