Festival Elsy Jacobs History
The Festival Elsy Jacobs is a long-running women’s race that is the high point of the calendar in Luxembourg. First held in 2008, it began life as a one-day race won by Italian Monia Bacaille. It stayed that way for a few years before growing in 2012 to a three-day format that always started off with a prologue. That shifted the balance to riders who were strong against the clock, with time gaps established, there would be 2 days of hard racing. This format has carried on right up until 2023 when for the first time in over 10 years, the Festival Elsy Jacobs won’t start with a prologue time trial.
It will be interesting to see how it shifts the balance of the race. We could now see it decided on bonus seconds with stage winners particularly high-powered when it comes to the GC fight. Rather than those who can time trial and sprint like former winners Emma Norsgaard and Lisa Brennauer, it may just fall down to those who can sprint with a bit of hill resistance like last year’s winner Marta Bastianelli. The repeated climbs here, particularly on Stage 2 will favour those prepared to attack and go clear, with no guarantee of a pair of reduced bunch sprints.
Festival Elsy Jacobs 2023 Profile
Stage 1 Profile
Stage 2 Profile
Festival Elsy Jacobs 2023 Contenders
Marta Bastianelli will be returning to defend her title in her final season. The Italian will suit this parcours even more now there isn’t a time trial element. There are few who will be able to match her sprint at the end of a tough lump day of racing and the winner of Le Samyn des Dames will be a GC threat once again. Teammate Sofia Bertizzolo has had a very so-so-season so far but returned to some form with 9th at Omloop van Borsele last week. She will presumably support Bastianelli here but has a chance to get back into top form with more top-10 results.
Ceratiznt WNT looks strong here with Marta Lach usually doing well in these sorts of tougher sprinting races. The Pole was 6th at Paris Roubaix Femmes and 9th at Nokere Koerse already this year, as well as 4th back at the UAE Tour Women sprinting against the biggest names. She certainly has a chance but it remains to be seen if she or Arianne Fidanza might get the nod after the season the Italian has been having so far. There’s also Cédrine Kerbaol who is in great climbing form too. Her GC win at the Tour de Normandie Féminin bodes well for this race too. The team certainly has plenty of cards to play at this year’s Festival Elsy Jacobs.
We’re going to get to see Lotta Henttala for the first time in a month. A great start to the year with a pair of 2nd places at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana translated well to the early spring classics with 6th places at Nokere Koerse and Ronde van Drenthe before illness took hold. It’s seen her miss a bunch of recent races and whilst a fit Henttala would be in the hunt for stage wins, maybe she’s not quite fully fit yet.
With no Henttala, it will be Ally Wollaston who gets the nod for AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step instead. The Kiwi has had a slower start to the 2023 season but this sort of race is the type that she excelled in last season. With not that many pure sprinters here, Wollaston has a shot at stage wins.
This race should be perfect for the likes of Susanne Andersen, a rider who can sprint on tough days. Her best result of the year so far came at Ronde van Drenthe where the Norwegian finished 2nd, so far it’s her only top-10 result of 2023. So Festival Elsy Jacobs comes at a good time to get a couple of strong results, especially as the Uno-X team is on a bit of a roll at the moment in their hunt for UCI points to stay in the Women’s WorldTour past the end of 2023.
Maria Martins was 5th at Ronde de Mouscron which was a good result for her, normally the Portuguese rider does best in the flattest of races so getting a result in the wet on a rolling parcours like that is a sign of more to come maybe. Especially given the amount of climbing involved in this year’s Festival Elsy Jacobs.
Christine Majerus is going to be a threat on home roads. She’s repeatedly been racing for a Luxembourg national team in recent months in a bid to secure more UCI points as a nation and hopefully qualify for more starting spots at the World Championships and beyond. As a team leader, the parcours is perfect for her to attack.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s best hopes will be between Femke Gerritse and Quinty Schoens. Still smarting from their Tour de France Femmes snub, the team will look to attack here and recreate some of those race wins from last season. Gerritse can definitely attack this sort of rolling terrain and it’d be great to see Schoens recreate her break from the Tour de Normandie Féminin that was cruelly cut short by a mechanical when she had a great gap late on.
Cristina Tonetti is going to be a threat here once again. The Italian was 2nd behind Silvia Zanardi this week on a rolling course at GP della Liberazione PINK and will have no problem being a contender here. Her teammates in Giorgia Bariani and Alessia Vigilia were 3rd and 7th too, both represent their own threat with Bariani a purer sprinter and Vigilia likely to go up the road and attack the race.
It’s also a rare chance to see Skylar Schneider on this side of the Atlantic. The former Boels-Dolmans rider has settled into riding in America for L39ION and already has 2 sprint wins at the Redlands Classic and the Pan-America continental championship to her name. The American peloton is very different to the European one but you definitely can’t rule her out making an immediate impact.
Festival Elsy Jacobs 2023 Outsiders
No longer on the Zaaf Cycling team, Heidi Franz will be racing for an America National Team here at the Festival Elsy Jacobs. Her best result so far in 2023 is 11th at the Trofeo Oro in Euro. At that race, with a couple of late climbs, the bunch rolled in around 2 minutes behind Trek’s 1-2 finish, with Franz managing to outsprint Marta Lach who is here as well. With a point to prove, she’s the sort of rider who can navigate splits and have a go for the finish.
Stine Borgli will be racing for a Norway National Team here and showed last year at the Tour of Uppsala that she can still sprint well when given the chance. She ended up 3rd in GC there with consistent top-5 finishes and is a similar sort of all-rounder rider to Susanne Andersen at her best. Unleashed from FDJ-Suez team duties, Borgli might be one to watch.
Against this field, Arkea’s Marie-Morgane Le Deunff can definitely have a decent sprint finish. 5th at Vuelta Extremadura is her best result so far this year, plus 10th at Tour de Normandie Féminin and 11th at a wet Ronde de Mouscron. The French rider will be a threat if she can negotiate the climbing. Teammate Megan Armitage should be a GC threat as well and has already impressed this season when there is plenty of climbing. What I’m not fully sure of yet is whether this sort of rolling terrain suits as well as the purer climbs where she won the Vuelta Extremadura GC.
Valentina Basilico is another potential sprint threat. Often used as a the lead-out for Silvia Zanardi, Basilico has also tended to deliver well when given her own opportunities. She was 8th at GP della Liberazione PINK this week and also has a WWT top-10 this year from back at the UAE Tour Women.