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With 15 teams holding Women’s WorldTeam licences in 2022, and more joining the ranks each year, it’s easy to forget that the Women’s WorldTour (WWT) only came into existence in 2020. Of course, certain global events that occurred during that year marred the inaugural season, meaning that only 19 days of WWT racing actually took place in 2020.
Last year, cancellations and postponements continued to wreak havoc on the WWT calendar leaving only 37 race days: five stage races and 13 one-day events. This season, there has been a huge hike in the number of race days at the top level for women, with 71 days of WWT racing, mostly due to the fact that there will be double the number of stage races than in 2021 as well as 14 one-day races.
Some of these races are new; some – like the Giro Donne – have returned to WWT level; and some are long-established stalwarts of the women’s calendar. With all that said, here is our guide to the 2022 Women’s WorldTour season.
The Women’s WorldTour takes longer to get started than its men’s counterpart but after a long drought comes the flood wherein every weekend in March and April is a WWT race weekend.
With the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race cancelled for another year, the WWT will kick off on the white roads of Tuscany with Strade Bianche on March 5. On March 12 it’s a hit out for the sprinters at Ronde van Drenthe which is back in its usual calendar spot after being postponed to October. After that the peloton heads back to Italy for the longest-standing women’s one-day race on the calendar, Trofeo Alfredo Binda on March 20.
After Binda it’s off to Belgium for Brugge de Panne which typically ends in a sprint unless a rider like Grace Brown – who won the race solo last year – has other plans. A few days later, on March 27, is Gent-Wevelgem, won last year by the GOAT, Marianne Vos.
April is Classics time with the Tour of Flanders on April 3 followed by the first of the Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race, on the 10th. Then, it’s onto the second-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes on the 16th – the race will now be held the day before the men’s despite hints that it was due to take place on the same day.
La Flèche Wallonne on the 20th will have a new winner for the first time in seven years after the Queen of the Mur, Anna van der Breggen, hung up her wheels at the end of 2021. Perhaps four days later, at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, her protegee, Demi Vollering, can back up her 2021 win and start her own tally at that race.
After a few weeks of much-needed rest after the Classics season comes a slew of stage racing, kicking off with a new race, Itzulia Women, on May 13-15. The inaugural race was due to take place in 2021 but organisers instead opted to run a last edition of the one-day Clasica San Sebastian and postpone the new stage race to 2022. Staying in Spain, the second WorldTour edition of the four-day Vuelta a Brugos Feminas begins just after Itzulia, on May 19.
The RideLondon Classique took a COVID-enforced three-year hiatus and has emerged as a newly minted women’s-only stage race in place of the one-day sprinter’s race finishing on the famous Mall. Starting on May 24 the race is now three days long – although organisers have yet to release details of the stages.
Riders might want to stick around and see the sights in London if they also plan on racing The Women’s Tour, which starts one week later, on June 6. The six-day race is the only WWT event due to take place that month and after a year in the sin bin after failing to deliver on a promise of live coverage, organisers will be hoping it can regain its reputation as one of the better-run women’s races.
The fact that The Women’s Tour has managed to stay on the WWT calendar – after the Giro Rosa spent a year at 2.Pro level for the same offence – means we can be hopeful.
On the subject of the Giro Rosa – or the Giro d’Italia Donne as it is now known – will return to the Women’s WorldTour this season after delivering on live coverage in 2021 (albeit sporadically). The longstanding race will perhaps suffer in the shadow of the shiny new Tour de France Femmes (July 24-31) but with 14 days between the final stage of the Giro and the first stage of the Tour (imagine that in men’s racing) some riders may opt to race both.
It is difficult to see individual riders and teams targeting the Giro over the Tour de France Femmes with the latter bringing such prestige and exposure. However, if most of the bigger fish choose to target only the TDFF then it could provide opportunities for others at the Giro – although Annemiek van Vleuten will probably still do both.
August is equally as packed, with the return of the Postnord Vårgårda TTT and road race on August 6 and 7, leading into the new, highly anticipated Battle of the North stage race from August 9-14. Organisers had originally planned to incorporate the Swedish events into an amalgamated 10-day race however the Vårgårda organisers withdrew, leaving essentially a slightly longer Ladies Tour of Norway.
Two weeks later, on August 27, comes GP Lorient Agglomeration Trophee Ceratizit or the artist formerly known as GP Plouay. With editions dating back to 2002 Plouay is one of the longest-running women’s races still around. Lizzie Deignan has crossed the line first on three occasions although last year’s edition was claimed by her Trek-Segafredo teammate Elisa Longo Borghini.
August’s relentless racing continues on the 30th with another classic fixture of the women’s calendar, the Simac Ladies Tour – first held in 1998 (before some of these riders were even born.) Last year’s race was defined by a huge crash on stage two which wiped out the vast majority of the peloton, followed by a GC battle between eventual winner, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and Marlen Reusser – who this year are teammates at SD Worx.
The Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta is another race which is responsible for the growth in WWT race days – expanding from four to five stages for 2022. Like La Course before it at the Tour de France, the race started life as a one-day city-centre circuit race on the final stage of the Vuelta a España. Unlike La Course, the race took just a few years to evolve into a multi-day event featuring climbs, time trials, and a challenging parcours beyond just a single circuit in the city.
There have been 75 editions of the men’s Tour de Romandie but the first ever women’s event will take place from the October 7-9 after organisers recognised that “the promotion of women’s cycling is a priority for both political and sporting circles, who are delighted with the addition of the women’s race to the UCI calendar,” – whatever that means. With the Women’s Tour de Suisse also being promoted to 2.Pro this year, it seems that the success of riders like Elise Chabbey and Marlen Reusser is having an impact on women’s racing in Switzerland.
Finally, if we can all make it to mid-October, the long-suffering sprintfests of Tour of Chongming Island (October 13-15) and the Tour of Guangxi (October 18) will round off the season for the first time since 2019, after both were cancelled in both 2020 and 2021.
Should all 25 events go ahead, we are in for the biggest Women’s WorldTour season yet. And, with all races expected to provide at least 45 minutes of live coverage as part of their WWT status there will be plenty of women’s racing to watch and support in 2022.