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Reviewing the 25 Women Riders With Breakout Potential in 2021

Chiara Consonni

The Established Names

Mikayla Harvey

It’s been a bit of a tough follow-up season for Harvey. Changing teams, with a new pecking order, has seen chances limited for the young Kiwi. There have been some good results, like 5th in GC at the Tour de Suisse and top-10s dotted around. However, with Kasia Niewiadoma taking the bulk of the leadership opportunities there wasn’t a repeat of the 5th at the Giro d’Italia. Canyon SRAM is ongoing an overhaul this season so 2022 could be better.

Sarah Gigante

2021 has been a rollercoaster for Gigante. After dominating the Festival of Cycling and retaining her national time trial title, she got to finally head for a full season in Europe. Initial results were encouraging, including 11th at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, where the peloton was sent the wrong way at the end. That came crashing down with a triple bone break at Fleche Wallonne – her clavicle, fibula and elbow. She recovered just in time to take part in the Olympics and finished 11th in the TT ahead of some big names. A mystery illness saw her season finish though. She’s been snapped up by Movistar for 2022.

Chiara Consonni

Chiara Consonni already had a Women’s WorldTour win from back in 2019, so was firmly on the radar already. She had to play second fiddle to Elisa Balsamo a fair amount in 2021 but still took 3 wins this season. With Balsamo moving teams in 2022 Consonni should finally get a chance to be a major sprinter in her own right. She’ll want to get the monkey off her back about another WorldTour win as quickly as possible next season.

Maria Novolodskaya

It’s been an interesting year for Novolodskaya, she changed teams away from Cogeas Mettler to A.R. Monex over the off-season. It started off alright with some solid results in Turkey, as usual, then…nothing major. Her Spring campaign did not have terrible results but also nothing that stands out either. Her Giro Donne was quiet compared to 2020’s race and her best road result of the year came late on with 8th in GC at the Giro Toscana. The main positive from the year was winning an Olympic bronze medal in the Madison.

Niamh Fisher-Black
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Niamh Fisher-Black

It’s tough to argue with a season where Fisher-Black won the Women’s WorldTour U23 title. She’s done well on such a stacked team as SD Worx to carve out a decent role for herself already. There were no stage wins but 3 white youth jerseys were won in major stage races. The one at the Giro Donne especially hints at what her potential future holds. With no Anna van der Breggen in 2022, that removes one obstacle. She should step up as the 3rd best climber on the team.

Ella Harris

Another Anzac rider who didn’t has had the best of luck with injuries. After breaking her leg last year, just as the season restarted, the start of 2021 saw Harris have an issue with her pelvis. The 2021 results were a mixed bag with a best finish of 3rd Overall at the Trophee des Grimpeuses. 10th on the crash carnage stage at the Simac Ladies Tour was her best major result. What the final results don’t show is just how often Harris made breakaways, one will eventually pay off!

Huge Hype But Still Waiting for a Big Result

Maaike Boogaard

Boogaard is carving out a role as one of the elite domestiques in the women’s peloton. She’s not targeted the TTs in the same way as previous years but is always seen working on the front of the bunch for her leaders Bastianelli and Reusser. That hasn’t stopped her still getting the odd good result, she was 7th on the Walsall stage of the Women’s Tour. She managed to join the stage winning move on the kermesse style stage. Her next best results were in sprints, with 11th and 12th at Ronde de Mouscron and Le Samyn.

Megan Jastrab

The Olympics took up much of the focus of 2021 for Jastrab. She earned a bronze medal in the team pursuit at Tokyo so didn’t come away empty handed. She started her first races for Team DSM after the Olympics but there’s nothing major to mention. Her role was often seen working to keep the peloton together and neutralise breaks for leader Lorena Wiebes. Hopefully we see her finally get a full road season in during 2022.

Charlotte Kool
Photo Credit: Bastien Gasson

Charlotte Kool

A definite success on this list, Kool has taken a pair of wins in 2021. She got better as the season went on and has been snapped up by Team DSM for 2022. She started with 5th place at the Healthy Ageing Tour before struggling for most of the rest of the spring. She returned in July by beating Elisa Balsamo in a sprint at the Baloise Ladies Tour. She was in the mix against Wiebes and Vos at the Simac Ladies Tour before being a casualty of the major crash there. She won the GP d’Isbergues and finished 2nd at both Plumelec and Drentse Acht late on in the year. The only thing now missing from the palmares is a Women’s WorldTour win.

Lonneke Uneken

Uneken was another success as she managed to find a successful role on the SD Worx team. She won on the VAMberg in the Healthy Ageing Tour back in March and was 4th Overall in that race too. More top-10s followed in the mid-part of the season before another victory at the Baloise Ladies Tour. Uneken also chalked up her first Women’s WorldTour victory at the Simac Ladies Tour. She took the victory against a reduced bunch after a large crash. She should be able to take more wins in 2022 and maybe a GC victory in the right race layout.

Karlijn Swinkels

With Marianne Vos on the team, it’s understandable that Swinkels wouldn’t be able to get chances at every race. We saw some of her sprints pay off but her best result of the season was 4th Overall at Festival Elsy Jacobs. That race allowed her to use her strong time trialling ability with strong results on the other stages to get a high place in GC. The emergence of Anna Henderson on the same team possibly reduced some of her opportunities this season but she has been another strong domestique when called upon.

Anna Henderson
Photo Credit: Cor Vos

Anna Henderson

After a quiet season on Sunweb, those who’ve seen Anna Henderson emerge from the British scene got to see her make an impact in the women’s peloton. She took 4 wins this season, including a GC victory at Kreiz Breizh Elites and the national TT championship. She was a regular finisher in the top-10 of races throughout the year and began to be seen as an alternative to Vos when she didn’t race. The presence of Vos meant that Henderson didn’t get many major results in the WorldTour but she finished with 3rd on the last day of the Ceratizit Challenge. A first Women’s WorldTour win surely can’t be far away.

Aigul Gareeva

It’s been a strange year for Aigul Gareeva. She had a series of strong results in 2020 but hasn’t pushed on in 2021. Her best results were 4th in both the Russian road race and time trial but there were no other top-10s all year. She hasn’t raced since June and isn’t on the confirmed 2022 roster for Cogeas Mettler. That leaves her status up in the air somewhat.

Anna Shackley

She’s somewhat down the pecking order so found herself helping out the stars on the SD Worx team. She did take a win though, at the U23 national TT champs, and was an excellent 5th in the road race too. It was against the clock where Shackley had her best result in the Women’s WorldTour, finishing 9th in the Women’s Tour TT in Atherstone. It’d be great to see her given some more opportunities in non-WWT races next season and see what she can do.

Camilla Alessio

I hyped Alessio has a potential future GC candidate after her performance at last year’s Tour de l’Ardeche. She was strangely quiet during this year’s Giro Donne but peaked with 5th at the Italian national road race. She was also 9th at the U23 European Championships. I think now that she’s probably more like a Soraya Paladin type rider who could do really well in races like Trofeo Alfredo Binda if given the chance.

The Cyclocrossers

Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado

Alvarado had done well on the road in 2020, so with the Plantur Pura team having more of a road calendar this year, it made sense she might do well again. As it was, she did 3 high-profile road races before switching to riding the mountain bike. There’s still potential there but it depends where her goals lie.

Inge van der Heijden

It’s a similar story for Inge van der Heijden really. She had a strong cyclocross season but didn’t ride huge amounts on the road in 2021. Her best result was 23rd in GC at the Baloise Ladies Tour. She’s already got a podium in the new cyclocross season so she’s in good form. It would appear that she had no major goals on the road in 2021 – maybe she will in 2022.

Kata Blanka Vas

Vas has been really ramping up the hyper in 2021. She’d been taking wins at lower-level cyclocross races in the off-season and earned herself a mid-season switch to the powerhouse of SD Worx. She just missed out on a medal on the mountain bike at the Olympics. She achieved the same result at the road World Championships in Flanders too. She’s just taken her first World Cup victory in cyclocross and the hype train is firmly underway. She’s broken out but she will be in a higher category here heading into the 2022 season. The first WorldTour win is only a matter of time.

The Riskier Selections for 2021

Shari Bossuyt

The 2021 season started slowly but with 4th place at the national champs, the second half of the season opened up for Bossuyt. A consistent week saw her finish 7th Overall at the Lotto Belgium Tour. She followed it up with 2nd Overall at the U23 Watersley Womens Challenge. Strong time trials in both performances really helped her overall standings. Canyon SRAM have seen the potential and signed her for 2 years starting from 2022.

Cedrine Kerbaol

In her first year at UCI level, the 20-year-old has really shown off her talent against the clock. She won the French U23 TT title and was 3rd in the full national championship. Right at the end of the season, Kerbaol showed that she can do well in road races as well. She scored a 4th place at the Grote Prijs Beerens, getting herself into the lead break. She’s moving up a level to the brand new Cofidis for 2022.

Illi Gardner
Illi Gardner

Illi Gardner

There is obvious climbing talent with Illi Gardner, she did set a new Everesting record afterall, but she did no races outside of the UK in 2021. She took 4 victories in domestic UK racing but it’s beginning to reach a key moment for her now. COVID is largely to blame for reduced opportunities but she needs to start racing against the top-levels of the women’s peloton so we can see more of what she can do.

Amber van der Hulst

Another young sprint talent, she’s been snapped up by WWT team Liv Racing for 2022 and 2023. She’d done well in a couple of races at the end of 2020 but I classed her as a risky choice because they were the only results achieved so far. She took top-10s from the off this season, particularly at the .1 and .2 level races. A first win is still yet to be achieved and there’s a noticeable drop-off in results at WWT level. She took 5th on the final stage of the Women’s Tour at the end of the season and she’ll get more chances in 2022.

Catalina Soto Campos

With Charlotte Kool breaking out, plenty of other riders on NXTG have to work to ensure Kool could get a strong result for the team. Soto Campos got her chances on tough stages at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, achieving a pair of top-10 results. There was also a memorable breakaway during the Olympics Road Race where she launched an attack to close the gap to the winning Kiesenhofer break.

Lieke Nooijen

Another rider on this list who got off to a slow start in 2021. She had a strong Baloise Ladies Tour though, finishing 7th Overall whilst supporting Mischa Bredwold. That result was helped by a pair of strong time trial results, if that continues she can become a useful small stage race rider. She was definitely a riskier choice for 2021 but she has another season at Parkhotel Valkenburg to progress in 2022.

Silke Smulders

Silke Smulders

With Lotto Soudal having no major riders this year after Lotte Kopecky changed teams, it opened the door for riders like Smulders. She didn’t race until June but did a solid job at the Giro Donne, finishing 29th and 5th in the youth classification. She was similarly consistent at the Simac Ladies Tour, finishing 12th Overall. She’s one to keep an eye on as a useful stage racer, although so far there aren’t any major individual stage results. That will be an area to look for improvement in 2022.