Tour of Flanders Women History
A Women’s Tour of Flanders goes back to 2004 when the race immediately joined the top-level Road World Cup. From there, it’s pretty much been a who’s who of women’s cycling on the winner’s list. World champions, grand tour winners and more, every name is heavily linked to women’s cycling with no surprises like say Jacky Durand on the men’s list. Names like Zulfia Zabirova, Nicole Cooke, In-Yoko Teutenberg, Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen all are mentioned. One of the interesting quirks is how few multiple winners that are. Until Annemiek van Vleuten’s second victory in 2021, only Judith Arndt and Mirjam Melchers had been on the top step more than once.
The race has seen the same changes as the men’s race over the years, with the classic route of the Muur/Bosberg finish now used by Omloop get Nieuwsblad. First came the finish in Meerbeke (next to Ninove) before transferring to the modern finish in Oudenaarde.
The changes saw the women’s race lose the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg climbs for some years. Between 2012 and 2017, the race stayed relatively close to Oudenaarde and didn’t visit Geraardsbergen. The race has never revisited the Bosberg in that time though. Only in 2020 has the Muur been removed as the pandemic necessitated shorter races for that Autumn period. This year’s race will see the usual collection of hills and cobbles, finishing up with the Oude Kwaremont and Paterbeg combo before a 10km ride back into Oudenaarde.
Tour of Flanders Women 2023 Profile
Tour of Flanders Women 2023 Contenders
SD Worx will look to retain their Tour of Flanders Women title that they earned last year through Lotte Kopecky. They had the numbers in the final last season to even re-engineer the front group. Everything we’ve seen this season suggests they’ll have strength in numbers late on again. With Kopecky climbing stronger than ever, the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg combo should affect her less. Teammate Demi Vollering will presumably try and break clear if she wants to win this monument of women’s cycling. Doing something similar to Marlen Reusser at Gent Wevelgem would be the way to go. Behind a break like that, there’s the twin sprint threat of Lotte Kopecky and Lorena Wiebes. If the front group is neutralised, then Lorena Wiebes really comes into play as once over the Paterberg there isn’t an obstacle for the Dutch rider. Honestly, it’s tough to see a non-SD Worx rider winning but that will be the challenge.
Movistar is bringing all of their threats, with Annemiek van Vleuten surely the leader even after a quiet 2023 season by her standards so far. She’s been away training again and it’ll be interesting to see if she’s in top form yet or saving it for the Ardennes. Teammate Liane Lippert supported her well at Strade Bianche on the way to 7th place herself, the only race she’s finished outside of the top-10 this season has been Omloop het Nieuwsblad. But her best result in this race is only 26th. Floortje Mackaij was 10th at Strade Bianche and continues to be a solid attacking threat mixed in with strong support. She’s never quite made the top-10 at the Women’s Tour of Flanders, finishing between 10th and 20th each year since 2018. If it does all come to a sprint, Arlenis Sierra will fancy her chances. 4th in last year’s race, she’s been in great form so far in 2023. 5th at Nokere Koerse and 4th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda were encouraging going into Gent Wevelgem but the crashes and conditions prevented a repeat there.
Canyon SRAM’s hopes appear to be pinned on Kasia Niewiadoma if history is anything to go by. The Pole is the only rider to have a top-10 finish at the Tour of Flanders Women, in fact, she has 5 of them. They tend to be in the lower reaches though as her relative lack of sprint always shows when we get to Oudenaarde. 6th in 2019 is her best. Teammates Elise Chabbey and Soraya Paladin should, in theory, be good wildcards as well. Chabbey was 5th at the UAE Tour but has been in a support role since. Like her compatriot Reusser, she can be a threat if given a gap.
Soraya Paladin did her usual strong result at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda with 5th but 12th in 2019 is by far her best result in this race. It’s also tough to ignore Maike van der Duin at the moment. 3rd in Gent Wevelgem and 7th at Classic Brugge-De Panne are rides to take note of. The Women’s Tour of Flanders is a bit of a different beast though but another strong result could once again be on the cards.
FDJ-Suez can call upon their usual crop of talent. Cecile Uttrup Ludwig has 3 top-10 finishes in the last 4 editions, including 3rd back in 2019. She was also 3rd in this year’s Strade Bianche for good measure. She hasn’t raced tonnes this year and it’s hard to pin down her form compared to others but she’ll be in the hunt for sure.
Teammate Grace Brown took her own Tour of Flanders Women podium back in 2021 as her bunch chased Van Vleuten. She was 7th last year too but hasn’t finished in the top-10 of any race since winning the Tour Down Under back in January. Vittoria Guazzini doesn’t have a previous result to really speak of but has great form so far in 2023. 3rd in Le Samyn des Dames saw the Italian the first rider over the line behind the lead pair. Another 3rd place at Trofeo Alfredo Binda was also a strong finish. She can maybe hang on over the Paterberg and finish strongly with a kick into Oudenaarde.
Trek-Segafredo can call upon experience for this year’s Women’s Tour of Flanders. They’ve got 3 of the most experienced riders in
Amanda Spratt, Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini with 39 editions between them. Despite all that, and it’s a surprise, Lucinda Brand and Spratt only have a total of 1 top-10 finish between them. So the hopes will be on Elisa Longo Borghini, the 2015 Tour of Flanders Women winner. She’s usually a cert to be in the top 10 but comes into this year’s race after a spell of illness. Her form at Dwars door Vlaanderen will be key to keep an eye on. Despite being a star, this doesn’t appear to be an Elisa Balsamo race. A best finish of 15th in 2021 might be bettered after 2nd places at Classic Brugge-De Panne and Trofeo Alfredo Binda – both behind solo winners – but it’s possibly a tough ask. Shirin van Anrooij gets a late call-up after 9th at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. I can see her getting a similar result but it depends if she’s used up in chasing breaks.
