The late-season revised Women's WorldTour has made it to the end, with the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta being held from November 6-8 in Spain. The three-day race, where stages were confirmed just days ago, marks the final round of the top-tier series currently led by Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo).
With the season halted for five months due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the revised calendar was put in place to salvage at least some of the cycling season between August and November.
As the second wave of COVID-19 sweeps across many European nations and around the world, it was uncertain whether the calendar would reach Madrid this weekend.
The organisers will be showing stage 3 live on television on Sunday, November 8, although they will reportedly only be offering on-demand highlight packages for stage 1 and stage 2. According to the UCI Women's WorldTour rules, race organisers are required to provide 45 minutes of live television.
In its three first editions (2015, 2016 and 2017), the Madrid Challenge consisted of a one-day circuit race through Madrid's city centre. In 2018 and 2019, the organisers added a time trial stage that took place in the locality of Boadilla del Monte. The 2020 edition will be the first time the event hosts three consecutive stages.
Organisers confirmed the three stages on Monday and the racing will begin on Friday with an 82.8km hilly road race from Toledo to Escalona. The second day of racing, on Saturday, is a 9.3km individual time trial around Boadilla del Monte. The racing will end on Sunday with a 17-lap circuit race, totaling 98.6km, in Madrid.
Riders to watch
There will be 17 teams participating in the race, with six WorldTeams – Alé BTC Ljubljana, Canyon-SRAM, Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar, Sunweb and Trek-Segafredo – and 11 Continental Teams.
The FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team announced last week that they will not take part in the three-day event due to concerns about the safety of their riders and staff due to the coronavirus. CCC-Liv are also not participating as they announced their final race of the year was at the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne in October.
Deignan is currently leading the Women's WorldTour with 1,622 points, while runner-up Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) has 1,221 points and third-placed Elisa Longo Borghini has 1,201 points.
Trek-Segafredo have not confirmed their line-up to include Deignan, however, the team is expected to field all-rounder Longo Borghini, time triallist Ellen Van Dijk and sprinter Letizia Paternoster.
Defending champion Lisa Brennauer will line up with her team Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling. She's had a strong season, with top-10 finishes at the Giro Rosa and the World Championships time trial and road race, and at Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Brugge-De Panne.
Annemiek van Vleuten will take the start line in what will be her final race with Mitchelton-Scott before she moves to the Movistar team in 2021. Van Vleuten crashed and broke her wrist at the Giro Rosa, but is now fully recovered and a contender for the hilly opening stage and the stage 2 time trial.
"I'm looking forward to finishing off this season with the team on a high," Van Vleuten said. "That will be not achieved just by the result, but more through working together as a team and following a plan together. I want to finish off my five years with the team on a high, with a lot of teamwork."
Sunweb line up with a powerful team that includes former Women's WorldTour leader Liane Lippert and mid-season signing Lorena Wiebes.
Alé BTC Ljubljana were forced to skip two events – Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders – due to a COVID-19 positive test within the team. However, following the recommended quarantine, and completing the testing protocol, the team will start with Marta Bastianelli.
Canyon-SRAM field an all-round team, with Hanna Ludwig, Alice Barnes and climber Ella Harris, while Movistar line up with climbers Alba Teruel, Katrine Aalerud and sprinter Jelena Erić.
- Alé BTC Ljubljana
- Movistar Team Women
- Team Sunweb
- CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling Team
- Cronos-Casa Dorada Women Cycling
- Doltcini-Van Eyck Proximus Continental Team
- Eneicat-RBH Global
- Team Hitec ProductsBirk Sport
- Massi Tactic Women Team
- Rio Miera-Cantabria Deporte
- Sopela Women's Team
- Valcar-Travel & Service
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