As the third edition of the Aviva Women’s Tour is about to get underway many of the world’s leading riders have been looking ahead to the race including its foray into Derbyshire.
The cycle road race starts tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15, from Southwold, in Suffolk, and finishes in Kettering, on June 19, with a Derbyshire route during Stage 3, on Friday, and a return to the county during Stage 4, on Saturday.
It includes a 109.6km Stage 3, on Friday, from Ashbourne to Chesterfield, including the Peak District National Park, Buxton and Matlock, and Stage 4, on Saturday, will pass through south Derbyshire on its way from Nottingham to Stoke-on-Trent.
Eagle-eyed spectators will be able to spot the biggest names in international women’s cycling not least the current World Champion and top British rider Lizzie Armitstead.
Armitstead, 27, is an English professional world champion track and road racing cyclist is the reigning World, Commonwealth and National road race champion.
She rides for the Boels Dolmans team and hails from Otley.
Defending Aviva Women’s Tour champion Lisa Brennauer will also be returning to the event and will be leading the CANYON//SRAM Racing team and donning the number one race number on her back.
Brennauer said: “I just love that there are so many people that came to watch and cheer for us last year.
“Including some new routes with more climbs and longer stages than before, the tour offers new opportunities and again huge possibilities for thrilling racing.
“It’s so nice that all of the towns, communities and schools are involved so much in the tour.
“It creates a special atmosphere and every rider enjoys being here.
“I think that Stage 4 will be one of the hardest. Because in this stage most of the climbs are towards the end of the stage.
“But importantly you’ve already had some long and hard stages in the tour. Stage 3 is up and down all day and the peloton will be in different shape by Stage 4. Our team is looking forward to this race.”
Stage 3 from Ashbourne to Chesterfield will pose hilly territory for the riders and could prove pivotal for the main contenders alongside the Stage 4’s visit to Derbyshire.
Current UCI World number one Emma Johansson, of Wiggle HIGH5 Pro Cycling, said: “I’m always excited about the Aviva Women’s Tour. I loved it from the first moment and the crowds just makes it that little extra”
“That the course is a bit changed and made harder might make it a totally different type of race than the last editions but we will have to wait and see.
“Our team is very strong and we have a rider for all different types of courses and finals so I really look forward to this week of racing.”
Final stage winner in 2015 and Best Young and Best British Rider winner Hannah Barnes, of CANYON//SRAM, said: “The last stage will be my favourite as it’s close to a hometown stage for me.
“I know the roads of stage 2 and five really well because it’s my old training area.
“It’s going to be such a different race this year. Last year’s final stage was the hardest and in my opinion it is easier than this year’s stage 2, 3 or 4.
“In the second half of stage 2 there are like five climbs and the last one is not so far from the finish. I think there the General Classification will start to show. My goal for the tour is to help the team get the yellow jersey.”
Belgian National Champion and winner of Stage Two of the 2015 Aviva Women’s Tour Jolien D’Hoore, of Wiggle HIGH5 Pro Cycling, will also be gracing Derbyshire’s roads.
She said: “I heard that Aviva Women’s Tour is pretty hard this year, there’s a lot of climbing. We have good riders, so hopefully I can help them.”
Former winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad one-day classic Tiffany Cromwell, of CANYON//SRAM, said: “I think this year will be really interesting. I’m hoping that it’s an aggressive race and the climbs are hard enough to make exciting racing but not allow negative tactics. I’m feeling good and I’m looking forward to doing something here. The roads know how to handle the bad weather so that won’t be a problem.”
One of the very interesting aspects of the Aviva Women’s Tour is some riders and teams will be going out to win certain stages as opposed to the overall, general classification title.
Director Sportif of the Orica AIS team Gene Bates said: “Predominately we will be chasing stage wins. That’s what we are really after, I think the overall will be a bi-product of chasing those daily wins.
“We will go in with some clear and defined goals for everyone. Sarah Roy has been good lately in the sprints finishing on the podium a few times and we’ve got some good riders to assist her coming into the finishes, so that will be our priority for the first couple of days.
“The third stage looks like it will be the most difficult and potentially the set up for the overall classification.
“We will look at things closely after this stage and decide if we will go down the GC path or just continue for the stages.
“I think it’s great the race has really stepped up. This year it’s part of the new Women’s WorldTour series and it has turned into a proper tour with a mix of flatter stages, more challenging hillier stages and the length of the stages has increased, so it is definitely another step in the right direction.”
Coach of Team Liv Plantur, Hans Timmermans, insists they will be bringing a strong team.
Hans said: “The Aviva Women’s Tour is a well-organized race for female cyclists and during the past years the race has grown into one of the most popular events of the calendar.
“The route is quite challenging this year, with longer stages and a lot more climbing added to the course.
“We go there with a lot of ambition. Leah Kirchmann currently sits in the top 10 on the WorldTour and we want to keep it that way. We will bring a strong team to support her and aim for podium finishes. There are some stages that really suit her as she is one of the few sprinters who is able to be part of the select group in the finale of the hilly stages. There is also the possibility of achieving a good general classification with Leah because of the time bonuses at the finish line.”
Highlights of the Aviva Women’s Tour will be on ITV4 every evening with a repeat the following morning on the same channel.
The highlights will also be available on demand for 30-days via the ITV Hub catch-up service.
The Aviva Women’s Tour begins in Southwold, Suffolk on Wednesday 15 June, finishing five stages later in Kettering on Sunday 19 June.
Stage One, Wednesday, June 15, Southwold to Norwich, 138.5km; Stage Two, Thursday, June 16, Atherstone to Stratford-upon-Avon, 140.6km; Stage Three, Friday, June 17, Ashbourne to Chesterfield; Stage Four, Saturday, June 18, Nottingham to Stoke-on-Trent, 119.2km; and Stage Five, Sunday, June 19, Northampton to Kettering, 113.2km.