La Vuelta Femenina History
La Vuelta Femenina is very much the junior member of the women’s grand tours and riding the coattails of the men’s race whilst trying to catch up. Even Annemiek van Vleuten has cast doubts on its grand tour status. It’s certainly had a slow, measured progression from a one-day race, similar to La Course on the Champs Elysees was, into something bigger. After 3 editions, a second stage was added which was somewhat strangely a team time trial to effectively decide the GC. The following year in 2019 this was corrected to a regular time trial, which again rather made the following day slightly academic.
2020 saw La Vuelta Femenina adapt into something a little bit closer to now. Still only 3 days, an early sprint stage, a short prologue and then the regular finish finally achieved the right balance between time triallists and sprinters. We were treated to the spectacle of Lorena Wiebes sprinting for all of the possible bonus seconds on the last day to overturn a deficit to Lisa Brennauer, only for a long solo break by Elisa Longo Borghini to hoover up enough bonuses to secure 2nd from Wiebes as she lost the final sprint to a much quieter ride from Elisa Balsamo. 2021 was a whole other kettle of fish with some hills finally introduced, including an uphill time trial. Now 4 stages long, it saw a genuine climber in Annemiek van Vleuten take the victory. She retained that title last season, across 5 stages as the race began to finally get a bit closer to living up to the name of its male counterpart.
The other bit to note is just how many names the La Vuelta Femenina has had over the years. The La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta became the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta in 2019, then Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta in 2020, Challenge by La Vuelta in 2022 and now La Vuelta Femenina. 2023 will also be the first season where the race takes place in May, next to almost all of the other major Spanish women’s races, having moved from its previous September spot.Eve
Annemiek van Vleuten
Annemiek van Vleuten
La Vuelta Femenina 2023 Profiles
Stage 1 Profile
Stage 2 Profile
Stage 3 Profile
Stage 4 Profile
Stage 5 Profile
Stage 6 Profile
Stage 7 Profile
La Vuelta Femenina 2023 Contenders
It’s going to be tough to know where Annemiek van Vleuten is going to fit into the final standings this year. Things started to look a bit more encouraging during the Ardennes and the hope for Movistar fans will be that on some genuine long climbs, she will be able to ride away like we were used to seeing last year. The Dutch rider will still be a podium lock but less certain about the win. She’s certainly got more support than she’s used to and some of the stages look very tasty for Liane Lippert – Stages 4 and 5 in particular. We’re also going to see the return of Emma Norsgaard, who broke her collarbone back at Strade Bianche. The Dane has few chances to sprint at this year’s La Vuelta Femenina but Stages 2 and 3 will be her chance to shine.
Demi Vollering will be the GC favourite here after a dominant Spring Classics campaign that saw her win all 3 Ardennes Classics, plus Dwars door Vlaanderen and Strade Bianche. The only time she hasn’t finished in the top-2 of a race was back at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. She’s previously struggled to break the hold Van Vleuten has held on these races and was 3rd last year behind Longo Borghini too. Demi is going to be very tough to tip against though this year. I’m expecting Niamh Fisher-Black to be in firm teammate duties and Vas/Markus probably aren’t going to sprint to a stage win this year either. So the team’s best realistic shot at a non-Demi stage win will come from Marlen Reusser. The Swiss rider is more than capable of ghosting off the front and simply not being caught again, like Gent Wevelgem and her Tour de France Femmes victory last season.
Mavi Garcia should do well here but we saw last year what an opening TTT can do to GC hopes for the Spanish rider. There she ended up almost 90 seconds down on rivals from the off and struggled to reclaim some of that afterwards to 13th place. 4th at Fleche Wallonne this year is a sign of good climbing legs, at her best, she might make the podium but a top-10 with a stage win might be more realistic. Liv Racing TeqFind will pin their hopes in sprints on Rachele Barbieri. The Italian finally took a strong 2023 result at Scheldeprijs with 4th place after a tough spring that hasn’t seen her quite on the same pace as 2022 and a bit unlucky with poorly timed clashes.
Team DSM’s Juliette Labous is definitely focusing on this race after a solid Spring Classics campaign with only 6th at the Tour of Flanders as a top-10 for the French rider. Winner of the Vuelta a Burgos last season and 9th in this race, she clearly likes the Spanish climbs and has a strong team able to help sort out the early TTT without too much trouble as well. There’s maybe a podium shout here. Teammate Charlotte Kool is going to have a great shout in the sprints of which only really Stage 3 feels the obvious stage for one and maybe Stage 2 as well. So maybe not masses of wins but a good shot of at least one at this year’s Vuelta Femenina.
