Mavi Garcia, Alexandra Manly and Ella Wyllie sit on the roadside while waiting for a race to re-start.

Wheel Talk Newsletter: A near clean sweep in Spain

And the Dutch national team for Paris is almost exactly who you'd expect.

Mavi Garcia, Alexandra Manly and Ella Wyllie during the race neutralization at Amstel Gold Race

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 04.06.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Good day and thank you for opening this edition of the Wheel Talk newsletter. Olympic team selections are trickling in while the women get ready to race the newly renamed Tour of Britain. We’re well into summer now, which means stage race season, and Liv AlUla Jayco is gearing up for the next two Grand Tours by dominating a 2.1 in Spain.

The Dutch Olympic team will surprise no one.

Soon after France announced their three-rider lineup for Paris 2024, the Dutch federation announced who would wear orange at this summer’s Olympic Games. It comes, perhaps, as no surprise that Demi Vollering will race both the time trial and road race alongside her SD Worx-Protime teammate Lorena Wiebes (road race only). One of the other road spots went to Marianne Vos, who will race her fifth Olympic Games.

Vos won the road race back in London in 2012 and will be lining up as a favourite however, as is usually the case, her main competition will be internal. Of course, there’s Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), but both Vollering and Wiebes have a shot at gold. It could be Tokyo all over again (which didn’t end well for them).

The fourth member of the Dutch team is none other than Ellen van Dijk, who will line up for both the road race and ITT in Paris 10-ish months postpartum. If anyone was going to pull something like this off, it was bound to be Ellen.

Van Dijk was not selected for the Games in 2020/1 but did race in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro when Anna van der Breggen won. She finished fourth in the ITT on that occasion. She also raced in London where she finished eighth in the time trial. For the road race, Van Dijk is the lone Dutch contender who would have to pull off something wild to win, and will likely take on domestique duties with an eye on the time trial. In the race against the clock, she will be up against her chief rival of the last three years, Marlen Reusser.

There are a few riders who will be bummed to miss out on selection, probably the top of the list is Riejanne Markus who won the Dutch ITT title while Van Dijk was out last season. Markus also just finished second overall at the Vuelta España Femenina, but when it comes to one-day races, Wiebes, Vos and Vollering are hard to top. When we mention one-day achievements we also need to mention Shirin van Anrooij, who had a phenomenal spring season that included third at the Tour of Flanders. To be left off the Olympic team will likely sting, but when you’re up against Vos, what can you do?

Marianne Vos won the 2012 Olympic road race in London ahead of Lizzie Deignan.

Mischa Bredewold and Charlotte Kool are also two Dutch riders high in the UCI rankings, and perhaps if the team was thinking about who would be best to ride for a common goal they would have gone for Bredewold, who has proved herself in her time at SD Worx-Protime, and shown she can seize a moment if needed. But at only 23 years old, Bredewold will have time to make it to the next Games.

Speaking of disappointment … After the French federation announced their lineup Evita Muzic took to Twitter with a statement regarding her exclusion from the team. It was the most surprising thing about the French team, given Muzic’s strong performances this year not only at La Vuelta but also at a few one-day events like La Flèche Wallonne, where she finished fourth, and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, where she was ninth.

The statement roughly translates to:

“The road cycling event at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was a dream. I will not participate in it. The coach decided otherwise and I can only accept this decision with bitterness and regret. Bitterness because I made this race a major objective of my season. These Games in Paris are the event of the century, the unique opportunity to fly the blue-white-red flag at home, to compete for a medal and to inspire future generations of our sport.

Regret also because, with my performances since the start of the season, my victory in the Vuelta and the results obtained on explosive circuits which correspond to the Olympic course, I thought I had proven the relevance of my selection. That’s what I believed.

I will still be one of the biggest supporters of the French team. A sporting life is full of disappointments that you have to learn to cope with in order to become stronger. I now look forward to the Tour de France Femmes, more determined than ever.”

