Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2024 Race Preview


Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2024 History

The Setmana Ciclista Valenciana has blossomed into an early-season staple for GC riders over the last few years. Initially a low-level 2.2 race for many years, it was getting a strong enough start list that saw it get plenty of attention. The likes of Anna van der Breggen and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig won the overall during those years. As live coverage through the hills became a little bit easier to function, it has subsequently raised through the ranks to a 2.1 and as of 2023, a 2.Pro race. That puts it just below the top Womens WorldTour level but allows it to cater for big names and local teams, especially as the number of Spanish Continental teams registered took a hit this season due to reform. 

The only repeat winner of the race has been Annemiek van Vleuten in 2021 and 2022. Given the chance to set some early season pace on climbs and summit finishes, Van Vleuten was able to ride away from her rivals and be comfortably the fastest rider uphill each time. It was a similar enough story for Anna van der Breggen the year before only she went very early on the key stage. The live coverage dropped in and out with the time gaps reportedly tough to corroborate until a final fixed camera on the run to the finish line confirmed the Dutch star had stomped the opposition.

Last year’s race saw a surprise GC win for Justine Ghekiere who had attacked on the final stage for her teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. Her break with Elise Uijen was able to hold on to the line with the Dutch rider taking the stage win and Ghekiere an unplanned 1 second win over her team leader. It had been a relatively strange edition with the climbing stage not quite tough enough so the GC battle was neutralised on that day. With no big gaps and just 11 seconds + bonuses separating Moolman-Pasio, Spratt and Van Vleuten from everyone else. 

This year’s route sees similarities to previous editions with the Oronet visited on the final stage a particularly common feature of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. There are no truly flat stages but a couple of late tasty small climbs give opportunities if someone wants to go on the attack. Stage 3 will be the GC stage and it features a summit finish to Xorret de Cati – 4km at 11% – a tough finish to the stage. The race has been up there before to finish a stage – back in 2019 when Clara Koppenburg finished almost a minute ahead of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Soraya Paladin to win the GC that year.

Previous Winners

Justine Ghekiere
Annemiek van Vleuten
Annemiek van Vleuten

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2024 Profile

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

TV Coverage

Thursday 15th February – Sunday 18th February 2024

Live on SportPublicTV on Youtube

Stage 1: 14:15-16:10
Stage 2: 13:15-15:15
Stage 3: 12:45-15:00
Stage 4: 11:30-13:30

All times in GMT

Twitter: #UAETourWomen

Startlist: FirstCycling

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2024 Contenders

Elisa Balsamo will get her 2024 season underway at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, just like in 2023. Last year she went 2 from 2 on the opening stages here and whilst comfortably the fastest sprinter on paper then, she still delivered. It took 7 months for another victory though and Balsamo will hope for a better run of it this season. Gaia Realini should be the team’s GC threat and ideally suited to Xorret de Cati but wasn’t quite in the form we thought she might be in the UAE Tour Women. She was 4th in GC there having been dropped by Lotte Kopecky, Neve Bradbury and Mavi Garcia. It’s still really tough to think of someone else being able to do 4km at 11% faster than her though. Teammate Amanda Spratt will be high on confidence after finishing 4th at the Tour Down Under but illness took her out of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. She should be fully recovered and raring to go in Spain. She was 3rd in GC here last season, including a near-stage win in 2nd and 6th on the final stage. The team’s wildcard is Shirin van Anrooij who has had a quiet cyclocross season this year and so might be ready to hit the road season hard from the word go. A strong ride here is probably with one eye on defending her Trofeo Alfredo Binda title in a month but she can do it all on every stage for the team.

Team dsm firmenich-PostNL is bringing a good line-up that features Juliette Labous for the first time in 2024. The French rider will be using this as an early test of where she is with her climbing and will certainly get an idea of that by the end of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. It’s never particularly been a happy hunting ground for her though with a best GC result of 10th in 2022 also being the only time she has a stage top-10 as well. She did race Xorret de Cati back in 2019 as well but was only 54th as a 21-year-old. Teammate Francesca Barale should be in the mix on the non-GC days after a strong set of results in Australia. She was 11th overall in the Tour Down Under but had 2 top-10s in the 3 stages as she showed off her fast finish. She also took 6th at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and is starting to show her mettle in tough one-day races. There should be a chance for more top-10 finishes here. I expect her to be on climbing support duties for Juliette Labous but Becky Storrie had a strong climb on Jebel Hafeet to finish 11th on the day and 14th overall. The Brit has shown some good early-season form and took what is her best result for the team in the UAE.

