Mick Bennett, the race director, says he has prepared the “most brutal edition yet” of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour after some riders complained that last year’s race was not selective enough.
Every stage of last year’s race ended in some form of sprint, with the overall classification won by Sunweb sprinter Coryn Rivera, who also picked up the points jersey.
Canvassed for their views afterwards, some riders said they would like the parcours to cater more to the climbers, leading Bennett to introduce more than 4,000m of climbing this year.
“Our view was: ‘Right you’ve asked for it now,’” Bennett said on Saturday. “We’re going to make this the most brutal race yet.
“One problem in the past was that the depth in women’s cycling is not as deep as in the men’s race, and as we have rolling road closures we can’t afford to have the peloton spread out all over the road. But I think we’ve got a nice balance this year.”
The sixth edition of the Women’s Tour kicks off with a 157.6 km stage from Beccles to Stowmarket on Monday before a 62.5km criterium style event at Kent’s Cyclopark on Tuesday. Another likely sprint stage follows on Wednesday with a stage from Henley-on-Thames to Blenheim Palace, before two days which are likely to shape the general classification with a hilltop finish in Burton Dassett Country Park on Thursday and then a hilly stage in mid-Wales on Friday. The final day of racing sees the peloton attack undulating terrain as they travel from Carmarthen to Pembrey Country Park, over 126km.
“There’s actually a yellow weather warning in place for Monday and Tuesday at the moment, which is for extreme weather,” Bennett added. “There could be winds of 50-60mph. So it might be that the race splits up from Monday. We’ll see. It may be that we need to act but we’re in touch with the Met Office. And we’ll take a view with the race commissaire.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain-Merida have confirmed Rod Ellingworth as their new team principal, saying he will begin his new role on Oct 1.
Ellingworth is currently on gardening leave from Team Ineos, having been part of the team since its inception in 2009. Before that he was a key part of British Cycling’s rise to success, starting the academy which launched the careers of Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas.
Ellingworth said the arrival of McLaren Applied Technologies as joint venture partner earlier this year had contributed to his decision to move.
“McLaren’s co-ownership of the team provides a unique opportunity to look at every area of performance with a fresh perspective – and I find this massively appealing,” he said. “I’m also excited by the opportunity to bring my own knowledge and ideas to the team and can’t wait to get stuck in.”