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Women's Tour of Flanders Race History
The first Women’s Tour of Flanders took place in 2004. The route followed the last 55km of the men’s race with a bit before it to take the distance up to 94km. The finish parcours from that time is now used for Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Riders climb Kapelmuur before riding the tree-lined Bosberg. Zulfiya Zabirova won the first race with an attack on Kapelmuur itself.
The second edition saw a mishap in the final kilometres as a chasing group rode the wrong way. They ended up crossing the finish line from the opposite direction to the race and 20 riders were disqualified, including some big names. Mirjam Melchers won the race in a head to head sprint with Susanne Ljungskog. Melcher retained the title in 2006.
The Women’s Tour of Flanders gained more distance each year. When Nicole Cooke won in 2007, it was up to 122km in length. 2009 saw the biggest bunch sprint yet with 15 riders contesting the win in the final kilometres. The biggest change to the race took place in 2012 as the finish moved to Oudenaarde. This changed the finish so riders went over the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg in the final before a flat 10km ride to Oudenaarde.
The parcours continued to reward attacking riding. Ellen van Dijk won in 2014 with an attack 28km from the finish. Then Elisa Longo Borghini won the following year with an attack 30km from the finish. Even when a race wasn’t won solo, only small groups made it to the finish together. The 2017 race was longer again at 153km and saw the first bunch sprint in many years. Coryn Rivera beat 17 others to the win.
The race reverted to type in 2018 with Anna van der Breggen winning with a solo attack nearly 30km from the finish. 2019 saw a group of 3 holding onto a few seconds advantage after the Paterberg with Marta Bastianelli outsprinting Annemiek van Vleuten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. 2020 saw Ann van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten cancel each other out, allowing Boels-Dolmans rider Chantal van den Broek-Blaak to escape and win solo. Last year saw Annemiek van Vleuten become the first multiple winner of the Tour of Flanders since Judith Arndt in 2012. Attacking the Paterberg and finishing solo for her first win in the race since 2011.
Annemiek van Vleuten
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
Women's Tour of Flanders 2022 Contenders
Last year’s Tour of Flanders winner Annemiek van Vleuten is coming off a big training block in Tenerife. We saw her at Dwars door Vlaanderen this week where she was a relatively lowly 21st. That was down to the parcours, where despite her best efforts to make a break, it came down to a bunch sprint. We’ve already seen that she is in great form this year and she will always be a contender. Especially here as she’s the only active multiple winner of the women’s Tour of Flanders. If it comes down to a sprint, then her teammates Emma Norsgaard and Arlenis Sierra will take on more of a role. Norsgaard has done well this year, with no result worse than 6th so far. She won Le Samyn des Dames and seems able to get over most of the climbs. I suspect the Paterberg might be the one climb too many at the end if the racing is hard. Arlenis Sierra is starting to find her feet after a delayed start to 2022. She was 16th at Gent Wevelgem and 9th at Dwars door Vlaanderen. This is traditionally not her best race – with the best result of only 21st.
It goes without saying that every rider on the SD Worx team could win this race. Starting with the 2020 winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. She’s in good form after getting top-10s at Omloop van het Hageland and Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She will need a similar situation to how she won last time to take another victory – the stars cancelling each other out and allowing her to get some distance. The team’s best option in a sprint finish would naturally be Lotte Kopecky. We all know how she won Strade Bianche and she’s been knocking on the top ever since. A series of top-10s but being frustrated by the superb Elisa Balsamo and Lorena Wiebes. We saw how much her climbing improved at Strade Bianche and if she does the same on the Paterberg, she can outsprint anyone else who joins her. If Demi Vollering is still there at the end that might complicate who gets the lead role. She’s been training in the Sierra Nevada recently, so we’ve not seen her race since Strade Bianche. She will be keen to reverse the way she finished 2nd at Omloop het Nieuwsblad to begin the season.
