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The Road Book's International Women's Day Celebration

The Road Book's International Women's Day Celebration

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we thought we'd focus our attention on our favourite female cyclists, their incredible achievements, and their invaluable contributions both to the sport and our little old red book. The history of women in cycling is long and intricate, and though there is a long way to go till the men’s and women’s pelotons are brought to a true equilibrium (especially in terms of pay and television coverage), the Women’s World Tour in particular has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Coverage and viewing figures are swelling, pay gaps are narrowing and the preparation, training and support which athletes receive is increasing year on year.

However, none of this would be possible without some of the sport’s trailblazers, who fought tooth and nail to prove that they were as good, if not better and often more entertaining, than their male equivalents. Often the women’s versions of races are far tighter than those raced by the men’s peloton. Take last weekend’s Strade Bianche: whilst Pogačar’s (UAE Team Emirates) long ranged attack was absolutely staggering and was undoubtedly a spectacle, the sheer force of the move took something away from the competitiveness of the race and left many viewers wishing that the one-day classic had actually been a harder fought battle. By contrast, Strade Bianche Donne featured all the biggest names in the peloton engaged in a gruelling 137km long duel with Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM), Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and Kopecky (SD-Worx) all looking like potential winners at points. The race came down to the last 500m of the Via Santa Caterina as Kopecky used the very last ounces of her strength to burst past Borghini and take the win. A gripping watch from start to finish and indicative of the fact that whilst the Women’s peloton is just as capable as the men are at launching astonishing attacks, the top riders have far less between them in terms of ability, meaning that each race is a tighter, tenser, and less predictable affair.

With that in mind, here is the definitive Road Book list of both our favourite cycling women out there, and the long selection of essays both by and about them.

 

Marianne Vos writes for The Road Book 2018

 

Marianne Vos – Quite simply, the Greatest of All Time.

(Team Visma-Lease a Bike)

3x Road Race World Champion, 8x Cyclo-cross World Champion, 32x Stage Winner at the Giro d’Italia Donne, Winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen, Winner of GP Ciduad de Valladolid, Sparkassen Giro, Olympic Gold Medallist, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner and 5x winner of La Fleche Wallonne Feminine.

With the longest list of victories out there, Marianne Vos has blown away the competition. A trailblazer of the highest quality who has won everything there is to win and has carved a bloody path through any obstacles put in front of her. A shining paragon of what it means to be an athlete, Marianne Vos has firmly inscribed her name into the history books, and she will long be remembered as one of the most impressive and influential people to have ever picked up a bicycle.

Though now coming to the end of her illustrious career, Vos proved at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that she can never be written off from another comeback – winning the race for the first time, in her first appearance, with a tactically astute performance backed by raw power in a sprint with Kopecky.

Her essay ‘Vos Roars Back’ from our very first edition in 2018, still remains one of our favourite pieces and is a deep, intimate look at the struggles of being a cyclist – what it takes to drag oneself back to their best, and it is worth picking that book up just to read her article.

 

 

Lizzie Deignan writes for The Road Book 2022

 

Lizzie Deignan – Legend

(Lidl-Trek)

Mother, Former World Champion, Olympic silver medallist, four-time British national champion and winner of three monuments including the very first women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, Lizzie is one of the most accomplished cyclists alive. Long time friend of The Road Book and a repeat contributor she is perhaps the best-known name in British Women’s Road Racing. Her palmares is almost as complete as that of Marianne Vos, and she’s not done yet.

Alongside her ‘In the Winners’ Words’ essay from The Road Book 2021, Lizzie contributed a truly excellent piece to The Road Book 2023, covering her unprecedented second return to the top level of the sport following maternity leave, and just how far women’s teams still have to come in order to provide the support their riders deserve. Lizzie also dissects the problems facing the women’s peloton in tandem with the meteoric growth of the sport, and how actually, this is causing some issues for the riders in terms of preparation for an extended calendar, and maintaining form, fitness and mental and physical health. From the lips of one who has been there from the off, and in many ways, driven the growth of the sport with sheer grit, this is not an essay to miss.

 

Lotte Kopecky – World Champion

(SD-Worx)

2x Strade Bianche Donne winner, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner, 2x Stage Winner on the Simac Ladies’ Tour.

One half of SD-Worx’s dynamic deadly due, Lotte Kopecky is the latest super star to earn the title of World Champion. A blisteringly fast sprinter, who looked at last year’s Tour de France Femmes and based on the evidence of this season, to have mastered the art of climbing, Kopecky is the consummate GC rider who continues to go from strength to strength.

It is not just her physical ability on the bike which makes her so incredible. Last season, four days before Nokere Koerse, Kopecky’s beloved brother Seppe passed away suddenly. Through sheer grit, love and her force of character, four days later, Kopecky rode to victory. She has written a beautiful piece covering her toughest, and yet most successful year to date in our 2023 edition.

