UAE Tour Women 2023 Race Preview

Nicole Steigenga wins in Dubai Tour UAE 2020

UAE Tour Women History

2023 sees the first-ever edition of the Women’s UAE Tour, which jumps straight into Women’s WorldTour level. It’s a bit of an evolution of the Dubai Women’s Tour that was held once, in 2020, before Covid claimed it. Lucy van der Haar won the GC there in her final year as a pro. She took the opening stage, then 2nd and 3rd before hanging onto the overall win on placings. The battle was tight with Tatsiana Sharakova of the Minsk Cycling Club pushing the Brit all the way to the finish. Samah Khaled (currently serving a suspension) was 3rd and then little-known Olivia Baril finished 6th.

With that as a dummy run, we get a similar-ish profile. 3 almost certain sprint stages will give those riders a chance to blow the off-season cobwebs out of the legs and Stage 3’s climb up to Jebel Hafeet will settle the GC. We’re looking at something like 9km at 7% average on the climb, so there’s little hope for sprinters with bonus seconds to contest the GC. Crosswinds are going to be the other potentially deciding factor on the desert roads. All fans of cycling love to see echelons kick off and they will help enliven the 3 sprint stages if conditions suit.

SD Worx is bringing their full new sprint train and we’re likely to see Lorena Wiebes do her thing. It’s the first race of the year for the Dutch team and all but 2 Women’s WorldTour teams will be racing in the Middle East. Jumbo-Visma and EF Education-TIBCO-SVB have chosen to forego the trip. 

Previous Winners

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UAE Tour Women 2023 Stage Profiles

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

TV Coverage

Thursday 9th February – Sunday 12th February 2023

Live on Eurosport/GCN

Twitter: #UAETourWomen

Startlist: FirstCycling

UAE Tour Women 2023 Contenders

GC Contenders

It’s the first chance of the year to see Elisa Longo Borghini after the early Trek Segafredo racing has been dominated by Amanda Spratt in Australia. The Italian looks like a good shout for the hill up to Jebel Hafeet and should be able to stay out of trouble on any windy flat stages. The Women’s Tour last year also showed us that Longo Borghini could be sneaky enough to get involved in the sprints for some bonus seconds. With no Annemiek van Vleuten or Demi Vollering at this year’s UAE Tour Women, Longo Borghini feels like one of the strongest climbers on paper here.

It’s the first race of the season for Marta Cavalli and the Italian will look to build on what was an excellent 2022 with an unfortunate early ending. The way she was climbing last season, including a victory on Mont Ventoux and a 2nd in GC at the Giro Donne, would make her a major favourite here on Jebel Hafeet. She will support in the form of Grace Brown who comes to the UAE off the back of winning the Women’s Tour Down Under and looking impressive on home roads. For me, the length of Jebel Hafeet swings the main leader role on balance to Marta Cavalli rather than the Australian though.

Liane Lippert has already shown off her form after a strong 2nd place behind a teammate at Vuelta CV Feminas that might’ve been a win on another day. That day included a strong climb up La Frontera and whilst it wasn’t a summit finish, it’s encouraging that the German was easily in the front group in her first race for her new team – Movistar. It feels like she will challenge Longo Borghini, with early form comparisons unknown, it could work out for the German, although she hasn’t won a non-national championships race since early 2020.

SD Worx has brought Niamh Fisher-Black as its leader. It’s a relatively rare chance for the Kiwi to lead with maybe the the Giro Donne last season her last real chance. The U23 World Champion is undeniably strong when the race goes uphill and will have Anna Shackley for support here. Maybe where the team gets exposed is their dual goals – with 4 of the 6 riders really there to support Lorena Wiebes. I can definitely see her reaching the podium but am probably expecting Fisher-Black to finish just off it. With no Fisher-Black due to injury, Anna Shackley will be SD Worx’s leader at the UAE Tour Women. It represents a rare chance for the Scot to lead the team and whilst she may be slightly isolated with no genuine climbing support, she can give things a good go with no pressure on her shoulders.

Silvia Persico will be the main GC hope for UAE Team ADQ. Fresh off the back of 4th place at the Cyclocross World Championships, the Italian seems to be able to race and race and race without taking major breaks. The Italian will hope to build on her great 2022 season on a stronger team and we certainly know she can climb well. Persico might be able to take bonus seconds somewhere along the way as well in a way that only Lippert and Longo Borghini might be able to seriously contest.

