It’s always good to see young races find their place in the calendar, something that can never be taken for granted when they are created. For a race like the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, the odds were in its favour. The usual good weather around the Mediterranean coast and the lack of stage races during the early part of the season looked like a recipe for success. And indeed, in its third edition, the first stage race in European soil has managed to attract its best line-up yet, and created, arguably, the most interesting parcours to date.
Just one week before the start of the classics campaign, the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana acts both as a perfect preparation for the one-day racers and as a goal in itself for riders —namely, climbers— who may not have many other opportunities to win in the first weeks of the season.
Moderately hard and well balanced, the race offers stages for the sprinters, the climbers and the riders in between. Those with all-round abilities will find a good test in the first stage, whose climbs look hard enough to split the peloton but probably not to the point that the strongest competitor can go solo.
The second and fourth are the stages suited for the sprinters, and then there’s the third one, which is a most welcome inclusion. Barely 3 km from the finish, the not too long but excruciatingly steep Xorret de Catí will certainly allow the uphill specialists to shine. A bit in between the true mountains and the explosive efforts of the short, steep hills from the classics, it’s well known from several stages in the recent story of the Vuelta a España, but it will be a first in the women’s calendar.
It’s pretty hard to guess the form of the riders at this time of the year, due to the lack of references from previous races. Most of the star riders who did the Australian season are not here, but two of them are: Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo). Although they, understandably, looked a bit underprepared there, their performances Down Under were good enough to put them as favourites for the win here, one month later.
They will have to face the strong opposition of the first edition’s winner, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) and Boels-Dolmans’ new signing for 2019: the great US climber Katie Hall. Other contenders for the overall are Eider Merino and Mavi García from Movistar, Alena Amialiusik of Canyon//SRAM and Ane Santesteban of WNT-Rotor. Want more outsiders? Shara Gillow (FDJ), Janneke Ensing (Sunweb), Erica Magnaldi and Aafke Soet (WNT-Rotor) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (CCC-Live) may perform well too.
The sprint stages are not lacking strong contenders either. With names such as Lotta Lepistö (Trek-Segafredo), Coryn Rivera (Sunweb), Roxane Fournier (Movistar) and last year’s overall winner Hannah Barnes (Canyon//SRAM), the competition looks fierce.
Among the all-rounders and classics riders who are starting their seasons here, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar) are also worth mentioning.
How to follow the race live
Yes, the stages will be shown live! Sportpublic TV will broadcast the race.
These are the links: