Preview: Ronde van Drenthe

Written by: ProCycling Women
Posted 2 months ago

On Sunday, the 10th of March, the Netherlands will host the 17th edition of the Ronde Van Drenthe. It’s the Women’s World Tour’s sixth race in 2024. Where the peloton normally charges themselves to ride the stone (cobbled) sections (translated: ‘Keien’ instead of the ‘Kasseien’ red.) of the north, then have to do with the artificial stone sections of the former landfill site on the ‘VAM berg’ this year.

What has changed compared to the other 16 editions of the Ronde van Drenthe then? Well, due to the lack of police motorized support, the organizers had to choose a different option and so the peloton make their way to the VAM Berg as fast as they can to challenge the former wasteland hill 6 times. Race organizer Femmy van Issum (82) told the media: ‘’Even if we get police support back in the upcoming years, the race will most probably have less cobble sections than all the other years. Environmental challenges lie ahead. There is always a badger fortress or something else that prevents us to do all the sections that we would like to ride.’’ Despite this, and maybe despite all the critics, she does manage to pull it off and organize the 16thedition for the professional women’s peloton, since 1998.

Another change than previous years: Although the peloton is usually split on the climbs of the tough VAM berg, a small group of survivees reaches the finish straight and it comes down to a sprint. How much different will it be this year with the finish atop of the former landfill site?

Looking back at the event’s history, fast finishes were common, with Lorena Wiebes winning the last three races and aiming for a fourth consecutive victory. Achieving this would allow her to surpass Marianne Vos as the race’s most frequent winner. However, due to course modifications mentioned before, Wiebes’ 2024 victory is less certain than in past competitions. But Wiebes proved to be a good climber as well and Visma – Leas a bike is on an altitude training camp on Mount Teide in Tenerife, so no Marianne Vos this year in Drenthe.

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What happened last year?

The unexpected snowfall in the Netherlands showed a different Ronde van Drenthe. After the organization took out all the cobblestone sections on race day because of the heavy snow and icy roads, they made the decision of doing 6 times Vam-berg and shorten the race to 96km.

When the peloton was on their way in the cold, after 30km of racing most of the peloton was on the ground splitting the bunch into multiple groups. Then a group of 7 riders missed the crashes and rode away from the split peloton. A large group was in the chase. Half of the peloton is behind the chasers and try to bridge towards them.

With still 55 km to go the two groups of chasers can see each other and moments later they merge into one big peloton again. Still ahead of them the leading group is riding a solid race and have a lead of more than a minute.

On the final climb the peloton is all back together, and they ride up the Vam-berg with full speed on final time. After the decent its one large stretch of flatlands towards the finish line and it is obvious that it’s going to be a bunch sprint. As multiple teams ready themselves and have their sprinters move to the front of the peloton, Sdworx maneuvers Lorena Wiebes to the front of the pack and in the final 100m the European champion launches her sprint and with ease Lorena Wiebes wins the ronde van Drenthe 2023.


The Parcours

The riders will start in the Northern Dutch small town of Beilen, just south of Assen. This year the distance is slightly longer than previous editions, 158km. After a 2,2km neutral ride the flag is dropped and the peloton is making their way to the VAM-berg where after 7,6km of asphalt roads they enter the terrain of the former landfill site and start the first climb starts. The 6 climbs of the VAM-berg, increasing the race’s complexity and potentially altering tactics. The laps are 29km long each. The summit of the hill is also the finish for the 2024 edition., making a sprint finish less certain but never impossible.

The VAM-berg, a manmade hill over a landfill, is a short but steep challenge with segments reaching a 20% gradient and has 63 altitude meters. The race will not only test the cyclists’ climbing abilities but also their strategy and resilience, especially in windy conditions or on the cobbled paths.

Riders to Watch

This season’s of Women’s WorldTour races have yet to showcase a sprint showdown among the top female cyclists and they have to wait another week or two for either Trofeo Binda or Classic Brugge – de Panne. However  Lorena Wiebes, proven to be a good climber as well is aiming for her fourth win. Supported by the strong SD Worx-Protime team, including Mischa Bredewold, they’re well-prepared for various race scenarios. Sdworx-Protime might target for Bredewold’s second Women’s WorldTour after her win GP Plouay last year, but, really anyone in the team is set for a victory.

By the time this preview is written, the start list of de Ronde van Drenthe hasn’t been published yet, so it’s subject to change.

Puck Pieterse of Fenix-DeCeunink could also be a contender for the victory. As a cross rider she is known to the Vam berg and has an engine for these climbs. The question is: can her team keep her out of the wind and fresh enough for the final climb.

At AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep all the eggs in the basket on Dutch rider Maaike Boogaard. With a strong Julia Borgström and Ilse Pluimers she could be the big outsider.

FDJ-Suez has multiple choices. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is out for a while due to an injury. Vittoria Guazzini is a rider in development. Last year she was 3d in le Samyn and 4th in Dwars door Vlaanderen, so she proved herself that she can ride the classics. With Coralie Demay as her captain and Marie LeNet to protect her in Drenthe, the French team has the potential for a win as well.

Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL and Lidl Trek do hope for a sprint finish and post Charlotte Kool and Lisa Balsamo in their teams, because in Drenthe, you never know! But don’t rule out Megan Jastrab, if she has a good day then has a good chance as well.

However, with the new VAM-berg finish and teams favoring breakaway specialists over sprinters, the race’s conclusion might deviate from the anticipated sprint. Teams like Canyon//SRAM, FDJ-SUEZ, and Fenix-Deceuninck could attempt long-range breakaways, potentially altering the race dynamics as seen in other competitions.

The weather

Will the weather play a part in the 16th edition of the Ronde van Drenthe? With a maximum of 10 degrees Celsius is much warmer than last edition, so no snow forecast this year! With any luck the sun might pop out for a bit. There is no rain forecasted and the wind is a weak 3bft coming out of the Northeast. All and all a nice day for the Ronde van Drenthe

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