The Festival Elsy Jacobs is the first race to take place after the Spring Classics part of the season has come to a close. This race is a homage to Luxembourger Elsy Jacobs, the first-ever women’s world road race champion. The second stage is hosted by her own town of Garnich and the country is rightly proud of one of the original greats of women’s cycling. Jacobs set the women’s world hour record in 1958, which stood for 14 years until broken in 1972. She smashed the previous effort, set by Millie Robinson just 2 months earlier, by 1,628 metres. Jacobs finished 3rd in the 1961 Worlds and just missed the podium with 4th places in 1966 and 1968. Jacobs was Luxembourg road race champion 15 times in her long career.
The Festival Elsy Jacobs became a UCI race in 2008 and the modern-day GOAT Marianne Vos hold the record of most race wins with 3. Vos won those 3 races back to back between 2011-2013. Anna van der Breggen then won a pair of races in 2014 and 2015. Since then, there have been no repeat winners. The list of recent winners is below. The race was a casualty to the COVID-affected 2020 season, ending up being cancelled like many others.
2021’s Festival Elsy Jacobs sees a very short opening prologue. Just 2.2km, there’s an opening section of 13% and a slow rise to the finish. We’ll see some initial small time gaps here. Stage 1 sees repeated ascents of Koerich – 0.4km at 6.3% – and 2019’s edition saw the race split up into small groups. Stage 2 is a similar parcours but taking in the Garnich climb repeatedly – 0.8km at 4.6% – this stage ended up as a sprint in 2019. Overall winners will need a quick time on the prologue and a quick finish on the 2 following stages.
2020 – Not Held
2019 – Lisa Brennauer
2018 – Letizia Paternoster
2017 – Christine Majerus
2016 – Kasia Niewiadoma
Twitter Hashtag: #FElsy
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Lizzy Banks was 3rd in the last edition of this race and has the potential to finish on the podium again. She has a reasonable time trial and then has the strength to be near the front of the race too. She’s more likely to gain time in breaks rather than sprinting for wins. She’s had a quiet spring, affected a little bit by an illness. Her best result is 32nd at Omloop het Nieuwsblad but she hasn’t raced since Strade Bianche at the start of March. Her teammate Maria Giulia Confalonieri is a good shout for the stage finishes and potentially won’t lose much time in the short TT. She’s been 7th and 8th here in the past and has good form in 2021. Her best results are 6th at GP Oetingen and 7th at Nokere Koerse.
SD Worx’s major stars are taking some time off after the spring classics campaign. Christine Majerus was visible in most of those races, closing down moves and joining breaks by other key riders. She’s won her home race here back in 2017 and has 7 top-10 finishes all in all. She won Omloop van de Westhoek back in March and is an obvious contender here. Teammate Lonneke Uneken was super impressive in the way she won the VAMberg stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour. Since then, she’s twice just finish just outside of the top-10 before DNFing a pair of WWT races. She is a useful option for the team in a stage sprint and also in breaks.
Elena Cecchini feels like the natural main sprinter for SD Worx, her best result of the year was 18th at Le Samyn though so she may be working for others again. Niamh Fisher-Black can’t go unmentioned either. She may be able to pick up some seconds in the TT. Then she can continue the form she showed to finish 12th at Amstel Gold and 17th Liege Bastogne Liege.
Ruth Winder feels like the in-form option for Trek Segafredo. She had to miss Liege Bastogne Liege after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for COVID. Hopefully there shouldn’t be a repeat. She won Brabantse Pijl in that super close photo finish with Demi Vollering. She also finished 7th at Fleche Wallonne where the late long-range attack was closed on the Mur de Huy. She’s not raced here before but she’s very much in good form. It feels like teammate Amalie Dideriksen should be a contender. She should do well in the TT and then if she can reprise her 9th from Scheldeprijs, she could do well the following two days. She’s probably the Plan B to Winder’s Plan A.
After a few weeks off from racing, Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard returns to the peloton. She picked up all sorts of plaudits after a spring with 9 top-10 results. The only thing missing really was a win after 4 second-placed finishes. There was some stirrings of the Silver Emma nickname being passed down from Emma Johansson. She should be fine in the TT and is a great contender for the final 2 stages. Her teammate Aude Biannic should be useful too. She’s been consistent here with 3 top-25 finishes without ever breaking the top-15 of the race. Leah Thomas may also get the opportunity to race for herself too, she was 4th at Brabantse Pijl and was hovering around 20th place at all 3 Ardennes Week races.
Team DSM have some interesting options for this race. Lorena Wiebes finally got off the mark at Scheldeprijs, taking the win. We’ve seen that she can TT well at 2020’s Ceratizit Challenge. She may not be able to hang on during Stage 1 though. Juliette Labous is the best bet for GC contention. She can TT well and the climbs aren’t a problem after 6th places at Brabantse Pijl and Fleche Wallonne. She should finish in the top-10. Leah Kirchmann presents an interesting option. She can TT well so should be up there after the prologue. And she can take care of the lumpy sprints on Stages 1 and 2. Trouble is, you can’t see it happening with a best result all season of 40th place on Stage 1 at the Healthy Ageing Tour.
