Tour of Scandinavia History
The Tour of Scandinavia was born out of the Ladies Tour of Norway that ran from 2014-2021, the idea was created to make the race a wider Scandinavian one. Initially called the Battle of the North, in the wake of the war in Ukraine it was renamed to the Tour of Scandinavia. It was supposed to include the racing in Vårgårda as well for its Swedish elements but eventually that organisation pulled out last year.
One stage was sorted in Sweden in the end but it’s hoped there would be more. It’s a similar story this season with a Swedish stage planned but unable to take place. There’s a wider issue with road racing in Sweden at the moment where even the national championships was forced onto an airfield at the last minute this year. So Sweden misses out, despite having strong riders like Fahlin, Borgstrom, Andersson, Rissveds and Eklund in the peloton at the moment. Denmark steps up this year, going from one stage to a pair of stages.
Last year’s race was dominated by Marianne Vos in the sprints, with the Dutch rider picking up for 4 victories. The GC came down to the climb up Norefjell rather than any of the other stages. Cecille Uttrup Ludwig was the favourite and wanted to win a race that included her native Denmark. She rode away on the climb and won the stage and GC comfortably as a result.
This year’s race should largely follow a similar theme but with a twist. There are easy sprint stages, rolling sprint stages, the climb to Norefjell and new for this season, a 16.4km time trial in Herning. Norefjell comes on the 2nd stage and will set the GC before the time trial coming on the penultimate stage.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
Tour of Scandinavia 2023 Profiles
Stage 1 Profile
Stage 2 Profile
Stage 3 Profile
Stage 4 Profile
Stage 5 Profile
Tour of Scandinavia 2023 Contenders
Probably the last serious chance for a race win is in the Tour of Scandinavia for Annemiek van Vleuten. She will race the Simac Ladies Tour after this but that will be more of a swansong farewell race. The TT and solid climb here really suit some GC ambitions. Teammate Liane Lippert will be feeling high after the Tour de France Femmes stage win this year. The German should have an eye on Stage 1 for an attack to the line on the final small climbs. Movistar has a couple of sprinting options in the form of another Tour de France Femmes stage winner Emma Norsgaard and the Cuban star Arlenis Sierra. Norsgaard is trying to position herself away from being an out-and-out sprinter and Sierra is a fairly similar style rider too. There might be enough in the stage for them to contest Stages 1 and 3 with Stage 5 probably too pure a sprint.
Team Jayco-AlUla’s star GC rider of the season, Ane Santesteban, has already confirmed that she will be moving to Laboral Kutxa for 2024. There’s another chance here to add to her GC top-10s this season and whilst the time trial won’t suit too much the finish on Norefjell should give her some time to play with. Alex Manly won a stage here last season for the team but this year’s sprint options will include Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Letizia Paternoster. Both tend to alternate a little bit as we’ve seen at the Giro Donne. One thing to note is the Covid positive that Ruby Roseman-Gannon had that effectively saw her unable to race at the World Championships a couple of weeks ago. She might also do alright in the time trial too if back to full strength.
Ricarda Bauernfeind should be a threat after a strong Tour de France Femmes that saw her take a stage win and finish 9th overall. She’s not the best but also not the worst against the clock and that should keep her in the top 10 at least here. Canyon SRAM will be looking for her to be a major threat on the climbs and maybe there’s another attack up her sleeve. It’ll be interesting to see how Elise Chabbey gets on here. Another rider who can be decent in a time trial, she was 7th in Glasgow and will be a great attacking option and no doubt in the hunt for the QoM jersey again. It feels like ages since Maike van der Duin was racing but she’s had a strong year on the road that’s been interrupted by her racing on the track with an eye on the Worlds and the Olympics next year. With Wiebes here, she probably won’t be winning a stage but will be well up there.
Emilia Fahlin nearly took a stage victory here last season, finishing just behind Marianne Vos in a sprint. It’s a recurring theme, back in 2018 when it was the Ladies Tour of Norway, Fahlin finished 2nd in GC behind…Marianne Vos. And twice more in stages that year too. Once again the Swedish national champion, she will be repping the colours on the closest thing to local roads this UCI season and is on the hunt for a 2024 contract. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig will be looking to retain the title she won last season. She was able to ride away on Norefjell and win last year’s Tour of Scandinavia. The time trial makes that a little bit harder this year but it’s possible for her to gain enough time on the climb to maybe think about the podium. 3rd at the World Championships will fill her with confidence. Grace Brown and Vittoria Guazzini both have a shot as well via the time trial. Presumably, they will be supporting Uttrup Ludwig and not have their own GC ambitions but they can do very well against the clock here.
The 2023 season started well for Kirsta Doebel-Hickok with 5th in GC at the Tour Down Under and 9th in the Cadel Evans Road Race too. Since then it’s been a little tough with crashes in particular. Whilst on the attack at Itzulia Women, the American crashed and suffered a broken collarbone. The extent of that crash and the relative lull in big WWT races has meant we’ve not seen her race since mid-May. If she’s back to her best then she’ll be one to watch on Norefjell.