We’ve yet to quite see the best from Marianne Vos so far in 2023 but there has been plenty of activity if not results. 3rd at Dwars door Vlaanderen looked like it would kick off the final part of her classics season but a tough day out at Paris Roubaix Femmes with a poorly-timed mechanical took away a better chance for more there. We know the star delivers when it comes to bigger races, you just need to look at last year’s Tour de France Femmes for evidence of that and will have her eye on a stage win. Tough finishes on stages 2, 4 and 6 are maybe her best shouts, although the latter could be raced too hard on the climbs for her. There’s a good chance for a GC top-10 for Riejanne Markus. She probably won’t get discussed too much but 4th at Liege Bastogne Liege and also on the queen stage at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana shows where her goals lie. Jumbo-Visma should also be good at the TTT to give her a good headstart.
Canyon SRAM has presented a very interesting line-up that has Kasia Niewiadoma as the leader, Pauliena Rooijakkers and Elise Chabbey as climbing support, plus a very rare sighting of Chloe Dygert. Kasia has had a solid spring classics season, albeit without a podium, and should be a threat when the road goes uphill. The Pole should be a banker for the top-10 but it’s going to be tough to see her do better than finishing in the top-5. Elise Chabbey looked arguably better than her team leader in the Ardennes and certainly took the better results. The Swiss was 8th here last year and has the potential to be a strong 1B option. Pauliena Rooijakkers should be on support or stage hunting duties and the inclusion of Chloe Dygert will power the team along in the TTT. Hopefully, she won’t blast them away like she did her USA team pursuit teammates on the track last week.
Both Jayco-AlUla leaders will be outsiders for the overall victory but based on last year’s time trials by the team, they have a shot at being in the leader’s jersey at the end of Stage 1. From there anything is possible but I think we’re more likely to see Kristen Faulkner go on the hunt for stage wins in the manner she attacked last year’s Giro Donne and there’s plenty here for her. Teammate Ane Santesteban is a co-leader and is probably the more natural climber but will struggle against the absolute top-tier favourites. A good ride for both will be the top-10 in GC.
The Marta Cavalli comeback train trundles on but the Italian still doesn’t quite appear to have the same legs as 2022 yet. It’s clearly a slow process and each race does help just that little bit more. Evita Muzic is a very much in-form rider for FDJ-Suez though. The young French rider took a podium place at GP Féminin de Chambéry before finishing 5th on the Mur de Huy at Fleche Wallonne. I see her best result coming on the short uphill finish on Stage 5.
St Michel-Mavic-Auber93’s best hopes are probably coming from Roxane Fournier against what is quite a reduced sprint field. The French rider has been a consistent top-10 finisher all season after moving to the team. Simone Boilard is a decent outsider for some stages too, maybe those tougher ones where Fournier might get dropped. She has a WWT top-10 back at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race but maybe hasn’t had the same results as 2022 so far.
With Elisa Longo Borghini forced to withdraw, Gaia Realini suddenly becomes a big GC favourite. Her Trek team should be able to get her through the TTT with the firepower they’ve got. There’s enough experience there to keep her out of trouble as well until the final stage where she’s going to be tough to keep up with and a real threat to Vollering and Van Vleuten. Her experience at the UAE Tour Women will prove useful in knowing not to panic when missing a split and also reading when the race is about to light up.
Finally, UAE Team ADQ look strong in the mountains but might lose time in the opening TTT for me. Silvia Persico is a threat on basically all of the stages though, so whilst she may not win the GC she has many opportunities for a stage victory. Olivia Baril was 5th at Setmana Cicilista Valenciana on the tamer climbs there, she’d be doing very well to repeat that but will be looking to impress on the last couple of stages which are near-ish to her base in Donostia. Mikayla Harvey was 6th in the UAE Tour as well but will be firmly on Persico duties here.
La Vuelta Femenina 2023 Outsiders
It’s tough to decide whether to put Claire Steels in this section or the one above. The Brit won reVolta this weekend, clearly a sign of good form but I think she’s a GC outsider because her Israel Premier-Tech Roland team is bound to lose time in the TTT on Stage 1. So with that in mind, I think we’re more likely to see a stage win from Steels than a GC hunt.
Veronica Ewers has been relatively quiet so far in 2023 and not quite where she was at her best last season. We know the American likes racing in Spain, she took one of her two victories last year at the Navarra Elite Classics and might have a chance on Stage 6 of going for a long one over the pair of Cat 2 climbs.
Long breaks and Anna Kiesenhofer is a borderline cliché at this point but we saw one from her at least year’s La Vuelta Femenina whilst racing for Soltec. The Austrian rode 159km solo on Stage 4 and whilst she ultimately only finished 31st, she was only caught whilst going under the flamme rouge with 1km to go. It’d be lovely to see a GC tilt from her but I think we’re going to get served up another break attempt.
Sigrid Ytterhus Haugset of Team Coop-Hitec Products has got her best results this season in Spain. The Norwegian finished just outside of the top-10 at all of Women Cycling Pro De Almeria, Vuelta CV Feminas and reVolta. There are a couple of stages where Haugset can threaten to get a good result in a top-quality race.