Marta Bastianelli can be a bit hit-and-miss at the Women’s Tour of Flanders. The Italian is a former winner back in 2019, beating Van Vleuten and Uttrup Ludwig in a very small group sprint. However, that win and her 10th spot last season are her only top-10s since 2011. Bastianelli is in great form this season, her swansong, and she will want to bow out of this race with a good result. Her teammate Silvia Persico will also be looking to do well. 11th in last year’s race her 6th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda showed that she has a reasonable although not massive sprint at the end of hilly races. I can see her finishing on the podium if the end group is small enough.
Eyes will be drawn to Marianne Vos, the 2013 Tour of Flanders Women winner, but the Dutch rider has only raced Trofeo Alfredo Binda this season and whilst it initially looked good, she came to an abrupt near-stop near the end. She’s probably still finding her conditioning so a top-10 might be tough. Worth keeping an eye on how she does at Dwars Door Vlaanderen for a clearer view. Teammate Coryn Labecki is another former winner, back in 2017. Her best result since that victory though is only 34th and 2023 has been tough sledding after some initial promise and good results at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. So it may come back down to the duo of Anna Henderson and Karlijn Swinkels who have been more than holding down the fort. It’s tough to think of a recent race where Henderson hasn’t attacked and she now has 3 top-10 results in a row. Karlijn Swinkels was 4th at Gent Wevelgem, so whilst her best Flanders result is 104th, that’s surely an anomaly to be broken.
Team DSM’s Pfeiffer Georgi is panning out as the revelation of this year’s classics season. Most people knew what she could do but the Brit has been consistently delivering so far in 2023. 11th in Gent Wevelgem was heroic given how many mishaps there were and the amount of solo work done to catch back to the front of the race.
American Megan Jastrab isn’t far behind her either. She’s also delivering on her early promise with 4th at Brugge Classic-De Panne and 2nd at Gent Wevelgem. Juliette Labous is the biggest name but she’s probably got other goals in mind – the best result in 2023 so far is 12th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda speaks of a rider with a later form peak. Elise Uijen is a fun wildcard as well, 7th at Binda along with that great stage win at Setmana CV too. We might see her go on the attack again here.
Yara Kastelijn has been quietly notching up solid results so far in 2023. 8th in GC at Setmana CV was followed by 14th at Strade Bianche and 11th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. The Dutch rider was 25th in last year’s Tour of Flanders Women and currently feels right on the cusp of a really big result on the road. It may end up coming in the Ardennes but this race with its hills and slippery cobbles fits her profile nicely.
Uno-X has been in great form recently, plucking some results after a relatively quiet start to the season. Maria Giulia Confalonieri should come into this race as the leader but often finds Flanders quite tough, 16th in 2021 is her best result since finishing 11th in 2017. If there’s a big bunch near the end though she will have a good podium shout. I’m assuming the hills here will be too tough for Elinor Barker but after 7th at Gent Wevelgem, she will be worth a watch. Plus there’s Anouska Koster who’s on the early start list. I’m expecting her to drop off due to a recent injury when the final one is released. It’s a shame though because 6th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad was an indicator of good form.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was 4th here back in 2018 but since then hasn’t broken into the top 30. The South African is certainly riding a lot happier this season and that has transferred to results. 2nd in Setmana CV by 1 second to her teammate and a solid 12th at Strade Bianche too. Justine Ghekiere is the team’s wildcard after the Setmana CV GC win was backed up by 8th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. I think we can see her near the front quite late on.
Finally, there’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot who should be back racing this week after missing out on Gent-Wevelgem. The non-payment situation on her team has the potential to overshadow things but riders on Zaaf at this point might feel like they’re racing for new contracts. The French rider’s best result in 12 editions of the Women’s Tour of Flanders is 17th way way back in 2012. It’s hard to place too much stock into that history though after working mainly for others over that time. She will be a contender.
Tour of Flanders Women 2023 Outsiders
Shari Bossuyt comes into this race in strong form but the jury is still out if she can climb with the very best that will be here. A great week saw the Belgian finish 5th at Classic Brugge-De Panne and 10th at Gent Wevelgem are very encouraging though. It’s all a bit of a mixed bag for the team and hard to see any of them reaching the top step.
I might end up guilty of putting Zoe Backstedt in here too much but she is getting closer after 45th at Gent Wevelgem. This race is probably going to have too many hills and big hitters but we know there’s a big result coming nonetheless.
A stacked team should hopefully leave Loes Adegeest in an attacking role that we’ve seen pay off plenty this season. The FDJ rider has the potential to do a ‘Marlen Reusser’ and just ghost off the front and hold an effort all the way to the line. It’s a low percentage call but potentially possible.
It’s been tough to call Tamara Dronova this season. The Russian started off well but really seems to either not quite have the form of 2022 yet or is still suffering from her heavy crash at the UAE Tour Women. She may come good again here.
Supporting Audrey Cordon-Ragot will be Zaaf Cycling’s Mareille Meijering. The Dutch rider has been up there in many of the races this season doing that support role, so whilst she hovers around the top-10 at her best, there are also plenty of finishes around 25-30th place too. She can go deep into this race and if she’s the sole Zaaf rider left, can maybe get a result too.