Human Powered Health Cycling women’s team is in the northwest of France for a crucial three-day stage race beginning March 17. The inaugural Tour de Normandie Féminin will be an exciting event with the parcours sure to encourage attacking racing.
Dutch rider Nina Buijsman will hope to showcase the form she showed in Australia and is joined by Cypriot champion Antri Christoforou, Henrietta Christie, Barbara Malcotti, Makayla MacPherson and Eri Yonamine.
Human Powered Health is one of three Women’s WorldTour teams lining up at the UCI 2.1 race, another chance to score points in the league standings with relegation from the top table of cycling a constant specter.
Also on the start list are Krista Doebel-Hickok, Veronica Ewers, and Georgia Williams (all EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Zaaf Cycling Team), Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka and Shari Bossuyt (both Canyon//SRAM Racing), Simone Boilard (St Michel – Mavic – Auber93 WE) and Gladys Verhulst (FDJ – SUEZ).
Ahead of the race, Christoforou spoke post-stage one recon about the importance of the team’s first European stage race of the season, as well as how she has trained on her home island ahead of the action.
Antri’s island paradise
Christoforou returns to racing with the team after competing for her national team in Croatia at the Umag Trophy and Poreč Trophy, finishing fourth in the latter.
“I am very excited and happy to be back in Europe racing with my teammates,” she said. “Being a member of a strong squad in a race and racing as a team with a plan at a level of a race like this one is something that I really enjoy.”
On paper, the route favors the WorldTour teams who will hope to make the race hard, especially on stages one and two that take on a rolling route with dragging uphill finishes. Christoforou also emphasizes the importance of racing hard as the squad aims at the GC.
“The objectives for the next three stages are to score UCI points and to be in a good position finally in the general classification,” she explains. “We want to race well as a team and we have riders to make it to the finish and compete each day – more than one!”
The weather will also greatly impact how the three stages are raced with rain and wind predicted throughout the long weekend.
Since racing in Australia, Christoforou has spent much of her early season at home training on Cyprus, even stepping in as a bike guide to help former cyclocross world champion, Trek – Segafredo’s Dutch rider Lucinda Brand, find the best routes on the island.
“Training in Cyprus is very good preparation for European racing because we have everything,” she says. “We have short steep climbs but also long steady ones that you can do lots of work on, for winter preparation. The weather is also important for your long rides and we have nice weather most of the time.”
Christoforou has happy memories from France, including her daring 141-kilometer breakaway ride on stage 5 of last year’s Tour de France Femmes and winning the 2022 La Classique Morbihan.
“The course in Morbihan is quite similar to the first stage in Normandy, up and down with narrow roads, etc,” she says of her biggest result to date. “I am looking forward to racing and I am hoping for a hard race on day one because it’s the most important stage for the GC.”
Speak the language
Ten French cycling phrases that our athletes and fans might need to use this week.
accélérer = to accelerate
changer de vitesse = shift gears
dépasser = overtake
s’échapper = to break away
prendre la tête = take the lead
s’accrocher à = to cling on
á bloc = riding hard
bidon = a water bottle
la flamme rouge = a red flag showing the final kilometer
la bonification = bonus seconds that are awarded at the finish and intermediate sprints.
ooh la la’ = your favorite rider has just launched a daring solo attack
Tour de Normandie Féminin stage by stage
3/16 Stage 1 | Argentan – Bagnoles-de-l’Orne (139km) Rolling
With only three days of racing, the GC battle will be ignited on day one thanks to a rolling route and long dragging roads. A lapped finale should encourage riders to go on the attack but expect a reduced group to compete for victory in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne.
3/17 Stage 2 | La Haye – Flamanville (103km) Rolling
Stage 2 is a stunning tour of the Normandy coast where crosswinds could impact the racing greatly before a hilly circuit in Flamanville. The winner on this day will surely hold on for overall victory in Caen.
3/18 Stage 3 | Saint-Pierre-en-Auge – Caen (114km) Flat
The race will likely end in a sprint on the roads of the biggest city in the region, Caen. The final of the race is comparable to a small version of the Tour de France’s traditional sprint stage on the Champs-Élysées so watch out for the fast riders who go well in criteriums like MacPherson, Bossuyt and Boilard.
How to watch
Live coverage of the race every day will be provided on the Tour de Normandie race website. Find up-to-date broadcast schedules and on-the-ground, behind-the-scenes content all weekend on the Human Powered Health social media channels.