Preview: RideLondon Classique 2024

Written by: Niels Goudriaan
Posted 3 weeks ago

The Ford RideLondon Classique is one of the unique events in the Women’s WorldTour calendar, attracting the best female cyclists from around the globe to the United Kingdom with it’s apotheosis in the heart of London. Scheduled from May 24 to May 26, 2024, the race will have three stages, spanning historic and scenic routes in Essex and central London. With a total distance of 392.7 kilometers and an elevation gain of 3,218 meters, the 2024 edition promises to be a showcase of speed, strategy, and endurance.

History of the Race

The RideLondon Classique began in 2013 as a one-day race, born out of the legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Its inclusion in the inaugural Women’s WorldTour calendar in 2016 elevated its status, offering a significant prize purse of €100,000, one of the richest in women’s cycling. The race transitioned to a three-day format in 2022, further cementing its place as a marquee event. Despite challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic leading to cancellations in 2020 and 2021, the race has consistently attracted top talent and delivered memorable performances.

What happened last year?

Last year’s edition saw Charlotte Kool of Team DSM-Firmenich dominate the competition, securing the overall victory with her exceptional sprinting prowess. Stage one ran from Saffron Walden to Colchester over 146km where Charlotte Kool beat Clara Copponi and Maike van der Duin in a sprint finish. Moving into the second stage saw the American Canyon//Sram rider Chloe Dygart sprint to victory followed by Lizzie Deignan and Soraya Paladin. The windy stage saw Charlotte Kool crahs in the final kilometers but was able to finish the race and remain race leader. The third and final stage in the heart of Central London was also pray for Charlotte Kool who secured her overall win in the general classifications. Chloe Dygert finishes second, ahead of Maike van der Duin.

See below the highlights of all the three stages.

 

 

 

Stage 1: Saffron Walden to Colchester (159.2 km)

The opening stage kicks off in the picturesque town of Saffron Walden, known for its medieval charm. The 159.2-kilometer route winds through the scenic Essex countryside, concluding in Colchester, a city steeped in Roman history. The riders will face immediate challenges with two category four climbs at Hertford Lane and Barkway within the first 20 kilometers. These early ascents are expected to encourage breakaway attempts and test the peloton’s climbing legs.

As the route progresses, riders will encounter rolling terrain leading to the first intermediate sprint in Halstead at the 88-kilometer mark. The second half of the stage includes another QOM at Wormingford and a final intermediate sprint in Mistley before the finish in Colchester. The combination of climbs and sprints will demand both endurance and tactical acumen, making it a crucial stage for setting the tone of the race.

 

Stage 2: Maldon to Maldon (142.6 km)

Stage 2 features a challenging circuit starting and ending in Maldon, a historic market town on the Blackwater Estuary. Covering 142.6 kilometers, the route includes three laps of a loop featuring the category four climb at Little Baddow. This climb appears 60 kilometers into the race and will be tackled three times, providing multiple opportunities for climbers to gain time and for teams to strategize.

The stage’s first intermediate sprint occurs in Wickham Bishops, with subsequent sprints and climbs punctuating the route. The final lap’s climb just 12 kilometers from the finish is expected to be a critical point, potentially deciding the day’s victor. This stage’s combination of climbs, sprints, and technical circuits makes it a pivotal day for the general classification contenders.

 

Stage 3: London to London (91.2 km)

The final stage is a spectacular showcase in central London, comprising eight laps of an 11.5-kilometer circuit. Starting and finishing on The Mall, the route passes iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. With only 354 meters of altitude gain, this stage is tailored for sprinters, promising a fast and furious conclusion to the race.

The central London location is expected to draw large crowds, adding to the electric atmosphere. Teams will need to execute perfect lead-out strategies to position their sprinters for the final dash to the line. Given the flat nature of the course, the stage is likely to end in a mass sprint, making it a fitting climax to the three-day event.

 

Key Contenders

As the defending champion, Charlotte Kool of Team DSM-firmenich PostNL comes into the race with a target on her back. Known for her explosive sprint finishes, Kool has consistently demonstrated her ability to navigate through the peloton and emerge victorious in high-pressure scenarios. Her strategic acumen and raw power make her a formidable competitor in both individual stages and the overall classification.

LidlTrek is sending Elisa Balsamo, the former World Champion, is on a mission to reclaim her dominance after an unfortunate crash in last year’s race. Balsamo is a versatile rider capable of both sprinting and handling technical courses with finesse. With the backing of a robust team, she is poised to challenge for stage wins and the overall title.

Lorena Wiebes of Team SDWorx-Protime is a sprinter of exceptional caliber, having secured multiple victories this season. Her ability to maintain high speeds in the final kilometers makes her a favorite for the flat and fast stages. Supported by one of the strongest teams in the peloton, Wiebes is expected to be a significant threat in the race.

Don’t forget UAE Team ADQ’s Chiara Consonni is another sprinter to watch. With a knack for positioning herself well in the peloton and delivering powerful sprints, Consonni has proven to be a consistent contender in various races. Her ability to navigate through the peloton and find the best line in the final meters will be crucial.

Letizia Paternoster (Liv-Jayco Alula) brings a blend of speed and endurance to the race. Known for her sprinting prowess, she can also handle the demands of longer stages, making her a versatile threat. Paternoster’s ability to stay with the peloton through challenging sections and then unleash a powerful sprint makes her a key rider to watch.

And finally Fem van Empel ofVisma-Lease A Bike, primarily known for her cyclocross achievements, has transitioned seamlessly into road racing. Her robust handling skills and ability to perform under pressure make her a dark horse in the race. While not a pure sprinter, her all-around capabilities and aggressive racing style can create opportunities for stage wins and high overall placement.

The 2024 RideLondon Classique’s route design offers a blend of opportunities for sprinters, climbers, and all-rounders. Teams will need to balance the need for aggressive early moves with the necessity of keeping their key riders fresh for the critical stages. The early climbs in Stage 1 and the technical circuits in Stage 2 will likely see breakaways and tactical battles, while the final stage’s flat, fast course will demand precise timing and teamwork in the sprint trains.

The race’s stages in central London are expected to attract large crowds, enhancing the spectacle and atmosphere. The final stage, in particular, promises an electrifying finish with fans lining The Mall and other iconic landmarks. Live broadcasts and extensive media coverage will bring the race to a global audience, showcasing the excitement and drama of women’s cycling at its best.

The dynamics within teams will play a crucial role in the outcome of the race. Teams like Team DSM-firmenich and SD Worx are known for their strategic depth and ability to control the race, setting up their sprinters for optimal finishes. The interplay between lead-out trains, breakaway attempts, and defensive riding will be critical in determining stage outcomes and the overall winner.

Of course you can follow the race live, from start to finish in our app!

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