Dutch Healthy Ageing Tour 2021 - A shining beacon in women's stage racing wasteland
Women's stage racing has been decimated in the early part of the season with Setmana Valenciana and the new Women's Itzulia both cancelled, and the Women's Tour in Britain shunted all the way back to October. The Healthy Ageing Tour in Holland has never been more significant, providing the sport's elite women a vital opportunity to race multiple days ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Lisa Klein remains the defending champion of the Healthy Ageing tour after the 2020 edition was cancelled.
The Healthy Ageing Tour, the Dutch women’s stage race, has announced this week that it will go ahead in March as planned, with a reduced number of days and “strict bubble” procedures in place to restrict the risk of coronavirus transmissions.
This represents a rare instance of a multi-day event going ahead on its intended 2021 calendar slot, albeit reduced to three days.
The race organisers emphasised the importance of stage racing at this point in the season in a media release.
"Many of the Healthy Ageing Tour participants will be participating in the Tokyo Olympics later in the year. The Dutch stage race is an important preparatory race for them, also because few time trials will be organised for this category this spring,” a statement read.
All three stages will be held on closed courses, and the organisation team are currently crowdfunding to put on a live web feed – to offset some of the harm of closing the race to spectators.
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OUR VIEW - A beacon of light for women's stage racing
The Healthy Ageing Tour now represents a beacon of light in an otherwise desolate landscape when it comes to women’s stage racing. It is the only European race until at least May, if not June. Journalist and women’s cycling specialist, Amy Jones, explained to Eurosport how the Healthy Ageing Tour’s organisers are going above and beyond to ensure at least some women’s stage racing happens in the first half of this year:
Last season the women barely got to race over multiple stages, so it's great to see the organisers going to such lengths to ensure that the HAT goes ahead – albeit with modifications.
The news comes after the announcements in recent weeks that the women’s version of Itzulia, more commonly referred to as the Tour of the Basque Country, and the UK’s premier race, the Women’s Tour, will not run as originally announced.
The Women’s Itzulia, slated for May, was to be the inaugural edition of a multi-day women’s race in northern Spain, mirroring the popular men’s event. These plans have been cancelled completely for 2021 and Women’s Itzulia will be replaced this year with a one-day event; a women’s version of the Classica San Sebastian, to be held now in July.
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The Women’s Tour has postponed from June to October, raising serious questions about the conditions riders might face in the UK at that point in the year. Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, the Spanish four-day that customarily opens the women’s European season should have been last weekend, while the Tour Down Under also did not take place in January.
The next multi-day race on the Women’s WorldTour calendar is the Tour of Chongming Island in May, but it is unclear how many teams will send a squad, given the long travel times and increased risk of transmission associated with long haul air travel. The Vuelta a Burgos Feminina, stepping up to Women’s WorldTour this year, also remains on the calendar for the end of that same month.
The fact that the Healthy Ageing Tour is crowdfunding to put on a live stream is further evidence of the woes that impact women’s cycling disproportionately. The target is just €9,500 for the fundraiser, but no information has been made available about just what sort of live stream might be on offer. Let’s not forget, the Giro Rosa has tumbled out of the Women’s WorldTour this year, the showpiece women’s stage race of the season is now relegated to the second rung of the women’s cycling hierarchy. It’s thought this is largely down to its organisers reticence (or inability) to provide live images of the race, in order to comply with the UCI’s criteria for WWT participation. After all, you cannot be a showpiece if nobody can see you.
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