 

Demi Vollering – Superstar

(SD-Worx)

2x Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes winner, GC at the Tour de France Femmes, Amstel Gold Winner, La Fleche Wallonne Feminine winner, Strade Bianche Donne winner.

The other half of SD-Worx’s dynamic duo, Vollering truly exploded into form in 2023 – winning the Tour de Frane Femmes on the Tourmalet, ending Annemiek Van Vleuten’s dominance of the race and staking her claim as the next superstar of women’s cycling. Certainly a moment that could be interpreted as a passing of the torch, and the Dutch rider has written about it for The Road Book 2023.

 

 

Elisa Longo Borghini

(Lidl-Trek)

Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner, 2x Giro d’Italia Donne stage winner, Strade Bianche Donne winner, Ronde van Vlaanderen winner

The first Italian to win one of the country’s most iconic races in Strade Bianche in 2017, and winner of two monuments the Lidl-Trek rider is a powerhouse in the sport. Best known for her performances in one-day races, Longo Borghini is a well-loved figure throughout cycling, her bubbly personality and whip-crack humour off the bike at odds with her ruthless instincts on it. Although narrowly missing out to Lotte Kopecky at Strade Bianche last weekend, we expect the 32-year-old to add to her list of triumphs this season.

 

 

Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig

(FDJ-Suez)

GC winner at the Tour of Scandinavia, Stage winner at the Tour de France Femmes and more.

 A stage winner at this year’s Tour Down Under, giving a joyous post-race interview buoyed by her first significant win of the season and is an endearing and easily likable character. The Dane wrote an excellent and intimate piece for us in 2021 detailing the difficult journey to her first WorldTour victory at the Vuelta de Burgos, and like many of the pro-peloton, has overcome significant obstacles to reach her GC contender status.

 

Gaia Realini – The Rising Star

(Lidl-Trek)

3rd placed at Giro d’Italia Donne in 2023, Stage winner at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta and superstar in the making.

The young Italian rider bust onto the scene with a phenomenal performance the Vuelta, and is touted by journalists and fellow riders alike to dominate the peloton in the next few years. With week-long races becoming more common on the Women’s WorldTour, the race programmes are becoming more diverse consequently resulting in a wider range of specialists within the peloton. Realini is one of those who will undoubtedly benefit from this change, destroying her more experienced competitors in the mountains. Having just signed a 4-year contract with Lidl-Trek, we expect the 22-year-old to grace the Road Book’s pages with an ‘In the Winners’ Words’ article in the coming seasons.

 

Annemiek Van Vleuten

(Retired)

4x GC Winner at the Giro d’Italia Donne, 16x Stage Winner at the same race, 2x Road Race World Champion, 2x Individual Time Trial World Champion, 3x GC at Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, 2x winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen, Strade Bianche Donne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes

One of the greatest riders to ever mount a bicycle, four-time World Champion, twice each in the Road Race and Time Trial disciplines; Annemiek van Vleuten retired last year after a long and illustrious career. She has won all three of the women’s Grand Tour equivalents and was the first women to complete a Giro-Tour double in 2022. It’s safe to say that Annemiek van Vleuten is a cycling superstar in every way, and the likes of Kopecky and Vollering will sleep softer not hearing her pedals whirl from over their shoulders.

Van Vleuten has contributed to The Road Book’s pages in 2019, writing a first-person account of her first Women’s Road Race World Championship victory, whilst Rose Manley eloquently summarised her career to that point in the 2020 edition

“Yvonne Reynders’ Table” – an essay written for our 2023 edition by freelance journalist Giles Belbin.

A fabulous piece on the four-time Road Cycling World Champion Yvonne Reynders. Belbin unravels the story of how in 2005 a restaurant owner named Paul van Bommel, an old book found in the corner of a bookstore and a table helped bring Reynders back into the spotlight, where she belongs as one of cycling's living legends.  A beautiful and touching story, which whilst celebrating Yvonne’s astonishing achievement, also lays out exactly how much the history of cycling must be reclaimed, and in the style of the Women’s History movement, the extent to which the role of women in the sport’s past must be rethought and brought back to the fore where it belongs.

 

 

 

Orla Chennaoui – The Face of Cycling Coverage

The face of cycling for many, Orla is a true hero, having covered the sport with great passion since 2010. She is a wonderfully talented journalist, and one we are immensely proud to call a friend and a supporter of the book. In 2019, Orla contributed the piece “Women Drivers: Trek-Segafrado's myth busters" in which she examines the unique contribution – and differing opinions – of former rivals Ina Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini. A wonderful bit of writing, which shines a light on a perhaps overlooked element of the sport.

 

 

There you have it! We are very proud of our coverage of women’s cycling, and we will continue to increase it year, on year and push for positive change within the sport, wherever necessary.

If you’re a fan of one of those legendary names, why not pick up the edition they contributed to! If you use the code RETRO20, you will get 20% off every edition from 2018 through to 2021.

Written by Henrik Bassett

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