(Excuses first – Short of time this month so I didn’t even come close to making the route profiles, analysis, maps etc that I wanted to do. Need to learn how to do profiles in particular so I hope to have better ones for future races.)
So today we finally got the (provisional) start list for Saturday, which you can download from the race website as a PDF. There’s probably a story behind the delay, because the mens one is also not quite complete, but really who cares. The race map can be viewed here as a google map plus written road directions. And here is a little video I made using Google Streetview to run through (most of) the route:
The teams are Raboliv, WiggleH5, Boels Dolmans, Canyon SRAM, Orica AIS, Cervelo Bigla, Hitec, Cylance, UHC, Tibco-SVB, Liv Plantur, Ale Cipollini, Bepink, PC Futuroscope 86, Lotto Soudal Ladies, Parkhotel Valkenburg, Lensworld Zannata Etixx, TSVL Etixx Guill D’or, Bizkaia Durango, Lares Waowdeals, Lointek, BMS Birn, Team GB, Team Lithuania, Autoglas Wetteren, Wielerclub de Sprinters Malderen, Keukens Redant, Isorex, Jos Feron Lady Force, Jan Van Arckel, WV Breda Manieu.NL, Masslandster Nicheliving and Jonge Renner Ossterhout.
It is the eleventh edition of the women’s race, so only Emma Johansson of WiggleH5 can really claim to be the most consistent performance wise at the moment (5 podium places). Chloe Hosking and former winner Amy Pieters will be there too, so Wiggle are spoiled for choice. 2015 winner Anna van der Breggen is starting her road season here, so runner up Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) with team mate Liz Armitstead (third for two years running) has a head start with the Tour of Qatar already behind her. Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon SRAM) has said she is looking to add another win to her 2013 title, and she certainly has the better team on paper. But I think TSVL Etixx Guill D’or, Lares Waowdeals and Lensworld Zannata Etixx will be looking to disrupt the status quo. TSVL are riding for Kelly Druyts this year, with an enviable budget to help improve on her third place in 2009. Monique van de Ree had a great Tour of Qatar especially with a third place in the last stage, and was unlucky to be outside the GC top 10. Lares Waowdeals want to be up there with the WiggleH5s and the RaboLivs and van de Ree has plenty of experience of this race. Lensworld Zannata Etixx are another team that has gained new momentum with more sponsorship and new signings, although I’m not sure who they will be riding for at this time of writing.
The route is a mixture of wide, open tarmac and narrow little village lanes throughout the entire race so the cobbled sections are likely to serve only as a neutraliser rather than a deciding factor. Who will win? Probably between Cromwell and van Dijk, but I can’t help feeling van de Ree will be up there at the finish.