Human Powered Health’s Daria Pikulik took an important win this week at Konvert Kortrijk Koerse. She comfortably outsprinting Julie de Wilde at the end of some hard racing. It was her 3rd win of the 2023 season and she’s been consistently in the top 10 in sprints since the last win in May.
The combination of Claire Steels and Tamara Dronova will be on the hunt for a good result here. We’ll see Dronova have a go in some sprints, particularly on the rolling terrain days. She had a reasonably consistent Tour de France Femmes without hitting proper highs. With over 50 race days in 2023, Claire Steels still pushes on and I think we can expect her to be in the low teens on GC here. She did a good TT at the Tour de Suisse back in June where she finished 7th but was off the pace on the final day after a tough Tour de France Femmes.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is going to be a surefire contender but the introduction of a TT probably prevents a real shot at the overall here. It would be great to see a repeat of last year’s end-of-year form where she was able to drop a dominant Annemiek van Vleuten at the Tour de Romandie. It’s certainly possible on Norefjell and the South African should be one of the best climbers here. What will also be curious to see is if she tries to make up any time on other stages before the TT. Teammate Maaike Boogaard is worth a mention after 3rd place at GP Oetingen this week. The team hasn’t brought a sprinter like Ally Wollaston here so there is plenty of scope to attack again. Ilse Pluimers should have a good ride in the time trial stage too.
There’s no Marianne Vos this year for Jumbo-Visma with the star racing on gravel this week. Amber Kraak should be a good GC threat though. The winner of La Perigord Ladies this year, Kraak has looked impressive in this sort of shorter GC race. 9th in the Tour de Suisse and 11th at Itzulia Women, the time trial here should give her a reasonable shout. The team also has Kim Cadzow, the New Zealander is an impressive pure climber and can be used to take pressure off Kraak on the climb. You also can’t rule out Carlijn Achtereekte to do well in the time trial. Top 10s against the clock in the Baloise Ladies Tour gives the former speed skater a chance.
The Elisa Balsamo comeback trail is firmly on. She finished 5th on a Tour de France Femmes stage but clearly wasn’t 100% yet back then. 29th in Glasgow on a tough course is encouraging but maybe at her best, she would be closer to the front again. I can see her being a threat on some of the purer sprint stages but probably unable to beat Wiebes again just yet. The team’s GC hopes will be via Amanda Spratt who was a solid 10th at the Tour de France Femmes after stepping in for Elisa Longo Borghini. She can certainly make the front group on the major climbing stage but might fall back in the GC a bit during the time trial.
UAE Team ADQ’s Alena Ivanchenko is going to be an interesting one here. We’ve seen her climb to 8th at Lagos de Covadonga in the Vuelta Femenina and we know that she is a strong time triallist. There’s an outside chance of a podium if everything goes particularly well with a top 10 a fairly solid shout. Her teammate Olivia Baril will also be one to watch after finishing 7th in the final day Tour de France Femmes time trial. The winner of GP Eibar can certainly climb well and is a strong attacking threat as well. Where Ivanchenko can diesel her way to the line, Baril might be able to take the fight on.
Lorena Wiebes is here for SD Worx, which should take care of the sprint stages in this year’s race. A full train is here for the best sprinter in the peloton, so it feels like a done deal we will see stage wins. GC attention will be on Niamh Fisher-Black. I see the New Zealander being a threat to the climbers but not so much at the time trial. She may take a stage win again like she did at the Tour de Suisse but GC hopes might see her near the bottom of the top 10 here.
Tour of Scandinavia 2023 Outsiders
It’s been just over a year since we last saw Sarah Gigante race, ironically enough it was at the 2022 Tour of Scandinavia. The Aussie has had plenty of injury woes in her last couple of seasons and whilst at her best she might be a contender on Norefjell, I think any hope for a strong result might come in the 16.4km time trial stage instead. It could be a nice way back to form for the 2-time Australian national time trial champion.
It’s always really difficult to pick just when Urska Zigart is going to light things up. A pure climb summit finish here should make her a possible contender if a group is allowed to go in front of the GC favourites. Consistency is often an issue and I can’t see a GC threat but Norefjell should give the Slovenian an opportunity to knock out a one-off pure climb.
Ella Wyllie is going to be a threat here as well. A solid 16th in GC at the Tour de France Femmes, she pushed the eventual white jersey winner to the very end. She plucked away to finish 11th on the Tourmalet, picking off riders who had earlier forged a gap. The time trial will be an issue for her as the Kiwi was only 29th on the Baloise Ladies Tour time trial stage.
Another rider who did well at the Tour de France Femmes that’s here is Yara Kastelijn. She took a famous stage victory there and nearly won the QoM jersey too. I don’t think we can expect much in the time trial and there are stronger natural climbers out there. So the best way for success will be through attacks and there’s just enough out there on the parcours to reward attempts.
Anouska Koster should be a good all-round threat here. 21st in the Tour de France Femmes was solid enough to maybe allow her to make the top 10 in GC here. Her climbing isn’t as strong as the more obvious GC names here but Norefjell is rarely steep and often stays together until quite late on. We might also see her on the attack as Uno-X look to get attention in their home race, the Tour of Scandinavia.