The Aviva Women’s Tour has fast become one of the most important stage races in the women’s cycling calendar and is the biggest women’s race in Britain by a large margin. This year saw the event being made part of the UCI’s exciting new calendar of races that will make up the brand new UCI Women’s WorldTour.
There are 17 races in total that make up the WorldTour taking place over 35-days of racing in nine different countries. Earmarked by UCI President Brian Cookson as “a major step forward for women’s cycling”.
The event this year attracted 16 teams with 156 riders in total from 10 different countries, with some of the high-profile racing teams including Rabo Liv (winners of 2014 with Marianne Vos), Canyon SRAM with defending champion Lisa Brennauer and a Great British national team as their continuing preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The whole country got behind this year’s tour, drawing it in record numbers of excited crowds and small British villages getting involved with copious amounts of bunting, decorations and local support.
Although the the UK can’t usually compete with the climbs from the continent, what it lacks in distance can make up with inclines. With some QOM’s featuring upwards of 18% gradients, it proved a formidable challenge for the riders hunting for the Strava Climbers jersey.
UnitedHealthcare rider, Katie Hall was riding the Women’s Tour for the the third time, and came fully prepared to take the climbers jersey. The route featured more climbing this year based on feedback, which suited Katie just fine – she’s got the typical build of a climber and had the full support of her team.
“Compared to America, the roads in the UK are tiny! We’re used to racing on 4-lane roads so it was a little tricky adjusting at first”
The first stage saw ParkHotel valkenburg’s Ilona Hoeksma take the climbers jersey, getting to the finish line first on both QOM’s, with Katie trailing in at 5th place. That success was short-lived however, with Katie Hall showing her dominance on the climbs the next day and throughout the tour.
Stage 3 was the queens stage, featuring 2,000 metres of climbing, winding through small villages within the Peak District from Ashbourne to Chesterfield. Katie Hall managed to position herself in the breakaway and secured maximum points, winning both QOM climbs in Winster and Matlock.
Bank Road Hill Climb, the second QOM of the day featured 220m of climbing in just 1.0km, with a maximum gradient of over 20% and 11% average – it proved to be a testing battleground for the climbing specialists, splitting the peloton with a devastating time gap of over 3 minutes.
Britain in Yellow
With the full support of the British crowds behind her, National Road Champion Lizzie Armistead and her Boels Dolemans team showed the field their strength time and time again, working under pressure and staying comfortable within the GC contention.
“This time last year I was in bed watching it so it was a really good valuable experience throughout the whole week. The biggest learning I’ve taken away from it was just how strong of a team we are. I feel really proud of everyone in the team”
Arch rival and previous winner, Marianne Vos came in just over 18 seconds behind Armistead in the GC.
Last minute win
Lotta Lepisto took a surprise win at the fifth and final stage in Kettering, successfully staying away in an early breakaway and was the first to the cross line in front hundreds of cheering fans. It was the first WorldTour race for the team so there were a lot of unknowns.
“It was really exciting for us, we were nervous but very happy to be here.”
“We’re a small team but we have the biggest hearts. We started with 5, but we lost a rider during the week and had to work hard, but today’s win made it worth it.”
“It was pretty hard, I went in the break and managed to stay away from the main group. I was getting messages through the team radio to remain calm and keep my focus in the last few k’s because the peloton might have caught us.”
The Women’s Tour of Britain has gone strength to strength and this year was bigger and better then ever. It’s a highlight on the women’s cycling racing calander and is a shining example for how events should be organised. Unfortunately Aviva will no longer be sponsoring the event, but we’re sure they shouldn’t have a problem finding another sponsor.