Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Hannah Barnes, Clara Koppenburg and Anna van der Breggen; these are the four previous winners of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. It’s a race that has made its mark as one of the most important early-season stage races in Europe.
Normally held in February, Setmana Ciclista Valenciana is the first stage race on the calendar and often coincides with the women’s teams’ early-season training camps and acts as a test of form coming out of the long winter months ahead of the bigger races in the spring.
This year, the start of the European season faced some struggles due to COVID-19 and two of the lower-classed openers - Vuelta CV Feminas and Setmana Ciclista Valenciana - were postponed until later in the spring.
Chiara Consonni (Valcar Travel & Service) snagged the victory at the one-day Vuelta CV Feminas on April 18. The overall title for the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana is open for the taking on May 6-9.
12 days in Spain
Setmana Ciclista Valenciana's move from February to May will undoubtedly have some impact on its overall position and importance on the early-season calendar. It is no longer held in conjunction with pre-season training camps nor can it be used as preparation or a test ahead of bigger Spring Classics.
There are some benefits to its move to May, however, and its position after the Spring Classics is when stage racing season normally begins. The Women's WorldTour lost some of its scheduled stage races this month with Tour of Chongming Island being moved to October. In addition, organisers of Itzulia Basque Country and Clasica San Sebastián confirmed the cancellation of the first edition of the Women's Itzulia. It was due to take place in May also but has been cancelled and replaced by the Women's Clasica San Sebastián on July 31.
Setmana Ciclista Valenciana now offers some much needed racing days in May and it kicks off 12 days of racing in Spain. It is now well-positioned ahead of a string of 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 ahead of the next Women's WorldTour round at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (May 20-23).
Add to that the recently concluded 2.Pro Festival Elsy Jacobs and the 2.Pro Thüringen Ladies Tour from May 25-30, and there is are a healthy number of races for teams competing on the international road calendar.
Riders to Watch
Four WorldTeams participating include Movistar, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Team BikeExchange and Canyon-SRAM will take the start line alongside second-tier quads Massi-Tactic, NXTG Racing, Rally Cycling, Drops-Le Col, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, Andy Schleck-CP NVST, Doltcini-Van Eyck, VIB Sports, and Stade Rochelais Charente Maritime.
There are also six Spain-based teams Bizkaia Durango, Burgos Alimenta, Eneicat-RBH, Sopela, Team Farto BTC, Rio Miera Cantabria Deporte, and Laboral Kutxa Fundacion Euskadi.
Annemiek van Vleuten is a self-professed lover of the Spanish one-day and stage races on the calendar. She annually makes a point of racing her heart out over their notoriously steep ascents. She will be the outright favourite to watch for the overall victory. She lines up with a powerful team that includes Leah Thomas, Katrine Aalerud and two Spanish teammates in Alicia Gonzalez and Sheyla Gutierrez.
Team BikeExchange won't have the climbing strength of Lucy Kennedy on hand, but they start with a potential podium contender in Ane Santesteban. The Spanish climber will have support from Teniel Campbell, Georgia Williams, Jessica Allen, Janneke Ensing, Arianna Fidanza for the sprints, and Urska Zigart.
Canyon-SRAM have two contenders in Ella Harris and Omer Shapira, while the team will also field Alice Barnes, Neve Bradbury, Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein, and Hannah Ludwig.
Spanish champion Mavi Garcia (Ale BTC Ljubljana) will also be a major contender, and not just for the overall title, but for her explosive and aggressive racing style that often sees her in select breakaways.
Rally Cycling's will have a strong team with former champion Clara Koppenburg and Krista Doebel-Hickok. Bizkaia Durango field four Spanish riders in Sandra Alonso, Lucia Gonzalez, Ariana Gilabert and Lydia Iglesias. Susana Perez will lead (Rio Miera-Cantabria Deporte), Paula Soler Llacer (Sopela), Amber Aernouts (Doltcini-Van Eyck), Emily Wadsworth (NXTG Racing).
Without all nine WorldTeams, we could expect to see some unpredictable racing and some new faces on the podium each day.
There is nothing easy about the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana parcours which will cross no fewer than nine categorised climbs over four days of racing.
Stage 1, on May 6, will kick off the racing with a 125km stage between Barxeta and Gandia. There are four categorised climbs at Alto Barxeta (10.8km), Alto Serra Grossa (65km), Alto Barxeta (98.6km) and then Alto Barx (111km), followed by a descent and then a flat 3km to the finish line in Gandia.
Stage 2, on May 7, is a 130km race between Castellon and Vila-Real. Another day of climbing with two main ascents; Alto Coronetes (62km) and Alto Salt del Cavall (71.6km), followed by an undulating final 40km to the finish line in Vila-Real.
Stage 3, on May 8, sees the peloton race 107km from Sagunto to Valencia. A day for the sprinters? Maybe, maybe not. There are no mountain points up for grabs but the route is far from flat. There are two main ascents and the route incorporates two intermediate sprints at Sagunt; 49.9km mark and at the 80.7km mark.
Stage 4, on May 9, will close out the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana with a 114km race between Finestrat and Alicante. It won't be a ceremonial finale as there are three categorised ascent; Alto Tudons (30.8km), Alto Benifallim (50.4km) and Alto Collao (58.4km). The trio of climbs are followed by an undulating downhill into the coastal town of Alicante where the overall winner of the four-day race will be crowned.
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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