Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv)
One of cycling’s most well-known and respected cyclists. With a palmarès that includes 12 world titles and two Olympic gold medals, her participation is a significant coup.
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
The Otley-born rider is enjoying the best season of her career to date, and leads the nine-round World Cup after four races. Backed by a team which includes world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk, Armitstead winning the race would likely capture the imagination as much as Bradley Wiggins’s triumph in last year’s Tour of Britain.
Lucy Garner (Great Britain)
Although her Giant-Shimano turned down their invite to race, the double junior world road race champion will compete in the Women’s Tour thanks to the involvement of three national squads. Stage one passes within 20 miles of her hometown, Cosby.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products)
The fifth-year Italian pro hasn’t won since June, but is consistently in the mix at big races. Her brother, Paolo, rides for Cannondale, and she has uploaded a lot of her 2014 riding data to Strava.
Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS)
The number one ranked female rider in the world at the time of writing, and it’s not hard to see why: in 15 days of racing in 2014, she has been in the top eight in all but three of them. The 30-year-old is almost as notable because of her Swedish/Australian accent… but
Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda)
Wiggle-Honda took 22 victories in their maiden season last year — 17 of those came from Bronzini. The Italian was the world road race champion in 2010 and 2011.
Amy Pieters (Netherlands)
Winner of a stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen already this year. Like Giant-Shimano team-mate Lucy Garner, she heads to Britain as part of a national squad.
Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare)
The British circuit race champion took her first UCI-ranked victory in January’s Tour Femenino de San Luis, and she will be accompanied here by a sprint-focused team. Despite being born in Kent, until recently she lived in Towcester, 10 miles away from the stage one finish in Northampton.
CW looks forward to the inaugural Friends Life Women’s Tour, May 7 to 11