The Women’s Tour of Flanders is a tough race. Established in 2004, only a pair of riders have managed to win more than once – Mirjam Melchers & Judith Arndt. We’re currently on a streak of 11 different winners in 11 years. 8 of them are racing the 2020 Tour of Flanders so there’s a good shot that will end this year. There have been multiple ways to win Flanders over the years.
2019 saw a group of 3 sprint for the win, Van der Breggen won solo in 2018 and 17 riders contested the 2017 final. The years previous have been a repeat of all of those scenarios. Even the race route change to the modern finish in Oudenaarde hasn’t changed the racing a huge deal. It does reward riders who attack on the Oude Kwaremont first and then are hold something in reserve for the Paterberg. Riders who have looked strong suffer on the steep cobbles of the Paterberg and gaps appear. From there the riders get a short, sweeping descent to the main road, which takes them the 10km or so to the finish line.
The challenge for the teams is to get their riders near the front on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, not using up too many teammates on the climbs beforehand. The Muur van Geraardsbergen doesn’t feature this year but 2018 saw the Kruisberg play a key role in reducing the peloton to just a handful of riders. The weather looks good for Sunday with no rain forecast that day (or leading up to it), a relatively balmy 13 degrees and a tiny tailwind for the finishing stretch.
2019 – Marta Bastianelli
2018 – Anna van der Breggen
2017 – Coryn Rivera
2016 – Lizzie Deignan
2015 – Elisa Longo Borghini
Live on Eurosport Player & GCN Race Pass
Sunday 18th October
14:45 – 17:05 (BST)
Women’s Tour of Flanders 2020 Profile
Women’s Tour of Flanders 2020 Favourites
Annemiek van Vleuten is the normal go-to favourite. She’s not finished outside of the top 10 at the Tour of Flanders since 2009, having missed only one race in all that time in 2012. Surprisingly though, she’s only won once, in 2011. Because of the flat stretch to Oudenaarde, she’s going to have to try and distance rivals on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg first. Her teammate Grace Brown is in great form at the moment after winning Brabantse Pijl and podiuming Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She’s carving out a niche at Mitchelton-Scott as the classics leader once Van Vleuten departs next season.
The Boels-Dolmans team is as stacked as you’d expect it to be. The 2018 winner Anna van der Breggen will be refreshed from not racing for 2 weeks. She was in peak form at the end of September when she won the Worlds RR and TT, plus Flèche Wallonne. She was unlucky to puncture at the bottom of the Col de la Redoute in Liège-Bastogne-Liège though. Teammate Chantal van den Broek-Blaak finished 3rd here in both 2016 and 2017. At the start of the 2020 season she was in great classics form, winning Le Samyn and finishing 4th in Omloop het Nieuwsblad. She’s also said that she’s riding to win. Amy Pieters was 2nd in 2018, winning the sprint in the chasing group behind solo winner Van der Breggen. 2017 saw the biggest bunch sprint of 17 riders and Pieters would need the same to happen to win this year.
It feels like an age since Marianne Vos won the Tour of Flanders in 2013. Vos turned her form in winning 3 Giro Rosa stages to 4th in the Worlds and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She’s struggled here the last 2 years though with 35th and 22nd finishes. Vos is supported by Marianne Vos has pulled out with a non-Covid illness
Ashleigh Moolman was 4th in the 2018 Tour of Flanders. She’s only had 1 other top-10 finish here though so others feel like better options for the win.
Trek also have some strong strength in depth – they’ve got 3 different previous winners. 2016 winner Lizzie Deignan is the one in best form this season. She’s won Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently by attacking the climbs and going solo, she’ll no doubt try something similar again. 2014 winner Ellen van Dijk was 3rd herself at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, able to sit on before sprinting onto the podium. She was 5th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn earlier this season. Finally, 2015 winner Elisa Longo Borghini has a tonne of podiums in 2020 and won Stage 8 of the Giro Rosa. She finds herself outsprinted by almost anyone at the moment so will need to go clear to win again.
Ale BTC have the twin threat of last year’s winner Marta Bastianelli and Mavi Garcia. Bastianelli has been struggling with Epstein-Barr this season and 30th in Brabantse Pijl was an improvement. Normally Marta Bastianelli would be a big favourite but it’s not clear that she has the form at the moment. Mavi Garcia has turned into a surprise classics contender. The climber has had a great season and has done well in the Ardennes Classics before but 9th in Brabantse Pijl shows she might not find cobbles all that awful. Ale have pulled out due to Covid
Liane Lippert was only 65th in last year’s Tour of Flanders but has progressed massively in 2020. She now looks certain to win the Women’s Worldtour youth classification after holding off the threat of Mikayla Harvey. Lippert was 2nd in Brabantse Pijl after trying to hunt down Grace Brown. She’s supported by the 2017 winner Coryn Rivera who seems to have been supporting other riders’ ambitions more in 2020. If she’s in the lead group and a sprint decides the race, she becomes a contender – similar to Amy Pieters.
