The 2021 Women's WorldTour was revealed last summer in abundance with 25 events set to begin in Australia in January and end in China in October, with a host of European stops in between. However, even before the turn of the calendar year, the most prestigious race - Giro Rosa - had been bumped down to the lower level 2.Pro series for not following the live television requirements to be part of the crème de la crème of women's professional road racing.
The world rang in the new year hoping for a fresh start after being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but we may have prematurely waved goodbye to the coronavirus as new variants and surges continue to wreak havoc on worldwide health, business and sports. Only 10 top-level women's events were saved as part of last season's truncated calendar, held from August to November. As new COVID-19 cases sweep around the world, it has taken with it the beginning of the Women's WorldTour in 2021.
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, along with the lower-level women's races Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour, were cancelled after the pandemic made it difficult for teams to travel to Australia for the January and February races, although there was the consolation of having the replacement Santos Festival of Cycling to carry through the domestic racing in Australia.
As teams prepare at training camps for the start of the new season there is still some uncertainty to the calendar and which races will go ahead as planned. RideLondon Classique has already been cancelled, while Ronde van Drenthe schedule for March 14 and the new Itzulia Basque Country planned for May 14-16 have been postponed.
It's an Olympic year and the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which were rescheduled to take place from July 23 through August 8, are the main focus for many riders, and they are staying optimistic that the event will happen. Riders are also looking further ahead to the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders in September.
But the start of the European season has faced some struggles as two of the lower-classed openers - Vuelta CV Feminas and Setmana Ciclista Valenciana - have been cancelled. The peloton has now turned attention to 'opening weekend' with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27. The popular 1.Pro classic will set the tone for the start of the Women's WorldTour at Strade Bianche in March.
There will be nine WorldTour teams this year: SD Worx, Alè BTC Ljubljana, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Team BikeExchange, Liv Racing, Movistar Team Women, Team DSM and Trek-Segafredo, which won the best team and individual classification last year with Lizzie Deignan.
Marianne Vos will lead the newest women's team, Jumbo-Visma, and Lizzy Banks will lead Ceratizit-WNT, while there are a total of 46 second-tier Continental women's teams in 2021.
The one-day races
Strade Bianche - March 6, Italy
The cancellation of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race means that the Women’s WorldTour will begin at Strade Bianche on March 6 in Italy. The race will once again take on the white gravel roads routed throughout the scenic Tuscany region. The organisers of Strade Bianche WorldTour races, RCS Sport, announced that they will keep to tradition for the 2021 editions, using the same 184km route for men and 136km for women as last year, when Wout van Aert and Annemiek van Vleuten triumphed in Siena.
The winner of this race will wear the first leader’s jersey of the series into the more traditional Spring Classics.
Ronde van Drenthe - Postponed from March 14, Netherlands (POSTPONED: new date October 23)
The sprinter-friendly route is roughly 160 kilometres between Assen and Hoogeveen and made up of a series of loops over cobbled sectors and four trips up the VAM Berg, and then 50km to the finish. Riders who have historically done well in this race are powerful one-day specialists on flatter terrain. The event was cancelled last year. Although it is traditionally part of the one-day races held in March, organizers have requested a later date in October.
Trofeo Alfredo Binda - March 21, Italy
The series continues in Italy for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio on March 21. It was one of the first races forced to cancel last year as COVID-19 swept around the world last spring, and it was not added to the revised calendar last fall. The women's field traditionally race a hilly 130 kilometres that finishes on 17.8-kilometre circuits around the town of Cittiglio. Each lap includes a climb through Orino, but the wide-open roads to the finish line often cater to a reduced group sprint.
Brugge-De Panne - March 25, Belgium
A controversial outcome last year saw Lorena Wiebes take the win after Jolien D’hoore crossed the line first but was relegated for deviating from her line in the sprint. It is now a longer race at some 160 kilometres and well-suited to the sprinters. Last year, the peloton travelled 156 kilometres, passing through Leeuw, Koekelare and Schoorbakke, and then contested two finishing circuits in De Panne.
Gent-Wevelgem - March 28, Belgium
It’s one of the flatter one-day races and typically sees a clash of the sprinters. Last year’s event took place in October and saw Jolien D’hoore out-sprint an 11-rider front group to take the win. The start of the race was moved from Ypres' Grote Markt to the Menin Gate and included several main climbs such as the Beneberg, Kemmelberg and Monteberg enroute to the finish in Wevelgem.
Tour of Flanders - April 4, Belgium
The Tour of Flanders is the most prestigious of the Spring Classics. It was reduced from 159km to 135km during the revised calendar last year where Chantal van den Broek-Blaak took a solo victory. This year, it is expected to once again start in Oudenaarde and cover a combination of cobbled sectors and steep climbs including the more decisive climbs near the end of the race - Kruisberg/Hotond (2.6km at 4.1 per cent located at 106km) and the final two climbs over the Oude Kwaremont (2km at 4.2 per cent located at 118km) and lastly the Paterberg ( 400m at 9.7 per cent located 121km). From the crest of the Paterberg, the peloton will race another 13 kilometres to the finish line in Oudenaarde.
