The Spring Classics have come to and end and the women's peloton now turns its attention to the stage racing season beginning with the Festival Elsy Jacobs held from April 30 to May 2 in Luxembourg.
Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) won the last edition held in 2019, when it was a 2.1-ranked event, ahead of Demi Vollering (then Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Lizzy Banks (Ceratizit-WNT). The race was cancelled last year but returns this year as part of the 2.Pro series, a step below the Women’s WorldTour.
The three-day event will field a world-class peloton that includes eight WorldTeams: SD Worx, Trek-Segafredo, Movistar, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Alè BTC Ljubljana, Team DSM and Liv Racing. Team BikeExchange are not registered to compete.
Some of the best Continental teams will also be racing including Ceratizit-WNT, Jumbo-Visma, Valcar Travel & Service, Drops-Le Col, Parkhotel Valkenburg, Massi-Tactic, Bingoal Casino, Andy Schleck-CP NVST, Stade Rochelais Charaente-Maritime, and the WCC Team.
The event is named after the late Elsy Jacobs, a racer from Luxembourg who was the first rider to win the elite women’s UCI Road World Championship held in 1958 in Reims, France.
The inaugural event was a one-day race held in 2008 called the Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs and won by Italian Monia Baccaille. Other overall winners include Svetlana Stolbova, Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen, Kasia Niewiadoma, Christine Majerus, Letizia Paternoster and Brennauer. It became a multi-day race in 2012.
Riders to watch
Defending champion Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) will not be on the start line but her teammate Lizzy Banks, who finished third overall in 2019, will look to win the overall title this time around. She has a strong team that also includes Maria Giulia Confalonieri, Lara Vieceli and Kathrin Hammes.
SD Worx will not field 2019 runner-up Demi Vollering, who just completed the Ardennes Classics with a victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but they have a champion in Christine Majerus. The team will also field a young roster with Lonneke Uneken, Anna Shackley and Niamh Fisher-Black.
Although Ruth Winder was on the start list for Trek-Segafredo, she was forced to pull out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège last weekend after coming into close contact with an individual who recently tested positive for COVID-19. The team will field former World Champion Amalie Dideriksen, Lauretta Hanson, and Elynor Bäckstedt.
American Leah Thomas will lead the Movistar women's team and could take the first leader's jersey in the powerful 2.2 kilometre prologue. The team will also field sprinter Emma Norsgaard.
Team DSM have a powerful roster with Leah Kirchmann, Coryn Rivera and Lorena Wiebes, all riders to watch for stage wins.
Alè BTC Ljubljana will start time triallist Marlen Reusser along with former World Champion Marta Bastianelli, who have made a strong duo in the races this spring.
Other riders to watch include Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM), Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma), Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel & Service), Sofia Bertizzolo and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing).
Festival Elsy Jacobs will offer the peloton three days of punchy racing through Luxembourg, and cycling fans will be able to watch free live streaming of the three stages on the organiser's event website.
The event will open on Friday with a late-afternoon prologue, 2.2 kilometres in Cessange, which will present the first opportunity for both a stage win and the first leader's jersey. It's by no means an easy prologue, with a 13 per cent gradient climb right at the start. After a sharp descent, the final kilometre offers a more gradual climb to the finish line.
Stage 1 is a 125.1 kilometre race that starts and finishes in Steinfort on Saturday. The peloton will race a 44.7 kilometre loop followed by four laps of a 20.1 kilometre circuit that includes a climb each lap and a rise to the finish line. There are four GPM ascents for points along the route.
Stage 2 will close out the Festival Elsy Jacobs with a 105.3 kilometre race that starts and finishes in Garnich on Sunday. The peloton will begin on a 61.3 kilometre loop, followed by five laps of an 8.8 kilometre circuit in Garnich. There are four GPM ascents for points during the race.
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