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Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2023 Race Preview


Setmana Ciclista Valenciana History

The Setmana Ciclista Valenciana has turned into a proper early-season test for the GC stars of women’s cycling. The race has developed over the years too as more attention has been placed on it. Originally a 2.2 that Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig won in 2017, Hannah Barnes won the 2nd edition in 2018. From there it’s been climbers only on the top step of the podium. German pure climber Clara Koppenburg won in 2019 and then the stars of Anna van der Breggen in 2020 and then Annemiek van Vleuten in both 2021 & 2022 (now a 2.1 level race) have locked up the wins. For the first time, Setmana Ciclista Valenciana will be raced at the 2.Pro level race. The development in the level is a sign that the race is a favourite of the early season racing.

Last year’s race saw Elisa Balsamo win a sprint on a tough first stage – only those sprinters with some resistance were able to make it to the end. The 2nd stage looked like an easier one for the sprinters after a tough early climb but Ellen van Dijk took advantage of tired legs to make a late break for the finish line. The queen stage saw Van Vleuten put the hammer down against the trio of FDJ riders – Brown, Cavalli and former-winner Uttrup Ludwig. The Dutch star put at least 1 minute into her rivals in what really was a foretelling of the rest of the 2022 season. The final day was a more conventional sprint, even with a climb not too far from the end. Marta Bastianelli took the win over Italian rival Elisa Balsamo.

This year’s race sees what should be a nailed on sprint on Stages 1 & 2. There is nothing too strong on either stage to really split up the bunch. Stage 3 this year has plenty of climbing but someone like Van Vleuten is going to have to go long to reach the end ahead. The last 15km or so are downhill to the finish line and the last real test of the climbing legs is almost 30km away. Traditionally though, that hasn’t stopped the star riders from attacking at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. The final stage sees a late challenge around 15km from the line – it may be battled by the GC but sprinters with a climb will also stand a chance too.

Previous Winners

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2023 Stage Profiles

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

TV Coverage

Thursday 16th February – Sunday 19th February 2023

Live on SportPublic Youtube Channel

Coverage Start Times (GMT)
Thursday & Friday – 1:45pm
Saturday – 12:45pm
Sunday – 11:15am

Twitter: #SetmanaCiclista23

Startlist: FirstCycling

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2023 Contenders

Annemiek van Vleuten will go into this year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana as the obvious GC favourite. The Dutch rider has won here the last 2 years and uses it as a springboard for other races later on in the year. With Omloop het Nieuwsblad coming up, this will help her taper for those Spring Classic goals. With no summit finish, it’s maybe a little bit tougher than last year’s course to secure the GC win but Stage 3 looks set up nicely for a long attack on the mid-stage climb and then drop anyone who’s still around on the second climb. When it comes to the sprints, we should be looking at Arlenis Sierra and Floortje Mackaij is going to be a useful card to have as well. Between them, they made a bit of a mess of the chase Clasica de Almeria last weekend but Mackaij still finished 3rd and Sierra 4th.

The last time we saw Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, the South African was ripping up legs at the Tour de Romandie. What was impressive there was not only did she finally win her first-ever Women’s WorldTour race but she also went on to win the GC as well. We saw the very rare sight in 2022 of Annemiek van Vleuten unable to hold onto a rider’s wheel and even Elisa Longo Borghini couldn’t hold on. She’s moved teams to AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step from SD Worx for 2023 and so should get more leadership chances again. Her goals are later in the year but this early hit-out will be a nice test of her current form.

Team DSM’s Juliette Labous will be racing for the first time in 2023 at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Last year saw the making of the French rider, with her first WWT GC victory at the Vuelta a Burgos and a stage win at the Giro Donne as well. She was 10th here in GC last season but on paper should be a strong enough to do better than that. The lack of a summit finish will help her be closer I think. The team also has Megan Jastrab for the sprints. With Lorena Wiebes gone and Charlotte Kool doing a good job already as the lead sprinter, Jastrab will get some chances this year. She wasn’t far away from a win last year, even at the WWT level. Setmana Ciclista Valenciana could be her time. 

Mavi Garcia will also get her season off to a start at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and like Moolman-Pasio, it will be on a new team. Slightly pushed out of UAE Team ADQ by all of the incoming Valcar riders, Garcia has found a new home at Liv Racing Xstra where the Spanish rider will be the undisputed team GC leader. These aren’t home roads for the Mallorcan but will certainly suit her. Stage 4 is quite similar to the Vuelta a Burgos stage she won last year but there will probably be too much riding on GC at that point for her to let go by the peloton.

Trek Segafredo’s Gaia Realini properly impressed at the UAE Tour Women this weekend, finishing 2nd on the queen stage. At the moment, she looks like the strongest climber on the start list for the team and after impressing in the Middle East looks set to continue at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana too. We have already seen Realini climb super well at the Giro Donne the last two seasons but her performance in the UAE showed that she is ready to move onto the next level. Amanda Spratt is also here and after she lit up the racing in Australia, managing everything but a win, there’s a chance she’s the best shout for GC here as well. Trek will also have Elisa Balsamo here to sprint. A winner of a stage in last year’s race, Balsamo will suit the first two stages certainly and might be able to contest Stage 4 as well.