Muzic will not be the only disappointed athlete in the coming months, but her exclusion is an interesting one.

Some nations have a long list of criteria to make the team, some are purely down to the national team coach, and only a few offer the opportunity to arbitrate decisions made. The drama will continue, of that there is no doubt.

Racing Continues…

At the Tour of Britain!

After its cancellation in 2023, the Women’s Tour returns to the calendar with a new name and under new management. British Cycling took over the race when Sweetspot, the former race organizers, announced they wouldn’t be able to financially keep the race going earlier this year. With new management, the race became Tour of Britain Women, a four-stage event in early June.

The last edition, held in 2022, was won by bonus seconds. Elisa Longo Borghini of Lidl-Trek took the race by only one second ahead of FDJ-Suez’s Grace Brown on the final stage into Oxford. Longo Borghini won the fifth stage and sat equally on time with Brown going into the final stage, a sprint. In the sprint the Italian finished third behind Brown’s then-teammate Clara Copponi, securing the one second needed to unseat Brown for the overall.

Throughout its history, the race has also been won by Lizzie Deignan, fresh off maternity leave, Kasia Niewiadoma, Coryn Labecki and Marianne Vos.

The Basics

When: June 6th – 9th

Distance: Four stages, 488.5 km total

Live coverage: In the UK and Europe, the race is on Eurosport and Discovery +, there is also a live YouTube link available from British Cycling. In North America head to FloBikes. Timing for the live coverage hasn’t been fully set yet but is currently slated for 12:00 to 14:00 local time daily.

The Course

Four road stages, and all of them hilly. The course overall is somewhere between RideLondon Classique and Itzulia Women. It’s not quite as challenging as Itzulia, but harder than RideLondon.

Stage 1: Thursday, June 6 – Welshpool to Llandudno (146 km)

The first stage takes place in North Wales and is one of the hillier stages on offer. From the beginning, the riders will be challenged by the rolling roads, but the first categorized climb hits 61 km into the 146 km stage. That first categorized climb is also the hardest climb of the day, 6.1 km long at 5.3%.

The second categorized climb is shorter, only a Cat 2, whereas the first was a Cat 1, and is some 42 km from the finish. Once the riders descend off that second categorized climb they have a pretty flat run to the line, minus one uncategorized pop with 10ish km remaining. The stage looks like it will favour the fastest from a reduced bunch.

Stage 2: Friday, June 7 – Wrexham to Wrexham (144.1 km)

The second stage has less climbing overall but the key ascent is closer to the finish, making it a harder stage in some regards. There is a Cat 3 that will signal the start of the challenging section, 90 km into the race. Those first 90 km aren’t flat, exactly, but offer some great terrain for a break to go should teams want someone up the road before the real climbing starts.


The Cat 1 ascent of Horseshoe Pass, which tops out 31 km from the finish, is where the fireworks will fly. It lasts 4.6 km and averages 6.4% but the climbing isn’t done once the riders pass the summit. There is a shorter, uncategorized ascent immediately after that will make chasing difficult, should riders slip away on Horseshoe Pass. From there it’s a downhill run to the line.

Stage 3: Saturday, June 8 – Warrington to Warrington (111.6 km)

The “flattest” of the four stages, stage 3 only has two Cat 3 climbs and far less uncategorised climbing than the two stages prior. The stage is a great opportunity for a few of the British teams to get their jerseys off the front of the peloton, but it’s hard to not see this one being a bunch sprint.


Stage 4: Sunday, June 9 – Manchester to Leigh (108.3)

The final stage is the hardest of the race, with two Cat 1 ascents and just as much uncategorized climbing. The first climb, Grains Bar, is 2.4 km at 5.8% and starts less than 15 km from the flag drop. Even before they’ve officially started racing the riders will have climbed out of Manchester, so some legs will be burning before the first ascent even begins. There are a few non-categorized climbs before the second Cat 1 at Ramsbottom Rake, a 1.1 km ascent averaging 10.1%.