As new signings go, Olivia Baril has already shown herself to be a good one for Movistar. A pair of 4th places and a win at Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería have fully justified the contract extension she earned before even pinning a number on this year. She picked the right moment to attack the small front group to take the win in Almeria and what will be interesting here is if she can do a GC stint or will be stage hunting instead. The team has Arlenis Sierra for any sprints and they should suit her here coming after some late climbs on pretty much 3 of the 4 stages. The Cuban has already finished 2nd at Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi in 2024 and a similar result is possible here with Elisa Balsamo surely too strong in the actual sprint. As usual, the team’s wildcard is Floortje Mackaij who can both support Baril and Sierra or go on the attack instead. She was 6th here in last year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, which feels a tough ask to replicate with the Xorret de Cati included.

SD Worx comes here with just one of the 2023 ‘Big 4’ with Marlen Reusser called into duty. The Swiss rider showed that she can deliver her teammates on tough climbs, even if she does need to diesel her way up some of them. You’d think the GC nod is towards Niamh Fisher-Black as the Kiwi is the ideal sort for a long steep climb. She was a consistent top-10 GC finisher last year, it’s time for her to turn some of those into podiums now. Similar to Lidl-Trek with Van Anrooij, Mischa Bredewold in her European champion is a great wildcard to have and can be used to put pressure on the other teams with attacks. Elena Cecchini might be the team’s sprinter here but after what we saw in the UAE Tour Women, it’s a chance for other teams to win the flatter stages for sure.

Evita Muzic
Evita Muzic

Evita Muzic will get a chance to be the GC leader for FDJ-Suez at this year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. The French rider is often behind the likes of Cecile Uttrup Ludwig and Marta Cavalli so this will be an opportunity to try and earn more responsibilities going forward. She’s a good climber but her team role means we don’t always get to see it when it comes to the result sheet. There isn’t a pure sprinter on the team for FDJ Suez but Alessia Vigilia might get a shot. She’s on her first season for the team but last year she was a good one-day race finisher, winning the Giro Toscana and podiuming La Classique Morbihan. On this parcours the Italian might be able to deliver a result with late hills involved before a sprint. The team is also bringing UAE Tour Women final stage winner Amber Kraak who will have some launchpads here to try something similar but will surely be a watched rider now as the peloton got a reminder that once she’s ahead, she takes some catching.

Canyon SRAM isn’t coming here to sprint but has its sights firmly set on the GC instead. Kasia Niewiadoma will get her first taste of action in 2024 and will have some elite support in Antonia Niedermaier as well. For Kasia, she finally got the monkey off her back with a win in the gravel World Championships last season but is still looking for that elusive road win after nearly 5 years. The Pole will certainly be in the mix again here, especially if Realini brings her UAE Tour Women form. For Antonia Niedermaier, 2024 is a chance to finish races and really get those impressive results. The German was super close to some big race podiums but often got into trouble along the way. The Giro Rosa was a big example of that, winning a stage and then being a DNF the next day due to a crash whilst sitting in 2nd overall. She also ended up leaving the Thüringen Ladies Tour whilst in the top-10 on GC as well. I favour Kasia out of the two as the main leader, the steep slopes on Xorret de Cati should suit her that little bit more.

The 2019 winner Clara Koppenburg will get to return to the scene of that win at Xorret de Cati but will also have some very solid helpers in her team this year. Veronica Ewers can win in her own right and might end up pushing on if that’s the way things play out on the steep slopes. Kristen Faulkner is back from a go on the track as she tries to qualify for the Olympics via the team pursuit. There are also 2024 race winners in Noemi Rüegg (Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi) and Magdeleine Vallieres Mill (Trofeo Palma Feminato contend with. There is plenty to work with here for the team in pink.

After a successful spell in Australia, we get to see the European season start for Dominika Wlodarczyk at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She narrowly finished 2nd at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race after finishing a great 5th in the Tour Down Under in GC and on the Willunga Hill stage. She’s going to be a useful rival against Balsamo and this will be a sterner test of her finishing speed. On paper, Erica Magnaldi should be the team’s GC threat but she hasn’t quite seemed in her best form so far in 2024. The Italian hasn’t done badly but she was hovering inside and outside the top-20 in Mallorca and was 16th in the UAE Tour Women. Things will click for her eventually this year.

