The Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta was born in 2015 from the same idea that saw La Course become a part of the women’s calendar. With a big men’s grand tour taking place, there should be some event for the women’s peloton at the same time. Particularly in France where the women’s grand tour equivalents all ceased to exist. The first 3 editions of the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta took place on a similar course to the Champs Elysees. A flattish criterium race around the centre of a capital city. Inevitably these were won by sprinters.
2018 saw the first Madrid Challenge by La Vuelt edition to create some extra excitement. A team time trial took place before the now usual centre of Madrid stage. Sunweb won the team time trial and Ellen van Dijk did enough in the crit race to win the overall. The TTT concept saw 4 Sunweb riders finish in the top 5 in GC. 2019 saw a similar race but this time with an individual time trial. Lisa Brennauer won the TT and then took enough of the intermediate sprint bonus seconds to stay in the lead.
2020 sees a third stage added for the first time. A fairly flat stage with no massive issues will have a short sharp finish of 500 metres at 6.6%. The 15, 10 and 5 bonus seconds available for the top 3 finishers may well help decide the GC battle. The 9.3km TT for Stage 2 should introduce more time gaps and give us an idea as to who is a realistic contender. The final Stage 3 will be a sprint finish. Each even-numbered lap will have bonus seconds available though. 7 sprints with 5, 2 and 1 seconds will be available and then 15, 10 and 5 seconds available to the top-3 stage finishers. The bonus seconds in theory will off-set the advantage of TT riders and could very well change the race dynamic. There’s talk of wind on Stage 1 as well which could change things.
2019 – Lisa Brennauer
2018 – Ellen van Dijk
2017 – Jolien d’Hoore
2016 – Jolien d’Hoore
2015 – Shelley Olds
Stage 3 is the only stage that will be shown live disappointingly.
Live on Eurosport Player & GCN Race Pass
Sunday 8th November
10:00 – 12:30 (BST)
Women’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 Profiles
Women’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 Favourites
Lisa Brennauer won this race in 2019. She won the TT stage and managed the time bonuses in the sprint to ensure that she held onto her advantage. She can win again in 2020 with the same strategy but might find herself with more work to do as others will be stronger on the small uphill finish on Stage 1.
In normal times, Marta Bastianelli might’ve been the big big favourite for this race. She’s been suffering with Epstein-Barr over this summer and whilst she showed herself during Brabantse Pijl, she clearly wasn’t back to full fitness. Her teammate Eugenia Bujak was 5th in this race last season off the back of a strong time trial. She was 14th in the Worlds recently and nearly won a stage of the Giro Rosa too. She’s got a bit of a sprint and Stage 1 could well suit her abilities.
It’s going to be an interesting race for Annemiek van Vleuten. The final climb on Stage 1 probably isn’t tough enough for her to do any real damage, so she’ll have to aim for those bonus seconds. She can then potentially blitz the TT and then manage efforts on the final day. She’ll probably be overpowered in the sprints though so will need some team assistance. Her teammate Sarah Roy is a good alternative shout for Stages 1 and 3. She’s in a great vein of form after 4th in Gent Wevelge, 5th in De Ronde and 4th at Driedaagse De Panne.
It’s a toss up between Barbara Guarischi and Alicia Gonzalez for Movistar as both will be looking to do well in the sprint finishes. Gonzalez is probably a better bet for Stage 1 after finishing 9th in the lumpy GP de Plouay. Guarischi will enjoy the flat Stage 3 finish more. Alicia Gonzalez was 7th in the Spanish national TT this season so could even be an outside GC bet.
The superteams come with stacked line-ups for the final race of the season. Sunweb have a myriad of options. Leah Kirchmann was 4th overall in 2018 after being part of the winning team time trial stage. She’s got a good enough sprint to maintain that position with the bonus seconds. The obvious candidate for Stage 3 though is Lorena Wiebes. She’s not had many opportunities for victories in 2020 but still had 3 of them. Most recently she won Driedaagse De Panne. Liane Lippert is enough of an all-rounder that anything is possible. She was 5th in the 2018 Madrid Challenge off the back of the team time trial. This year’s Stage 1 suits her the most out of her teammates. Lippert’s recent best result is 2nd in Brabantse Pijl.
Trek have their own super line-up with the 2018 winner Ellen van Dijk. She’ll be one of the favourites for the time trial stage and will have to carefully manage the other stages like she did in 2018 to ensure that she reaches the top step of the podium. There are only 2 other top-10 World’s TT finishers on the startlist, Brennauer and Kröger. So I’m expecting Van Dijk to get a healthy lead on Stage 2.
Audrey Cordon-Ragot is a useful back-up option as she should also have a solid result in the time trial. She was 3rd herself in 2018’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta. It’s likely that she’ll be working for others on the team on the other stages though. The newly crowned Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini is another strong contender. She should finish well on Stage 1 before gaining an advantage on many others in the TT. Her weakness will be Stage 3 where her lack of a sprint in flat races will be exposed.
Women’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta 2020 Outsiders
Canyon’s Alice Barnes is a solid potential contender for the overall. She’s got a sprint, as shown by her 6th place in Dreidaagse De Panne recently and continues to be the British National TT champ. She was able to finish strongly on a similar finish to Stage 1 in the Tour de l’Ardèche this season. There’s definitely a way you can see Barnes finishing in the top-10 overall.
Trek’s Letizia Paternoster is another who can potentially do it all. After a season spend winding up for the Olympics that didn’t happen, she only did her first race of the 2020 season in the last week. The short TT suits her track background and she can certainly sprint after finishing 2nd in the Stage 3 equivalent last season. There are question marks about how she’ll fare in Stage 1 after her lack of racing on the road in 2020.
Sunweb’s outsider is Juliette Labous who should perform strongly in the TT but will probably get press-ganged into helping out other teammates on the other stages. Stage 1’s finishing hill shouldn’t be a problem after she finished 8th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently. Her lack of a sprint will hinder her on Stage 3 though. Her chances really rest on a strong TT performance. Labous has been withdrawn as a precaution after coming in contact with someone testing positive with COVID
Hitec’s Mieke Kröger might find herself sneaking into the top-10 overall. The final climb on Stage 1 is short enough to not cause too many problems. Then Kröger will be able to do well on the flat TT and potentially be in the mix during the sprints on Stage 3. Question marks arise though as she’s not really contested a sprint finish in 2020 after some strong finishes in 2019. She’s certainly a contender for the Stage 2 win though.
Finally, Ceratizit-WNT’s Julie Leth is a bigger outsider. Her track background ensures a strong time trial and a reasonable sprint kick too. You can see how the 3-time Danish Omnium champion could be able to hoover up the intermediate bonuses on offer. She’s normally a classics specialist and could be pressed into service for Lisa Brennauer but she has a slim chance for herself.
Ellen van Dijk
Elisa Longo Borghini