Home » 2020 Women’s Cycling Season Review

2020 Women’s Cycling Season Review

2020 has been a very peculiar season. The Spring Classics started and then stopped, followed by everything else in our lives. Once the racing resumed it was almost constant, with riders somehow having to keep form over the entire period to rescue something from 2020. For those in a contract season, reduced opportunities meant fewer opportunities to shine. The UK, for instance, didn’t host a single race in 2020.

The racing has still been great though. With more women’s races with live coverage than ever before, more people actually got to see some of the heroics. There were still plenty of the good old Twitter races, where the only updates come from someone in a team car or the UCI_WWT account, which often has a thankless task to perform. On the flipside, the Giro Rosa continued to not adhere to the new Women’s Worldtour rules about 45 minutes minimum live coverage. After much ridicule during the race, the UCI decided to demote the Giro Rosa from its 2021 Women’s Worldtour calendar.

We’ve seen the rise of some new star riders. Mavi Garcia and Grace Brown lit up Classics races, Mikayla Harvey became a contender in the Giro Rosa and Liane Lippert has been a star all season. The stars have continued to impress, the likes of Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen, Deignan, Vos and Longo Borghini. With 2021 being Van der Breggen’s last season riding in the pro peloton and nearly all the other stars all being in their 30s, we’re on the cusp of a generational shift.

Elisa Longo Borghini

January

Major Races:
Australian Nationals – Sarah Gigante (TT), Amanda Spratt (RR)
Tour Down UnderRuth Winder
Race Torquay – Brodie Chapman

Other Races:
GP Belek – Olha Kulynynch
Gravel & Tar la Femme – Niamh Fisher-Black

The Aussie Nats kicked off the 2020 season with some late nights for Europeans desperate for some live cycling to watch. Young starlet Sarah Gigante beat Grace Brown by 9 seconds in the TT to back up her road race win from 2019. Then an entertaining road race saw Mitchelton’s Amanda Spratt beat Roxsolt Attaquer’s Justine Barrow after a group of 3 broke away.

Chloe Hosking took the first major race win of the season at the Tour Down Under. Despite the efforts of home favourite Amanda Spratt, Ruth Winder took the GC win thanks to bonus seconds earned. Liane Lippert finished 2nd, Spratt 3rd and Lauren Stephens 4th.

Brodie Chapman took a breakaway victory at the Race Torquay circuit race. She’d been a fixture in the TDU, trying to make breaks so it was no surprise when she managed to pull one off successfully.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • The year opened with Lorena Wiebes wanting to force a move away from ParkHotel Valkenburg, with bigger team Sunweb interested. Wiebes said she wouldn’t race for the team again but reached an agreement in mid-January to race with a future transfer agreed.
  • New team Casa Dorada are denied a UCI Continental licence and there are questions as to whether or not the team actually exists.
  • Boels-Dolmans continue to hunt for a new sponsor from 2021 onwards.
  • Sofie De Vuyst’s B sample is confirmed as positive for anabolic steroids. New team Mitchelton-Scott tear up her contract for 2020.
Sarah Gigante

February

Major Races:
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – Liane Lippert
Herald Sun TourLucy Kennedy
Vuelta CV Feminas – Marta Bastianelli
Dubai Women’s Tour – Lucy van der Haar
Setmana Ciclista Valenciana – Anna van der Breggen
Omloop het Nieuwsblad – Annemiek van Vleuten

Minor Races:
GP Alanya – Diana Klimova
GP Gazipasa – Olga Shekel
GP Velo Alanya – Daria Malkova

WWT Leader: Liane Lippert
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

Liane Lippert took her breakout win at the Cadel Evans Road Race, escaping near the end and ensuring the race wouldn’t finish as a sprint. She became the first leader of the 2020 Women’s WorldTour. Arlenis Sierra won a stage of the Herald Sun Tour after being close in the TDU. The young pair of Ella Harris and Sarah Gigante fought out the 2nd Stage but Lucy Kennedy did enough over the two days to win the GC.

