Preview: Back to the mountains at the women’s Tour de Romandie

Stages, favorites, and Wheel Talk Podcast picks ahead of the Tour de Romandie.

Demi Vollering wins the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España, 2023.

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 14.09.2023 Photography by
ASO and Cor Vos
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For the final time in Europe in 2023 the women will line up for a three-day Women’s WorldTour event: the Tour de Romandie. This will be the second edition of the race, the first was won by Ashleigh Moolman Pasio at the tail end of the 2022 season, just after the World Championships in Wollongong. The South African was riding for SD Worx at the time and she outclimbed the newly crowned world champion Annemiek van Vleuten on the second stage to Thyon 2000 to take the overall.

While Van Vleuten is now retired, Moolman Pasio will be back to defend her title against a strong field of challengers including Liane Lippert and a stacked SD Worx team. The race once again includes some fun climbing, every stage features at least two categorized climbs, with a mountain-top finish to close out the second stage. It should make for fantastic viewing.

The Basics

The race kicks off in Yverdon-les-Bains on Friday, September 15 and concludes on Sunday, September 17 in Nyon. Live coverage can be found on GCN+. Coverage of the first stage and final stage start just after 14:00 CEST (14:05 and 14:10, respectively) while the second stage is earlier in the day, starting at 12:35 CEST.

The Route

The Tour de Romandie is a short one with only three stages but the terrain will make an interesting fight for the overall. The first and final stages are both hilly and neither is suited for a sprint, while the second is tailor-made for the climbers. Like last year, the race will likely come down to Saturday’s stage, but the final stage could still shake up the general depending on how close some of the climbers finish to each other on stage 2.

Stage 1: Friday, September 15 – Yverdon-les-Bains (144.1 km)

Romandie’s first stage starts and finishes in Yverdon-les-Bains, on the shore of Lac de Neuchāntel. It’s a pretty hilly stage, hillier than the first stage of the 2022 edition won by Arlenis Sierra of Movistar. Almost from the get-go, the road starts to pitch upwards and it continues to constantly roll, with the first categorized climb only 9.5 km into the stage. It’s only a category 3, but so early on it will set the tone for the rest of the stage.

The map of stage 1 of the 2023 women's Tour de Romandie, showing a hilly, technical circuit around Yverdon-les-Bains. There are two category 3 climbs on the course.

The next category 3 climb hits 46 km later, but there are a few pitches before then to keep things interesting, and the final categorized climb at 102.5 km into the stage is far from the final ascent. Once the peloton reaches 20 km to go it’s a flat run to the finish, but I would eat my socks if there are not some attacks from GC favourites going into the final climb. With only 20 km to the finish, if someone goes over that final climb with a gap, they might be able to hold it to the end if the peloton is tired enough.

This will also depend on how teams feel about chasing. This late in the season, teams might be less willing to mobilize quickly to get to the front and chase.

The route profile of stage one, which is 144.1 km long. The profile features a number of sharp climbs, most of them uncategorized. Some of the climbs feature long flat sections between them and the next, while others start swiftly after the previous descent.

Riders to watch: A Kasia Niewiadoma attack on the final climbs is basically inevitable at this point. She has Elisa Longo Borghini for potential company and even Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. Demi Vollering will also be there if any GC riders give it a go.

If the stage comes down to a reduced group look to Marta Lach, who is riding well this late in the season, to go for the stage. Gladys Verhulst is another outside bet for the stage from a reduced group, or even Lizzie Deignan. After a great run at the recent Tour de l’Avenir, Fem van Empel is another possible bet for the stage victory.

Stage 2: Saturday, September 16 – Romont to Torgon (110.8 km)

The second stage, aka the main GC stage, starts in Romont and finishes 110.8 km and two major climbs later in Torgon. It’s not quite as challenging a stage as last year’s mountain stage, but the final climb is still going to decide the overall.

The map of the second stage, with the start in Romont. The route then goes mostly south toward Lac Leman before skirting well around the eastern edge to the Les Mosses climb and then the finishing ascent on Torgon, which comes after a number of switchbacks on the climb.

The first 60 km is pretty flat, there really not much going on there, but before the peloton races up the category 1 climb to the finish they first race up another 13 km long climb, the Les Mosses, which averages 4.1 percent but has a maximum gradient of 11.8 percent There is only 25 km between the top of the Les Mosses and the bottom of the final climb to Torgon, and a good 17 km of that is descending so really there’s only about eight km to chase anything that got away on the first climb before the second one starts.

Once the peloton hits the slopes of that final climb it’s every woman for themselves. The climb is just over 10 km in length, maxing out at 12%. It’s not the longest climb they’ve had to tackle this year but it will definitely be a hard one.

Riders to watch: Easy. Vollering. The best climber in the peloton this year, the Dutch national champion will be hard to beat on the two climbs. Her main rivals include Italian young gun Gaia Realini and 2022 Romandie winner Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. There are a few other climbers who could feature like Kim Cadzow, Vollering’s teammate Niamh Fisher-Black, Juliette Labous, and Liane Lippert, but based on how the Tour de France Femmes went down … it’ll be Vollering on the top step. The one question: she did leave the Simac Ladies Tour early due to illness which either means she is fresh or won’t be riding quite as well as we’ve seen so far this year, it’s a bit of a tossup.

