Women's Nokere Koerse History
The Women’s Nokere Koerse has a relatively short history compared to some of the other classics, just 3 editions have been held, with one postponed due to Covid as well. So far we’ve seen two big sprint finishes, both won by Lorena Wiebes and one slightly different finish with a break. That year Amy Pieters, Grace Brown and Lisa Klein all got clear with the sprint between Brown and Pieters falling in favour of the Dutch rider.
The race involves repeated ascents of the Nokereberg, on its own not the hardest climb in the world but an all-out sprint on it is tough enough! Riders descend into Nokere at a huge speed, hitting the cobbles and beginning the climb at potentially 30mph+. Normally quoted as 400 metres at 5.7%, it’s the timing of the climb that gives it the most impact. Finishing at its summit, the winner is always the rider with the most still in the legs. It’s obviously uphill but the gradient is such that most sprinters, at that speed, just put the power down and hang on.
Positioning is key for the final sprint, with it being tough to come through from the back. Arianna Fidanza had an emotional crash in last year’s race, squeezed between Chiara Consonni and Majo van ‘t Geloof and left on the ground with only 25-50 metres to go.
Women's Nokere Koerse 2023 Profile
Wednesday 15th March 2023
Live on Eurosport/GCN
Twitter: #DanilithNokereKoerse or #NokereKoerse or #DNK23 or #DNK2023
(race organisation likes to use a good few different ones – this link combines all of them)
Women's Nokere Koerse 2023 Contenders
Lorena Wiebes goes into this race as the obvious favourite. The way she finished off Ronde van Drenthe at the weekend is a sign of things to come no doubt. She’s won 2 of the 3 editions and top-10ed the other one. It’s just an easy call to make Wiebes the top favourite again. Lotte Kopecky should be down to race this one. The Belgian has finished 1st and notably 2nd, so far this season. Her Strade Bianche ride was impressive and clearly is another SD Worx rider in good form. She’s finished in 3 of the top 4 positions so far at Nokere Koerse, Lotte’s just missing the top-step finish. There’s a note about the recent death of Lotte’s brother, the team has stated she will race Nokere Koerse.
Another previous Nokere Koerse podium finisher is Marta Bastianelli. Winner of Le Samyn des Dames already this season, she had a tough day out at Ronde van Drenthe having to spend a load of energy closing gaps after the major crash. With that not a real indicator of form, we can expect the Italian to sprint well.
This sort of tough classics sprint always seems to suit Movistar’s Arlenis Sierra, yet she’s never contested the Danilith Nokere Koerse so far in her career. She’s got a trio of top-10s so far in 2023 and whilst I can’t see her realistically taking on Wiebes, she will have an outside shot at the podium.
Jayco-AlUla is a tough one to decide who has the best shout. Kristen Faulkner is the only one of this trio have raced Nokere Koerse before, finishing 31st in 2021. I see Faulkner as the ‘go long’ option, similar to what she did at Strade Bianche recently. It could work out in the same way it did for say Grace Brown in the 2021 edition of this race. Teammates Letizia Paternoster and Ruby Roseman-Gannon will decide between them for the final sprint on the Nokereberg though. Ruby Roseman-Gannon has been solid but maybe a little quiet since returning to race in Europe, so I’d err on the side of picking Paternoster. The Italian was 9th at Ronde van Drenthe as well.
Anna Henderson backed up a solid Omloop het Nieuwsblad (22th) with a great finish at Ronde van Drenthe. The Brit finished 10th in what was a decent large bunch sprint. Her only Nokere Koerse participation so far in her career was a DNF back in 2019.
Liv Racing TeqFind’s Rachele Barbieri got unlucky with a late crash at Ronde van Drenthe. Sliding out as the race headed to the finish at Hoogeveen. There was a realistic chance for the Italian to score a top 10 and some decent UCI points as the team finds itself sucked into that fight. If she stays upright, there is a chance again at this year’s Nokere Koerse.