Annemiek van Vleuten

The racing left Australia (and NZ) and the European season kicked off at the Vuelta Ciclista Valenciana. Marta Bastianelli took what turned out to be her only win of the 2020 season in a big bunch finish. The Dubai Women’s Tour was surprisingly televised and despite the sketchy finish barriers and more on Stage 1, it was a good race. Lucy van der Haar won the GC on placings, ahead of Tatsiana Sharakova.

We were treated to more live coverage at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana too. Whilst the signal dropped out a fair amount in the mountains, we got to see most of the action. A crash on Stage 1 created some early time gaps but Anna van der Breggen blew the race apart on Stage 2. Her long solo attack saw her gain 30 seconds on rivals Vollering and Koppenburg and minutes on everyone else. Unsurprisingly, Van der Breggen won the GC.

Finally, the Spring Classics began at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Annemiek van Vleuten pulled off one of her trademark long attacks, breaking clear on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and never being seen again.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • Boels-Dolmans confirm that new sponsors SD Worx will take over from 2021 for 4 years.
  • Twenty20 confirm they won’t apply for a UCI Continental licence, happy to race only the domestic USA races where they don’t need one to take part.
Emma Norsgaard at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana

March

Major Races:
Omloop van het HagelandLorena Wiebes
Le Samyn des DamesChantal van den Broek-Blaak

Minor Races:
None!

WWT Leader: Liane Lippert
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

The day after the Omloop, the next Omloop took place. Omloop van het Hageland tends to be a sprint finish and so it was again. Lorena Wiebes took her last victory for Parkhotel Valkenburg ahead of Marta Bastianelli and an impressive Emma Cecilie Norsgaard.

The cobbled Le Samyn saw lots of early attacks but it was the attack from Chantal van den Broek-Blaak that was decisive. With only a small chasing group behind that included a pair of teammates running interference, Blaak was able to win by nearly 2 minutes. Lotte Kopecky took her first podium of an impressive 2020 season.

After this race, the European lockdowns took hold. Ronde van Drenthe and its warm-up Drentse Acht van Westerveld were cancelled just days before they’d been due to take place. No in-person racing was possible anywhere until late June.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • Covid halts racing from early March.
  • The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for July to August are confirmed postponed to 2021.
  • Riders with medical backgrounds join the fight against Covid – the likes of Elise Chabbey and Erica Magnaldi.
  • Lizzie Deignan confirms 2020 won’t be her last season as originally thought.
  • After testing positive for EPO in 2019, Marion Sicot finally admits she used the drug. Sicot then pointed the finger at the culture at Doltcini-Van Eyck, saying that the team manager requested images of the rider to track weight. Dolctini are already under UCI investigation for the treatment of 2 riders previously.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak

April to July

Virtual Races:
Tour of the Gila (Zwift in May) – Sarah Gigante
V-Women’s Tour (RGT in June) – Leah Dixon
Joe Martin Stage Race (Zwift in June) – Lauren Stephens
Tour de France (Zwift in July) – Team TIBCO

Major Races:
Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa – Annemiek van Vleuten
Clasica Femenina Navarra – Annemiek van Vleuten
Durango Durango Emakumeen SariaAnnemiek van Vleuten

Minor Races:
Slovenian Nationals (June) – Ursa Pintar (RR), Urska Zigart (TT)
Other Nationals (July) – Marlen Reusser (TT), Maja Perinovic (RR) & Mia Radotic (TT), Tatsiana Sharakova (RR & TT), Katrine Aalerud (TT), Lisa Norden (TT)

April and May were very very quiet in terms of racing. The V-Women’s Tour filled in the gap where the Women’s Tour of Britain would have been. Team TIBCO performed the best, taking the top 2 spots on GC with Leah Dixon and Kristen Faulkner and Lauren Stephens also doing well. The Slovenian Nationals became the first outdoor races to be held in 3 months late on in June. Pintar won the road race and Zigart the time trial.

The Virtual Tour de France was the first racing in July. Team TIBCO once again performed well, winning the Overall in the team points based overall classification by quite some way ahead of Twenty20 and Drops Cycling. A spate of national championships was run in mid to late July. Most of them were time trials in a bid to stay distanced but Belarus and Croatia managed to run road races too.

The first major race back on the road was the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa on 23rd July. The first of a quickfire series of 3 Spanish races. Van Vleuten showed she’d come out of lockdown in form, comfortably out-climbing Garcia, Van der Breggen, Longo Borghini and more. 3 times in 4 days Van Vleuten was the victor, winning solo each time. Unfortunately, these weren’t televised at all so we all had to follow via Twitter updates.

With no Women’s WorldTour races, Liane Lippert continued to be the competition leader from the only race to actually be held at the beginning of February.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • Both Bigla and Katusha walk away from their sponsor commitments, putting that team’s existence in jeopardy. A new sponsor in the Paule Ka clothing company is found, they commit to 4 years and the team are able to continue racing in 2020.
  • Former pro rider Molly Weaver raises £9,000 for domestic abuse victims by riding 130km in just her back garden.
  • Katie Hall sets a new women’s Everesting record in May but loses it in June. Emma Pooley sets a new record in July.
  • Trek’s Elynor Backstedt breaks her leg mountain biking during lockdown.
  • Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak confirm they’re retire at the end of 2021 and 2022 respectively. They’ll then take up DS roles at SD Worx.
  • A new UCI race calendar appears for the rest of the interrupted 2020 season. For the first time, a women’s Paris Roubaix is mentioned, creating a tonne of hype.
  • Lorena Wiebes officially joins Team Sunweb in June having left ParkHotel Valkenburg at the end of May.
  • Marianne Vos is rumoured to have signed for the new Jumbo-Visma team.

August

Major Races:
Strade BiancheAnnemiek van Vleuten
Giro dell’Emilia – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
European Championships – Annemiek van Vleuten (RR), Anna van der Breggen (TT)
GP de Plouay – Lizzie Deignan
La CourseLizzie Deignan

Minor Races:
La Perigord Ladies – Sheyla Gutierrez
Grote Prijs EuromatLorena Wiebes
Many National Champs – Summary

WWT Leader: Lizzie Deignan
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

The 1st of August saw the postponed Strade Bianche take place on a blisteringly hot day. Some riders suffered but not Mavi Garcia who went on a solo attack which looked like the winning break. The live timings were all over the place but suddenly Annemiek van Vleuten, who’d come from the peloton, caught the lead group and then set about catching Garcia. The catch was made and Van Vleuten powered away on the climb into Siena.

La Perigord was the first race of the season to take place in France. A small group escaped the peloton and a late attack from Movistar’s Gutierrez split up a group expecting a sprint finish. She won by a couple of seconds ahead of 41 year old Sandra Levenez. The Giro dell’Emilia’s uphill finish in Bologna saw Trek crash as a team at the base of the final climb. A strong attack by Kasia Niewiadoma was done far too early and as she faltered, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig powered away for a big win.

Mikayla Harvey

The European Championships took place in Brittany, sandwiching the GP de Plouay which took place on the same roads in the middle of the Championships. A tough race saw Annemiek van Vleuten beat Elisa Longo Borghini in the sprint for the European Championship as the Dutch team bossed the race. Anna van der Breggen, in turn, bossed the time trial and won convincingly. The British pair of Lizzie Deignan and Lizzy Banks duked out the win in the GP de Plouay, Deignan played it perfectly and Banks was unable to respond to the well-timed sprint.

La Course was raced hard, the early inclusion of a solid hill split up the peloton and the 2nd lap obliterated it. A small group contested the sprint finish and it looked like Marianne Vos was on course for victory. Instead, Trek had played her into opening her sprint just a fraction too early as Lizzie Deignan came through to pip Vos to the line. With 2 Women’s WorldTour wins in August, Lizzie Deignan took the overall lead.

The month ended with the very flat GP Prijs Euromat, which unsurprisingly saw Lorena Wiebes win. In the process, opening up her account for new team Sunweb after making a mid-season transfer.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • Trek Segafredo get the bikes stolen before Strade Bianche. Then some riders crash during the recon for the race. Canyon SRAM saw Ella Harris break her leg and CCC-Liv’s Ashleigh Moolman needed 60 stitches.
  • Marion Sicot officially takes her case against Doltcini-Van Eyck to the police and UCI.
  • Paule Ka get their bikes stolen at the Giro dell’Emilia and can’t take part.
  • The first women’s pro tests positive for Covid, Inge van der Heijden. A re-test then tests negative though.
  • ASO confirm that they will run a proper Women’s Tour de France stage race from 2020. Everyone agrees that would be a good thing for the sport.
Anna Henderson at the Giro dell’Emilia

September

Major Races:
Tour de l’Ardèche – Lauren Stephens
Giro d’Italia (Giro Rosa) – Anna van der Breggen
World Championships – Anna van der Breggen (RR & TT)
La Flèche WallonneAnna van der Breggen

Minor Races:
GP Develi – Laura Milena Toconas
GP Cappadocia – Valeriya Kononenko
GP Mount Erciyes – Maria Novolodskaya
GP World’s Best High Altitude – Maria Novolodskaya
GP Velo Erciyes – Valeriya Kononenko
GP Central Anatolia – Tamara Dronova-Balabolina
Trophée des Grimpeuses – Inge van der Heijden
GP d’Isbergues – Pas de Calais Féminin – Chloe Hosking

WWT Leader: Anna van der Breggen
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

The Tour de l’Ardèche kicked off the month. Mavi Garcia looked like she was going to be able to continue her strong form but seemed to find the limit and Lauren Stephens was able to overtake her to win the GC. A strong year for Stephens saw her do well in Australia and the virtual racing before taking her breakout win here.

The biggest races of the 2020 women’s race calendar. The Giro Rosa was raced hard and Annemiek van Vleuten looked certain to win it after a strong stage 2. She also fell off and had to run with her bike to a flatter section to get re-seated, before comfortably winning. Van Vleuten then crashed in the penultimate stage, breaking her wrist in the process. Anna van der Breggen was there to pick up the win after her retirement from the race. Marianne Vos took 3 stage wins to increase her record of wins in the biggest stage race in women’s cycling. Despite lots of pressure the race organiser didn’t follow through with any live TV of the race and the Giro Rosa finds itself out of the Women’s WorldTour in 2021.

Anna van der Breggen’s 6 wins at Flèche Wallonne

The World Championships followed, where once again Anna van der Breggen won thanks to a rival crashing. Chloe Dygert suffered a horrific injury, slicing her leg whilst on course to retain her rainbow stripes in the time trial. In the road race, there were no such issues. Van der Breggen was able to attack, gain a gap and win by 80 seconds. Teammate Van Vleuten took 2nd with her still recovering broken wrist and Longo Borghini 3rd in a home World Championships.

Flèche Wallonne closed out the month and carrying on her winning form, Anna van der Breggen took her 6th win in a row on the Mur de Huy. Despite the close attentions of Demi Vollering and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Van der Breggen paced the effort perfectly to keep the winning streak going.

September saw a whole host of small races taking place in Turkey. The Russian Cogeas-Mettler team took a fancy to most of them and Maria Novolodskaya and Valeriya Kononenko were the picks of the riders. A couple of European based smaller races saw the U23 Cyclocross World Champion Inge van der Heijden pick up a win for the new team Ciclismo Mondial. The team was set up to give cyclocross focused riders some road racing action. Chloe Hosking took her 3rd win of the season in the GP d’Isbergues.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • The World Championships bounced around a couple of venues before being confirmed as taking place at Imola, using the F1 circuit as part of the lap.
  • Annemiek van Vleuten impressively and slightly controversially races the World Championships just 2 weeks after breaking her wrist.
  • Marta Bastianelli is confirmed to have been suffering with Epstein-Barr for the previous few months. Her post-lockdown awful form is explained and she takes some time off.
Anna van der Breggen