Another rider we haven’t seen so far in 2023 is Jayco-AlUla’s Kristen Faulkner. The American had a great 2020 and showed that she is a strong climber in the right situation. The GC stage here is probably reminiscent of the Tour de Suisse stage where the American finished 2nd after clawing back Lucinda Brand. Suited more to storming raids across many mountains, the summit finish here maybe could suit some others better. A top-10 GC performance is definitely on the cards though.

Canyon SRAM is tough to work out who will get the GC nod. Both Pauliena Rooijakkers and Elise Chabbey are strong climbers with Soraya Paladin a sort of floating rider who can help both the GC and the sprint for Skalniak-Sójka (who is mentioned below). Based on last year, where Rooijakkers came into her own later in the season, I’ll plump for Elise Chabbey as the main shout here, even if an in-form Rooijakkers is probably capable of the stronger result. I expect to see Paladin is more of a swiss army knife (not Chabbey, that would be a cliché) for the team. She could step into either the sprinting role or the climbing role but the parcours isn’t rolling enough for me to see Paladin take a win or podium.

Nikola Noskova continues to impress in her comeback to the UCI peloton. She finished 3rd at the Vuelta CV Feminas after attacking the La Frontera climb early. She was already impressive in Australia but the way she raced in Spain will have brought her to the attention of more fans and riders. Eventually done over by the pair of Movistar riders in the front group, Noskova definitely maxed out her result at the weekend.

Claire Steels has been noticeable for Israel-Premier Tech Roland already in Australia this season but the summit finish in the UAE Tour Women is more up her street. Last year, Steels was 2nd on the 5th stage at the Tour de l’Ardeche which finished on Mont Lozère. That came whilst still on Sopela and we’ve already seen that the step to the WWT is manageable for the Brit. 15th in GC at the Tour Down Under and 12th at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Roace are solid but the parcours here could see higher finishes.

Lorena Wiebes
Lorena Wiebes

Stage Contenders

Lorena Wiebes has switched teams this off-season but on paper you assume she wins 3 stages here at the UAE Tour Women. Her lead-out train will contain riders who could very well be lead sprinters here on other teams but the question mark is there about whether they will instantly gel and be as well-drilled as the efficient Team DSM unit from last season. The UAE Tour Women represents one of the few races where it doesn’t feel quite as nailed-on as before. Of course it could be business as usual!

The rider now at the end of that Team DSM sprint train is Charlotte Kool. She is absolutely ready to drop into the footsteps of Lorena Wiebes after leading her out for most of 2022. The young Dutch rider is tipped to have a strong 2023 with the best train in women’s cycling. She hasn’t raced so far in 2023 so her form isn’t known but I’m looking forward to the battle between the former teammates.

Emma Norsgaard finished 2nd at the Women Cycling Pro Costa de Almeria, being maybe surprisingly beaten by Arianna Fidanza. It feels to me that the lack of any elevation at all on the sprint stages here will prevent the Dane from winning a stage as ideally, she would like a tougher race to nullify some of the finishing speed of her rivals. She will push things close but in 2022 she was maybe on the cusp of being pushed out of that top-tier of sprinters which she was firmly a part of in 2021.

In their home race, UAE Team ADQ can call upon the duo of Chiara Consonni and Marta Bastianelli. It will be the first time we’ve seen the Italian pair work together and whilst you assume Chiara Consonni will get the nod in the sprints, Marta Bastianelli hasn’t really been used as a lead-out by the team. We may see some calls on the road between the pair but with Bastianelli leaving the pro peloton mid-year, surely this is a handover process to the younger rival brought in to step into her shoes.

A rider I think many are excited to see back at Women’s WorldTour level is the Pole Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka, who joined Canyon SRAM in the off-season. I’ve been fairly critical about the team’s lack of wins in the last couple of seasons but with Skalniak-Sójka they’ve signed a rider who took 14 wins last season. She’s raced plenty at WWT level before whilst with CCC-Liv and Experza-Footlogix so she should hopefully be ready to go but it’ll be interesting to see where she slots in amongst the other major names.

Georgia Baker is going to be the sprinting option for Jayco-AlUla. In what was a strong line-up at the Tour Down Under, she got her chance on Stage 1 there and finished 3rd. Baker has often been the lead-out for Alex Manly after she moved up a gear at the Thüringen Ladies Tour last season. Baker won Stage 2 there but her teammate was the star of the race. So it’s good to see Baker given a chance here, the Commonwealth champion can see how she fits against all of the other major sprinters in the women’s peloton.

