The 2020 cycling season is already underway but the biggest and best races are still to come. So who should you keep an eye on as the season unfolds? Well, here’s a handy dandy little list for you.
This isn’t just a list of road racers — it includes some mountain bikers and other incredible women doing incredible things. This list isn’t just results-based either — it also includes women who deserve some kudos and a social media follow. Women who are inspiring or funny; who love tacos or dogs. There are reasons to watch them besides their crazy-strong legs.
1. Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv)
At this point in her career Vos has transcended to legend status. She was without question the best from roughly 2006-2014 before having a few ups and downs … until last year. In 2019 Vos seemed back to her winning ways with dominating performances at the Giro Rosa — winning 4 stages — and followed it up by winning La Course a few days later.
Her 2020 has started out a little rocky, with groin surgery, but only two weeks post-surgery she was back on the roads — albeit on an elliptical — and she is planning to be back on form for the races she wants to shake up. Vos is also one of the nicest riders in the peloton, always willing to chat with fans and other riders … who are often also fans.
She’s the role model your kids should be looking up to, on and off the bike.
2. Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo)
Deignan has a year of post-baby racing under her belt and she’s oh-so-ready to fight. In 2019 Lizzie won the OVO Energy Tour, but fell short at the World Championships in Yorkshire. This year, she’s out for sweat, blood and tears.
Second at the London Olympics in 2012, fifth in Rio in 2016, you can be sure Deignan will be in fine form for the Tokyo Olympics in July.
3. Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo)
She’s got a win already on her 2020 CV — the Tour Down Under — she had a stellar year last year, and she’s hungry for the Olympic games — be sure to keep Winder on your radar. Not only is the American a fantastic rider to watch in the races, she’s also an awesome rider to follow on Instagram, with one of the peloton’s strongest selfie games and an adorable puppy to boot.
Winning TDU was amazing, but there’s a lot more to come for this rider in 2020.
4. Ella Harris (Canyon-SRAM)
At only 21 years of age, the winner of last year’s Zwift Academy is already proving a worthy addition to Canyon-SRAM. Harris finished out 2019 strong and already pulled off a great win at this year’s Herald Sun Tour.
Given the way she’s progressing, you can expect some solid support from Harris’ team and more results to come.
5. Leah Thomas (Bigla-Katusha)
Going into her second year with Bigla-Katusha — formerly Bigla Pro Cycling — Thomas is most definitely one to watch. Last year was her first full year in Europe, and she took to it brilliantly. Thomas was extremely consistent in 2019 with 17th in Strade Bianche, first at the Pan American Championships TT, complete domination of the Tour of Scotland, and seventh in the TT at the World Championships. For a rider who’s only been racing at the professional level for two years, she has proved she’s one to watch in 2020.
With Bigla’s team leader, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, switching teams in 2020, Thomas will hopefully have a lot more opportunities this year. Bonus points for being incredibly nice and having a Star Wars reference in her Instagram handle.
6. Brodie Chapman (FDJ)
Chapman’s performance in the inaugural Race Torquay was one for the books, especially hot on the heels of her solo escape in stage 1 of the Tour Down Under.
She’s been a CyclingTips favorite even before her Herald Sun Tour win in 2018. Since that performance she’s become a better and better rider, and since she has joined the WorldTour FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope team for 2020 she will have even more support in 2020. She’s also hilarious. If that’s not a reason to follow her, I don’t know what is.
7. Chloe Dygert
Dygert’s absolute and utter dominance of the time trial at the 2019 World Championships was impressive, however, her gutsy and heart-wrenching ride in the road race in Yorkshire was a reason to put Dygert on everyone’s list of favorites for 2020. Granted, that was her very first road race in Europe (she was fourth — mind, blown) and it’s likely we won’t be seeing her in many races before the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
If there are any takeaways from Dygert’s Worlds TT performance it’s that the girl can target a race. For 2020 she’s moved to Idaho to live closer to her coach — three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong — who was absolutely legendary at timing her training to peak for specific events. Dygert’s primary focus is on the track, as she is a key member of the USA’s team pursuit squad, so make sure to keep an eye on their results.
In general, Dygert is freakishly strong. Expect great things from her not only in 2020, but for many years to come.
8. Kate Courtney
Courtney was the 2018 Cross Country Mountain Bike World Champion at the age of 22. She is a fighter. She is also one of the absolute best women in cycling to follow on Instagram. She’s funny, she loves tacos, she’s always doing something entertaining and inspirational in the gym. But let’s make this very clear: she’s freaking fast on a mountain bike!
In 2019 she won the World Cup overall title after a little bit of a rollercoaster season. She’s someone Americans should be proud of, as the first American female to take that title since Alison Dunlap in 2002. She’s someone to watch, daily, on her Instagram Stories, and also in the mountain bike racing scene this year.
9. Jenny Rissveds
Rissveds was the Olympic gold medalist in cross country at the 2016 Olympics, but afterwards struggled with mental health and ended up taking a few years off from racing. She returned to the circuit at the second World Cup of the season in the Czech Republic, where she finished 33rd. At the following World Cup in Andorra Rissveds ended the race in third. In her post-race interview she said “It’s incredible what your head can do. If you believe in yourself, you can go so far.” Inspirational words from someone who wasn’t shy talking about her headspace.
It’s her openness that really put her on this list, regardless of how amazing she is on a bike. Mental health is something that is being talked about more and more, and for an athlete — a profession so many people see as the closest thing this world has to real-life superheroes — to open up about struggling internally is something that deserves props.
10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ)
Uttrup Ludwig is one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton. When she lines up for a race you can be sure she will be going for it at least once. Her most notable result in 2019 was third at La Course, which doesn’t do her riding style justice.
It’s not hard to tell that Uttrup Ludwig is having fun every time she gets on her bike to race. What Cecilie is most known for is her post-race interviews. Even a YouTube video that followers her around her European base of Girona, made by InCycle, will bring a smile to anyone’s face. Do yourself a favor and watch her post-La Course 2018 interview too — it’s pure gold:
On her former team she was the leader, but in 2020 she has joined FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, alongside some pretty experienced riders, which hopefully means a little less pressure for the youngster and more freedom to do what she does best: go wild.
11. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott)
Ya. This one really needs no words. Van Vleuten is that good.
12. Kate Leeming
At this point in time most of the world has been discovered. Few people can claim that they are the “first” to do something. Kate Leeming is one of those few people. Some of her achievements include: first person to cycle across Africa from Senegal to Somalia; first woman to cycle unsupported across Russia; first woman to cycle the Canning Stock Route; and first to cycle down the skeleton coast of Namibia. Her next goal is to complete the first bicycle crossing of the Antarctic continent.
Kate Leeming is an adventurer and each of her expeditions has a cause in mind. For example, her Trans-Siberian Cycle Expedition was to aid the 800,000 children of Chernobyl. She has two books about her expeditions: Njinga, which is about her Breaking the Cycle Africa expedition; and Out There and Back, about her Great Australian Cycle expedition.
Kate is an inspiration. You can follow her journey via her blog at breakingthecycle.education. She has big plans for 2020, so she’s definitely one to keep tabs on. Also, keep up with the Freewheeling podcast for an in-depth interview with Kate, coming soon!