Women's European Championships Road Race History
The Women’s European Championships road race has a very similar history to the time trial this week. Originally a race for U23s and Juniors, it was made available to Elite riders in 2016 and came with a jersey to be worn all year round. Anna van der Breggen was the first victor and Dutch dominance has followed ever since. Only in 2018 has a non-Dutch rider won the Women’s European Championships road race when Marta Bastianelli took the victory. For such a relatively new race, its prestige has been aided by only the very best riders winning the championship. We’ve seen Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, Ellen van Dijk, Lorena Wiebes and Amy Pieters also get to wear the European stars and blue stripes.
There have been a mixture of courses over the years, with last year’s race in Munich almost destined to come down to a sprint but the year before in Trentino was a hilly course that allowed Ellen van Dijk to attack and stay clear. The parcours this year is based around the VAMberg made famous by the Ronde van Drenthe race each year. The VAMberg gets its name from being a former landfill that has been covered and turned into the highest point in the local area – VAM itself stands for Vuil Afvoer Maatschappij, the name of the original waste disposal company on the site.
The race will finish on the Dak van Drenthe, the new climb build to act as a shield from the actual landfill area. It’s taller than the original VAMberg and should provide a short, punchy finish to the finish line.
UEC Road European Championships Road Race 2023 Profile
Women's European Championships Road Race 2023 Contenders
Probably the biggest favourite is going to be the World Champion Lotte Kopecky. The Belgian is still in imperious form and looks tough to beat. The finish being an uphill drag will also help things as in a flat sprint, it’s pretty certain she would’ve been beaten (on paper at least) by trade team teammate Lorena Wiebes. At this point of the season, we know what she can do, punchy climbs, fast finishes and even solo breaks if necessary.
The Danes will have the pairing of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Emma Norsgaard here. It’s been a fairly middling season for Uttrup Ludwig but she came good in Danish colours at the World Championships and then had a fun week at the Tour of Scandinavia with stage wins and near misses. A punchy finish here suits her but it’ll be interesting to see if she can keep pace with the power monsters of Kopecky/Wiebes heading to the Dak van Drenthe summit. We’ve seen Emma Norsgaard win in different ways this season, with her break at the Tour de France Femmes able to just about hold off a chasing peloton that was determined to sprint that day. Originally pigeon-holed as a sprinter, she’s turning away from that and becoming more of an all-round one-day racer instead. I’m expecting her to attack and allow Cille to be able to sit safely in the peloton for the finale.
The French team has a few options here with national champion Victoire Berteau, Clara Copponi and Juliette Labous. All 3 are in good form with some decent results in the last couple of weeks. Juliette Labous probably took the most high-profile result with 4th in GC and on the queen stage at the Tour de Romandie but it doesn’t directly transfer across to this parcours. Maybe her 5th place at the Classic Lorient Agglomération is a better indicator as the climbs there were a little punchier. I quite like Berteau on a finish like this and she was 3rd at the recent Grisette GP de Wallonie. That race featured a late uphill dig that’s kinda close to what the riders will experience here.
Clara Copponi is the more natural sprinting option but whilst we don’t know how the new uphill finish will play out there is potentially a chance for Copponi here even if she has got her best recent results on the flat. 8th way back at Gent Wevelgem, this year is an indicator that the repeated climbs might be ok for her.
The best hopes for Germany come from Liane Lippert who is certainly in some good form at the moment. 4th at the Tour of Scandinavia with a 2nd place along the way, Lippert also won the final day of the Tour de Romandie for her 2nd WWT win of the season (the other came in the Tour de France Femmes). Always a threat on a punchy finish like this she’s also got the knowledge that she beat Kopecky in a sprint at the TdFF this year.
Pfeiffer Georgi seems to love racing in the Netherlands and a recent 4th place at the Simac Ladies Tour helps show her recent good form. She’s got a few strings to her bow as well, so we might see her on the attack or setting up something for teammates too. Especially as Anna Henderson went one better at the Simac Ladies Tour and finished 3rd overall. The Jumbo-Visma rider has a strong sprint and took top-10s in plenty of spring classics this year. She’s maybe relatively untested on an uphill finish like this compared to the big favourites but a top-5 is possible.