Stage 3: Sunday, September 17 – Vernier to Nyon (131.9 km)

The final stage of the Tour de Romandie is two laps of a circuit containing two category 3 climbs. So the peloton will race over four category 3 climbs in a 132 km race from Vernier to Nyon. They will cross the finish line once in Nyon before they race for the win.

The map of the 131.9 km stage 3 circuit around Nyon. As with stage 1, it looks to be a hilly, technical course that starts in Vernier and goes northeast along the shores of Lac Leman before two category 3 climbs and some twisty roads on the Nyon circuit.

After the peloton rolls out of Vernier they don’t have long before they enter the circuits. The circuit is on twisty roads, with two categorized climbs and a bunch of little kickers. It’s a race that will no doubt fracture apart early on. Depending on the general classification gaps, there are plenty of opportunities for riders to take time on each other or at least try to (great for us, the viewers). It has the potential to be raced like a Classics-style race, with a very fast finish.

The profile of stage 3, with a gently rolling first 40 kilometers followed by two categorized climbs in succession, then a long, rolling section before the riders are back on the same circuit to the climbs. The race finishes with the gentle rolling/descending section that will come on twisty roads.

Riders to watch: This one is interesting because if someone puts in a minute on the second stage and the general classification is all but wrapped up, it could be a stage for the opportunistic stage hunters. If there are close gaps in the overall, it will be another GC day. Regardless, this looks like a race made for Niewiadoma or even Uttrup Ludwig. The two of them are aggressive and have both been riding well lately, especially the Dane who took two stages of the Tour of Scandinavia but narrowly missed out on the overall by only two seconds.

The Favourites

With only two of the three stages really playing into the general classification, the race is more wide open than a race over a week like the Tour de France Femmes. That being said, Demi Vollering is never again going to go into a race with a climb like on stage 2 and not immediately be a favourite. The SD Worx rider has her young teammate Niamh Fisher-Black for company as well as the winner of the Tour de Suisse Marlen Reusser, again back on home roads. They are, once again, the strongest team on paper.

Demi Vollering rides on stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes. She's alone, with no other racers in the picture, as she rides past a lake.
Demi Vollering during stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023

Defending winner Ashleigh Moolman Pasio will always be a favourite when there is climbing but the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step rider is going to have a hard time against her former team.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio waves to the crowd at the start of stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes. She's wearing the green jersey of the leader of the points competition, with a matching green helmet.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio before stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes

One of the most interesting riders on the start line is Liane Lippert. The German national champion is finally the leader of Movistar after her teammate, Van Vleuten, retired on Sunday. She has been riding in support of the former World Champion, but now it’s her time to shine.

Liane Lippert leads a long line of riders at the 2023 la Vuelta Femenina stage race. She's wearing the German national champion's jersey, white with black, red, and yellow stripes across the mid-section. Italian Gaia Realini peeks out from behind.
Liane Lippert leads the peloton at the 2023 La Vuelta Femenina

Lidl-Trek finally has their star Italian duo of Gaia Realini and Elisa Longo Borghini back. Realini was second behind Van Vleuten at the Giro Donne this year but stronger on the climbs at the Vuelta a España. Longo Borghini is coming off a tumultuous year of illness so maybe don’t expect too much from her, but it’s just great to see the tricolour back in the peloton.

Gaia Realini sprints across the line to win stage 6 of la Vuelta Femenina. She's alone, mouth open from the effort, and her arms and left leg have bandages from an earlier crash.
Gaia Realini wins the sixth stage of La Vuelta Femenina 2023

DSM-Firmenich’s GC bid will come from Juliette Labous, although like Moolman Pasio the Frenchwoman will have her work cut out for her to best Vollering on stage 2.

Two riders who are hungry for victory are Niewiadoma and Uttrup Ludwig. The latter is on flying form after a disappointing first half of the year, and will want more after taking two stages of the Tour of Scandinavia. Niewiadoma is still hunting her first WWT win since 2019. She’s been close lately and looked to be having the time of her life attacking at the Simac Ladies Tour; perhaps it’s finally her time to take a stage.

Kasia Niewiadoma talks to the press at la Fleche Wallonne Femmes. She's in the distinctive pink and white kit of her Canyon-SRAM team, with sunglasses tucked into the vents of her helmet, as she faces a Eurosport microphone.
Kasia Niewiadoma ahead of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2023

After her breakthrough ride to take third overall at the Tour of Scandinavia Amber Kraak deserves some attention, as does her teammate Kim Cadzow. The Jumbo-Visma riders maybe aren’t top-tier favourites but are definitely chipping away at being up there in the future and when it comes to the end of the year, anything can happen.

Kim Cadzow climbs at the recent Tour of Scandinavia. She's out of the saddle putting in a big effort as she rides over cobbled roads.
Kim Cadzow pictured during Tour of Scandinavia 2023

When it comes to individual stage wins: Claire Steels, Yara Kastelijn, and Ruby Roseman-Gannon have all shown strength lately and deserve to have their names in bold.

Escape Collective star ratings

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Demi Vollering, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Liane Lippert
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Gaia Realini, Elisa Longo Borghini
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Juliette Labous
⭐️⭐️: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Kasia Niewiadoma
⭐️: Niamh Fisher-Black, Amber Kraak, Kristen Faulkner

Wheel Talk Podcast picks

Abby Mickey: Liane Lippert!

Loren Rowney: Heart says Kasia Niewiadoma, head says Demi Vollering

Matt de Neef: Gaia Realini

Gracie Elvin: Claire Steels

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