Queens of the Road: A Spotlight on the Top Women Cyclists of 2023

By Megan Flottorp

The 2023 women’s cycling season unfolded with a dynamic blend of talent, resilience, and thrilling race moments. Beyond a collection of races — it was truly a stage where athletes showcased their grit, determination, and distinctive styles. Over the last 12 months, the peloton witnessed the rise of several formidable athletes, each leaving an indelible mark on the 2023 season. Let’s explore some of the top women riders who made this year one for the history books! 

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx): A Belgian star on the rise

Lotte Kopecky’s rise in 2023 cannot go without mention. While finishing second in the rankings, Kopecky’s victories were spectacular, boasting triumphs at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Thüringen overall with stages, and both the Belgian RR and TT titles. The 28-year-old Belgian sensation had a magical run, including a podium finish at the Tour de France and securing the road race World Championship.

With plenty of highlights to choose from — Kopecky’s top moment was still likely her victory at the Tour de Flanders, where her unstoppable form became evident in the last 18 km of the race. Alongside Demi Vollering, she emerged as the star of the season, solidifying her status as a versatile and dominant force in women’s cycling.

Demi Vollering (SD Worx): The Queen of the Ardennes

Speaking of Demi Vollering, her 2023 campaign was nothing short of incredible. The Dutch powerhouse opened her account with a resounding win at Strade Bianche, followed by victories at Dwars, the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – an impressive feat that solidified her status as a dominant force in women’s cycling.

The Ardennes Triple Crown, a rare achievement won previously only by Anna van der Breggen in 2017, was only one of Vollering’s crowning glories in 2023. Another defining moment of Vollering’s season came on Stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes. Sitting seventh on the general classification and trailing her teammate Lotte Kopecky, Vollering faced a daunting challenge on the challenging Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet. The refusal to cooperate with Annemiek van Vleuten and a dramatic pursuit of Kasia Niewiadoma set the stage for a nail-biting finale. Vollering’s decisive attack in the final 5km secured her the stage win and an overall victory in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, underlining her resilience and ability to thrive under pressure.

Annemiek van Vleuten: A graceful exit

Annemiek van Vleuten
Beyond her individual achievements, Annemiek van Vleuten has played a pivotal role in elevating the profile of women’s cycling on the global stage. © Profimedia

Annemiek van Vleuten, the 40-year-old Dutch Superduperstar, bid farewell to her illustrious career with a season that would be the envy of any cyclist. The Vuelta-Giro Donne Double was the centrepiece of her final season, with a wire-to-wire Giro win that began with stage 1 being neutralised due to adverse weather conditions. Van Vleuten’s triumphs extended to the Scandinavia Tour, where she added another win to her impressive list of accomplishments.

Despite a lack of top finishes later in the season, Van Vleuten’s retirement marks the end of an era, as she exited the sport on a high note — securing her position as one of the best cyclists of all time. Van Vleuten’s departure leaves a void in the peloton, but her legacy as a cycling legend will undoubtedly inspire future generations of riders.

Charlotte Kool (DSM–Firmenich): Challenging the sprinting status quo

In the often predictable realm of women’s sprinting, Charlotte Kool emerged as a refreshing challenger to the established order in 2023. Once the leadout rider for Lorena Wiebes, Kool stepped into the limelight and demonstrated that she was a force to be reckoned with all her own.

Case in point, she outpaced Wiebes in a showdown at the UAE Tour, securing two wins to Wiebes’ one. The 24-year-old sprinter’s prowess also extended to notable victories at the RideLondon Classique and Baloise Ladies Tour. Kool’s ability to compete with and defeat Wiebes in bunch finishes elevated her status, placing her alongside elite riders like Elisa Balsamo and Marianne Vos. As a part of the young and talented DSM–Firmenich team, she is signed on until at least 2026. We definitely feel that Kool’s potential and room for development suggest that the competition in women’s sprinting will only intensify in the coming seasons.

Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl–Trek): Young super talent continues making a name for herself 

In the realm of promising young riders, Shirin van Anrooij’s stellar performance in 2023 deserves special recognition. Although on a slightly different level from some of the established names, Van Anrooij’s achievements signalled a significant levelling up and the attainment of major wins in the highly competitive women’s peloton.

Van Anrooij’s signature moment in 2023 was her triumph at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, a race that showcased her climbing ability and tactical prowess. Additionally, she secured victories in the Tour de l’Avenir and achieved commendable results in classics, finishing third in Amstel and eighth in Flanders. Her well-rounded skill set was further highlighted by a second-place finish in the Euros U23 race and the prestigious title of reigning U23 World Champion in cyclocross.

Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx): Sprinting sensation and emerging classics star

Lorena Wiebes
Lorena Wiebes stole the spotlight in 2022. © Profimedia

Lorena Wiebes, a major presence in the SD Worx lineup, continued establishing herself as one of the premier sprinters in women’s cycling during the 2023 season. While she did not clinch the top spot in the overall victories list, Wiebes’ fast finishes were undeniable, with stage wins in races such as Burgos, UAE Tour, Thüringen, Giro Donne, Tour de France, and Scandinavia Tour.

At just 24 years old, Wiebes showcased remarkable growth and versatility in her cycling repertoire. Joining SD Worx elevated her status beyond being a dominant sprinter, as she evolved into a Classics rider with podium finishes in races like Ronde van Drenthe. Wiebes’ palmares in 2023 highlighted her consistency, frequently landing on the podium or being a runner-up in races where she might not have been considered a favourite in the past.

Marlen Reusser (SD Worx): Swiss sensation knows how to go fast 

Marlen Reusser, the Swiss chrono and road star, left an indelible mark on the 2023 women’s cycling season. The 31-year-old athlete smashed all her previous bests, surging to fourth in the world overall rankings (PdC; 5th in other rankings) in just her third World Tour season. Remarkably, Reusser only took up cycling during university, making her ascent even more impressive.

Reusser’s victories in her home tour, Gent-Wevelgem, and the concluding time trial stage of the Tour de France showcased her prowess in both chrono and road racing. As the Swiss road and ITT champion, Reusser added the overall title at the Itzulia Women’s Tour to her list of achievements. Her nickname, the Flying Elephant, hints at her ability to gracefully soar above her competitors, and her performances throughout the season certainly lived up to this moniker.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM): Gravel World Champion and tenacious competitor

Kasia Niewiadoma, a formidable rider for Canyon-SRAM, stands out not only as one of the finest riders in the world but also as a tenacious competitor who thrives in challenging conditions. As far as her 2023 performance goes — her triumph at the Gravel World Championships in 2023 earned her a spot on this list. After pulling away from favorites Silvia Persico and Demi Vollering on the penultimate climb — her victory at the Gravel World Championships added another layer to her versatile skill set, proving her ability to excel on diverse terrains.

As she looks to 2024, Niewiadoma remains a formidable force, ready to take on more challenges and add to her impressive list of victories. The cycling community eagerly anticipates her future performances, both on gravel and traditional road races.

As these remarkable cyclists continue to set new standards and redefine the possibilities in women’s cycling, the excitement for the upcoming seasons intensifies. As we bid farewell to 2023, we will be eagerly awaiting the next chapter — to see just how far these incredibly women will push the boundaries of professional cycling in the months and years to come!