Canyon’s main hope will be Katarzyna Niewiadoma as usual. She had a relatively quiet Ardennes week, squeaking into the top 10 at Flèche Wallonne. She was 6th in last year’s race, her best Flanders finish. A podium would be a great result for her. Teammate Elena Cecchini has been 5th and 6th in the Tour of Flanders previously but only has a couple of results of note in 2020. She’s another who would prefer a small bunch sprint where she would be more of a contender.
Last year’s 3rd place finisher Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is back and we’ll hope for another amazing interview from her after the race. She’s won the Giro dell ‘Emilia in 2020 and claimed the mountains jersey in the Giro Rosa. On another uphill finish, she was 2nd at Flèche Wallonne recently. Her best hope is to drop as many people as possible on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg and be in an elite pair or trio at the finish. Flandrian hopes lie with Lotte Kopecky. She won a stage of the Giro Rosa, before becoming national champion, 4th at Brabantse Pijl and 2nd in Gent Wevelgem. Some of her Giro finishes showed that she can climb and she was 5th in the Tour of Flanders back in 2017. There would be something magical in the national Belgian jersey being first over the line at this race.
Another national champion with the correct colours but the wrong rotation is Lisa Brennauer. I’d almost written her off ahead of the recent races as she didn’t appear to be in great form. Instead she finished 4th in the Worlds TT, 9th in the road race and 3rd in Gent Wevelgem. She’s someone else who would appreciate a decent sized group getting to the finish and then sprinting for the win.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Demi Vollering is doing one of her last races for the team before moving to SD Worx in 2021. She was 3rd in Flèche Wallonne, striking out early on the Mur de Huy before being reeled in by Van der Breggen. 3rd at La Course was another great podium result this season and her 7th at Gent Wevelgem was another earned in a flat sprint. She’s someone who could end up on the podium but a win might be tough.
American Lauren Stephens continues to be in great form post-lockdown. She won the Tour de l’Ardèche and then showed well at Flèche Wallonne in finishing 15th, before 10th at Brabantse Pijl and 6th at Gent Wevelgem. She’s someone who could find herself in an elite group after the Paterberg and staying away to the finish.
A similar sort of rider is Paule Ka’s Lizzy Banks. There are question marks about her form though. Banks admitted that she didn’t have good legs at the World Championships. 3 weeks of non-racing may have given her the chance to recharge. Disappointingly, Paule Ka have closed with immediate effect on Friday 16th October 🙁
Women’s Tour of Flanders 2020 Outsiders
It’s a testament to the startlist of one of the season’s highlights that some of these names find themselves in the outsiders section. In many other races, they’d often be considered big favourites.
For instance, Jolien d’Hoore has just won Gent Wevelgem after being 2nd in the Belgian national champs. She’s not had a massive road season in 2020 as she was gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics before they were postponed. She’s been 2nd before in Flanders, but back in 2015. Since then it’s been very up and down at Flanders – despite being Flandrian. The results create just enough doubt compared to others on her strong team. Marta Cavalli is another who is a borderline favourite, especially after being 5th in Gent Wevelgem. She was 11th in last year’s Tour of Flanders and she could break into the top-10 this season. I think there’s others who might just have better climbing legs than her for this sort of course.
Sofia Bertizzolo was 4th here last season but seems to have taken a step backwards in 2020 on a bigger team and has mostly been riding in support of her team leaders Vos, Moolman and Paladin. It’d be great to see her get a similar result but it really depends on how others ride around her. Floortje Mackaij is another who it feels has been riding more for others this season. It started well with 3rd at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. However, with the classics season disappearing, she’s been quiet until recently. Even her 3rd at Brabantse Pijl recently was in support of Liane Lippert. Hopefully she gets an opportunity.
Hannah Barnes has come back into some form this season after a quiet 2019. She was a strong 6th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently and is yet another who’ll be wanting a big group to reach the finish together. There are other riders with better opportunities to win but Barnes could find herself in the Tour of Flanders top-10 for the first time.
It feels strange thinking of Arlenis Sierra as an outsider but she seems a step behind her usual form, despite her strong start to the season. She was 13th at Brabantse Pijl but has been finishing around 30th place in the other classics recently. Astana have pulled out because of Covid Despite her amazing 2020 season, Kiwi Mikayla Harvey is a wildcard for this sort of race. In theory she’d have no problem with the climbs and she was 7th at Flèche Wallonne a couple of weeks ago. She DNF-ed a lot of of the cobbled classics last season and whilst she’s a better rider now I’m not quite sure she’ll finish high up. There’s huge potential there though and I’d love to be proven wrong. Another casualty of the Paule Ka closure
Mitchelton-Scott’s Gracie Elvin was 2nd in the 2017 Tour of Flanders. That bigger group bunch sprint suiting her. Elvin is retiring at the end of the 2020 season so may want to go out with a bang. Hitec’s Vita Heine would also prefer a quieter race that ends in a sprint. She was 18th in last year’s race and was 14th in Brabantse Pijl recently. She’s more of a genuine outsider who may break into the top-10.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
Annemiek van Vleuten