Preview: Your guide to the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway

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Preview: Your guide to the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway

The Ladies Tour of Norway, the second stage race of the 2021 Women’s WorldTour season, is finally upon us, only two and half months after the Vuelta a Burgos. Four aggressive days of racing await the women’s peloton in Norway, starting Thursday August 12.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 edition wasn’t held. There was a worry that the 2021 race would meet the same fate, what with Norwegian COVID-19 entry requirements, but a few days before the race everything is looking promising.

 

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This year will be the seventh edition of the Ladies Tour of Norway. The first was won by Anna van der Breggen in 2014, with Marianne Vos taking the runner-up spot. Since then Vos has walked away with the overall prize three times in a row, in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and eight stage victories. The other two winners of the general classification were Megan Guarnier in 2015 and Lucinda Brand in 2016.

Through the years the race has changed from a three-day event to a two-day event and eventually to four days in 2019. This year’s race will see the women race three relatively flat but challenging stages, with the third stage of the race ending in a mountain-top climb.

With the Olympics freshly behind the peloton it will be fascinating to see who has a fire in their belly. It’s no secret some top riders have had disappointing seasons, while SD Worx has shown a dominance not seen by any team in years. Can SD Worx field a team that will sweep the podium like it recently did at the Giro Donne? Or will the other teams refuse to allow another crushing defeat? I guess we will see over the weekend.

The course

All four stages for the Ladies Tour of Norway are challenging in their own right. Stages 1, 2, and 4 are on the flat side but all three have multiple Queen of the Mountains points up for grabs. Still, those three stages look likely to come down to a small group sprint. There’s clearly a reason Vos has won so many Ladies Tour of Norway stages.

Stage 3, the Queen stage, finishes with an 11.1 km climb, the opposite of flat. This one stage changes the entire dynamic of the race, as well as the rosters teams would have put together to challenge Vos the Boss.

Looking at the stages, it’s possible we will see the jersey change hands a number of times before the final stage into Halden.

Stage 1: Halden to Sarpsborg (141.5 km)

Two QOMs will hardly prove to be selective when it comes to who can win the first stage. They might make for some fascinating breakaways, but with the circuits before the finale in Sarpsborg, it’s likely the first stage will end in a sprint from a reduced peloton.

Stage 2: Askim to Mysen (145 km)

The poppy little climb close to the finish might break up the peloton enough to allow a gutsy rider to take stage 2. Alternatively, it could be a day for a breakaway, with the lone QOM coming late in the race and the terrain continuing to roll from there to the finish.

Stage 3: Drammen to Norefjell (145 km)

With the final climb looming over the rest of the stage, teams might wait to see who can hold on for the 11.1 km of ascent. Anyone who knows they need a headstart on the climb will try to make the opening kilometres interesting, but a big team like SD Worx might be keen to keep everyone together to the base of the climb.

It’s no doubt a day for a climber, with the final climb averaging 6.1%.

Stage 4: Drøbak to Halden (141.6 km)

Another “flat” stage ending with circuits of the finishing town. It’s another potential bunch or reduced peloton sprint to wrap up the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway on Sunday. With a challenging climb on stage 3, it’s unlikely anyone will be able to make up time on the top general classification contenders on stage 4, but that doesn’t mean the race won’t be thrilling.

The finishing circuit is a technical one, with multiple sharp turns and narrow city streets.

How the race will play out

Riding high (or low) after Tokyo

There are a few Olympic participants on the startline; Annemiek van Vleuten for one. Van Vleuten made a triumphant return to racing with Movistar after the Olympics by winning San Sebastian with a solo move. With the form she’s on, why stop? Van Vleuten is the rider to beat on stage 3 and thus for the general classification as well.

‘Vleuty’ is joined by USA Olympic athlete Leah Thomas, who hasn’t had quite the season she may have been hoping for but will still fight for a victory in Norway if she’s given the opportunity.

One rider with some post-Olympic frustration to take out on the road is Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope). She went to Japan with good form, but her only teammate went down early in the road race leaving the Danish rider stranded. In a field of 67, when you have no help, there’s very little you can do but hope the big teams leave a gap open. They did, of course, but it was of little help to Uttrup Ludwig who finished 10th on the day.

Uttrup Ludwig will head to Norway looking to spice up the race and hunt for a stage or two. If the general classification falls into her lap in the process, great. Her teammate Marta Cavalli is also a rider to watch, especially on stage 3, after she finished fourth on both mountain-top stages at the Giro Donne and eighth at the Olympic road race.

A final name to mention in relation to Tokyo is Coryn Rivera who takes to the start in Norway with Team DSM. Rivera went into the Olympics in career-best form. She won the final stage of the Giro Donne, and now she’s back in the WorldTour peloton looking for that WT win. Three of the stages suit Rivera, especially if the finales are technical. She’s small and good at manoeuvring herself into the right place.

Teams missing their usual leader will turn to their next great hope

Three-time winner of the Ladies Tour of Norway Marianne Vos is not on the startlist for Jumbo-Visma this year, leaving the race wide open to some of her younger teammates. Anna Henderson, who just won both stages and the overall at the Tour de Belle Isle en Terre-Kreiz Breizh in France, will be hunting her first WorldTour victory.

Henderson has been strong all season, and her recent wins put her front and centre to lead Jumbo-Visma in Norway. Plus, the routes in Kreiz Breizh are similar to those in Norway – technical and rolling – with the potential to end in small group sprints.

Also taking to the start for Jumbo-Visma are Anouska Koster and Riejanne Markus, both seasoned riders with the ability to pull off a win. Especially without Vos there, Koster and Markus will have a little more freedom to try something.

Similar to Jumbo-Visma, SD Worx is headed to Norway sans Anna van der Breggen and Demi Vollering, their two strongest riders of 2021. It will definitely make the race a little more aggressive without those two, but SD Worx still has some cards to play.

Niamh Fisher-Black, who wore the leader’s jersey for a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, is one option. Especially with the climb on stage 3. Then there’s Lonneke Uneken, winner of the final stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour earlier in the year. Uneken also recently won the final-stage reduced sprint at the Baloise Ladies Tour in Belgium, so we know the 21-year-old is versatile.

The comeback kids

Trek-Segafredo takes to the start with Chloe Hosking who has been recovering from coronavirus since the spring. Hosking hasn’t raced since the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne in March and it’s great to see her on the startlist once more.

Former Ladies Tour of Norway winner Lucinda Brand is also racing for Trek-Segafredo, as is Lizzie Deignan. The two will be a fierce duo and the American team really needs a win. Their last WorldTour victory was way back in March with Elisa Longo Borghini. Their last road stage or one-day win as a team was Brand’s stage win at the Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour.

All in all the last few months have been disappointing for Trek-Segafredo. The Giro Donne didn’t go their way, neither did La Course, and they weren’t in the mix at the last WorldTour stage race, Vuelta a Burgos, either.

Compared to last year they’ve not been on their top game, but there’s still time. Deignan and Brand could both claim stages in Norway.

Teamwork and dreamwork

A final team worth mentioning is Canyon-SRAM. It’s been a minute since Canyon-SRAM wowed us with their dynamics at the Lotto Belgium Tour but they’ve still had some of the most impressive teamwork in the peloton in 2021. Again they will line up in Norway with an aggressive group of women. They have both Hannah and Alice Barnes and Alexis Ryan who will be factors in the sprint finishes.

For the climbing on stage 3, they have Ella Harris and Mikayla Harvey, two young up-and-coming talents. And their sixth rider is Elise Chabbey who won the first stage of the Tour de Suisse earlier in the year when she outsprinted Deignan. That victory was particularly beautiful with Chabbey in the Swiss national champion’s jersey at the time.

All six of Canyon-SRAM’s riders have the potential to do well in Norway, but it’s the combined unit that will be the most fun to watch.

Each stage will be a fight, and Van Vleuten will win the overall

Just to wrap things up, here are some predictions. With the climb on stage 3 the overall victory will go to Van Vleuten. We may see some younger riders up in the fight, but with Van Vleuten’s form right now, and with Van der Breggen not racing, it’s hard to see anyone outclimbing Van Vleuten.

Every stage is still going to be interesting. There are enough strong sprinters to make every day worth fighting for. Between Alice Barnes, Henderson, and Rivera there’s plenty in with a shot.

And it’s possible the stages won’t come down to a sprint. With other irons to throw in the fire, some of the teams with strong sprinters could throw some moves towards the end of the race on the off chance they will end up with a solo winner and a card to play against Van Vleuten in the general classification.

Every stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway will be worth watching, and thankfully, there’s a ton of live coverage on tap.

The coverage

As a WorldTour event, the Ladies Tour of Norway is required to provide some live coverage. Over two hours of each stage will be available live on GCN+ in all GCN+ territories, excluding Norway itself.

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