Marta Bastianelli has been struggling again during the latter part of the spring classics. Her last top-10 result was 5th at Gent Wevelgem near the end of March. She’ll probably lose seconds in the TT but in good form she would be a contender for the 2 road race stages. If she rediscovers her form, she’s a big contender. Teammate Marlen Reusser will have no problem with the TT and she’s been seen putting the power down at the front of the peloton. The 9th place she got at the Tour of Flanders is encouraging for this race and could put her in the GC hunt.
It’s tough to pick a main option for Liv Racing. Jeanne Korevaar has the best previous result here with 9th place in 2018. Her best result of 2021 though is 19th at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. Pauliena Rooijakkers has the next best result here with 18th in 2017. She’s been in better recent form with 10th at Brabantse Pijl and going on the attack at Amstel Gold. Her tendency to ride at the back of the peloton won’t help here though. It could be a race for Sofia Bertizzolo. She finished 28th here in 2018 but was impressive this season in the Italian races. A best of 8th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and 15th at Strade Bianche were encouraging. The team’s battle for the GC might become clearer after the prologue.
Canyon SRAM have brought a lot of young talent but I think it’s going to be Elise Chabbey who is their best chance of a result. The short TT will be fine and she was an impressive 13th at Liege Bastogne Liege. She was also 9th at GP Oetingen earlier in the classics season. She’s backed up by Ella Harris who says she’s still feeling her way after her big injuries. Also Mikayla Harvey who hasn’t shown her breakout form of 2020 yet and Hannah Ludwig who might find the TT a touch short to unleash her power.
The situation is clearer at Jumbo Visma, where they should be working for Riejanne Markus. She was 6th here in 2019 and 13th in 2018. She’s in good form as well, finishing 12th at Liege Bastogne Liege. She shouldn’t have any issues being at the business end of the road race stages. Teammate Nancy van der Burg should be a good backup option as well. She finished 15th in 2018’s Festival Elsy Jacobs. There’s no form indicators to suggest she’ll take over from Markus unless something happens though, her best result of the year is 20th at Nokere Koerse.
Valcar have a strong chance of doing well here with Elisa Balsamo. The short TT plays to her track background and she’s certainly in good enough form to win either of the other 2 stages. She won the GP Oetingen in mid-March and picked up a pair of 3rd places at Scheldeprijs and Brabantse Pijl at the end of the Flanders Classics season. Her teammate Chiara Consonni is also in great form. She won twice in April at the Ronde de Mouscron and Vuelta CV Feminas. Normally when she’s paired up with Balsamo, she acts as the final lead-out rider but the race situation might see her get her own good result.
Marjolein van ‘t Geloof had a great start to the spring classics with 5th at Le Samyn, 9th on a Healthy Ageing Tour stage and 10th at Omloop van de Westhoek. Since then though, there have been crashes and bad luck. It’s not a month since that last top-10 result and her best in that time is 34th at Ronde de Mouscron.
Her teammate Maike van der Duin is beginning to step up though. She was 15th on the tough VAMberg stage at the Healthy Ageing Tour, then 15th again at Omloop van de Westhoek and then 14th at Scheldeprijs. Emilie Moberg is also a useful card for Drops-Le Col after finishing 4th at Scheldeprijs.
Bingoal Casino’s Thalita de Jong has had a great classics campaign and looks to be approaching something like her best again. 3rd at Omloop van de Westhoek was the best result with 3 other top-20 placings too. She does best in the non-WWT races with a reduced startlist quality so we should see her near the front here. She’s done well in the past, 6th in 2014 and 12th in 2016. She has the potential to get close to those results again for the first time in a few years.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Amber van der Hulst is a late addition to the team’s line-up. The 21 year old has had an impressive Spring campaign with 4 top-10 results. The most impressive of those was finishing 8th on the brutal VAMberg stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour. She was able to stick with the lead group on the short, punchy VAMberg and this bodes well for the parcours here. She has a useful sprint too so might do well on Stage 2.
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Massi-Tactic’s Vita Heine was 15th in the 2017 Festival Elsy Jacobs. The short TT will suit her and the road race stages could see her do well. Her form isn’t great though with a best result of 29th at Brabantse Pijl in 2021. A few years ago this race would’ve been great on paper for her.
Liv Racing’s Evy Kuijpers was 24th in the 2019 Festival Elsy Jacobs but it’s tough to see the results from 2021 that will allow her to do as well this year. Her best finish is 18th at Omloop van de Westhoek and it really feels like she’ll end up helping out others on the team. As I said above though, there’s no clear and obvious leader for the team and almost all of them are in with a shout.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s young duo of Julia Van Bokhoven and Mischa Bredewold have impressed with their results in the spring. Mischa Bredewold has consistently finished in the top-25 of races including, impressively, at the Tour of Flanders. Teammate Julia van Bokhoven has done likewise, with 25th at Amstel Gold. The pair are waiting for a truly breakout result but finishing that highly in key Women’s WorldTour races is an encouraging sign for them.
Finally, Stade Rochelais’ Elodie Le Bail was a surprise podium finisher at the Vuelta CV Feminas. The race clashed with Amstel Gold so the startlist quality wasn’t great and a reduced number of teams actually attended. However, it was a still a result of note for the 30 year old as she only finished behind Chiara Consonni and Barbara Guarischi.