Women's Challenge Mallorca History
2024 is the first year that there has been a Women’s Challenge Mallorca with a men’s race taking place since well into the 1990s. With many riders on training camps in Spain at this time of year, it makes sense to host the first European racing not too far away. Relatively warm whilst northern Europe sees freezing temperatures, it’s a chance to open up the legs and see how riders are faring after winter training. Don’t expect any of the riders you saw last week in the Tour Down Under to rush back for these races, especially as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race takes place the following weekend from the Challenge Mallorca. The Challenge Mallorca will see all 3 days covered live, expect to see the final hour of racing for each race but not much more.
The Challenge Mallorca is unique in the calendar in that it’s almost a stage race without being a stage race. Back-to-back race days will see a mixture of riders doing all 3 races and some just focus on those that suit them best. Teams can submit a long list for the 3 races and pick and choose their actual starting line-up from that list late on for each race. There is no cumulative time aspect but simply a squad approach to achieve the best results over the trio of races. The races are split into the Trofeo Felantix-Colonia de Sant Jordi, the Trofeo Palma Femina and the Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx. The opener is like to be a sprint but maybe a reduced one with a late-ish sting in the tail before descending to the line. The middle race (Trofeo Palma Femina) has plenty of late climbs and that should see the most action. The final day Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx race will boil down to a final charge up a climb to the finish, similar to the Willunga Hill stage of the Tour Down Under last week.
Which all makes writing a preview quite difficult! I will try and mention those riders who will do well and which races I think they suit best but there is also no guarantee that they actually make the start line.
Women's Challenge Mallorca 2024 Profiles
Women's Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi 2024 Profile
Trofeo Palma Femina 2024 Profile
Women's Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx 2024 Profile
Saturday 20th January to Monday 22nd January 2024
Live on Eurosport/Discovery+ across most of Europe
All times in GMT
Women's Challenge Mallorca 2024 Contenders
AG Insurance-Soudal is on a high in 2024 already after a stunning win from Sarah Gigante in Australia. They’ve set the tone Down Under and now the baton is passed to those who didn’t go to also deliver. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will be the team’s major leader and the final 2 races should really suit her. Traditionally exposed in a sprint for the line, the South African has turned that perception on its head in the last couple of years. She won’t fear coming to the finish in a small group. Teammate Justine Ghekiere is a useful wildcard in the same races, especially after her Setmana Ciclista Valenciana GC win last season. That day she went on the attack and saved Moolman-Pasio from working the group of favourites behind. Expect her to be used in a similar role. The wildcards for the team come in the form of Ilse Pluimers and Maud Rijnbeek who could get the nod in the opening Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi. Both are useful in one-day type sprints, with limited numbers of top-tier sprinters here both could put themselves in a position to get a top-10.
Liane Lippert seems absolutely perfect for the final 2 days. We’ve seen her in an attacking role whilst at Movistar and now with Annemiek van Vleuten she will be expected to step up and be the leader now. We know she can win in reduced group sprints and also punch her way up short sharp climbs. The German should do well. She’s got a pair of new teammates too for the climbs in Olivia Baril and Claire Steels. Baril has obviously impressed in training as she received a contract extension recently before even actually racing for Movistar. The Canadian has traditionally got her best results in Spain and will be a useful foil for Lippert. It’s similar for Claire Steels who won reVolta last season by just distancing her rivals on the major climb of the day. If Movistar is brave, they will roll the dice with one of these two to put pressure on other teams. When it comes to what looks like a sprint in the first race, Arlenis Sierra is the team’s best shout on the long list. There’s no Norgaard so there’s limited competition for that role and the Cuban should suit a hilly race that comes down to a quick finale.
There’s a solid mix of parts to use at UAE Team ADQ. Chiara Consonni is the obvious sprint option for the Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi but as a purer sprinter, there will be an opportunity to put pressure on her over the climb late on. If she makes it, the Italian should be the favourite for that race. Silvia Persico is targeting stages and one-day races this season rather than GC classifications. The Italian is confirmed for the latter 2 races here and could top-10 both quite happily. Karlijn Swinkels is a good attacking option who also has a decent kick of her own. Depending on who races the Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi, it might be Swinkels who is the Plan B option in the final. She’s a rider who could disappear up the road and not be caught again.
I quite like the Russian Alena Ivanchenko to do well in races this season and that could start here. The possible issue is that the climbs aren’t quite long enough for her to engage her TT strengths and that could expose her in the finish of these races too. The all-round option is probably Erica Magnaldi, who we might see do well in the uphill sprint on the final race at Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx as well as be a threat the day before.
EF-Cannondale will look to start their first season as a new team after killing off EF-TIBCO-SVB last season. They’ve got a Women’s WorldTour team-worthy squad with several big names but won’t be able to reach that level until 2026. American Veronica Ewers will definitely suit this sort of racing and the middle Trofeo Palma Femina is most like the parcours she does her best results on. She’s a rider with genuine win ambitions here. For the purest of climbers, there’s the German Clara Koppenburg too but I think she will largely end up helping Ewers unless the decision is made to give her a race for herself. She’d have to go solo to win one of these but top-10s are certainly possible. Irish rider Megan Armitage has made the move across from Arkea and was a bit of a star of the non-WWT calendar in 2023. Winner at Extremadura, she was also 4th at Chambery and 5th at Semois too. She can potentially top 10 every stage in the right form. You’d assume that the opening Women’s Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi will be the chance for Lotta Henttala. The Finn made a strong comeback last season in parts and will get an early chance.
