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Women's peloton set for 12 days of dramatic racing in Spain

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Setmana Ciclista Valenciana kicked off 12 days of racing for the women's peloton throughout Spain in May. Annemiek van Vleuten secured the overall victory for her new Movistar Team Women and will turn her attention to the upcoming one-day events, a series of climbing races that she won in succession last year, all in preparation for the next round of the Women's WorldTour at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas.

"I’m racing all the races in Spain, and between Valenciana and Burgos, I think all these race suit me, so I’m doing them all. It’s cluster of races all together and so there is less travel for the athletes. I also think they are well-organised races, and last year they were the first ones to organise their races [in the revised calendar]," Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews

"There isn’t too much pressure because our team has already had good results and we will continue to learn and improve together. It’s nice that we have these races all close together on the calendar, and to have Vuelta a Burgos at the end, which is our first stage race at the WorldTour level this year, so that is exciting."

The international calendar lost Tour of Chongming Island and the new Itzulia Women's stage race and that left a gap in the top-tier Women's WorldTour. However, Setmana Ciclista Valenciana's move from February to May 6-9 meant that it was well-positioned ahead of four one-day races; Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics (May 13), Navarra Women's Elite Classics (May 14), Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar (May 16) and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (May 18), all leading into the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (May 20-23).

This month's calendar is also bookended by 2.Pro Festival Elsy Jacobs, won by Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) on May 2 after three days of racing, and the 2.Pro Thüringen Ladies Tour, held at the end of the month from May 25-30. There are a total of 21 days of racing in May.

One-day races for the climbers

The two one-day Navarra Classics events opened the revised racing calendar last July after the season had been shut down due to COVID-19 coronavirus in the spring. Van Vleuten won both events, along with Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, which were used by many teams as a jump-start to the late-season Women’s WorldTour racing last year.

"I'm super happy to be back racing at the Navarra Classics. It was super special to win both races last year at Navarra and this year it will be even more special because it is in the home region of my new team Movistar," Van Vleuten said. "I'm looking forward to racing with my team and going for some really good results."

Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite Classics (May 13) - Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite Classics is the first of the one-day racing May 13 with a 128.3km race from Zudaire to Lekunberri. 

The race features eight categorised ascents - Eraul (14km), Lezaun (38km), Arradia (49km), San Cristobal (55km), Guembe (73km), Goni (83km), Zuarrarrate (113km) and the final climb over Murgiro (123km) - before an undulating terrain and a descent into Lekunberri.

Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite Classics - Profile

Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite Classics - Profile (Image credit: Movistar / Twitter)

Navarra Women’s Elite Classics (May 14) - Navarra Women’s Elite Classics, on May 14, will take the peloton on a 124.8km race to and from Pamplona. 

The race also features eight ascents - Oliverri (25km), Tiebas (54km), Biurrun (58km), Tirapu (67km), Artajona (78km), El Perdon (103km) Zariquiegui (107km) and thenLacar (114km) - before finishing back in Pamplona.

Navarra Women’s Elite Classics - Profile

Navarra Women’s Elite Classics - Profile (Image credit: Movistar / Twitter)

Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar (May 16) - The one-day racing continues at the lesser known Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar on May 16. The race is in its third year with previous winners Sara Martin in 2018 and Lorena Llamas in 2019, and both riders now race for Movistar. 

This year’s 117.2km race starts in Eibar and includes three categorised ascents: Alto Udana (30km), Alto Itziar (85km), and the final climb over Alto Usartza (115km), that peaks just a couple of kilometres from the finish line in Arrate.

Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar

Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar - Profile (Image credit: Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar)

Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (May 18) - Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria will conclude the one-day races on May 18. This one-day race was traditionally held alongside Emakumeen Bira, a long-running stage race that folded in 2020. 

Former champions of Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria include Joane Somarriba, Mirjam Melchers, Edita Pucinskaite, Noemi Cantele, Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Emma Johansson, Megan Guarnier, Anna van der Breggen, Lucy Kennedy and defending champion Van Vleuten. 

Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria 2020

Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria 2020 - Profile (Image credit: Movistar / Twitter)

Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria is 113km and includes five intermediate sprints at Miota followed by two back-to-back climbs over the Goiuria Ganna.

The Goiuria Gaina is a likely place for the race to split apart. The field tackles this climb twice, first through Berriz, where the 4.9km ascent offers a fairly shallow average grade of 4.9 per cent but with sections as steep as 6 per cent near the top.

The field then races up it a second time, but through San Juan, which offers steeper sections of 11 and 17 per cent, which is then followed by a long descent into Durango.

Contenders

CITTIGLIO ITALY MARCH 21 Arrival Margarita Victoria Garcia Caellas of Spain and Team Ale Btc Ljubljana during the 45th Trofeo Alfredo BindaComune di Cittiglio 2021 Womens Elite a 1418km stage from Cocquio Trevisago to Cittiglio 257m TrBinda UCIWWT on March 21 2021 in Cittiglio Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Spanish Champion Mavi Gracia (Ale BTC Ljubljana) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The one-day races will feature most of the nine WorldTeams and that is a testament to their importance on the calendar.

Annemiek van Vleuten will lead a powerful Movistar team but other major contenders include Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange), Mavi Garcia (Ale BTC Ljublana), Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM),  Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Soraya Paladin and Sofia Bertizzolo (Liv Racing).

The top-tier teams could dominate the races but the events are tough enough to provide some unpredictability. Van Vleuten may have won Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, but that wasn’t her initial intent, rather she wanted her teammates to have an opportunity to play their cards and try a new strategy instead of focussing all their efforts on one rider. That strategy could play out during the one-day events.

If teams race with an 'open' strategy, we could see some big performances coming from new faces in the peloton. Just last weekend, we saw Rally Cycling’s Krista Doebel-Hickok in an all-day breakaway only to be caught by the field in the closing kilometres where Sandra Alonso (Bizkaia Durango) won stage 2, Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) won stage 3 and Urska Zigart (BikeExchange) won stage 4 at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.

Watch for tactical racing and new faces on the podiums during the four one-day races in Spain.

Women's WorldTour Vuelta a Burgos Feminas - May 20-23

SAN SEBASTIAN SPAIN AUGUST 03 Podium Lucy Kennedy of Australia and Team MitcheltonScott Celebration Trophy during the 39th Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian 2019 Womens Race a 1267km stage from Portuexe San Sebastian to Alameda del Boulevard San Sebastian ehitzulia Klasikoa on August 03 2019 in San Sebastian Spain Photo by Amaia ZabaloGetty Images

Lucy Kennedy wins Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, and the four one-day races, offer the perfect lead up to the next round of the Women’s WorldTour at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas held from May 20-23.

Vuelta a Burgos Feminas was one of two stage races added to the Women’s WorldTour this year, alongside Itzulia Women, however, the latter was originally planned for May 14-16 and then 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, formerly part of the ProSeries, has gone 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 former events Tour of California, Emakumeen Bira in 2020, and now Itzulia Women, and the Tour of Chongming Island, which has moved to October.

Follow Cyclingnews for full results, reports, and news from Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics, Navarra Women's Elite Classics, Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar, Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, and the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas.