As the peloton assembles in Belgium’s Semois valley region, there’s a mix of late season winding down and excitement for the races that are left. The 2023 AG Tour de la Semois will still see a decent startlist, despite the Women’s WorldTour off in Switzerland at the Tour de Romandie. This year, the race runs to a similar 2-day course as last year’s edition. Hilly, rolling terrain mixed in with a chance to sprint. Expect to get small bunch sprints on both days but there is also scope for a rider to attack and go clear too, particularly on Stage 1.
Favourites: Linda Zanetti and Karlijn Swinkels
With Linda Zanetti’s recent exceptional performances and Karlijn Swinkels’ tactical acumen, these two racers are undeniably going to be amongst the top favourites. Zanetti, known for her knack for finishing off sprints, stands out as a formidable contender. Her most recent win came at the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes on a flat stage. On the other side, Swinkels’ consistent climbs and finishes make her one to watch keenly. She attacks plenty but also has a quick sprint finish as well to finish off those attacks.
International Options: Nadia Quagliotto, Yulia Biriukova, Femke Gerritse, and Megan Armitage
Nadia Quagliotto and Yulia Biriukova, flanked by the impressive Femke Gerritse and Megan Armitage, represent a true international force. Quagliotto took a strong 5th place at the Grisette Grand Prix de Wallonie this week, Yulia Biriukova was 10th in the same race and has been a solid bet for the top-10 through the entirety of the 2023 season. It’s a similar story for Femke Gerritse too. She already has her big move for 2024 sorted but will look to try and make her last races for Parkhotel Valkenburg a chance to secure a wildcard spot. Irish talent Megan Armitage will also change teams for 2024, but with her penchant for aggressive racing, is potentially going to be rewarded with a strong result this weekend.
Belgian Prospects: Lotte Claes and Mieke Docx
Belgium will have some good representation with Lotte Claes and Mieke Docx. Both riders have different strengths, with Claes a strong climber and Docx a strong finisher. Claes is racing here for a Belgian national team rather than her usual trade team Stade Rochelais. It’s a chance to impress late-season before moving to Arkea-B&B Hotels next season. For Docx, these two stages will be a good chance to finish the season on a high. 6th at A Travers les Hauts de France last week, there’s a chance to repeat that again this weekend.
Emerging Starlets: Josie Nelson, Anastasiya Kolesava, and Noemi Rüegg
There is plenty of young talent at this year’s AG Tour de la Semois and that includes last year’s final stage 2nd-place finisher (and 9th overall)Y in Josie Nelson. She’s had a tough season with big crashes at inopportune times. Anastasiya Kolesava is a rider in strong form after a belated start to the season. She was 3rd at the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes, which came straight after 3rd place and a stage win at the Giro Toscana stage race too. Kolesava should be up there again here. Noemi Rüegg also had a good race at the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes finishing 9th overall and 3 top-10 finishes along the way. We’ve seen her do well on rolling terrain before this year, finishing 8th in GC at the Women’s WorldTour level RideLondon Classique.
Experienced Competitors: Clara Koppenburg and Rachel Neylan
Koppenburg and Neylan have often been the unsung heroes in many a race. German cyclist Koppenburg has climbed well all year and also finished 6th in La Perigord Ladies recently too. Managing that sort of performance again will make her a threat, more likely to be the case on Stage 1. Rachel Neylan representing Australia, is nearing retirement at the end of the year and was 11th at Grisette Grand Prix de Wallonie this week. She will bring a mix of grit and experience, often proving crucial in tight situations.
Young Phenoms: Mijntje Geurts and Julia Kopecky
We learned today that Mijntje Geurts will be racing for Jumbo-Visma next season. The young Dutch rider has impressed this season, particularly on the climbs, She has made big teams take notice and a strong result here will make that signing look like an even better one for her new team. Julie Kopecky should be one of the faster finishers at the AG Tour de la Semois this year. She already took a win at Leiedal Koerse, a race with plenty of Flemish hills in it. 10th in GC at the Baloise Ladies Tour also showed she can do well on multiple days. The Czech seems to be strong on the Belgian calendar this year.