Paris-Roubaix - April 11, France (POSTPONED: new date October 2)
There was a significant change to the one-day races that are part of the Women’s WorldTour with the surprise addition of the first-ever women’s Paris-Roubaix. ASO and the UCI made history by creating this event and added it to the revised late-season calendar in October last year, however, it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ASO announced some of the details of the 116km route last year with a start in Denain, south of Roubaix, and a finish at the Roubaix Velodrome. There were 17 sectors of cobbled roads with the pavé beginning after just 20km of racing. Two sectors were rated at the maximum difficulty level – Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Paris-Roubaix will close out the cobbled Classics, and so that has prompted some riders to draw a line and choose between racing in the cobbled Classics and the Ardennes Classics week.
Amstel Gold Race - April 18, Netherlands
This race was also cancelled last year in April, and again in October, due to COVID-19 but will resume this April as the kickoff to the Ardennes Classics. In 2019, the race started and finished in Maastricht, and included a hilly parcours that finished on three 17.8-kilometre circuits and featured the Geulhemmerberg, Bemelerberg and Cauberg climbs. From the top of the Cauberg, there were roughly 1.7km to the finish line, where Kasia Niewiadoma held off Annemiek van Vleuten for the victory in 2019. Organisers are reported to create a closed 18km circuit for the men's and women's 2021 edition.
La Flèche Wallonne - April 21, Belgium
La Flèche Wallonne is the oldest of the three one-day races that form the women's Ardennes Classics triple crown. The series has only been in place for women since 2017 when Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition made its return after a 14-year hiatus, followed by the long-running La Flèche Wallonne, and the debut of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The one-day women's race is famed for its finale on the Mur de Huy. Anna van der Breggen has won a record six consecutive titles at La Flèche Wallonne, and all eyes will be on her for a seventh in 2021.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège - April 25, Belgium
Liège-Bastogne-Liège concludes the Ardennes Classics week before riders turn their attention to the summer stage races. The race starts in Bastogne and includes climbs over Côte de Wanne, Côte de la Haute-Levée and Col du Rosier, before taking on the climbs in the later stages. The final climbs will include the new climb of the Côte de Desnié, and then Côte de La Redoute, Côte des Forges, and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and finishing in Liège.
La Course by Le Tour de France - June 26, France
The eighth edition of La Course by Le Tour de France was initially scheduled to be held on June 27 on circuits of the Mûr-de-Bretagne. ASO have been forced to change the date and location, however, due to local elections held on the same day. The race has been shifted to June 26 and will be held on a route similar to that of the Tour de France stage 1 from Brest to Landerneau. The women's peloton will race a 107.4km starting in Brest and finishing with three laps of a 14-kilometre with the finish line atop the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups in Landerneau.
Clasica San Sebastián - July 31, Spain
Organisers of Itzulia Basque Country and Clasica San Sebastián have confirmed the cancellation of the first edition of the Women's Itzulia stage race. The Women's WorldTour event was due to take place in May but has been listed on the UCI's page as 'postponed'. They will, however, put on a Women's Clasica San Sebastián on July 31, which will be a part of the UCI Women's WorldTour.
Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda WestSweden TTT and RR - August 7- 8, Sweden
The city of Vårgårda hosts two back-to-back one-day races on the Women’s WorldTour; a team time trial on August 7 and a road race on August 8. The time trial is one of the last of its kind on the top-tier calendar but still attracts all the best teams, while the road race is suited to the punchy sprinters. The two events were cancelled last year but have made a return in 2021. Organisers are reportedly part of the plan to create a 10-day stage race called the "Battle of the North" between Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
GP de Plouay–Lorient–Agglomération Trophée Ceratizit - August 30, France
The beginning of the wind-down to the season, GP de Plouay is held in late August. The women race roughly 100 kilometres on a course that had significant changes last year: one large loop followed by four shorter, 13km circuits with three climbs, the final climb located just 2 kilometres from the finish in Plouay. Last year saw a two-up sprint between Lizzie Deignan and Lizzy Banks.
Tour of Guangxi - October 19, China
The Tour of Guangxi was also cancelled last year but it typically marks the conclusion of the Women's WorldTour in October. In the last edition held in 2019, the women raced 146 kilometres with a start and finish in Guilin. The route was 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. It has catered to the sprinters in its three previous editions.
The stage races
Tour of Chongming Island - May 6-8, China (POSTPONED: new date October 14-16)
Organisers of the Tour of Chongming Island were one of the first to cancel last year’s event due to COVID-19 surges in China, but the event has returned this year and promises three stages. The race has traditionally been well-suited to sprinters and past overall champions include Lorena Wiebes, who won all three stages and the overall title in 2019. Other former winners include Charlotte Becker, Jolien D’hoore, Chloe Hosking, while Kirsten Wild won three editions.