Italy are stacked here. Sofia Bertizzolo is back in some big form, winning her first Women’s WorldTour race at the Tour de Romandie last week. That came off 4th at Grisette GP de Wallonie and 3rd Classic Lorient Agglomération too. I assume she will be working for team leader Elisa Balsamo but she might get a shout. Balsamo managed to beat Lorena Wiebes again in a flat-out sprint at the Simac Ladies Tour and we’ve seen her come close on some uphill rises like at the Vuelta a Burgos too. It’s a good sign that she’s back to full fitness after the big crash at RideLondon Classique that saw her not quite ready for the Tour de France Femmes.
I’d love to tip Elisa Longo Borghini too but I don’t think she’s back to full form after post-Tour de France Femmes surgery. Another good option is Silvia Persico, who we’ve seen win uphill sprints at say the Vuelta Femenina last year. 5th at Romandie and 2nd at the Grisette GP de Wallonie are encouraging signs too.
The Dutch will start as the absolute favourites, partly because they always win this race but also because of who they’re bringing. Lorena Wiebes has shown herself to be a weapon on the VAMberg, winning the last 3 editions of Ronde van Drenthe. We’ve seen her launch wattbombs on the slopes as well, attacking her way to the finish rather than clinging on for the final sprint. We know her climbing is always improved and this should be a useful test for her. Demi Vollering withdrew from the time trial but might also want this title. She’s currently in the Dutch national jersey (when not in the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey) and a European Champion jersey would supersede that one. I think by now we know she’s a good threat for an uphill finish too.
The incredible run by Christina Schweinberger rolls on. She’s again backed up her strong form with another bronze medal in the European Championships time trial. Her career-best form has seen her do everything but pick up a win. It’ll be tough here for a smaller Austrian team (in numbers) against the might of the larger nations but in her current situation, she will be another medal contender.
Marlen Reusser successfully retained her European time trial title this week, for the 3rd consecutive year now. The Swiss rider has been in good form on home roads at the Tour de Romandie too where her team tried to engineer her a victory but it didn’t quite happen. She still finished 3rd in GC there and can also look back on 4th at the World Championships road race too. I’m not fully sure if she’ll have the punch needed for the final climb but if she goes early, she will be tough to catch as always. The same goes for Elise Chabbey who went on the attack plenty in Romandie too. She flirted with the bottom area of the top-10 there and finished 11th overall. It’ll be similar cards to play with Reusser here but going all in and attacking is how they will achieve their best possible result.
Poland also has a couple of solid options with the in-form Kasia Niewiadoma given an ideal finish for her capabilities. Each time she’s finished on the podium this year she’s been beaten by SD Worx and the strength of their team. 2nd at the Tour de Romandie, she was the only rider able to climb with Demi Vollering with many big names dropped along the way. I can see his race and its finish being a major goal for Kasia in this part of the season and she’s a real contender. I really hope this is the race that breaks the 4-year winless streak. Teammate Marta Lach is also in really good form after winning at GP Fourmies and Grisette GP de Wallonie. She could be a solid contender in her own right but I think she’ll be shelving her own ambitions for Kasia.
Women's European Championships Road Race 2023 Outsiders
Karlijn Swinkels would be a contender on almost every other national team but the Netherlands. The Dutch rider has won the Simac Ladies Tour mountains jersey and then both stages and the overall at the AG Tour de la Semois. She can certainly sprint well but I think will be given a chance to attack for the Dutch and mark moves at the European Championship this year.
Man it was so close at the Tour de Romandie for a first Women’s WorldTour, or in fact any, victory in the career of Carina Schrempf. The Austrian made a daring late attack to gazump the sprinters and was only caught on the line with her arms off the bars. That experience should give her confidence to maybe try and pull off a similar move here.
Another Italian hope will be Silvia Zanardi. The BePink rider has shown that she can sprint and climb well, winning a stage at the Tour de l’Ardeche. She’s potentially better in a race with lots of climbing and a flat finish rather than this uphill drag mind.