Itzulia Women 2024 Race Preview

Vollering-Reusser-Itzulia-Women-2023

Itzulia Women 2024 History

Itzulia Women comes straight off the back of the Vuelta Femenina and covers the ground that the old Emakumeen Bira used to. The Basque Country has pretty much always had a major women’s tour and the current incarnation is the Itzulia Women. It went straight into the Women’s WorldTour calendar when it came into inception in 2022 and has delivered some great racing already. It’s almost an expanded version of the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa that was already in existence on either side of the Covid calendar changes.

2022’s first edition saw Demi Vollering absolutely dominate the race, winning 3 stages and the GC. She looked on course to repeat that at the 2023 Itzulia Women where she won the first 2 stages to effectively take the first-ever 5 stages of the race before seeing teammate Marlen Reusser win on the final stage. Reusser smashed that stage, finishing 2 and a half minutes ahead of the chasers who had no answer. Demi herself finished 2nd place on the stage and the GC to gap an impressive result for SD Worx.

Previous Winners

2023
Marlen Reusser
2022
Demi Vollering
2021
Not held

Itzulia Women 2024 Stage Profiles

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

TV Coverage

Friday 10th May – Sunday 12th May 2024

Live on Eurosport/Discovery+ across Europe
EITB in Basque (maybe not geo-blocked)

Stage 1: 11:30-13:00
Stage 2: 11:30-13:00
Stage 3: 11:30-13:00

All times in BST

Twitter: #ItzuliaWomen

Startlist: FirstCycling

Itzulia Women 2024 Contenders

SD Worx will be looking to increase their dominance of this race to a 3rd year. So far, over the 2 editions, no other team has had a look in. Not only has the team won the GC twice but also secured all 6 available stages (5 Demi, 1 Marlen). With that in mind, it will be on Marlen Reusser and Demi Vollering to see if they can win again this year. Reusser was impressive in being able to just ghost away last year but her run-in has been a bit more complicated thanks to her crash at Flanders this season. I’m expecting Demi Vollering to walk this if she wants to, especially with the confidence of winning the Vuelta Femenina last weekend. If the team does want to share the love then we might see Niamh Fisher-Black get an opportunity for a win and if a larger group is heading to the finish together then it will be one for Blanka Vas to contest instead.

Lidl-Trek will see some of its GC leadership take some time off from this one – Longo Borghini will have a well-deserved rest and Gaia Realini can recover from her mild concussion. That means Amanda Spratt will get a shot, with the Aussie having a particularly strong record in the Basque Country over the years. She had a solid Vuelta, finishing 18th in GC whilst working for others and will get her first leadership shot since the Tour Down Under. Shirin van Anrooij will be some more than useful support after the best Spring of her young road career. She was 2nd in GC at the Vuelta a Burgos last year and this could be another one of those races for her.

The startlist is probably quite fluid for Canyon SRAM after the illness that went around the team before and during the Vuelta Femenina. Kasia Niewadoma managed a few days before being noticeably off during the first uphill finish of the race. Understandable given she’d barely looked at her bike between the Ardennes and Spain because of the bug. Neve Bradbury was unable to even start the race, such was her feeling in the 48 hours leading up to the team time trial. By rights and at 100% both would be very strong options here. Ricarda Bauernfeind managed to make it to the end of the Vuelta Femenina, finishing 6th in GC. A great result for the German given the reduced numbers riding in support. She might get the chance to double down on that form. Elise Chabbey is set to be back after missing the Vuelta too. She was 4th in the last race of the Spring at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and was 7th in the earlier Spanish stage race of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. If others are going for the GC, the Swiss rider usually pivots to chasing the QoM jersey.

Juliette Labous
Juliette Labous

Juliette Labous had a good Vuelta Femenina, finishing 4th overall and not too far away from a podium spot. The French rider was climbing well and took 4 top-10 stage results along the way. She finished 4th as well back at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana earlier this year, so probably 4th is on the cards here at Itzulia Women too. Her top-10s in the Ardennes show she has some of the all-round climbing needed for the Basuqe Country as well. Teammate Eleonora Ciabocco might be in the hunt too for a good stage result, she took a 7th on Stage 3 at the Vuelta and there are a couple of stages which might suit her.

FDJ-Suez is feeling confident about the chances of Evita Muzic after the French rider took her first Women’s WorldTour win since 2020 and her first win at all levels since 2022 at the Vuelta last week. She’s always been able to do steep climbs like we’ll find at Itzulia and with added confidence she has a podium shot this year. Teammate Marta Cavalli will always be in the conversation as well, although she did get pulled from the Vuelta Femenina after a few stages because she was feeling less than 100%. Even if that has now cleared up, it’s not ideal preparation. We may also see something from Jade Wiel too. Often domestiquing, she took a pair of good results at Morbihan at the weekend – finishing 3rd at La Classique and 4th at the Grand Prix.

Pauliena Rooijakkers often turns it on for Spain Month and the Dutch rider certainly looks like doing it again this year. She was 2nd in the 2022 edition of Itzulia Women and looked impressive at the Vuelta Femenina. She finished 9th in GC which rather hid some of the results and attacks she made during the stages. She took 4 top-10 results, including 4th on the final day queen stage. Working in tandem with Yara Kastelijn, she had the freedom to go push things and stretch out the bunch. Here she won’t have that but is very much in form.

