A trawl through the highlights of this year’s Women’s WorldTour reveals 2019 was the season of the stage race. Although there were plenty of exciting one dayers, it was individual stages of multi-day events which provided the year’s most dynamic and interesting racing.
From the 53 WorldTour days we’ve picked what we think were nine of the season’s most exciting races. They’re in calendar order and, as with anything subjective, the appeal is in the eye of the beholder, so feel free to disagree.
Ronde van Drenthe
Gales and freezing rain made this mostly flat race in northern Netherlands an extra-gnarly day of attrition. Only around 20 women remained when a lone break away was caught 15km from the line, and there was much looking around when Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) attacked five kilometres later.
For a while it seemed the former world time trial champion may make it, but she was joined by former road world champions Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu). The trio worked well, holding off the pursuers before Bastianelli sprinted from the front to take the win.
Amstel Gold Race
The 19 climbs of Amstel Gold Race made a very different challenge for the peloton a few weeks later.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) began the day with a plan, catching a late break with an attack on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg, bringing a group of 18 onto the closing 17km lap.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segfredo) and CCC-Liv’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio soon got away, the pair nearly making it, but were caught inside the final two kilometres, before Niewiadoma attacked again on the Cauberg.
The final kilometre was a real nail biter when Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) nearly closed the gap, but Niewiadoma hung on, even slowing to celebrate her one second win in style.
Stage four, Emakumeen Bira
After Tayler Wiles won stage three, Trek-Segafredo began the final day in the Basque Country with two in the top four, Wiles one spot behind Elisa Longo Borghini in third place.
The last of a number of short-lived escapes were caught on the day’s final, brutal climb, where Longo Borghini launched her bid for glory. Descending alone towards the finish in Oñati, her win was never assured.
Longo Borghini even seemed unaware of the time gap, easing up to enjoy her stage win, four seconds ahead of the chasers, and winning overall by just two seconds.
Stage four, OVO Energy Women’s Tour
At over 160km including the neutral, this was the longest stage of the this year’s race, and an early three woman break built a huge lead of over eight minutes on the bunch.
However, their advantage was quickly whittled away as the race approached the first of three laps around the finish at Burton Dassett Country Park, where the action kicked off.
Ever aggressive, Longo Borghini went first, drawing out a three woman break which caught the breakaway and led the second time across the line at the top of the climb. Though they were caught, at the bottom of the final ascent two of those escapees attacked again, with Kasia Niewiadoma winning the day ahead of Sunweb’s Liane Lippert.
Stage five, OVO Energy Women’s Tour
After an aggressive start a five woman group eventually got away at the start of the queen stage, though they were caught with 25km to go, on the day’s toughest climb.
Four kilometres at an average of 7.4 per cent, the climb of Epynt invited attacks, and near the top Lizzie Deignan duly obliged. Though Kasia Niewiadoma was able to go with the Brit, Longo Borghini's presence gave Trek-Segafredo the advantage.
The gap never exceeded 30 seconds and behind, Boels-Dolmans led a frantic chase, but the final 20km were mostly downhill and the trio held on. Into Builth Wells Niewiadoma tried to push Deignan wide in the final corner, but the Brit won the sprint, taking enough time into the final stage to win the overall.
Stage three, Giro Rosa Iccrea
Even if the general classification was decided by two mid-race masterclasses from Annemiek van Vleuten, the Giro Rosa served up a fine dish of exciting racing throughout its 10 days.
Ending in dramatic heartbreak and drama, stage three had started as a regulation day. After a long draggy climb, with two kilometres to go Mitchelton-Scott’s Lucy Kennedy attacked the bunch just as a lone escapee was caught.
The Australian was suited to the uphill finish, and even if her lead never exceeded 20 seconds as she wound through the streets of the finish town of Piedicavallo, she looks set for victory.
However, as Kennedy approached the line, Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) sprinted from the bunch, catching the Australian on the line as she eased to celebrate. Vos’s immense sprint and Kennedy’s shocked expression will both live long in the memory.
Stage nine, Giro Rosa Iccrea
After Annemiek van Vleuten won stage five, this was arguably the race’s second queen stage, finishing at the remote summit of the 22km climb to Malga Montasio.
After a flat and benign opening few kilometres, as the gradient began to bite riders began to drop off the back.
Never dropping below seven per cent, the second half of the climb was much steeper, and it was as the road kicked up that Van Vleuten made her move, forming a leading trio. Team-mate Amanda Spratt faded, but Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) was dropped late on and only on the steepest section, two kilometres at 11.5 per cent.
However, the then world champion never allowed her compatriot out of sight, and as the slope eased inside the final kilometre, she caught the leader, sprinting to a memorable stage win.
La Course by Le Tour de France (July 19)
An early group of 11 were allowed little freedom in this showcase event in the Pyrénées, and the leaders were closed down by Annemiek van Vleuten, fresh from winning the Giro.
Her move formed a selection, from which team-mate Amanda Spratt launched her own move, with 26km remaining. Taking a lead of 30 seconds into the final three kilometres, it seemed Spratt would win in Pau, but Sunweb and CCC-Liv had other plans, leading the chase.
Spratt led on the final, short, sharp climb, but Marianne Vos launched half way up, catching the Australian with 300m to go, the Dutchwoman taking the win.
Stage three, Ladies Tour of Norway
Culminating with two short laps of the race’s home town Halden, the finish line was by the Fredriksten Fortress, at the top of a steep one kilometre climb.
Once a lone breakaway was caught 15km from the end, the race exploded when Marianne Vos launched a trademark, savage dig on the first climb to the line, shredding the bunch only Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) was able to go with her.
From behind there were concerted efforts to close the gap and the pair were never truly able to gain a comprehensive gap making for a tense finish as they descended then wound through the town below.
Even in the final 400m Kasia Niewiadoma was close to getting on terms, but it was Vos’s race in the end, the Dutchwoman’s devastating sprint enough to drop Rivera, taking both the stage and the overall.