Official route profiles and maps, plus Cronoescalada routes:
Stage 1 http://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/tracks/view/166148
Official startlist can be found here (PDF)
Weather will be 18 degrees C with a high chance of rain for stages 1 and 2, then a bit cooler at 15 degrees C still with occasional showers for stage 3, and finally a little sunnier and less chance of rain for stage 4 (15 degrees C) and stage 5 (17 degrees C).
Stage 1 is 144km and is deceptively bumpy, with a highly technical finish to boot. The wide A roads interchange briefly with narrow path after the 10km mark, so anyone not up front here will find themselves at the back of a very strung out peloton. The same happens again after 30km and 60km, with what looks like two level crossings in the last half of the stage. Then it is a straightforward run towards Norwich with the aforementioned corner-heavy finish. A late attack seems the most likely outcome.
Stage 2 is 147km and goes straight away into the first of many short but tough 5-7% climbs at 3.6km, then at 17.8km and 68km. The gradient moves up a few percent at 83km, 90km, 98km and 108km, before going into the longest and hardest climbs at 121km and 130km. The route then flattens out towards the end, with a last mini climbs 3km from the finish.
Stage 3 is shorter at 115km but with much harder climbs that seem to have made it the pivot point for the GC. There’s a 2km climb at 4km at 7%, with a similar one from 16km to 23km.This is followed immediately by a 1km 7% climb. At 40km the road goes up to 7% for 6km, including a short dip. 51km to 53km it reaches 7% before the next climb at 63km for nearly 5km. At 76km riders must climb nonstop for 10km, with gradients reaching up to 10%, followed by the steepest descent in the stage. Last major climb is at 97km for 6km before descending to the finish, again with short hill 3km from the finish. Surely the GC will be broken up in pieces by the end of it.
The 129km 4th Stage is mostly flat (as much as is possible for British roads) for the first 36km before entering a hilly section over the middle of the stage, before hitting three steep climbs in succession at the 98km mark in stretches of 7km, 3km and 7km again, hitting gradients of 6-10%. The first of these climbs is the steepest and has a tricky descent. The stage finishes mostly uphill, with some respite in the final 500m.
The last stage is a 120km rollercoaster. Hill after hill after hill. There are some very steep, short climbs at 18km, 36.5km, 65km, 82km, 105km and 107km before finishing mostly downhill towards the end, where it’s likely to be a sprint finish.
This is the kind of race that the pros have been asking for, and it’s certainly the most difficult WWT race so far. Boels Dolmans go in with Lizzie Armitstead, Chantal Blaak, Amalie Dideriksen, Ellen van Dijk, Nikki Harris and Christine Majerus. Stage races are not their strength, and Armitstead looked very unwell at the press conference to me. Their DS says they approach each stage as a 1 day race, and stages 3 and 4 suit Nikki Harris very well. Although she is usually riding in support of Armitstead, a good showing might find her in pole position. Canyon SRAM have last years winner in Lisa Brennauer, but it’s a very different race to the previous two editions. She has Alena Amialiusik, Hannah Barnes, Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell and Barbara Guarischi with her. Amialiusik is no doubt eyeing up those climbs, and is probably their better GC bet. Orica AIS have been MIA from several races, ostensibly because of Rio 2016 preparations but probably more down to the news they are to lose their sponsor after 2017. Perhaps this will have a Team IAM effect on them, pushing Amanda Spratt, Gracie Elvin, Loren Rowney, Taylor Wiles and Sarah Roy to tackle the sprints on the first and last stages. They also bring Alexandra Manly, coming into her second Aviva tour after a slightly rubbish experience last year. Wiggle H5 have the big guns. Elisa Longo Borghini looked absolutely FEWMIN (at herself) at losing out to Megan Guarnier in Philidelphia, the GC will be on her to do list. Emma Johansson is equally a favourite, do I need say more? Jolien D’hoore has been preoccupied with track for Rio 2016, so may be more focused on stages wins such as stage 4. Dani King, Georgia Bronzini and Amy Pieters make up the strongest team at this race, rock solid support for Longo Borghini and Johansson. Cervelo Bigla have got one of the GC favourites in Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. A good rest (and some boxsets no doubt) have done her the world of good, bringing her back to her 2015 form. A consistent rider, it’ll be a surprise if she’s not on the podium. Lotta Lepisto will be hard to beat on stage 1, and for the sprint jersey. Clara Koppenburg, Lisa Klein and Stephanie Pohl make up a slightly depleted team. Lepisto will be battling with Hitec’s Kirsten Wild in the sprints, in a team with Vita Heine, Simona Frapporti, Tatiana Guderzo, Lauren Kitchen and Emilie Moberg. Hitec are an unpretentious team, they want wins so Wild and Kitchen will be going all out for them. GC is probably not a reality, although Kitchen has had good GC placings so far this year. RaboLiv bring HRH Marianne Vos, with Anna van der Breggen, Lucinda Brand, Shara Gillow, Anouska Koster and Roxanne Knetemann. I don’t think Vos is aiming for the GC, and is more likely to go for wins on stage 1, 2 and 5. Van der Breggen is their rider with the best GC short, a consistent all rounder who can make the breaks even if she gets left out of the top three at the end. Liv Plantur have staked their claim for the GC with Leah Kirchmann, with Floortje Mackaij, Molly Weaver, Carlee Taylor, Sara Mustonen and Rozanne Slik making up what can no longer be called a development team. Liv were very impressive at the Keukens van Lommel Classic, and if they really are getting behind one rider (with Floortje no doubt targeting one or two stages herself) then they really can’t be discounted for the podium. Ale Cipollini are probably the only other GC contenders, with Malgorzata Jasinska, Marta Bastianelli, Marta Tagliaferro, Anna Trevesi, Emilia Fahlin and Annalisa Cucinotta. Jasinska is a great climber, and the hilly stages tip the overall more in her favour than most races.
Cylance have their own climbing star in Rosella Ratto, with a team seemingly built around her with Valentina Scandolara, Alison Tetrick, Doris Schweizer and Sheyla Guttierrez Ruiz ready to help launch her into no doubt many,many attacks. Stages 2, 3 and 4 will likely be her targets. Parkhotel Valkenburg have Jip van den Bos and Janneke Ensing once more, UHC bring Katherine Hall, Drops have Alice Barnes and Jennifer George, PC Futuroscope 86 are with Roxane Fournier, a British mixed team has Emma Pooley and Grace Garner, and finally BTC City Ljubljana are, along with Drops, the most likely to cause an upset with Eugenia Bujak for a breakaway on stages 2 and 3.
The name that is springing out at me is Anna van der Breggan, but I don’t know if the team will allow her to take the lead role or not. I really think Niki Harris is Boels’ best bet, but you can never tell until after the first stage with them. Longo Borghini and Johansson are, for me, the strongest contenders but Amialiusik has the edge with the hardest of the stages. I really can’t choose, it’s too hard! Ok what the hell, van der Breggan to win 😀