Another (uncategorized) climb comes soon after Ramsbottom Rake, and then it’s constant rolling until the final 15 km to the finish when the road finally slopes downward.

The Contenders

Quite a few WorldTeams have decided to sit out the Tour of Britain this year, including 2022 winners Lidl-Trek. Only four of the 15 WorldTeams will take to the start line, including SD Worx-Protime, DSM Firmenich-PostNL, Liv AlUla Jayco and Human Powered Health.

The prospect of SD Worx-Protime lining up with both Lorena Wiebes – who just recently swept all three stages of RideLondon – and the world champion Lotte Kopecky is daunting. The closest team to them in terms of challengers is DSM Firmenich-PostNL who will bring Charlotte Kool to try to challenge Wiebes in the sprints, and Pfeiffer Georgi who will likely be targeting the overall.

Georgi rides in front of Elisa Balsamo over cobbles during Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
Pfeiffer Georgi during the 2024 edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Liv AlUla Jayco’s team are coming in with Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Georgia Baker, plus Letizia Paternoster. Their team is more sprinting-oriented than others, and if you were to line them up based on ability they would perhaps, on paper, better the team of Kool. Perhaps without more WorldTour teams to fight against, Liv AlUla Jayco will have a smoother run to the finish than in the mainland Europe races.

Cofidis will line up with Sarah Roy, fresh off a win at the Bretagne Ladies Tour. The Aussie will also have a clearer run at a WorldTour victory with the reduced peloton.

Lizzie Deignan and Alice Wood ride side by side as they preview the 2021 World Championships course.
Lizzie Deignan representing Great Britain for the 2021 World Championships with Alice Wood, who will race the Tour of Britain for Human Powered Health.

One of the strongest teams on the start list is actually the British national team, led by two-time race winner Lizzie Deignan with Anna Henderson a month after breaking her collarbone at the Vuelta. The British team also includes Deignan’s Lidl-Trek trade teammate Elynor Backstedt, Uno-X Mobility’s Elinor Barker, and Millie Couzens and Flora Perkins of Fenix-Deceuninck.

The lack of WorldTour presence on the start list is both good and bad. With less rivalry for SD Worx-Protime we might be looking at a similar situation to RideLondon, but without all the WorldTour teams lining up the Continental teams have a chance to get some WorldTour experience without a full field.

Teams like Lifeplus-Wahoo, who do a lot of the WT racing, will be able to use that experience to their advantage. Where they are normally fighting for their spot in the race they can now turn their attention to a stage victory. The same goes for St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93, Cofidis, and Volkerwessels.

Volkerwessels is one of the strongest of the non-WT teams at the race. Their aggressive nature could pay off on the tacky tarmac of the British roads.

Sofie van Rooijen and Scarlett Souren during an interview before racing Veenendaal - Veenendaal
Sofie van Rooijen and Scarlett Souren pictured before Veenendaal-Veenendaal.

AG Insurance-Soudal opted to send their development team, so those riders can get some WorldTour experience as well.

On the other hand, the less- experienced teams on the technical roads going WorldTour speeds could also make the race more dangerous. Where in the European WT races there are enough WorldTour riders to pack the peloton; the same cannot be said of this edition of the Tour of Britain.

As I said, there are pluses and minuses to the lack of WT presence. Only the race will determine which is more crucial.

The full start list can be found here.

Wheel Talk Podcast

This week on the podcast Matt de Neef, Gracie and I answered listener questions while we debriefed the season so far and what is still to come. We talk about our favourite races so far, teams we would want to be on, the Olympic road race course and more.

Let’s Discuss

Liv AlUla Jayco’s near-clean sweep of Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Del Sol.

There may not have been any WorldTour racing over the weekend, but there were plenty of top teams flexing their legs all over Europe.

