With the Women’s WorldTour (WWT) now complete for 2019, the road racing season is well and truly behind us. But before we turn our attention to next season, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the most impressive riders and rides of 2019.
So without further ado, here are eight highlights from a terrific season of women’s road cycling — the rides and the victories that will linger in memory for months and years to come.
Marta Bastianelli’s phenomenal start to the season.
It wasn’t until late May, on her 17th race day for the year, that Marta Bastianelli (Virtu) started a race and didn’t finish inside the top 10. Her first 11 races for the year were all one-dayers and she finished eighth or better in all of them. That’s remarkable consistency.
Bastianelli won the Ronde van Drenthe and the Tour of Flanders, finished second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen, and took fourth at both Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem. Basically, if there was an important one-day race in the first half of the year, Bastianelli could be spotted at the business end.
The 32-year-old finished her season with a total of 11 wins but it was her start to the year that was most impressive. She moves to Ale Cipollini for the 2020 season and will do so with the tricolore of Italian champion.
Sarah Gigante’s Australian Nationals win.
This victory might have escaped the attention of most outside Australia, but you don’t need to be an Australian to appreciate it. Here’s how it went down.
A year earlier, at the 2018 Nationals, Gigante won the criterium, road race and the time trial title in the U19 ranks. This year, she stepped up to the big leagues, racing as an U23 in the combined U23/elite women’s road race.
Gigante got in the early break of seven and was still there when seven became three (the other two were WWT riders). And then Gigante attacked her more fancied rivals, rode away, and held on for a lap and a half to take a remarkable victory. Becoming national champion at just 18 didn’t just require incredible strength and endurance — it also needed considerable tactical nous. Quite simply, it was one of the most remarkable rides in Aussie Nationals history.
Unless Gigante chooses to leave cycling behind (a perfect score in her final year of high school has set her up nicely) she’ll surely be racing in the Women’s WorldTour in a matter of years. And if she continues on the same path, she’ll be an imposing force at a world level before too long.
Lorena Wiebes’ breakout season.
Few riders can claim to have had a better season than Dutchwoman Lorena Wiebes. At just 20, Wiebes claimed no fewer than 15 wins for the year — only her compatriot Marianne Vos won more, with 19. In doing so Wiebes established herself as the emerging sprinter on the world stage.
Among Wiebes’ wins: all three stages and the overall at the Tour of Chongming Island, a stage at the Tour of Norway, the RideLondon Classique, and two stages at the Boels Ladies Tour. All of these are WWT races. She also won the Dutch road title, outsprinting Marianne Vos in the process.
While Wiebes wasn’t able to snatch a truly top-tier win this year, it’s hard to imagine she’ll have to wait long. She’s come a long way in the past couple seasons and seems to be on a very promising trajectory. Parkhotel Valkenburg will be more than happy to have secured her services until the end of 2021.
Demi Vollering’s stellar neo-pro season.
Wiebes isn’t the only emerging Dutchwoman signed with Parkhotel Valkenburg through 2021. Demi Vollering is in the same boat and the 22-year-old all-rounder showed this year that she’s got a massive future ahead of her.
In her first season as a professional Vollering won the prologue at the Festival Elsy Jacobs and the Giro dell’Emilia, the latter by outsprinting Italian veteran (and two-time winner) Elisa Longo Borghini.
Arguably more impressive than those wins was Vollering’s performances in some of the biggest races on the calendar. Third at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and fifth overall at the Giro Rosa in your neo-pro season — both in esteemed company — are wonderful results and an excellent sign of things to come.
Annemiek van Vleuten’s dominant ride at the Giro Rosa.
When you start a race as the unbackable favourite it’s pretty hard to impress people. Any success you might have is expected, after all. But at this year’s Giro Rosa, Annemiek van Vleuten was even more dominant than people expected.
The Dutchwoman bided her time nicely in the opening stages then, at the base of the final on stage 5 — the queen stage — Van Vleuten took off and wasn’t seen again. She crossed the line nearly three minutes clear of anyone else, winning the Giro Rosa right there and then.
As if that wasn’t enough, she came out the next day and won the individual time trial by nearly a minute, further extending her lead.
Van Vleuten ended up winning the Giro Rosa by 3:45 — a yawning chasm between her and the rest of the field. It was her second title in as many years, and added to stellar victories at Strade Bianche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier in the year. And her Giro Rosa win certainly wasn’t the last time this season she’d dominate on the world stage. More on that in a moment.
Marianne Vos’ return to form.
Take a look at the chart of Marianne Vos’ wins throughout her career and you’ll notice a considerable “lean patch” between 2015 and 2018. From 2007 to 2014 she had won between 18 and 31 races a season (an average of 22) but in the four years prior to 2019, she never managed more than nine. Of course, most riders would kill for nine wins in a year, but Vos isn’t most riders.
In 2019, she’s been back in scintillating, world-beating form, winning a total of 19 races — easily the most of any rider this year, male or female. Among those wins: one-day victories at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and La Course, a stage and the overall at the Tour de Yorkshire, four stages and the overall at the Tour of Norway, and five of seven stages plus the overall at the Tour de l’Ardeche.
Nowhere was her class and dominance more clear than at the Giro Rosa. Vos won four stages there, all of them on uphill sprints.
Where Vos was once a GC contender in the hard and hilly races (she won the Giro Rosa three times) she’s reinvented herself in recent years as a stage-hunting sprinter who loves an uphill drag and who manages to win stage races by virtue of winning so many stages along the way.
It’s hard to argue that Vos is back at her absolute best (she won 31 races in 2011, and 20 in 2012 including the world title, Olympic gold and the Giro Rosa) but for much of this year she’s simply been in a class of her own. And at 32, there’s still plenty of time for Vos to add to her already overflowing trophy room.
Chloe Dygert-Owen’s wins in Colorado and Yorkshire.
We’ve known for a few years now that Chloe Dygert-Owen is a super talent that was just waiting for her chance to shine against the best in the world. She did that this season.
After recovering from a serious concussion last year, Dygert-Owen took a handful of victories in U.S. races throughout 2019, but it wasn’t until August and September that she really shone.
At the Colorado Classic in August the 22-year-old simply rode away from the field on all four stages, winning them all and the race overall, plus every classification on offer. It was a hell of a warning shot to her rivals at Worlds, even if the Colorado Classic field didn’t have the same depth as she’d face in Yorkshire.
But then, at Worlds, Dygert-Owen stormed around a sodden time trial course, winning the gold medal by a record-breaking 1:32. It was a breathtaking ride that well and truly announced the American on the world stage. Surely it is just the first of many world ITT titles she will claim.
Dygert-Owen was great in the road race too, attacking late in an attempt to reel in lone leader Van Vleuten. She ultimately ended up fourth on the day after a stellar ride. It’s hard to imagine Dygert-Owen not winning at least one road race title at some point during her career.
Annemiek Van Vleuten’s audacious long-range win at Worlds.
It really shouldn’t be possible to attack a world class field on your own with more than 100km to go and ride solo all the way to the finish to win a world title. But it seems that with Annemiek van Vleuten, just about anything is possible.
To be honest, her ride didn’t make for an especially entertaining bike race (Dygert-Owen’s ill-fated bridging attempts aside), but it was impossible not to watch in awe as the then-36-year-old Van Vleuten defied the odds and rode to victory by over two minutes.
It was the most remarkable performance from this year’s Road World Championships, and one of the most impressive individual efforts road cycling has seen in a long time.
What do you think? Have we missed anything? What were your highlights from the 2019 season?