Tougher Emakumeen Bira on tap for 2019

Organisers of Emakumeen Bira have announced the 2019 route for the four-day race held between May 22-25 in Spain's Basque Country. The mountainous course has once again established the stage race as one of the most challenging on the Women's WorldTour. The biggest change to this year's race is that they have removed the individual time trail in favour of adding more climbing.

Emakumeen Bira will begin on May 22 with an 118km that will start and finish in Lurreta. The stage will include two ascents; Artebakarra that is 2.9km with an average of 3.4 per cent grade and Astoreka that is 1.5km with an average grade of 4.5 per cent. The lumpy stage might not be tough enough to cause major separations and is expected to finish in a group sprint.

Stage 2, on May 23, will take the field on a 112km race from Aduna to Amasa. It is much more challenging than the opening day with two climbs; Altzo that is 2.4km at 6.1 per cent average grade and Alkiza that is 4.4km with 6.1 per cent grade. The two climbs are early in the race, however, and the could regroup through the undulating valley roads before finishing on a punchy climb to Amasa.

Stage 3, on May 24, is a 100km race from Ametzaga to Santa Teodosia. The race includes two climbs, both near the end of the stage. The first is a 7.4km ascent to the top of Opakua, which has an average grade of 5.7 per cent. The field will have just over 10km from the summit of that climb to the base of the second and final climb to the finish line in Santa Teodosia. That final climb is 2.7km but with a much steeper average grade of 9.4 per cent, that will surely have an impact on the overall outcome of the race.

The fourth and final stage of Emakumeen Bira on May 25 is no doubt the toughest of all four stages. It is the longest stage at 156km and includes four climbs spread evenly over the total distance with the summit of the final climb just 16km from the finish line in Onati.

The first climb goes over the Udana and is 4.8km and 4.6 per cent, the second is up to Atagoiti is 8km and 5 per cent, the third climb is to Untzilla and is 3.5km and 2.8 per cent, while the fourth and final climb to Asentzio is 8.7km and 4.9 per cent.

Last year, the Emakumeen Bira conflicted with the Tour of California Women's Race, however, there are three days between the two Women's WorldTour races this year. The UCI told Cyclingnews that it regretted the overall lap last year and made sure there were no conflicts with this year’s series.

Mitchelton-Scott teammates Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten placed first and second in last year's edition, while Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) was third.

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