Wed 6 May 2020
The UCI yesterday released a revised 2020 Women’s WorldTour calendar, sparking some hope for a return to racing this year following the cancellation of all events since early March due to COVID-19.
Whilst the pattern of the pandemic remains largely unknown, especially for the months to come, nothing can be guaranteed. But, the calendar provides a framework for teams and riders to work towards.
The health and safety of staff and riders will remain Mitchelton-SCOTT’s number one priority but we’re hopeful that the released calendar can come to fruition.
Reflecting on yesterday’s news, we spoke to Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt, and women’s sport director Martin Vestby about some of the highlights and challenges the calendar presents.
A general overview:
The revised calendar sees WorldTour racing begin with Strade Bianche on August 1 and conclude with the Madrid Challenge from November 6-8.
The 38 days of racing include the women’s only Grand Tour, Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, four additional stage races and 13 one-day races.
“I’m happy to see all of the races there, all of the beautiful races I was hoping for. Especially Strade Bianche, Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne, the Giro Rosa and Boels Ladies Tour which is in my home country. I’m super excited that they are all on the list.
“I can’t wait to race any race, it doesn’t actually matter what kind of race it is at the moment.
“The most important thing is health first, but this is nice if the situation is possible with global health. There are some doubts and we are not super sure if it will all be organised in the end, but it’s good to have some goals and we can make a plan again to at least be fit at the 1st of August because I’m super excited to race Strade Bianche.”
“Having the calendar and seeing that there are races coming up is good for motivation and good for the mindset. It’s been such a period of uncertainty, which as an athlete is really hard to cope with as such goal-orientated people, so to see it and see that a lot of the biggest races are on that calendar is giving us some hope and something to look forward to.
“Certainly I look at races that I really love like Strade and the Ardennes, obviously the Giro and the world championships was something I was already targeting so it’s really pleasing to see all of those races still on the calendar but I think we will sit down as a team and see the options.”
The possibility of a half roster:
When the decision was made to pull both men’s and women’s squads from racing due to COVID-19, it was also suggested that riders make a decision on where they would find a period of isolation most comfortable.
Five of the 11 women’s riders travelled to Australia/New Zealand, with the other six remaining in Europe/UK.
Australia and New Zealand currently have international travel bans and whilst the hope is that this is lifted prior to the resumption of racing, Mitchelton-SCOTT is also prepared for the possibility that it may not.
If so, the team may need to select a reduced calendar with targeted racing to ensure the health of a small roster.
“It may be a challenge for us if we have riders that can’t return to Europe, but we hope that will work out over the next month or two.
“The challenge if they are not able to come back is that it means we have only one team to do all of the races we will start and we can’t race for three straight months with six riders.
“If this happens, we will prioritise the races that we can actually win and where we have good options to make some strong results. This is the best thing for the team, but also our lead riders as well.”
“One of the big challenges for us is that we only have half a team left in Europe. Half of our riders actually went back to Australia and New Zealand, so aside from the world health situation, we’re also going to have to wait to see if those riders who did go home will even be able to make it back to Europe.
“In the end, it could be a case that we will have to pick and choose races a little bit and not try to race everything.”
A women’s Roubaix:
One of the biggest standouts of the revised calendar was the introduction of a new race, Paris-Roubaix.
The men’s edition, one of the five monuments, is one of the most popular one-day races of the year and the inclusion of a women’s edition has been the topic of a hot debate for a number of years.
The 2020 Paris-Roubaix will be held on Sunday, 25 October as the final one-day race of the 2020 Women’s WorldTour season.
“The most surprising news is the Paris-Roubaix for women. I always said I will only quit when they will first organise a Paris-Roubaix for women and finally they will have… but I’m not going to quit yet!”
“I am shaking and aching just looking at Paris-Roubaix on the calendar, but I think it’s awesome.
“It’s the one race the women’s peloton has really been asking for. It’s such an iconic race and I think there’s no reason why we can’t go there and put on a really good show. It’s a huge step forward and really pleasing that the ASO have taken on that feedback.”
“I think it’s pretty cool they have put a women’s Paris-Roubaix in there. I think it’s something women’s cycling has asked for and for me it’s some positive news in what has been a crazy season so far.
“It fits well with the calendar and we can do another race together with the men which is nice. Now it’s time for the girls to prove the criticisms wrong and make a great race out of it.”
The Giro / World Championships pair:
Whilst the majority of the revised Women’s WorldTour season is well spread out and with obvious blocks in certain regions, one of the biggest pinch points sees the Giro Rosa back straight onto the UCI World Championships.
For those focused on the road race, it would allow a week for travel and recovery between, but for those with a time trial focus, the turnaround will be shorter.
“It will be a challenge. I look at the Giro and World Championships timing and I think it’s exciting but it’s also very close.
“It’s unchartered territory for me, I have never had that kind of lead-in to a world championships because I’ve normally gone to altitude or had a training block.
“There’s another week before the road race, and it’s very hard and hilly so maybe if the Giro course is what it usually is, which is quite tough, then it could be good preparation.”
“The difference this year coming into the Giro is that most people will come in really really fresh, with just a month of racing in their legs, and so they can handle a 10-day stage race a lot better than what they normally do.
“It depends on the course, the individual rider, and also how important the world time trial event is, but the road race is one week after the Giro so it’s still possible to do something with the Giro and the world championship combination.”