Cedrine Kerbaol
Cedrine Kerbaol

Cédrine Kerbaol is also a race winner already in 2024 with victory at the Vuelta CV Feminas where she was able to pull away from her break companions as the chase from the bunch looked imminent. She rode her luck a bit but made the right call on the day. We know she’s a strong climber as well but on steep slopes like the ones found here might not quite make the top-10 but it’s still a possibility. Teammate Marta Lach should get the nod for the sprints which come after tough stages. The Pole won the sprint from the bunch behind the lead tri at the Trofeo Palma Femina and should be able to do a similar job to the one Sierra does at Movistar.

Mavi Garcia is still looking in good form and seemed delighted with her 3rd place on Jebel Hafeet. It was her first result for the Liv AlUla Jayco team after an off-season switch/merger. It came off the back of 3rd and 6th in her home Mallorca races too. She’s never really looked like distancing rivals but will hit the front and ride her pace. It was enough to put Realini into hurt last weekend but as a result it’s also tough to see her winning her as someone else will have a kick on her.

After winning the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with a perfectly timed attack, Rosita Reijnhout returns to Europe as a WWT winner at just 19 years old. With big names riding here there will probably be fewer opportunities, especially as Marianne Vos and Anna Henderson will cover off the sprint stages and you think Riejanne Markus will have an eye on the GC as well. It’s Vos’ first race after a winter off, so she might be finding her feet here and presenting more opportunities than normal to Henderson instead. Maud Oudeman also had a good time of it in Australia and could be their wildcard option here.

Ane Santesteban came so close to a win in Mallorca but Olivia Baril was too strong in the end at the Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería, so the Basque rider had to settle for 2nd instead. She’s surprisingly never really had a particularly good result here, just 11th in GC in both 2020 & 2022. Team orders will be a reason for that and 2024 really should be the year that she breaks into the top-10 as the leader at Laboral Kutxa. Teammate Nadia Quagliotto is in some big early season form too, with finishes of 3rd, 4th and 6th across the Spanish part of the season so far. She won’t be thought of as a natural option up against say Balsamo but she seems to be well up for the points fight this year and has plenty to show for it already.

Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2024 Outsiders

Valentine Fortin
Valentine Fortin

Valentine Fortin had a good couple of sprints at the UAE Tour Women, finishing 5th and 6th there. She’s probably on course to do well here as well with the climbs making it a bit less of a pure sprinter race than in the UAE. With fewer big hitters here, there’s a chance for the French rider to even get on the stage podium as well. Teammate Nikola Noskova will be hunting down the GC in her first race for Cofidis. It’s hard to know exactly where she’ll be but the Czech rider was on the podium racing in Spain last year so there is a possibility for a strong result. A top-10 start to the year will be considered a very good result for her. You also can’t ignore Victoire Berteau but I think they will go more with Fortin for the stages. If Fortin is dropped, however, then French champion Berteau will be able to step up and sprint at the end of stages as well.

I’m not sure how confident to be about Human Powered Health’s chances here. Someone like Ruth Edwards can be a threat in the run-in to the finishes, especially if enough has been done to make it a reduced group. However there should always be someone else there with a better sprint at the moment. The American certainly came back to the peloton in style in Australia so can’t be ruled out either. Yulia Biriukova is someone who might be able to sneak a top-15 in GC if things go her way. The Ukrainian has finished 16th and 17th already in Spain this year and there’s not much difference there. 

The climb here screams out for someone like Petra Stiasny to give it a solid go. She missed out at the UAE Tour Women as she rode in her usual place near the back of the field, even with the Jebel Hafeet climb 1-2 kilometres from starting, and went down after a touch of wheels. She recovered to 17th but it could’ve and should’ve been more. She will get a chance to right the wrongs here but will always be suspect about whether she can stay in the bunch on the ‘easier’ stages.

Eneicat hopes will be through Adele Normand who finished 6th in Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería this season. She finished only a few seconds behind race winner Olivia Baril in that strong result. There isn’t a finish quite like that one here with no short sharp climb to the line but Stages 1 and 2 look difficult enough late for her to be up there. Teammate Irene Mendez was 14th in the same race and could be either useful support or a foil. We might also see Valentina Basilico sprinting for the team too. Her best result so far in 2024 is 17th at Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi. 

Top 3 Prediction

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