Mavi Garcia will be here leading a Spanish national team. We’ll see one of those at almost all of the Spanish races this season as a way to give riders forced to go non-Continental level due to new minimum wage regulations that established teams couldn’t match. She’s the undoubted star of the Spain team here and will be looking for a win at both Trofeo Palma Femina and Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx. She should have a good chance and it’s a first chance for Liv AlUla Jayco to see how their new signing gets on, albeit not in their team colours yet.
Ceratizit WNT brings their solid group of one-day racers. Marta Lach had a great 2023 season, definitely moving up a level as she helped her team reach the Women’s WorldTour for the first time. The Pole is a useful sprinter in that reduced group one-day fashion and should be a contender on the opening day. The Tour de France Femmes white jersey winner Cedrine Kerbaol will look to replicate her 2023 form at the start of this season. The French rider took a whole host of top-10 results across lots of different race types and took the GC win at the Tour de Normandie Féminin thanks to a solo break. She could potentially match that on any of the races here. For a purer sprint option than Lach, the team also has Arianna Fidanza. I’d expect her to be in contention in the opener but might be more likely to drop back on the climb depending on where her form is at this point.
The renamed Roland team will have their stalwart in Tamara Dronova here. I kinda expect her to do all 3 races as she’s a solid option in all of them. We’ve seen her do well in a reduced bunch sprint and also climb well enough to be in contention on the hillier race here as well. The team needs a big season from the Russian at the start of a new 2-year Women’s WorldTour cycle as they will potentially be looking over their shoulders at teams like EF-Cannondale. New teammate Natalie Grinczer has joined from Stade Rochelais and Lifeplus-Wahoo after riding for both teams in 2023. The Brit is a solid climbing option, although maybe not quite on the same level as the departing Claire Steels. The team will hope that they can give her the platform to match her fellow countrywoman’s success in their colours.
A team that will be looking to make a big impression is the Basque team Laboral Kutxa. They have big ambitions to make the Women’s WorldTour in 2 years and have made a number of signings this off-season that add some weight to that ambition too. Led by Ane Santesteban they have secured a rider who was able to top-10 the Tour de France Femmes and will regularly pick up points for them. She will be a threat on the last day in particular but will also show up the day before. They also signed Cristina Tonetti and Laura Tomasi this off-season. The Italians bring different things to the table with Tonetti a great one-day racer and Tomasi more of a sprinter. Tonetti had a great since at Top Girls Fassa Bortolo last year that was unfortunately cut short a bit by some time to recover from the death of her father. Laura Tomasi is a very useful sprinter but found herself down the pecking order at UAE Team ADQ with Bastianelli and Consonni ahead of her in the running. She should be a strong option in the opening race in particular. One of the team’s better riders from 2023, Yurani Blanco Calbet will get a chance too and might end up getting a better result than Tomasi if her teammate is dropped before the finish.
Uno-X made a strong signing in Simone Boilard from St Michel-Mavic-Auber93. The Canadian has spent the previous 2 seasons looking strong in one-day races with just enough hills without going overboard. She should get the team’s best result at the Challenge Mallorca this year.
Sprinter Anniina Ahtosalo will be an option in the opener, especially in this field without many top-tier finishers. The Finn looked like she was getting closer and closer in 2023 and will get a chance here. Maria Giulia Confalonieri will also be a sprinting option but with more resistance than Ahtosalo for the climbs, is possibly more likely to contest it. The climbers should distance her in the middle race but there’s a slight chance for the final at Trofeo Binissalem-Andratx.
Arkea B&B Hotels’ hopes will be on their new signings Lotte Claes and Emilia Fahlin. It will be the first full-time season for Claes this year who has juggled a non-cycling job with her racing up until now. We’ve seen how that has allowed riders to make a big push and she might be up there when the climbing races hit. I’m hoping that Emilia Fahlin will get more opportunities again this season. She used to be a useful one-day race sprinter and we’ve seen the odd glimpse the last 2 years at FDJ-Suez but she often rode more in support. Now on Arkea, we might see the Swede racing more for herself.
Women's Challenge Mallorca 2024 Outsiders
Dutch rider Marjolein van’t Geloof had a bit of a quiet year on Human Powered Health last year after a successful 2022 on Le Col-Wahoo. Now on Hess Cycling, another team with big ambitions, she will be expected to step up and deliver some results. The opening race of the Challenge Mallorca should represent her best chance for a result.
This might be a season too early to start hyping Czech rider Eliska Kvasnickova but she has moved to French team Komugi-Grand Est for 2024. She took strong results in sprints at home races in the Tour Feminin and Gracia Orlova and marked her card as someone to watch going forward. Only 19 years old, this will be a step up for her.
22 years old and with some strong results in the early part of the 2023 Spanish season is Adele Normand. The Canadian is a sort of in-betweener climber who should do well in one-day races. She’s switched from Massic-Tactic who had to drop out of UCI Continental status to Eneicat-CM who managed to keep their Continental status. She’s a bit of a wildcard bit but there is potential there.