Of course, a lot has gone down already, from the speedy season openers in Australia to the formidable performances offered by the Strade Bianche — fans have had a tantalising sample of what’s on offer. That said, the best is, without a doubt, yet to come. So whether you are just getting ready to peak your head into the world of women’s racing, or are trying to decide which of your favourite riders to place bets on, here are a few of the top contenders that you definitely want to keep an eye on!
Lorena Wiebes – SD Worx
Team SD Worx has a wickedly powerful lineup this season, thanks in no small part to one of their stars Lorena Wiebes. Hailing from The Netherlands, this feisty sprinter just turned 24 and is at the top of her game. She finished second behind her teammate Lotte Kopecky at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, only to show up and take the win at Omloop van het Hageland the very next day. Currently the European Champion, Wiebes transferred to SD Worx from DSM this year.
This stellar road racer is also keen to tackle track and cyclocross races in the off-season, so you can believe she will feel right at home if Roubaix once again delivers on the spectacle of wet and wet muddy cobbles. Wiebes also has some good karma coming her way, as she donated her premium for winning Ronde van Drenthe to the Amy Pieters Foundation. Pieters, who used to ride for SD Worx, is recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered 14 months ago while training in Spain.
Lotte Kopecky – SD Worx
As noted above, SD Worx is loaded to the brim with talent. Who will emerge as the team’s true leader will remain to be seen later in the season. That said, with Kopecky’s nearly 20-kilometre solo at Omloop, her second place at World Championships, and her sprinting prowess shown at the Tour de France Femmes, she has absolutely proven that she has what it takes to go all the way.
Or course, her second place at Paris Roubaix last year means she will undoubtedly be among the favourites when the women take to the infamous cobbles early next month. Not to mention, she picked up another casual win at the Danilith Nokere Koerse, ahead of her aforementioned teammate and powerhouse Lorena Wiebes. With all that momentum at her back, seeing how she approaches the rest of the Classics will be thrilling.
Kasia Niewiadoma – Canyon // SRAM
A classics rider through and through, Kasia Niewiadoma’s time to shine is just around the corner. She has been a solid force in the women’s peloton for years and garnered lots of attention with her third-place overall finish at the TdFF last year. She has been with her crew at Canyon // SRAM since 2018, and despite racing as a pro for nearly a decade, she’s only 28 years old. With many prime years still ahead of her, Niewiadoma’s approach to racing is refreshing and provides some insight into the mind of a top athlete. As she told us in a post earlier this month,
“I also want to see how strong I am mentally. I know all my numbers from a power meter, so I see the shape is there. But, simultaneously, I know it is not enough to win. In addition to the physical strength, you need to be mentally tough and not allow unexpected circumstances to phase you. I hope to bring it all together to achieve my goals this season.”
Whether or not the stars align, she is always a delight to watch, and we’re excited to see what she’ll do this season!
Charlotte Kool – Team DSM
With Wiebes no longer around to be the star of the show on Team DSM, it is Kool’s turn to shine. This season, the punchy 23-year-old took the sprinter’s jersey at the UAE Tour Women, winning stages 1 and 4 in sprints over Wiebes. And yet, for all she is capable of on a bike, cycling wasn’t the Dutchwoman’s first love.
Rather, she preferred two blades to two wheels, competing in high-level speed skating. However, after joining a local cycling club to train during the summer, she entered a few races and swiftly fell in love. She has described her choice to focus on cycling full-time as “the best decision of my life.” Indeed, it seems she was on to something, and watching her battle it out with former teammate Wiebes will make for plenty of action. Let’s see if Team DSM has what it takes to carry her all the way to the top.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio – AG Insurance–Soudal–Quick-Step
Is this going to be the year for Moolman-Pasio? After making us wonder whether or not she would retire, the South African is coming on stronger than ever.
“I was very certain I would retire after this season,” Moolman-Pasio said. “It’s what I announced to the world, but gradually the idea to continue started to gain ground in my mind. I had one of my best seasons to date and even at 36, I make progress every year. My level is higher than it’s ever been, so here we are.”
On a new team following her stint at SD Worx, she had over a dozen top-10 finishes last season and a GC win at the Tour de Romandie Féminin. This season, she finished second in the Setmana Ciclista-Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fèmines in Spain, her first time out with the new team. So, it is safe to say that the new arrangements suit her just fine. Let’s see what she manages to accomplish as the clear leader of her new squad.
Elisa Balsamo – Trek-Segafredo
Elisa Balsamo made waves in the cycling world when she outsprinted Marianne Vos to win the 2021 World Championship road race in Leuven, and she has been following it up with one impressive feat after another. This year, she honoured her tradition of starting the season strong at Setmana Ciclista – Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fèmines, taking the win on her first race day of the year. She then made it two wins in two days, giving her team the picture-perfect finish they were after.
With her ultimate sprint wing woman Ilaria Sanguineti at her side, there is no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season.
Indeed, plenty of other riders warrant our attention, from mainstay stars like Annemiek van Vlueten and Marianne Vos to powerful riders like Elisa Longo Borghini, Liane Lippert, and Demi Vollering — this season has plenty in store. We are expecting a few surprises, too!
Stay tuned for our coverage of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes, which will go down on April 8th.