The Tour of Guangxi marks the end of the 2018 Women's WorldTour held on Sunday in Guilin, China, and a although some of the most prominent riders have ended their season, others will race the series to the very end in pursuit of one final chance at victory.
The one-day women's event was upgraded from a 1.1-level race to the WorldTour after a successful inaugural edition, last year, won by Maria Vittoria Sperotto (BePink-Cogeas), who used her track speed to beat Amy Cure and Lucy Garner - both of Wiggle-High5 - in a close sprint finish line.
This year, despite its jump up to WorldTour, there will only be 15 teams (71 riders) on the start line. The race is tougher at 146km with a start and finish in Guilin. The route is mainly flat, but there are two back-to-back climbs, with the second ascent peaking at the 104km mark, followed by a descent and flat 40km to the finish line.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) is leading the series with 1411 points. Marianne Vos (Waowdeals), in second with 1394, points and new world champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) is in third with 1323, making it an all-Dutch top-three.
The top three women will not be competing in the one-day race, but the start line is full of strength, most notably Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), Tatiana Guderzo (BePink), Arlenis Sierra (Astana), Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) and Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5).
Barnes took a mid-season break to recover from injury and came back to win the world title in the team time trial in Innsbruck four weeks ago. She is hoping to carry her form straight through to the end of the season in China.
"I haven't done this race before, or been to China, so it's all very exciting," Barnes said in a team statement. "After my time off mid-season with a broken collarbone, I decided to carry on until China. It's a new race for me, which is always good to do, and a nice way to finish the season."
Likewise, Spratt placed second in the road race at the World Championships and aims race well in China, although she said she will take on a support role for her teammates Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Alex Manly and Georgia Williams.
Mitchelton-Scott’s director Martin Vestby echoed the strategy saying, "It's a race that can be quite open, with a mix of teams and riders, so I think we can follow a little bit but not be too aggressive.
"We have Lucy and 'Spratty' who are strong on the climbs, but it's still quite far to the finish – around 30km from the top of the climb – so there's still a good chance it will be some sort of peloton arriving together at the finish line," he said. "Hopefully, they can all survive and we can have numbers to play with in the final. Gracie and Georgia are our options for the sprint, but the riders will need to be honest with each other as to how they're feeling after the travel, and will need to talk and decide a little bit out on the road."
American team Tibco-SVB will travel to the race with a team that includes Australia’s Brodie Chapman, Alice Cobb and Alison Jackson, who all raced the World Championships.
"With the climb towards the end of the race, this course will be a great final challenge to what's been a breakthrough season for our team," said team founder, Linda Jackson, who will be joining the women in China for the race.
“It’s been a long season, but we are eager for this final race and another opportunity to perform at the World Tour level."
Tour of Guangxi marks the final race for the Wiggle High5 team, whose owner Rochelle Gilmore announced she would close the team at the end of this year. Edmondson will be joined by a series of strong teammates that include Elisa Longo Borghini, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Amy Cure, and sisters Lucy and Grace Garner.
“It’s the last race of the Women’s WorldTour, and it’s also the last Wiggle High5 race ever,” Edmondson said. “It’s been a big few years of ups and downs with this team, and we’re all just hoping to have some fun, to enjoy it, and to go out with a bang.”