Women To Watch in ’14
Women’s pro cycling is deservedly picking up more and more of a profile, and why shouldn’t it when the most complete racer in the world is the stand-out superstar? Marianne Vos can win on road, track and dirt but there are plenty of fast women chasing her wheels. Here’s a look at who to watch in 2014.
Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS)
Many people simply won’t realise that Emma Johansson ended 2013 on top of the UCI rankings after a terrifically consistent season. 2014 presents challenges though – hitting the top step in the World Cups and then marshalling the Swedish national team for the Worlds in Spain.
Johansson’s got the experience and the leadership qualities to go where she wants; she’s also got the results to ensure her team keep backing her, so a third win at Het Nieuwsblad, a victory at the Ronde and the rainbow jersey are in her sights.
Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon)
The young Aussie has moved away from her own ‘national’ squad to join Specialized-lululemon, and will be looking to step up her results, especially in the one-day races.
Cromwell maybe suffered from racing alongside Emma Johansson last season, and when your team leader is getting on the podium in practically every race, it’s time to move on. Tiff’s got guts, steel and race know-how, so keep an eye on her this spring.
Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon)
There’s really not much that Evie can’t do – short sharp hills, monster TT efforts, you name it. If she can stay healthy this could be another great season.
Last year was pretty impressive too, despite a horrendous face-plant at the Classica Citta di Padova – she won Giro del Trentino, both the Merco and Philly Cycling Classics and the Tour of California Women’s TT. Stevens will be even more in the spotlight at Specialized-lululemon in 2014 after Ina-Yoko Teutenberg’s retirement: it’ll be up to her, Worrack and Cromwell to continue the strong results the team has picked up in the last couple of seasons.
Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare Women’s Team)
The British youngster was the focal point of one of cycling’s more curious incidents in 2013. At last June’s IG London Nocturne at Smithfield, Barnes, battling for the win with GB Olympic heroine Laura Trott, threw her arms up in celebration as they hit the line.
Only, the results came out ten minutes later and she was … second? After a protracted and very public explanation/counter-explanation announcing her relegation for dangerous riding/celebrating she was finally reinstated as the winner several days later. Conspiracy theories abounded but Barnes showed great maturity to shrug the whole thing off and keep racing,
In 2014, she debuts for the UnitedHealthcare Women’s Team and, as the reigning British Criterium champion, she should be ideally suited to some of the Stateside races she’ll get thrown into. Savvy on the track, strong on short sharp hills and a blisteringly fast finisher, she’s worth watching this season.
Anna Sanchis (Wiggle-Honda)
Things were looking a little on the bleak side for the double national ITT and former road champion of Spain after four years with Bizkaia-Durango, until Wiggle-Honda stepped in with a contract for 2014, allowing her to move up the ladder.
The Valencian native can climb, she can time trial and at 26 has plenty left in the tank. Rochelle Gilmore has done a fine job in setting up this team, and Sanchis will get the chance to shine in stage races like the Giro Donne when the going gets tough.
Megan Guarnier (Boels – Dolmans Cycling Team)
The USA’s Guarnier had a solid year, finishing up just outside the top 50 on the UCI rankings, but that was as part of the supreme Marianne Vos’s Rabo Women squad, where winning opportunities were rare. But her consistency was great: fourteenth in the Worlds road race in Florence, and top fifteen on GC at the Women’s Giro, Trophee d’ Or, and the Emakumeen Bira in Spain.
And ninth in the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour in Holland, which no doubt came in handy with the new sponsor!
The stand-out result was both good and agonising – Megan was in the attacks over the climbs and going away before the final cobbles but just got edged in the two-up sprint against Tiffany Cromwell at Het Nieuwsblad. Guarnier’s got the goods to step up that consistency and turn it into wins in 2014, and with her team having signed Ellen Van Dijk, the American might just be able to fly under the radar a little bit.
Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol)
All-round super-talent Pooley makes a very welcome return to the top flight, joining the Lotto Belisol Ladies team for 2014. The Brit stepped back in 2013 to focus more on finishing a PhD in geotechnical engineering, as well as competing in triathlons, Ironman events and winning the Lausanne Marathon. Oh yeah, and winning the Tour de Languedoc Roussillon.
Given her experience and record, Pooley should be an automatic leader when she rides and will be looking to repeat her 2010 victory in Fleche Wallone.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Hitec Products – UCK)
The talented South African has been knocking on the door for a few seasons now, and finally kicked it open with a great third at Fleche Wallone, and a first UCI win at the Boels Rental Hills Classic – a tough, up/down race, won very impressively in a small group sprint ahead of Armitstead, Van Vleuten, Van Der Breggen, Van Dijk, Johansson and Ratto.
Ashleigh has moved on from Lotto Belisol Ladies to the super-organised and exciting Hitec Products-UCK squad for 2014. They’ve got a good programme but a lot of young riders, so she should have plenty opportunities to build on her recent road and ITT golds at the African Championships.
Not only that, but she’s also been named as the Most Influential Woman in African sport, thanks to her commitment to developing and mentoring younger riders and generally encouraging more women into the sport of their choosing. Ashleigh can have a major presence both on and off the bike in 2014.
Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS)
Every team needs an unsung heroine, and one of the more bafflingly overlooked riders in the women’s peloton is Loes Gunnewijk, Orica-AIS road captain. The tall Dutch powerhouse has just signed on for another two-year stint with the Aussies where her leadership, race craft, decision-making and experience are helping to develop the younger Australian riders on the team.
A real TT motor, and a Classics specialist who won Het Nieuwsblad in 2012, Gunnewijk should be someone you pay more attention to this season.
Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv Cycling Team)
Like Gunnewijk, but at the other end of the scale in terms of experience, van der Breggen has also been a key component of the Dutch national team for the last couple of years.
Now that she’s switched to the Rabo Liv Giant Women’s Team, she’s got the chance to prove that she is a more than capable back-up should Marianne Vos decide to take time off to win whatever else she turns her hand to!
So there you have it, 10 names to keep an eye on in what promises to be a great season. Some of the best racing of the year in 2013 came from the women and I’m sure 2014 will serve up the same.