United Healthcare are an American team, but they’ve got two British riders at the race, Sharon Laws and Hannah Barnes (see below). The team is also home to Mara Abbott, who returned to cycling last year after battling an eating disorder and sensationally won the Giro Rosa; as defending champion she is favourite for victory this year and her team mates will be supporting her, but Laws and Barnes are both capable of bagging a stage win along the way.
Stage 3 falls on the same day as Laws’ 40th birthday, but the Nairobi-born rider retains excellent form – she finished the Grand Prix GSB, Grand Prix de Oriente and Vuelta Ciclista Femenina in El Salvador in the top ten back in March and won the Queen of the Mountains at the Women’s Tour of Britain in May.
Sharon Laws fact: in addition to Kenya, Laws has lived in Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the UK and Australia – where she is an environmental consultant for major mining company Rio Tinto.
United Healthcare’s other British rider, Tunbridge Wells-born Barnes may be only 21, but she’s got a palmares that goes back for years and has added some superb results this year including a stage win at the Tour de San Luis and eighth overall at the Women’s Tour.
Specialising in sprints, Barnes is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite for overall victory but she’s definitely in with a chance on the flatter stages, especially the short, flat out-and-home prologue time trial – where she might even become the first rider to take the leader’s jersey.
Hannah Barnes fact: One of Hannah’s friends submitted an application for her to play Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films.
Emma Pooley has a natural advantage in the mountains – she’s so tiny (when I saw her from behind at the Lotto-Belisol team minibus at the Women’s Tour, I thought at first she was a little girl collecting autographs!) that she only has to push a fraction of the body weight other riders have to get up the climbs. Of course, being small in stature isn’t all it takes; to be a great climber a rider also needs to be able to generate a lot of power per kilo for an extended period of time – something Pooley does very well and which has made her one of only three world-class climbing cyclists Britain has ever produced (the others? Vic Sutton and Robert Millar), and one of the best riders in the world today.
31-year-old Pooley’s palmares is, as you’d expect, impressive: she’s been National Road Race Champion once, National Time Trial Champion three times (including this year, having won it last week) and World Time Trial Champion once, as well have having won numerous stage and one-day races. She also has a very impressive history in Grand Tours: she won the last Tour de France Feminine in 2009 and came second behind Vos at the Giro Rosa in 2011 and 2012, making her one of the favourites for overall victory. Being such a talented time trial rider, she could win the prologue but is more likely to want to save strength for the big climbs where she could gain race-winning time later on. Unusually for such a small, light rider, Pooley isn’t a bad descender either – take a look at the profiles for Stages 4 and 6 to see why they might suit her. However, while Vos can’t match her on the climbs, she’s very good on the descents and will be going full guns to make up time there.
Emma’s Twitter is here.
Emma Pooley fact: Last year, Pooley completed a PhD in geotechnical engineering – she is, therefore, Dr. Emma Pooley (she also has an honourary doctorate in civil law).
19-year-old Lucy Garner was born in Cosby, Leicestershire and rides for Giant-Shimano, the team with which she signed her first professional contract for 2013. However, while this is only her second pro season, she’s got previous – she was Junior World Road Race Champion in 2011 and 2012. Last year, she won Stage 1 at the Tour of Chongming Island; this year she beat Lizzie Armitstead to second place at the Drente 8 van Dwingeloo and took third place at the GP de Dottignies, matching the winning time set by Giorgia Bronzini.
Lucy’s a sprinter, which like Hannah Barnes puts her in contention for that flat prologue and the other flat stages but rules her out of an overall victory. She’s there primarily to get experience of racing in a Grand Tour, because her coach Hans Timmermans believes she has the potential to be the best sprinter in the world in races of this type – since Hans also works with Giant-Shimano’s Kirsten Wild, getting the best out of sprinters is something he knows about.
Lucy’s Twitter is here.
Lucy Garner fact: Lucy comes from a cycling family, and used to regularly ride a penny-farthing.
Wiggle-Honda are a British-registered team, but are sending no British riders. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and Lucy Martin (Estado de Mexico-Faren), who both appear on several start lists (and were originally included here) are not taking part.