The remaining 3 riders on the team have all finished in the top-10 at the women’s Tour of Flanders before. Elena Cecchini was 5th in 2015 and 6th in 2017, Marlen Reusser 9th in her first edition last year and Christine Majerus 8th way back in 2012. It’s likely we see Cecchini and Majerus take on that elite domestique role with Reusser closing down moves á la Van Dijk.
Trek Segafredo bring a similarly powerful line-up with the current star of the women’s peloton, Elisa Balsamo their best option in a sprint finish. She’s been so-so at the Tour of Flanders in the past, with the best finish of 15th here last season. We’ve seen her steadily improve on some of her best performances, Gent Wevelgem one obvious example. This one might feel less likely compared to the other races. The 2015 Tour of Flanders winner Elisa Longo Borghini always does well with 7 top-10 finishes at De Ronde. She’s slowly been getting close to her best in the last couple of races, with the attacks at Dwars door Vlaanderen very similar to her peak form. Never the best sprinter, she will need to go clear on the Paterberg.
2014 Tour of Flanders winner, Ellen van Dijk has been immense in closing down gaps to ensure Elisa Balsamo can win races this season. Van Dijk has 6 top-10 finishes here herself but probably is the 3rd option for the team here this year. Finally for Trek. there’s Lucinda Brand who can never be ignored. Strangely her best performance here is only 9th place over the years and it may come too soon into the 2022 season for her to really excel. She did well at Dwars door Vlaanderen though, finishing 11th after launching her sprint a bit too early.
Another former winner is Marianne Vos who hasn’t been able to finish in the top-10 since that victory in 2013. That state is helped by Vos not doing the race for 5 years and since then she’s been chopping away with increasingly better performances. In her heyday, Vos finished 6th or higher for 6 editions in a row. I can see Vos making the top-10 this season but probably the lower reaches. Her teammate Coryn Labecki won in 2017 and shares the stat with Vos about not making the top-10 since. Some of that is down to her role at Team DSM changing and the team support of some of those strong climbers becoming so immense. Jumbo-Visma will be keen for a sprint so that either of their key riders can shine.
It’s a bit of a tough one to call this year for Lisa Brennauer. She’s started her season late and finished down in 71st at Gent Wevelgem. I suspect we won’t be seeing the same form from her that saw Brennauer on the 2nd step of the podium last season. She’d be a proper wildcard option this year. Her teammate Maria Giulia Confalonieri has shown to be in good form after finishing 3rd at Gent Wevelgem. It felt like that result at the Women’s WorldTour level was coming after a series of top-10s already this season. Her best finish at the Tour of Flanders is 16th though, so this might be a race we see not so many Ceratizit jerseys at the front.
Canyon SRAM hasn’t won a race since last July and I don’t see that changing at the Tour of Flanders. Kasia Niewiadoma will be solid as usual but that flat run to Oudenaarde really hampers her chances of a win. Her best result of the year has been on the uphill finish at Strade Bianche with 4th place and that’s probably not far off the best possible result here. Teammate Elise Chabbey looks closer to winning a race for the team. She was 3rd at Dwars door Vlaanderen and was in the top-10 at both Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Strade Bianche. Chabbey has a bit of an underrated sprint and if the group is small enough at the end of the race, has the chance to spark a surprise. The team also has other riders with top-10 finishes at the Tour of Flanders in Sarah Roy, who was 5th in 2020 and Alena Amialiusik who was 6th in both 2015 & 2020.
I tipped Marta Bastianelli for the win at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and she ended up 5th after not having the best positioning for the sprint. Despite winning the 2019 Tour of Flanders, Bastianelli doesn’t have the best history in this race. She took a pair of top-10s pre-suspension back in 2007 and 2008 and then didn’t finish higher than 13th until she won. Her form is good with 5 strong finishes in a row but this usually isn’t her race. Sofia Bertizzolo achieved her strongest result of 4th here back in 2019 whilst supporting Bastianelli whilst at Virtu. She’s impressed already this year with 2nd at Trofeo Alfredo Binda after winning the smaller Trofeo Oro in Euro a couple of weeks earlier. She’s an outside chance for the top-10 here.