Mavi Garcia
Mavi Garcia

Things really didn’t play out well for Mavi Garcia at the Vuelta Femenina. The Spanish national champion finished 20th in GC in the end but lost time whenever the bunch split in the wind and worryingly, whenever it went uphill too. She dropped very early on the final stage and almost looked like another potential victim of the Ardennes illness bug. Whilst Mavi suffered, teammate Ingvild Gaskjenn delivered some great results. The Norwegian took a trio of top-10 stage results and her all-round abilities showed as she took 14th in GC by the end. That should put her in contention for a great stage result here. There is also Ella Wyllie who won the youth jersey and finished 12th in GC at the 2023 Itzulia Women whilst racing for Lifeplus-Wahoo. She’s been quiet so far in the 2024 European season but we may see more of her in Spain Month.

Despite being a Canadian, Olivia Baril is actually a local of the Basque Country. She was 4th in GC at last year’s race and Spain Month is certainly when she comes alive each year. She has won the GP Eibar for the last 2 seasons and will fancy her chances of a stage win here. Her best at the Vuelta Femenina was 3rd on Stage 3 behind Vos and Kool in the sprint. Teammate Arlenis Sierra is back after no races in a month and the Cuban is always a threat when the stages have been designed like this. One of the fastest finishers who is able to climb, it will be up to the likes of Vollering to make sure she has been well and truly dropped whilst going uphill. Claire Steels is another adopted Spanish rider, albeit in Mallorca rather than the Basque Country, and has shown in previous seasons that she’s a Spain Month specialist as well. She is still feeling her way back from fractured vertebrae at the UAE Tour Women but might be back to full form again now.

Constantly up there at the Vuelta Femenina was Thalita de Jong who seems to be climbing better than she ever has done before. She took 16th overall with some fairly consistent finishes in the 10th-20th bracket. She’s been on fire since the start of the year, pitching top-10s at WWT races and coming very close to wins elsewhere. She can sneak into the top-10 again here and continue her strong contract year.

Ane Santesteban Women Pro Almeria 2024
Ane Santesteban

Another rider struck down by the Ardennes illness is Ane Santesteban of Laboral Kutxa. The key ride for the Basque team, she will hopefully be back in time for their home race at Itzula Women. Before getting ill, Santesteban had been 10th at Fleche Wallonne and ideally placed for a top-10 at the Vuelta. Her only edition here, she was 5th on the first stage and then subsequently didn’t start the following day due to a non-Covid illness back then.

Ceratizit WNT has a lot of flexible options this time out. Cédrine Kerbaol is probably their best shout for a GC placing after 5th at GP de Chambéry and 16th in Liege Bastogne Liege Femmes. She’s the most likely to go and do something like Reusser did last year. Behind her, Laura Asencio was 12th at the weekend in Morbihan, Alice Maria Arzuffi was 5th at Festival Elsy Jacobs à Garnich and 7th at Chambéry too. Nina Berton was impressive in the spring classics, taking top-20s for the first time in her young career before also finishing in the top-10 at Festival Elsy Jacobs à Garnich. Then there’s Arianna Fidanza who can climb and have a fast finish too. She was 10th and 11th in the pair of Festival Elsy Jacobs races. The team will surely ride the hot hand in this race and everyone has a chance if they are going well.

Itzulia Women 2024 Outsiders

Marion Bunel
Marion Bunel

Marion Bunel is poised for a strong season and has been regularly notching up top-10s across the year so far, including one at Morbihan this weekend. She’s a rider who will suit the steep gradients at Itzulia Women and could feature in the top-10 on GC. Teammates Camille Fahy and Victorie Guilman will play supporting roles but also find themselves in good form at the moment (and also have their own Morbihan top-10s).

Nikola Noskova is on her way back to full fitness and was just outside the top-20 at both Morbihan races. We’ve seen already this year that at her best she can be a contender in these kinda of hilly races, including 8th in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. If she’s back fighting fit then she can get a strong result. The Ardennes were a bit quiet for Julie Bego, but the junior world champion has already impressed in her first season in the Elites. Hopefully, we see her get into the mix again in the Basque Country.

Sigrid Ytterhus Haugset should be the main rider for Coop-Repsol and she had a solid Vuelta Femenina without setting anything alight. She tends to get her best results in Spain and whilst she doesn’t go up the climbs with Demi Vollering, she will still finish well across all the stages. Teammate Stina Kagevi will no doubt go on the attack again at some point too. She’s still developing and there’s no TT here but she can be guaranteed to make a move.

Lotte Claes is the climbing option for Arkea-B&B Hotels and whilst the Belgian doesn’t have a particularly stand-out single result, she’s been up there plenty just outside the top-10. The stages may prove to be too hilly for Michaela Drummond to have a real go but she’s a race winner again this year after taking victory at the Pays de la Loire Tour. She has a quick finish after a tough stage but generally, I think the top names will dominate this.

Finally, Karolina Perekitko will have gained confidence from the Vuelta Femenina. She unfortunately lost a boatload of time early on on the windy flatter stages but pulled some of that back on the major climbing stages late on. She was just outside the top-10 on a smaller Continental team against some of the world’s best climbers.

Top 3 Prediction