Claire Steels UAE Tour Women 2023
Claire Steels

FDJ-SUEZ will bring Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, last year’s 2nd place GC finisher to contend once again. If anything, this punchier non-summit finish style race will suit her a little bit more, although it will still be tough to go with Van Vleuten. She’s go strong support though in Evita Muzic and Vittoria Guazzini, both of whom could launch strong attacks themselves, particularly on Stage 4. None of them have raced on the road so far in 2023, so it will be a fresh test of the legs and current form. 

Clara Koppenburg was a strong 5th at the Vuelta CV Feminas in her first race back from a broken hip at last year’s Giro Donne. That bodes well for the German, who clearly has some good form going up against the best of the Women’s WorldTour at this year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. The issue will always be about not losing time on the flatter Stages 1 and 2 but the climbing tests will suit her perfectly. Stage wins will be tough though with descents and flat finishes. 

Claire Steels of Israel-Premier Tech Roland is having a great start to the 2023 season. Already good in Australia, finishing just outside of the top 10 at both the Women’s Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Steels got a similar result with 11th at the UAE Tour Women. It might’ve been different if not for an unfortunate bike change at the base of Jebel Hafeet on Stage 3 there, the comeback from that position made her one of the strongest climbers that day. Tamara Dronova also looks to have recovered from the crash that took her out of the UAE Tour Women early last week. We should see her mixing it in some of the small group sprints and also the climbs. There’s also the wildcard of Anna Kiesenhofer to watch out for in Israel-Premier Tech Roland colours for the first time. We saw what she can do in a solo break at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta last season.

UAE Team ADQ’s Erica Magnaldi is in good form after finishing 4th at Vuelta CV Feminas, with the serious climb of La Frontera involved. That’s hopefully a sign that she will be in the mix on Stage 3 here. Her teammate Sofia Bertizzolo is going to be a solid all round threat as well. Maybe her best chance for success is a reduced bunch sprint after the final climb on Stage 4.

Team Uno-X‘s new signing Anouska Koster started the year well with 8th at the Vuelta CV Feminas and has a chance to finish inside the top-10 in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana this year. She’s another for whom the more rolling course here will suit a bit better than a summit finish deciding stage. I can see her getting her best result on the punchy finish before the end of Stage 4.

In theory, this should be a Veronica Ewers type race but she’s had a pretty average start to the 2023 season, with a best finish of 58th in 2 races that should have suited her better. The American finished 2022 strongly so maybe it’s just a case of needing to race to find her form. In the meantime, we should expect to see Alison Jackson sprinting well on tough stages. She was 2nd at the Clasica de Almeria a few days ago.

There isn’t overwhelming amounts of sprinters here after the mainly went to the UAE Tour Women, so Shari Bossuyt of Canyon SRAM is one of the fastest finishers here on paper. She looked strong on the track at the European Championships as the broken collarbone she had during this off-season seems to not be affecting her. She’s a decent chance for a stage win here if Canyon SRAM can break their duck.

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2023 Outsiders

Sandra Alonso
Sandra Alonso

It’s a first real test for Ricarda Bauernfeind, as she was promoted from the Generation development team to the main team this off-season. The German was strong in Spain last year, finishing 3rd on the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol. Against a field of the absolute best climbers though, we’re not 100% sure where she fits in just yet.

Kim Cadzow‘s first race for Jumbo Visma is going to be an interesting one for the Kiwi climber. New to the team, she announced herself with 5th on Mont Ventoux last season whilst racing for much smaller Torelli team. Probably the purest climber on her team, she can be a threat that much of the peloton won’t have seen before. 

Sandra Alonso got the season off to a strong start with 5th at Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería but then had a quieter UAE Tour Women as others on Ceratizit WNT got the shout to sprint instead. Previously, we’ve seen Alonso do well on home roads, including winning a stage in 2021 on her way to 12th in GC. This year’s more rolling course might give her an outside shot at another strong GC finish but she really should be the team’s option in the sprints here.

Chilean Catalina Soto Campos is knocking on the door this season – 17th at Clasica de Almeria this weekend and 22nd at Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería before then. She has some resistance so the rolling nature of the stages here will suit her more than some others. She stands out in the Chilean national jersey and will have another chance to make the top-10 in a strong race.

It’s been a rollercoaster over the last couple of years for Lotta Henttala. Initially reported to be struggling with motivation, that evolved into what was reported as a retirement at the time but is now billed as maternity leave. Henttala joins the ranks of those like Lizzie Deignan and Marta Bastianelli aiming to make a successful comeback to the top of the women’s peloton in motherhood. Her level is going to be tough to assess for now but at her peak, Henttala was a Women’s WorldTour winning sprinter – taking wins at the Women’s Tour, Gent Wevelgem, the Giro Donne and Vårgårda WestSweden.

Top 3 Prediction