Itzulia Women Basque Country - CANCELLED
The new women's stage race, formerly the one-day race in San Sebastian, was planned for May 14-16 in Spain, but has been postponed. Organisers have, instead, brought back their one-day Clasica San Sebastián race and it has been added to the Women's WorldTour on July 31
Vuelta a Burgos Feminas - May 20-23, Spain
Vuelta a Burgos Feminas was one of two stage races added to the Women’s WorldTour this year, alongside Itzulia Women. The latter is now listed as 'postponed' on the sport governing body's website while it reportedly looks for a new date. Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, formerly part of the ProSeries, appears to be going ahead as a top-tier event this year and offers the women’s peloton a much-needed stage race in the month of May, particularly after the loss of the Tour of California and the Emakumeen Bira.
The Women's Tour - June 7-12, Great Britain (POSTPONED: new date October 4-9)
This is highly regarded as one of the most popular and progressive races on the Women’s WorldTour. This year’s six-day race will begin in Bicester, Oxfordshire on June 7 and finish with a stage between Haverhill and Felixstowe in Suffolk on June 12. Organisers, SweetSpot, brought parity to the event’s prize fund with the men's Tour of Britain, which was set at €97,880 across six days of racing in 2019. They recently announced a five-year plan to offer live coverage of the women’s race, which is required to be part of the top-tier series.
Giro Rosa - July 2-11, Italy (2.ProSeries)
The Giro Rosa is not part of the Women’s WorldTour this year after being downgraded for not offering live broadcasting of the race in 2020. Many of the top teams in the world will still be on the start line, however, because it is the only race available that offers 10 days of racing and iconic mountain passes such as the Stelvio, Zoncolan, Gavia, and Mortirolo, and because of this, the peloton has viewed this race as their historical Grand Tour. The race will celebrate its 32nd anniversary in 2021.
Ladies Tour of Norway - August 12-15, Norway
Marianne Vos has won the Ladies Tour of Norway for three years in a row. This year, she is racing for her new team Jumbo-Visma, which is a Continental-level outfit, but many of the top teams in the world will be looking to take top honours. The race is held just after the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games (July 24-August 8), however, the women’s time trial and road race are held in the first week of the event and so that may not affect the participation at the Ladies Tour of Norway.
Organisers of the Ladies Tour of Norway have announced the route details for this year's race held from August 12-15 in the region of Østfold, Norway. New to this year's parcours is a first-ever mountaintop finish that will feature on stage 3 at the Norefjell ski resort.
Organisers of this event are working on a future six-day race called the Battle of the North, together with the Danish and Swedish Federations in 2022.
Simac Ladies Tour - August 24-29, Netherlands
It is the biggest stage race in the Netherlands, joining the Women’s WorldTour in 2017, and it is heading into its 23rd edition. Organisers annually welcome the top women’s teams to compete in six days of late-August racing. Former winners include Leontien van Moorsel, Petra Rosner, Kristin Armstrong, Annemiek van Vleuten, to name a few, while Marianne Vos has won the overall title times.
Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta - September 3-5, Spain
Organisers have plans to expand the Challenge by La Vuelta to five or seven days, but for now it will remain a three-day race that ends the Women's WorldTour season in Europe. It started as a circuit race in Madrid, held in conjunction with the final stage of the Vuelta a España, but organisers increased it to three days last year, where Lisa Brennauer won her second consecutive title.
|January 30||Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race||Cancelled|
|March 6||Strade Bianche|
|March 14||Ronde van Drenthe||Postponed|
|March 21||Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio|
|March 25||AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne|
|March 28||Gent-Wevelgem Women|
|April 4||Tour of Flanders Women|
|April 11||Women's Paris-Roubaix|
|April 18||Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition|
|April 21||La Flèche Wallonne Féminine|
|April 25||Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes|
|May 6-8||Tour of Chongming Island - UCI Women's WorldTour||Postponed|
|May 14-16||Itzulia Women||Cancelled|
|May 20-23||Vuelta a Burgos Feminas|
|May 30||RideLondon Classique||Cancelled|
|June 7-12||The Women's Tour||Postponed|
|July 2-11||Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile (2.Pro)|
|July 26||La Course by Le Tour de France|
|August 7||Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda WestSweden TTT|
|August 8||Postnord UCI WWT Vårgårda WestSweden RR|
|August 12-15||Ladies Tour of Norway|
|August 21||GP de Plouay - Lorient- Agglomération Trophée CERATIZIT|
|August 24-29||Simac Ladies Tour|
|September 3-5||Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta|
|October 19||Tour of Guangxi - UCI Women's WorldTour|
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