Manx cyclist Lizzie Holden is competing in the Tour de France Femmes for the second time, with the race starting in Clermont-Ferrand this Sunday, writes Abby Foden-Williams.
The 25-year-old, who made her professional debut in 2017, will be riding with UAE Team ADQ who she joined for this year's season. The team was established in 2011 under the name of MCipollini-Giordana before changing to its current title last year.
Ahead of this year's event, Holden commented: ‘I feel really honoured to be selected alongside an incredibly strong team to race my second Tour de France Femmes. Last year was an amazing feeling to write history and the whole atmosphere around the event was really special.
‘It definitely felt like another level to any other race and I’m sure it will grow more and more each year! I’ve had a good solid few weeks to prepare both mentally and physically, so I’m ready to give 100 percent for the team!’.
In last year's Tour de France Femmes, Holden competed with team Le Col - Wahoo. Her best result last year was in stage two, coming 22nd in the race from Meaux to Provins. She finished 36th overall and was the leading British cyclist, a solid result in the field of 109 finishers.
Recently, Holden won the British National Championships elite women’s time trial title, securing arguably her best result to date. She reached the first checkpoint in 18 min 25.051 sec and completed the 27.4km route in a total time of 37m 2.136s to seal the national title.
Stage one of the TdF Femmes, which features a 124km loop around Clermont-Ferrand, is a relatively flat stage with only one climb at Côte de Durtol towards the end of the day. Holden is a strong climber, so may be able to use the climb as a springboard for her race.
Monday may suit Holden better with it being quite a tough hilly stage. The Côte de Trébiac, which is 3.4km at an average gradient of 5.8%, is worth attacking to create some big gaps before the finish and even to decide the stage winner.
A mountain climb is also featured in stage seven, which goes from Lannemezan to Tourmalet Bagnères-De-Bigorre. The Tourmalet is the highlight of the Tour de Femmes and the climbers, like Holden, will be wanting to leave their mark, cycling above 2,000m which was not the case last year.
A time trial is included in stage eight and should lend itself to her strongpoint. The 22km time trial circuit goes around Pau and the first section of it was featured in the 2019 Tour in the opposite direction.
The time trial includes climbing the fearsome Côte de Bosdarros, including several technical sections. With it occurring on the final stage of the Tour, the time trial offers the opportunity for a late swing in fortunes.
Good rouleurs like Holden may take advantage of it to gain a few places in the overall classification.
Holden will also have high hopes following her recent time trial success for the UCI World Road Championships time trial and road race coming up after the Tour, on August 10-13 in Glasgow.