Our pick of the best moments from the top tier of women's racing

TAGS:

In its third season, the Women’s WorldTour is the UCI’s top tier of professional women’s road racing. Each year has seen more events joining the series, with 24 races in 2018 made up of 51 race days.

Designed to provide a ‘narrative’ for the year, the series achieves this more successfully than the men’s WorldTour as there are fewer race clashes. Indeed this year brought the first overlap, when the Tour of California changed dates, clashing with Emakumeen Bira in the Basque Country.

A stellar summer, with victories in the Giro Rosa, La Course and the Boels Ladies Tour gave Annemiek van Vleuten the individual classification win, with Boels-Dolmans topping the team classification for the third year.

The series was full of memorable moments, and we’ve picked eight of them. Of course these things are subjective, and for that reason we have not ranked them, but read on for a reminder of some fantastic racing.

Strade Bianche, Italy, March 3

Anna van der Breggen celebrates victory at the 2018 Strade Bianche (Foto LaPresse – Massimo Paolone)

After beginning her year winning a mountain bike stage race in Cyprus, Olympic Champion Anna van der Breggen won her first road race in what was to become an outstanding spring.

After a week of snow then rain, the white gravel roads of Tuscany were little more than mud, and the freezing temperatures persisted as the bunch set off from Siena in the rain for the WorldTour season’s opening race.

After the early break was caught, van der Breggen attacked a group of around 20 riders on one of the final steep gravel sectors. The Dutchwoman soon built a lead approaching a minute and rode into Siena alone, still wearing her rain jacket such were the conditions.

Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Italy, March 18

Anther cold wet day and another solo masterpiece, this time from Kasia Niewiadoma, Canyon SRAM’s former polish champion. 

The German team set up Niewiadoma’s win perfectly. First Alena Amialiusik got up the road in a small breakaway, then, when they were caught, former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot completed the final softening up work. Niewiadoma attacked on the final climb with just over 10km to race, riding alone to a superb success.

Kasia Niewiadoma salutes after winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Image: Velofocus

Kasia Niewiadoma salutes after winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Image: Velofocus

Driedaagse De Panne Koksijde, Belgium, March 22

Europe’s bad weather continued and ensured the pan flat race to the Belgian seaside town of De Panne would be one of suspense.

Wind and consequent echelons shredded the bunch early in the day, with a group of 15 escaping on the wide open coastal roads. They nearly made it too, with the final rider caught only inside the final kilometre. 

With the bunch re-formed, it was Mitchelton-Scott’s Belgian champion Jolien D’Hoore who sprinted to the win, though she later admitted she thought the break was still up the road and had know she had won.

Stage one, Emakumeen Bira, Spain, May 19

After years of promise and near misses, Dutchwoman Sabrina Stultiens finally took her chance to win.

Dropped by three of the world’s best climbers on one of the fearsomely steep Basque Country climbs, the Waowdeals rider clawed her way back to the front in the closing kilometres.

Then, when Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) began looking to each other, the 25 year-old attacked to take her first pro win by 17 seconds.

Stage nine, Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, Italy, July 14

One of three Giro Rosa stages won this year by world time trail champion Annemiek van Vleuten in the 10-stage event, she well and truly cemented victory on the climb of Monte Zoncolan.

The largely flat day finished at the top of the famous climb, reputed to be one of the toughest in world cycling, and the peloton was ripped apart on the vicious slopes.

Needing to gain time on her GC rival, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) attacked van Vleuten, however the Dutchwoman would not be broken, attacking late, winning the stage by over 40 seconds.

MONTE ZONCOLAN, ITALY - JULY 14: Arrival / Annemiek van Vleuten of The Netherlands and Team Mitchelton-Scott Pink leader jersey / Celebration / during the 29th Tour of Italy 2018 - Women, Stage 9 a 104,7km stage from Tricesimo to Monte Zoncolan 1730m / Giro Rosa / on July 14, 2018 in Monte Zoncolan, Italy. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)MONTE ZONCOLAN, ITALY - JULY 14: Arrival / Annemiek van Vleuten of The Netherlands and Team Mitchelton-Scott Pink leader jersey / Celebration / during the 29th Tour of Italy 2018 - Women, Stage 9 a 104,7km stage from Tricesimo to Monte Zoncolan 1730m / Giro Rosa / on July 14, 2018 in Monte Zoncolan, Italy. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

La Course by Le Tour de France, France, July 17

Continuing her streak of fine form, Annemiek van Vleuten won arguably the most exciting race of the year in the French Alps.

The women’s peloton do not get to race in the high mountains too often, and put on a show into Le Grand Bornand, on a route which largely matched that of the Tour de France’s tenth stage.

When the early break was caught by Cervélo-Bigla’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig the chasing race favourites were forced to act. The young Dane was eventually caught on the final climb of the Col de la Colombiere, with Anna van der Breggen going clear soon after.

The Olympic champion established a gap but was never able to get fully clear and was eventually caught in the closing 25m by a savagely tenacious van Vleuten.

PostNord UCIWWT Vårgårda road race, Sweden, August 13

After years struggling to regain the dominance of earlier years, Marianne Vos roared back to the top of the sport with a consummate ride in Sweden. 

Staged around the small town north east of Gothenburg, the race is always aggressive and entertaining, but invariably ends in a bunch kick. 

And so it did in 2018 but Vos, having identified Kirsten Wild as her rival for the win, swooped round the outside of the final bend and opened her sprint before anyone else, leaving them in her wake and taking an audacious landmark victory.

Marianne Vos of WaowDeals Pro Cycling (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Stage two, Madrid Challenge, Spain, September 16

Giorgia Bronzini’s long career, which included two road word titles, closed with a characteristically clever, well timed victory in Madrid.

On a flat circuit in the centre of the Spanish capital, the final race of the European WorldTour season should have been a bunch sprint, but no one told a late breakaway of 19 women.

This group included two from Team Sunweb winners of the opening stage team time trial, but with a Cylance team mate in there Bronzini was able to sit tight in the closing laps.

With the gap at 10 seconds in the final lap it was close, but Bronzini took an emotional victory, celebrating with a final traditional finish line beer.