Kathrin Schweinberger (Ceratizit-WNT) just outsprinted Lauretta Hanson (Lidl-Trek) from a two-person move to win Dwars door de Westhoek in Belgium; Marion Bunel (St Michel-Mavic-Aber 93) finished over a minute and a half ahead of Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez) to win Alpes Gresivaudan Classic in France; and in Spain Liv AlUla Jayco nearly pulled off a full three-person clean sweep of Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Del Sol (if it wasn’t for Arlenis Sierra).

Mavi Garcia, Urška Žigart, Ella Wyllie and Amber Pate stand arm in arm while waiting to start a stage of Itzulia Women
Mavi Garcia, Urška Žigart, Ella Wyllie and Amber Pate at a stage of Itzulia Women.

The Australian team not only won three of the four stages, but they also swept the podium of two of those three stages. Silke Smulders and Mavi Garcia went 1-2 in the first stage, 89 seconds ahead of their teammate Ella Wyllie, who finished third. A day later the two swapped places with Garcia taking the stage 13 seconds ahead of Smulders.

It was Wyllie’s turn on Saturday. The New Zealand national champion won the third stage three seconds ahead of Garcia in second and Smulders in third.

Ella Wyllie zips up her jersey while standing on the start line of the Vuelta a Burgos
Ella Wyllie zips up before a stage of Vuelta a Burgos.

The final stage was the only one they couldn’t get. It came down to a reduced bunch sprint and Sierra was able to take it by a second over Liv AlUla Jayco’s Quinty Ton, with Alena Amialiusik (riding for the UAE Development team this weekend) taking third.

Liv’s dominant performance meant that Garcia took home the overall 15 seconds ahead of Smulders with Wyllie in third just over three minutes down. The first non-Liv AlUla Jayco rider was Mie Bjørndal Ottestad of Uno-X Mobility in fourth, over seven minutes down on Garcia.

If it had just been a standard 2.1 mid-season stage race that Liv AlUla Jayco rocked up to and crushed that would be one conversation, but it wasn’t like they were the only WorldTour team in attendance.

Mavi Garcia leads a breakaway during a race
Mavi Garvia during Volta Femenina de la Comunitat Valenciana.

Movistar, Roland, Human Powered Health, and Uno-X Mobility were all racing. That’s one more WorldTour team than is currently down to race the Tour of Britain this week.

A lot could be said about how much Liv AlUla Jayco has changed over the years: from a predominantly Australian team centred around an up-and-coming Annemiek van Vleuten to what they are now, one of the most international teams in the peloton with 10 different countries represented. Since losing Van Vleuten they’ve had to rebuild their team, and have maybe had a few slim years when it comes to results, but by merging with Liv Racing for the 2024 season and picking up Garcia – one of the top climbers in the peloton – plus seeing riders like Ingvild Gåskjenn and Letizia Paternoster testing their abilities this season, they are on track to once again be a top team.

Their results in Spain are a confidence boost they can carry with them into races like July’s Giro d’Italia Women, where Garcia will be a GC contender, and eventually into the Tour de France Femmes where they will have a handful of riders with high hopes.

A picture worth a couple of words

The last time Marianne Vos won an Olympic gold medal she went on to win the Road World Championship title soon after. The (road) rainbow jersey is one that has eluded Vos since 2013, although she came close in 2021 when Elisa Balsamo just bested her in a sprint. The course this year in Zürich is a short punchy circuit, one that could favour the Amstel Gold Race winner …

Marianne Vos holds the Dutch flag high as she wins the 2012 world championship in Valkenberg.
A few months after winning Olympic gold, Vos won the World Championship road race on home soil.

Taylor Swift

It’s officially June and that means one thing … this month is my Eras Tour month. Soon I will be seeing Taylor Swift IN REAL LIFE! In Dublin! We’re still a few weeks out but I can hardly believe it’s coming up so soon after a year of waiting. No more grainy videos, instead I’ll be in a screaming crowd crying with the rest of them.

Until next time!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter! I will be back next week with more from the world of women’s cycling. If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to dig into, you can always find me on the Escape Collective Discord.

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