Women's Ronde van Drenthe History
The Women’s Ronde van Drenthe is a rare men/women double-header race where the women’s race has the greater prestige to the men’s race. It’s also one of the longest running women’s races in the calendar with a whole host of major name winners since its introduction in 2007. No less than 5 world champions have won Ronde van Drenthe and it has borderline monument status when it comes to women’s cycling.
Marianne Vos is the most successful rider with 3 wins, all in a row between 2011-2013. The only other multiple winner is Lorena Wiebes in the last 2 editions. She is on the startlist again so has a chance to match the achievement of Vos. Other big-name winners include Lizzie Deignan, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Jolien d’Hoore.
The major obstacle in what is a flat race is the VAMberg. The climb is notorious for being made of rubbish and then topped over with some grass, roads and cobbled sections. Because it’s an artificial hill, it sticks out of the landscape and is particularly exposed. This year the race tackles it 3 times before heading to Hoogeveen. A change to the end of the race sees a loop of 25km added. This has the potential to reduce the chances of a break and increase the chances of a decent-sized bunch sprint. There is also plenty of wind around on Saturday from the NW, 13mph with gusts of 23mph.
Women's Ronde van Drenthe 2023 Profile
Saturday 11th March 2023
Live on Eurosport/GCN
Women's Ronde van Drenthe 2023 Contenders
Trek’s Elisa Balsamo was 2nd in last year’s Ronde van Drenthe and comes into this year’s race in some good form. She will have been pleased to take a pair of wins at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in mid-February and then was unlucky with a poorly timed mechanical in Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Led out by Ilaria Sanguineti, it feels like the former Valcar combination with give Balsamo her best shot against Wiebes since she was on the Italian team.
Team DSM loves this race, partly thanks to their wins with Lorena Wiebes. The 2021 edition was absolutely dominated by them, with 5 riders in the top 8. 6th that day was Pfeiffer Georgi who is in some great form at the moment. The Brit was 5th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and then 10th at Strade Bianche too.
It’s going to be quite hard to pick apart the UAE Team ADQ pair of Marta Bastianelli and Chiara Consonni. My instinct says that on a flat finish like this that it’s more of a Consonni race. But you can’t ignore the Le Samyn des Dames winner Marta Bastianelli, who also won Ronde van Drenthe in 2019. She’s also raced 4 times since 2016 and has a finish no lower than 5th. Consonni holds her own with 7th and 9th in the last 2 editions though. I guess they will decide between them on the day and whoever is the freshest and probably had to chase the least off the VAMberg will get the nod.
Fenix-Deceuninck’s Julie de Wilde was going to be a favourite of mine for the GP Oetingen this week, only for that race to be cancelled due to snowfall. The Belgian has already finished 7th at Omloop van het Hageland this season and will be eyeing up a first Women’s WorldTour win at some point this season. Against so many Tier 1 sprinters here, I think a top 10 is possible but a podium will be out of reach.
This could be a chance for Canyon SRAM’s Shari Bossuyt to get her best result of the season. 15th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, the Belgian missed out at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana after a crash on Stage 1 so will be champing at the bit on this expected sprint finish. Supported by Pole Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka, who is a fast finisher herself, there are options for Canyon SRAM at this year’s Ronde van Drenthe.
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB’s fastest finisher at the moment is Alison Jackson. The Canadian is in good form with a best 2023 result of 2nd at Clasica de Almeria and was 4th in Trofeo Oro in Euro last week. Jackson hasn’t always been able to race for herself at the Ronde van Drenthe but finished 11th in 2021’s race. She could sneak into the top-10 this year.
It’s the usual mixed collection of options from Jumbo-Visma. You can rule any of them out because they can attack and make a move stick but that’s tough to predict. Riejanne Markus is doing well at the moment with 9th at Strade Bianche and sprinting to 4th on the penultimate stage of the Setmana Cicilista Valenciana. It’s hard to see her mixing it with the sprinters here so surely she will go on the attack. It’s a return to the scene of her Dutch championship victory last year as well. Karlijn Swinkels was 3rd on the final day in Valenciana and has been on the attack plenty since including at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. It’s similar to Markus really, I’m more expecting to see an attack than a sprint from her. Then there’s Coryn Labecki who took a pair of top-10s in Valenciana herself but hasn’t had a race since that properly suits her. In theory, she’s the quickest finisher on the team and was 6th in the 2018 Ronde van Drenthe.