Grace Brown was 3rd here last season, doing surprisingly well in a sprint against the likes of Demi Vollering and her now teammate Marta Cavalli. As we’ve seen already, she gives FDJ another way of victory with strong breaks in countless races at this point. Having that card to play, helps protect the pair of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marta Cavalli more than ever before. Uttrup Ludwig has been on the podium here in 2019, finishing 3rd and giving a particularly enthusiastic interview. We know she’s in good form with 2nd in GC in Valencia, 5th at Strade Bianche and 9th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. The issue will always be the finishing speed on flat finishes unless she can get into a small break again. Marta Cavalli is a stronger finisher on paper and is consistent at the Tour of Flanders, finishing 11th, 10th and 6th in the last 3 editions. I can certainly see an FDJ rider finishing on the podium but it could be any of this trio.
Silvia Persico best previous finish here is 50th but it feels like she’s going to beat that after her results so far this year. Persico is now a regular finisher in the top-10 across different race types from Strade Bianche to Gent Wevelgem. Although Chiara Consonni will be racing, the hills will probably be too much for the sprinter unless it’s a particularly gentle edition of the race. So Valcar’s best bet is on the cyclocross bronze medallist this year.
It’s strange but Floortje Mackaij has never finished in the top-10 at the Tour of Flanders. Even in her previous free-rein attacking best. 12th last year is her best result here. She’s been on the podium twice this year and we saw her make attacks at Dwars door Vlaanderen too. There’s always a chance that this is the year she cracks the top-10. Teammate Liane Lippert is always so-so at the Tour of Flanders without a major result here to speak of. We’ve seen her make attacks and do generally ok so far this season without getting that big result. There’s also Lorena Wiebes who we tend to pigeonhole as just a sprinter. There’s a school of thought out there that she can be more like Elisa Balsamo, able to get over the climbs and still have that sprint for the end. Wiebes won 3 races in a row in March before Balsamo beat her at Brugge-De Panne. She’s never raced the Tour of Flanders before so anything is possible.
Susanne Andersen was 15th here back in 2018 and I think can match or beat that in 2022. She’s been consistently up there so far in 2022 with a string of solid sprints at the end of hard races. I suspect Andersen may not be able to follow the accelerations on the Paterberg but should be able to get a strong result by sprinting to the front of the chase group.
Women's Tour of Flanders 2022 Outsiders
The Tour of Flanders isn’t a race that Marjolein van ‘t Geloof has done well at before this year with a highest finish of 85th. She has done well in some of the classics this season though. 6th at Le Samyn des Dames was followed by 5th at Nokere Koerse. Whilst the climbing might see her drop back, Van ‘t Geloof can certainly get a solid sprint going at the end of a tough race.
It’s the first visit to the Tour of Flanders by AG Insurance-NXTG’s Julia Borgström but she has been making people take notice by being at the pointy end of big races so far in 2022. She’s yet to break into the top-10 and that could be a tough ask here but she’s now building a set of results that sees her regularly in the 10th to 20th place bracket. The young Swede is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Another rider in a similar vein of form is Yara Kastelijn from Plantur-Pura. She feels so close to a big result on the road, now a regular at the front of the races. She was in the front group at Gent Wevelgem but the lack of a big sprint and the team going for Cant meant she was 26th. She definitely has the climbing legs and I suspect we see her near the front again on the way to Oudenaarde.
Finally, we’ve been seeing Tamara Dronova at the front in the last 2 races. She made it to 8th place at Gent Wevelgem and backed that up with 14th at Dwars door Vlaanderen. She’s got her best chance of a big result if the racing is calm and a decent sized bunch makes it to the finish at Oudenaarde together. It’s been strangely nice seeing Roland Cogeas begin to justify their Women’s WorldTour status.