Recapping the madness of the 2023 women’s road season

Maggie Coles-Lyster

The 2023 women’s road season has seen plenty of ups and downs with teams folding before they even began, others folding mid-season and some more due to fold at the end of this season. Along the way, many riders have achieved their first wins and first Women’s WorldTour wins, along with a whole raft who have got their best finish in any race this season. We’ve had races go rogue with the Giro Donne organisers reluctant to put too much effort into the race this year after losing the organisation rights for 2024. The season-ender at the Tour of Guangxi was the only WWT race of the entire calendar to not bother with live coverage this year.

Some riders in particular have had a really tough journey this season, none more so than Audrey Cordon-Ragot who closed out last season by having a stroke, joined a team that didn’t start a race, joined another that didn’t pay riders and closed before finally getting some security on her 3rd team of the season. Sponsorship and team security is a reoccurring theme throughout the year with the now Lifeplus-Wahoo team rocked last minute by the pulling out of a sponsor. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB were affected firstly by the closure of the Silicon Valley Bank mid-year, then saw TIBCO and EF Education both pull-out. The latter to start their own team in a bit of a leadership grab.

Real life also affected the races. It is now more difficult than ever to hold races, particularly in certain areas. We saw Sweden lose its WorldTour racing completely and have its national championships moved onto an airfield previously used during Covid. North Holland is also affected going into 2024 where police won’t cover the security roadblock detail required to safely hold races on the open road. It remains to be seen just how badly races like the Ronde van Drenthe are to be affected. Good old snow also saw one or two races forced to make changes. The Ronde van Drenthe was one, which altered its route to avoid the worst sections and the GP Oetingen was forced to be postponed into the summer due to heavy overnight snowfall.

We saw many riders enter retirement this year, from Marta Bastianelli after the Giro Donne to Annemiek van Vleuten later on. Riders like Tayler Wiles, Hannah Barnes, Jessica Allen and more will also hang up their wheels now that the 2023 season has finished.

The list below tries to avoid mentioning the results of races, as that sort of list can be found here, but instead focuses more on the background politics of the sport and the parts of the season that caused the most drama. Some transfers are mentioned, particularly around the downward spiral of Zaaf Cycling, but not every transfer is included. Many of the links go to ProCyclingUK pages, some also go to external sites.

2023 Women’s road season recap

Audrey Cordon-Ragot stroke announcement
Audrey Cordon-Ragot as she announced her stroke before the 2022 Worlds on Instagram

October 2022

Oct 17th: Audrey Cordon-Ragot confirms publically she had a stroke before the Worlds in September 2022
Oct 31st: Spanish Fed postpones a rule that would enforce all Spanish Conti teams to pay Spanish minimum wage to its riders until 2024

Le Col Wahoo
Le Col-Wahoo announced sponsorship trouble as Le Col pulled out of their side of the deal

November 2022

Nov 9th: Chantal van den Broek-Blaak announces she is pregnant
Nov 11th: Some of the first serious inklings that the new women’s B&B Hotels team isn’t going to go ahead start to surface. Everyone is told it will be ok
Nov 18th: Le Col-Wahoo in trouble after one of its main sponsors drops out, allows signed riders to leave

Annemiek van Vleuten velo d'or 2023
Annemiek van Vleuten and her Velo d’Or prize at the Movistar team presentation

December 2022

Dec 1st: Annemiek van Vleuten wins first separate women’s Velo d’Or prize
Dec 5th: Despite having a contract for 2023, Leah Thomas leaves Trek due to injury
Dec 7th: Plantur-Pura changes name to Fenix-Deceuninck
Dec 7th: The new B&B Hotels-KTM team collapses before the season is even set to get underway – riders like Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Heidi Franz, Chloe Hosking and Anna Kiesenhofer all affected
Dec 12th: Fenix-Deceuninck is confirmed to join the WWT in 2023
Dec 13th: Audrey Cordon-Ragot joins Zaaf as the team announces its 2024 line-up. It also includes riders like Franz, De Francesco, Jounier, Meijering, Coles-Lyster and Drummond among others.
Dec 20th: Chantal van den Broek-Blaak reportedly tested positive for Furosemide in 2008 but the process wasn’t followed correctly, so received no sanction
Dec 21st: AG Insurance-NXTG changes name to AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step for 2023

Daria Pikulik Women's Tour Down Under 2023 Stage 1
Daria Pikulik

January 2023

Jan 11th: Le-Col Wahoo is confirmed saved for 2023 with a new name of Lifeplus-Wahoo, whilst many riders have left the team can begin to make 2023 signings again
Jan 15th: The successful Valcar team is repurposed as the UAE Team ADQ development team
Jan 15th: The 2023 Women’s WorldTour season gets underway in Australia with Daria Pikulik winning the opening stage
Jan 25th: The first races to disappear from the 2023 calendar are the Vårgårda races to be held in Sweden
Jan 31st: Anna Kiesenhofer finally signs with a new team after the B&B Hotels affair, joins Israel-Premier Tech Roland
Jan 31st: CAMS-Basso changes name to DAS-Handling

Women's peloton on the Oude Kwaremont Photo Credit: Flanders Classics
Women’s peloton on the Oude Kwaremont
Photo Credit: Flanders Classics

February 2023

Feb 14th: RCS Sport, the organiser of the men’s Giro, are confirmed as organisers of the Giro Donne for 2024 and beyond in bid process that excludes other entries
Feb 23rd: Flanders Classics confirms there will be equal prize money for men and women at all of its 2023 races

Kopecky and Vollering at Strade Bianche

March 2023

Mar 7th: A frosty post-race reaction at the end of Strade Bianche between teammates Lotte Kopecky & Demi Vollering has fans speculating
Mar 8th: The GP Oetingen is postponed to later in the year after overnight snow makes the course too dangerous
Mar 9th: Ellen van Dijk confirms she is pregnant and will miss 2023 season
Mar 11th: The American race the Tour of the Gila confirms it will pay equal prize money
Mar 14th: A week after the race, Kristen Faulkner is disqualified from Strade Bianche podium for wearing a banned glucose monitor during the race
Mar 15th: Lotte Kopecky solos to victory at Nokere Koerse, just days after the death of her brother
Mar 16th: The Women’s Tour announces it is struggling to achieve the required budget to host the race and begins crowdfunding
Mar 20th: The Women’s Tour fund reaches over £10k
Mar 22nd: Audrey Cordon-Ragot leaves Zaaf
Mar 23rd: Zaaf confirmed as under investigation by the UCI for failing to pay riders
Mar 31st: The Women’s Tour is confirmed as cancelled for 2023 due to lack of sponsorship and budget

April 2023

Apr 2nd: Audrey Cordon-Ragot speaks out about her Zaaf experience
Apr 6th: Team manager Esra Tromp leaves Jumbo-Visma
Apr 7th: Audrey Cordon-Ragot signs for Human Powered Health and races at Paris Roubaix Femmes after receiving a UCI waiver
Apr 13th: UCI confirms all Zaaf riders are free to find new teams without waiting for the transfer window to open on June 1st
Apr 14th: Marielle Meijering leaves Zaaf with Lizzie Stannard, the latter confirming her new team 24 hours later
Apr 14th: 2023 Tour de France Femmes wildcards are announced, Parkhotel Valkenburg miss out
Apr 17th: Michaela Drummond leaves
Apr 18th: Heidi Franz and Maggie Coles-Lyster leave
Apr 20th: Lucie Jounier leaves Zaaf as Meijering is confirmed at Movistar
Apr 26th: Zaaf pulls out of the Vuelta and Ebtissam Zayed Ahmed leaves the team putting them under the minimum required of 8 riders
Apr 27th: Zaaf loses its Continental licence, Heidi Franz and Michaela Drummond sign for new teams
Apr 28th: Debora Silvestri leaves Zaaf

Demi Vollering after Stage 6 of the Vuelta
Demi Vollering after Stage 6 of the Vuelta

May 2023

May 1st: Drummond and Silvestri are prevented from racing the Vuelta by the Spanish Fed
May 2nd: The Giro Donne finally releases details of the start and finish towns for the 2023 event amidst criticism of late notice. The previously rumoured Rome Grande Partenza is not in the final route
May 6th: SD Worx/Demi Vollering not happy with Movistar and race organisation after being caught short at the Vuelta Femenina, ultimately costing them the race
May 24th: Parkhotel Valkenburg are to step back from title sponsorship from 2024 as the team will become VolkerWessels
May 25th: The full 2023 Giro Donne route is finally released, barely 4-5 weeks before the major stage race is set to begin on June 30th
May 27th: Elisa Balsamo is forced to miss months of the season with broken jaws after crashing into the back of her own team car during RideLondon
May 30th: Trek-Segafredo announces new deal with Lidl and changes name to Lidl-Trek
May 30th: EF Education-TIBCO-SVB announce they will lose both the TIBCO and SVB sponsorship at the end of 2023 season

Shari Bossuyt gives a press conference after doping positive
Shari Bossuyt gives a press conference after doping positive

June 2023

Jun 2nd: The UCI announces that Russian riders will be barred from races due to the war in Ukraine – the biggest affected name is Maria Novoloskaya of Lifeplus-Wahoo who is technically in the Russian Army
Jun 4th: Shari Bossuyt tests positive for a banned substance Letrozole in test at Tour de Normandie
Jun 5th: Shari Bossuyt publically states her innocence
Jun 6th: Shari Bossuyt completes hair analysis which comes back clean, however the small amount of Letrozole found is enough to prevent her from racing
Jun 9th: Men’s team EF Education-EasyPost announces it will create its own women’s team, led by Esra Tromp. It signals the end of the partnership with the EF-TIBCO-SVB run team
Jun 9th: The opening stage of the Tour des Pyrenees is condemned as an unsafe finishing course sees cars driving alongside riders on supposedly closed roads at the finish
Jun 10th: A rider strike sees the Tour des Pyrenees halted mid-stage as the race is deemed too unsafe with cars still on the course repeatedly
Jun 11th: The final stage of the Tour des Pyrenees is cancelled after the race organisation couldn’t/wouldn’t listen to riders about obvious safety concerns over the previous 2 days
Jun 13th: Team DSM becomes dsm-firmenich as the main DSM company completes a merger with Firmenich
Jun 13th: Massi Tactic releases its lead DS after a disappointing season so far
Jun 19th: Last minute hiccups with the Giro Donne about tv coverage lead to stand-off between outgoing race organiser and Italian Federation
Jun 19th: B&B Hotels return, this time with a plan to support Arkea from 2024 and look towards the WWT
Jun 23rd: Just a week before the race is due to start, an agreement is reached for the Italian Federation to pay RAI to provide live coverage
Jun 24th: Sweden sees its national championships moved off the road and onto the Tierp Arena airfield which hosted the even during Covid last minute due to ‘safety’
Jun 26th: Confirmation that the 2024 Tour de France Femmes will start in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Jun 26th: Reports come out that the Uzbek National Championships were faked and didn’t actually happen, amidst a points scoring culture for the 2024 Olympics the UCI steps in
Jun 28th: Kristen Faulkner is confirmed out for the foreseeable future due to a fractured knee and blood clot after being hit in training by a driver
Jun 30th: Giro Donne finally gets underway after drama-filled lead-up but has its first stage cancelled due to flooding

Danny Stam shortly before ASO throws him out of the Tour de France Femmes for dangerous driving
Danny Stam shortly before ASO throws him out of the Tour de France Femmes for dangerous driving

July 2023

Jul 1st: Annemiek van Vleuten takes the 100th win of her career, shortly before retirement
Jul 4th: Elisa Longo Borghini suffers a horrendous crash descending at the Giro Donne but is relatively and luckily not too hurt
Jul 9th: As the Giro Donne finishes, Marta Bastianelli retires from the pro peloton
Jul 12th: Originally set to retire, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio goes back on those plans for 2nd year running and signs renewal for 2024
Jul 14th: The UCI bans all trans women from racing in the women’s peloton – formerly riders like Natalie van Gogh had been allowed to race
Jul 17th: A deal is struck for Jayco-AlUla and Liv Racing TeqFind announce merger and creation of a development team for 2024. Liv Racing will cease to exist at end of the year.
Jul 22nd: The Cyclists Alliance releases its first information on their rider survey which says 40% of Continental riders don’t get paid anything
Jul 27th: SD Worx find themselves courting controversy again with dangerous driving in the convoy, getting the team manager thrown out of the Tour de France Femmes
Jul 28th: Servais Knaven and Lotta Henttala are also thrown out of the race the next day for allowing the rider to hold onto the team car to gain an advantage

Antonia Niedermaier wins the opening stage of the Tour de l'Avenir
Antonia Niedermaier wins the opening stage of the Tour de l’Avenir

August 2023

Aug 2nd: UCI announces that there will be a ProTeam division for women’s cycling from the 2025 season
Aug 3rd: After leaving Jumbo-Visma earlier in the season, Esra Tromp is confirmed as the manager for the new EF Education-Cannondale team
Aug 17th: Massi-Tactic says it will struggle to have enough budget to start Continental in 2024 as the postponed Spanish regs will begin to kick in
Aug 17th: Meanwhile Eneicat says it will be ok for 2024 Continental status after links to Burgos BH team
Aug 19th: After looking for sponsorship and seeing its riders join other teams, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB confirms it will fold at end of 2023 season
Aug 28th: The first Tour de l’Avenir gets underway, the second U23 race to be in the women’s calendar

Annemiek van Vleuten celebrates her final race
Annemiek van Vleuten celebrates her final race

September 2023

Sep 1st: Zoe Backstedt leaves EF-TIBCO-SVB and joins Canyon SRAM with immediate effect
Sep 10th: Annemiek van Vleuten’s storied career comes to an end at the Simac Ladies Tour
Sep 21st: Flanders Classics to acquire Amstel Gold Race and adds its to their list of races from 2025
Sep 24th: Confirmation there will be 3 Challenge Mallorca races in late January 2024, filling in a gap in the early calendar
Sep 27th: After losing their manager earlier in the season, Jumbo-Visma undergoes a complete shuffle of staff and removes all female DSes
Sep 28th: Dutch Police pull out of race security detail, affecting races held in the north of the country like Ronde van Drenthe in 2024
Sep 28th: Vittoria Bussi announces new hour record attempt in Mexico

Vittoria Bussi sets new women's hour record
Vittoria Bussi sets new women’s hour record

October 2023

Oct 1st: Marianne Vos confirms she will be out for the entire off-season after surgery
Oct 9th: Rumours about the 2024 Tour de France Femmes route point to it visiting the Jura Alps region
Oct 10th: After leaving Jumbo-Visma, Lieselot Decroix is confirmed as the new Performance Manager at FDJ-Suez
Oct 10th: Cherie Pridham becomes UAE Team ADQ’s Head of Sports
Oct 13th: Giro d’Italia Women is expected to unveil its first route under the organisation of RCS. It is delayed for ‘a few weeks’ at the last minute.
Oct 13th: Vittoria Bussi becomes the first woman to break the 50km barrier in the hour record
Oct 16th: 2024 Tour de France Femmes also linked to Alpe d’Huez summit finish after hotel is noted as fully booked for final weekend
Oct 17th: The 2023 WorldTour season ends at the Tour of Guangxi with zero live broadcast
Oct 17th: Daria Pikulik bookends the year as the first rider to win both the opening and closing stage of the Women’s WorldTour in a season

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