I’m slightly torn as to which Trek Segafredo rider has the best shot here. Shirin van Anrooij is a great rider coming off a very strong cyclocross season, however, it is her first road race of the season. We’ve already seen what Puck Pieterse can do coming into road from cross but it does contain the potential to not quite be in full form yet. Alternatively, there is Ilaria Sanguineti who is a really powerful sprinter that might enjoy getting to race out the Nokereberg. The Italian was 16th at Ronde van Drenthe leading out Elisa Balsamo.
Uno-X had a great Ronde van Drenthe, probably one of the team’s best races since coming into existence. They took 2nd with Susanne Andersen and 5th with Maria Giulia Confalonieri. Both riders will also race Nokere Koerse too. That result was comfortably Andersen’s best result of the season, with no other high result so far this year. For Maria Giulia Confalonieri, it was her 4th top-10 which includes that 2nd place from Le Samyn des Dames behind Bastianelli. Both riders have a best finish in Nokere Koerse of 7th, so it’s quite hard to pick them apart.
The results books won’t show it but Arianna Fidanza should’ve had a high finish in the top-5 at least year’s Nokere Koerse but got squeezed in the sprint and crashed just metres from the line. This year we’ve seen great opportunities for the Italian and she has taken them. A win already plus top-10s in Omloop van het Hageland, Trofeo Oro in Euro and Ronde van Drenthe too. In the latter, she had to race despite having a gash in her leg just below her knee. She should be Ceratizit-WNT’s best option but there is also Mylene de Zoete. De Zoete is probably more of a backup here but has her own trio of top-10 finishes in 2023.
After an untimely puncture at Le Samyn des Dames, the Finn Lotta Henttala was back on it at Ronde van Drenthe. The AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step rider finished 6th, a return to good form after her pair of 2nd places back at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She looks back to her best and is going to be a contender in any sprint like this.
Another rider making up for lost time is St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 rider, Roxane Fournier. Able to race for herself again after a period on top teams working for others, she has delivered. Knocking around the top 10 in the early season, she has since finished 5th at Omloop van het Hageland and 10th at Le Samyn des Dames. I’m expecting her to be around the mid to lower reaches of the top 10 finishers.
It was a rare miss for Audrey Cordon-Ragot at Ronde van Drenthe, affected by the big crash. Before then though, she was 3rd at Omloop van het Hageland and 4th at Le Samyn des Dames as she belies expectations to be a strong quick finisher. You’d think that others would sprint faster here but with those results already in the books, you can’t rule out Cordon-Ragot finishing high up. She can also play the attacking card too and go much earlier.
Women's Nokere Koerse 2023 Outsiders
There’s quite a bit of hype for Sofie van Rooijen for this season but so far there’s only a 16th at Le Samyn des Dames to show for it. She was caught the wrong side of the crash at Ronde van Drenthe and it really feels like it’s only a matter of time until the 20-year-old gets a breakout result.
Nicole Steigenga had such a strong 2022 that it’s almost a quiet start to the 2023 season so far. Nokere Koerse gives a great opportunity for the Dutch rider to go on a flier knowing that the team has Henttala to contest the sprint. Steigenga had a reputation for making doomed attacks but managed to dial things up a bit better last year so that they also turned into results. You can’t her go free.
It’s been a bit of a wait to see Josie Nelson again. The Brit was in the front group and about to have a strong result at Omloop van het Hageland only to suffer a crash on a speed bump. Hopefully well rested and back to feeling her best, there’s always a chance that Nelson can navigate the twists and climbs to pull out a strong ride.
It was quite the turnaround 2 weeks ago for Mieke Docx. 82nd on Saturday at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and then a great 9th at Le Samyn des Dames the following Tuesday. The Belgian has been knocking on the door for a number of years and if she can repeat that sort of result here, there will be bigger teams looking at whether she’s available.