October

Major Races:
Liège-Bastogne-LiègeLizzie Deignan
Brabantse PijlGrace Brown
Gent WevelgemJolien d’Hoore
Tour of Flanders – Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
Driedaagse De PanneLorenia Wiebes

Minor Races:
Tour of Thailand – Jutatip Maneephan

WWT Leader: Lizzie Deignan
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

Lizzie Deignan takes a great victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, attacking on the Col de la Redoute and reaching the finish line solo. Behind her, Grace Brown breaks free of the chasing pack and comes close to hunting down Deignan before the line. A few days later, Grace Brown shows off her excellent form by taking a solo win at Brabantse Pijl. Holding off the chasing teammate pair of Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij.

Gent Wevelgem saw the expected small bunch sprint finish where Jolien d’Hoore is able to just hold off the in-form Lotte Kopecky. The bulk of the peloton had been distanced and find themselves just 8 seconds behind the front group at the finish line. Driedaagse De Panne also ended up in a bunch sprint, however, this didn’t go entirely to plan. Jolien d’Hoore looked to have won her 2nd race but had drifted across and squeezed Lorena Wiebes into the barriers. In the post-Fabio Jakobsen crash world, these previously accepted sprinter moves are looked down upon and D’Hoore was relegated. Lorena Wiebes took the win instead, her first Women’s WorldTour win of the 2020 women’s cycling season.

The Tour of Flanders saw Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak take the win by a minute after a perfectly timed solo break. We also got to see the spectacle of Annemiek van Vleuten attacking and getting a gap, only for Anna van der Breggen to join her and refuse to work. Despite having a gap of 30 seconds or so on the group behind, both riders sit up and re-join the group. Van der Breggen confirmed before the race she was racing for teammates and not her own ambitions but it was still weird to watch.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • Chloe Dygert’s political likes on Twitter get brought to wider attention. Male rider Quinn Simmons stokes the fire though and creates a much bigger social media scandal.
  • Trouble starts brewing at Paule Ka when they request access to their bank guarantee to pay riders. It transpires the sponsors Paule Ka only made 1 payment to the team and have been withholding money ever since. The team is forced to fold before the end of the season putting riders onto the market late and unable to take part in major races still scheduled.
  • CCC-Liv pull out of Brabantse Pijl last minute after a staff member tests positive for Covid. The testing lab originally told the team that all of the tests came back negative.
  • Doltcini’s DS Marc Bracke is found guilty of harassment as the UCI reaches a verdict in its investigation.
  • Sunweb’s Pfeiffer Georgi is found to have sustained two broken vertebrae after a crash in Driedaagse De Panne.
  • Team Jumbo-Visma finally confirm their planned women’s team for 2021. Marianne Vos does indeed sign with the team to be their leader. Despite intentions to join the Women’s WorldTour in their first season, the UCI says this isn’t allowed and they will race as a Continental team in 2021.
Sarah Roy

November

Major Races:
Ceratizit Challenge – Lisa Brennauer

Minor Races:
None!

WWT Leader: Lizzie Deignan
WWT Youth Leader: Liane Lippert

The only race to take place in November was the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. A surprising finish on Stage 1 saw Lorena Wiebes take a sprint victory on a small hill finish. Lisa Brennauer takes the leader’s jersey with a strong time tiral on Stage 2. Despite the plentiful bonus sprints, Wiebes is unable to close the gap to Brennauer, although Elisa Longo Borghini also puts up a solid fight in the GC battle with a long solo break. Wiebes settles for sprinting for the stage but Elisa Balsamo takes the Stage 3 win instead.

Lizzie Deignan and Liane Lippert are confirmed as the winners of the Women’s WorldTour competitions.

Non-Racing Incidents:

  • SD Worx confirm they have applied to join the Women’s WorldTour in 2021
  • CCC-Liv confirm they will be called Liv Racing in 2021 and Mitchelton-Scott become Greenedge Cycling.

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