Human Powered Health continue their quest for UCI points and bring the combination of Daria Pikulik and Marjolein van ‘t Geloof to the Ronde van Drenthe. Pikulik is the outright faster finisher, although it’s starting to feel like a long time since her Tour Down Under win due to her track commitments in the meantime. Majo van ‘t Geloof is probably a better all-rounder and I’d be more confident in her getting over the VAMberg section near the front. She was 6th in Le Samyn des Dames just over a week ago so clearly is in good form too.
Another rider with track commitments is the Italian Rachele Barbieri who we’ve only seen at Omloop het Nieuwsblad so far in 2023. So with that in mind, it’s not really possible to gauge her form. She’s got 3 DNFs at the Ronde van Drenthe but they’re all from at least 5 years ago and she’s a much better road rider now. She’s a rider for whom the longer period after the VAMberg might give her a chance to contest the race at the finish.
Audrey Cordon-Ragot had a short break after Le Samyn des Dames, choosing to miss the eventually cancelled GP Oetingen. The French rider has had a great start to 2023, vindicating her move away from the major Trek Segafredo team so that she could race for herself some more. There have been podiums at the Women Cycling Sport Costa de Almeria and Omloop van het Hageland, plus a near miss with 4th at Le Samyn des Dames too. Maybe less of a threat against the pure sprinters here, the way she has raced this season means Audrey will be in the mix.
I was looking forward to seeing if Letizia Paternoster could repeat the 6th place she got at Le Samyn des Dames at GP Oetingen this week. The Italian has had a quiet few years, so that result, combined with a number of mechanicals and chases that never show on a results sheet, gave some hope that 2023 might recapture some earlier form. She’s another I expect to catch back onto the main group post-VAMberg, with the climb too far from the finish this year.
And speaking of Le Samyn des Dames, there’s the 2nd placed finisher from that race here in Maria Giulia Confalonieri. Signed by Uno-X to score a boatload of points in their quest to stay in the WWT, the Italian has got off to a good start. Against the purer sprinters here, she may struggle a little and her best result at Ronde van Drenthe is only 17th in 2019. I’d still be surprised to not see her not in the top-10.
Another rider I wanted to see at GP Oetingen was AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-step’s Lotta Henttala. The Finn had a great ride in the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, taking a pair of 2nd places behind a dominant Elisa Balsamo. Those results gave some hope that we will see more of her at the business end of races again. 16th is her best Ronde van Drenthe result from back in 2017.
Arianna Fidanza crashed out of Le Samyn des Dames, suffering a suspected broken nose. It was a shame because she’d been 4th at Omloop van het Hageland and won Women Cycling Pro Costa de Almeria for a strong start to the season. Thankfully, the Italian was able to put the crash behind her and finished 6th in Trofeo Oro in Euro last week. She’ll look to continue what is her strongest start to a season in her career here and could make the mid to lower parts of the top-10.
FDJ’s Vittoria Guazzini finished 3rd at Le Samyn des Dames and was visibly disappointed on the line, knowing that maybe there was a chance for a win if Bastianelli/Confalonieri hadn’t got away. She was also 6th on a stage at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and whilst she’s primarily a one-day racer with a fast finish she looks like FDJ-Suez’s fastest option here with no Clara Copponi.
Women's Ronde van Drenthe 2023 Outsiders
If someone is going to go long from the VAMberg, they’re going to see a bit of luck and some strong legs. FDJ-Suez’s Loes Adegeest certainly has the latter and we’ve already seen what a well-timed attack from the Dutch rider can do with her win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
Parkhotel Valkenburg come with the likes of Sofie van Rooijen and Lieke Nooijen to this year’s Ronde van Drenthe. Van Rooijen is set for a big season but so far only has a 16th at Le Samyn des Dames in 2023. She helped lead out Lieke Nooijen who finished 5th there and might finally be ready for that breakthrough season. Neither has a decent result at Ronde van Drenthe yet but both can and should improve on it this year.
I assume that Arianna Fidanza will be Ceratizit-WNT’s main sprinter but Mylene de Zoete has done well so far this year. 10th at Omloop van het Hageland came off the back of top-10s at the UAE Tour Women. If anything happens to Fidanza, then De Zoete will be able to step up in her place.
There hasn’t quite been a strong road result yet this year for Zoe Backstedt and I kinda thought that Omloop van het Hageland might suit her quite well. Instead, she was a victim of the rolling roads and dropped out of the lead group. Here, there’s just the VAMberg to worry about really and things could all come back together for those who do get dropped. It only feels like a matter of time before a big result this year, so why not at the Ronde van Drenthe.