Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Annemiek van Vleuten smashed the WorldTour ranking in 2021, but can she do it again?
She might not be overly fond of the jersey she had to wear while leading the competition, but that she wore it from the end of July right through to the end of the season was a sign of her dominance.
By the season’s end, she had racked up over 600 points more than her nearest competitor, despite crashing out of Paris-Roubaix and missing the final two races of the year.
- Annemiek van Vleuten crowned queen of road in 2021, but who can challenge her in 2022?
- Commentary: Annemiek van Vleuten deserves more hype for her Giro, Tour, Vuelta bid
The 2022 season will see more WorldTour race days than ever with a total of 71 race days across 25 different events.
Van Vleuten is targeting a run of form across the Giro d’Italia Donne, Tour de France Femmes, and the Challenge by La Vuelta. If she is able to rack up wins, or podium placings, at all three, she would be a shoo-in to retain her WorldTour crown.
However, there are a whole host of riders looking to take her title and no rider has ever won the WorldTour competition two years in a row.
Who are these pretenders to the throne? VeloNews takes a look at five riders who could topple van Vleuten in 2022.
Demi Vollering is taking up the reins of leadership at the SD Worx team following the retirement of Anna van der Breggen — who remains a sport director at the squad. She will share that role with other riders, but it will be the 25-year-old that most will be looking toward to perform in the biggest races.
Vollering has had a stratospheric rise to the top of the sport after only turning professional in 2019, but she has continued to push and develop and will be one of the toughest contenders in 2022. With major wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Course, followed by her first WorldTour stage race victory at the Women’s Tour, Vollering has her eyes set on a big prize this year — the Tour de France Femmes.
With her climbing ability and her fast finish, Vollering is a tough all-round prospect, and she is likely to trouble van Vleuten all year long. It will be fun to watch how she progresses throughout the season and if she can add to her already impressive palmarès.
Elisa Longo Borghini
Elisa Longo Borghini has been an ever-present force in the peloton over the last decade, but she’s still only just 30. The Italian rider has won some of the biggest races on the calendar with the Tour of Flanders, Strade Bianche, GP de Plouay, and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda — the last of which she has won twice.
Longo Borghini’s performances have peaked and waned over the years, but the double Italian champion appears to have hit a real sweet spot in recent years. Being in a strong team such as Trek-Segafredo has allowed her to really flourish and has taken some of the pressure off her shoulders, giving her a chance to do what she likes to do best: attack. After a very strong 2021, Longo Borghini is in a good place to attack what will be a historic year on the Women’s WorldTour.
Like many, she has the Tour de France in her sights later this season and with no time trial to worry about she has a much stronger chance of getting her hands on that yellow jersey. With a Strade Bianche win in her back pocket, she won’t be too worried about that gravel stage either.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is a rider on the up and up. The Danish rider has become one of the most well-known faces in the peloton thanks to her enthusiastic interviews after races, but she’s been backing that up with some very good results.
Following her big breakthrough in 2017, Uttrup Ludwig has been climbing the cycling hierarchy and it’s about time that she gets some of the big results that her aggressive racing style deserves. Last season, she took her first WorldTour victory with a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, and she finished fourth at the 2020 Giro d’Italia (she crashed out of last year’s race), but she’s missing the big monument or stage race win that she’s surely capable of.
Will this be her year? We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure, she’ll give it a red-hot go.
One probably doesn’t need to say much about why Marianne Vos is a serious contender for anything, but let’s give it a go. While there is a much bigger emphasis on climber-suited parcours in the WorldTour in 2022, there are still plenty of races on the calendar where Vos can rack up some big results.
Now that her Jumbo-Visma team is ranked WorldTour, Vos and her teammates will be doing far more of them over the next few months.
Vos has been a huge force in cycling since she was 19 years old and, at 34, she shows no signs of slowing down. The Dutchwoman started the year off in style with an unprecedented eighth cyclocross world title, beating her compatriot Lucinda Brand in a sprint to the line in Fayetteville. With big performances like that still in her legs, we can expect more big things from her when she hits the road in the coming weeks.
Like her new teammate Demi Vollering, Marlen Reusser has had a speedy rise in cycling after taking to the sport later in life than most professionals. The Swiss rider made a name for herself back in 2020 when she finished second to Anna van der Breggen in the time trial at the world championships in Imola.
Following her move to the WorldTour with Alé BTC Ljubljana last year, Reusser continued her progression with the European time trial title and silver medals in the discipline at the Olympic Games and the world championships, among other things.
With her move to SD Worx, a team that is known for training big talents as well as acquiring them, we should expect to see Reusser make even more gains this year. She is more than just a time trialist and there are lots of possibilities for her this year.