A change of sponsorship sees the name change from Ceratizit Challenge by Vuelta to La Vuelta Femenina by Carrefour.es, and the race moves from the autumnal slot it has occupied since the inaugural edition in 2015 to the first week of May.
The most significant change comes in the race’s overall length, which rises from five stages to seven stages this year. This brings the Vuelta closer to the demands of the eight-day Tour de France Femmes and ten-day Giro d’Italia Donne, and means the women’s calendar is getting closer to having its equivalent of the men’s three Grand Tours.
The parcours should ensure that the same riders who have excelled in those races will also be the contenders here — especially the inclusion of the fearsome Lagos de Covadonga on the final stage, which is likely to be where the GC is decided. But there are a variety of other tests for the contenders to take on, from an opening team time trial, a series of flat and rolling stages, and some more tough climbs in the stages preceding the Covadonga finale.
The rider of the moment is Demi Vollering (SD Worx), who simply hasn’t stopped winning since the start of the season. Completion of the Ardennes treble with victory at Liège–Bastogne–Liège last Sunday means the Dutchwoman has now won five of the eight race’s she’s competed in so far this season, a remarkable run that has been the very best of her career.
Demi Vollering became the second woman to win all three Ardennes Classics races (Image by SWPix.com)
All of those victories have come in one-day Classics, and now Vollering turns her attention to the stage race season. Her record in stage races from last season suggests she should be similarly strong in these races, too, starting with La Vuelta. As well as being the only rider to finish anywhere near Annemiek van Vleuten at the Tour de France Femmes last year, she also made the podium at this race and won Itzulia Basque Country. With the full force of SD Worx riding in support of her, she’ll be difficult to discomfort.
Annemiek van Vleuten
As holder of all three Grand Tour titles, and wearer of the rainbow jersey, Annemiek van Vleuten’s reputation precedes her. But does the Movistar rider have the form to continue winning them this year?
Last year she demolished the opposition…
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