Arianna Fidanza of Ceratizit WNT already as a win this season at the Women Cycling Pro Costa de Almeria. The Italian was impressive with her finishing kick there but the climb at Vuelta CV Feminas prevented a repeat. Her teammate Sandra Alonso might have made it into the front two groups if not for a really poorly timed puncture – luck wasn’t on her side. Between the pair, there is enough to see them in the sprinting mix.

Maria Giulia Confalonieri is here ready to kick off the new season with a new team in Uno-X. She’s someone who like Emma Norsgaard would love a hillier race no doubt before the final sprint but here will have to rely on racing well in any echelons that might form. Confalonieri will be up there but against the purer sprinters, may have to temper some expectations of truly high-up finishes without assistance from the conditions.

It feels almost strange putting Audrey Cordon-Ragot in with a bunch of sprinters but it’s very tough to ignore her form at the moment after 3rd place at Women Cycling Pro Costa de Almeria and 6th at Vuelta CV Feminas. We may see her in the mix as her Zaaf Cycling team is desperate for UCI points but on such flat terrain, we’re really banking on a strong late attack of some nous and experience in the echelons to keep the run of top-10s going. There is also Dani de Francesco and Maggie Coles-Lyster for good measure. The Canadian was 4th on Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under and De Francesco has been 5th just about everywhere. Expect all of them to go for it and try to earn the points.

UAE Tour Women 2023 Outsiders

Mikayla Harvey
Mikayla Harvey

Nadine Gill is another, like Claire Steels, to leave Sopela this off-season. The German moved to Ceratizit WNT and has a reputation as a decent climber. She’s not quite top-tier but at Vuelta a Burgos last year, she finished amongst the likes of Mavi Garcia, Soraya Paladin and Grace Brown on the queen summit finish stage. She’s started 2023 well with 9th place at Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería last weekend. She will be the main Ceratizit WNT GC focus and worth keeping an eye on.

Petra Stiasny will be here for her new team Fenix-Deceuninck. The young Swiss rider impressed at the Tour de Romandie in what was her last race for Roland Cogeas Edelweiss. She’d been someone I’d kept an eye on all year as a potentially good climber and she unleashed it on home roads climbing with the best. She’s the strongest pure climber on her team and it’ll be interesting to see if she can deliver again in her first race in 2023.

Most of the UAE Team ADQ line-up will be focused on sprints but it will be interesting to see if New Zealander Mikayla Harvey will have a refresh on her new team. You don’t have to go back too far to remember Harvey coming 5th in the Giro Donne whilst on Bigla/Paule Ka. Things didn’t really work out on Canyon SRAM but the Kiwi wouldn’t be the first rider to get a boost from joining a new team.

I want to see more sprints from Tereza Neumanova of Liv Racing TeqFind in 2023. The Czech rider was 2nd at the Vuelta a Burgos behind Lotte Kopecky and only fleetingly got other opportunities across the 2022 season. Despite that, Neumanova took top-10 results at Vårgårda WestSweden, Women’s Tour and Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. 

I’ve included the Human Powered Health sprint train here because there’s no single obvious leader! The likes of Alice Barnes, Marjolein van ‘t Geloof, Nina Buijsman and even Kaia Schmid could all end up sprinting for the team across the 3 days. With no Daria Pikulik in the UAE Tour Women, it’s a less than clear situation. Nina Buijsman is the form rider of the group, with 3rd at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, 3rd on Stage 2 of the Women’s Tour Down Under and 3rd again at the Schwalbe Classic. Ideally, she’d had some hills to get her best results. Alice Barnes didn’t have a great 2022 season but now free of Canyon SRAM, we might see the bounce-back effect. Both her and Marjolein van ‘t Geloof were distanced in their first race of the year in Costa de Almeria so it’s tough to work out where they might be at so far. Kaia Schmid took a top-10 with 7th on Stage 1 at the Women’s Tour Down Under, she could work out as the better flat stage sprinter for the team. The other alternative is that they kinda all sprint and we see the team do an Arkea-Samsic and flood the top 10 as much as possible with UCI points available down to that spot.

Another rider who whom the sprint stages are possible too flat is British rider Josie Nelson but she could pivot to a GC threat. Nelson finished 4th, equalling her best-ever Women’s WorldTour race result, at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. That other 4th place was achieved on the queen stage of the Tour of Scandinavia with the long climb up to Norefjell. Whilst the purer climbers that day (Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Liane Lippert) went up the road, Josie Nelson was able to hang in there with the likes of Alex Manly and Tamara Dronova. 

Top 3 Prediction