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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2018

A place to discuss all things related to current professional road races. Here, you can also touch on the latest news relating to professional road racing. A doping discussion free forum.

Moderators: Eshnar, Irondan, King Boonen, Red Rick, Pricey_sky

23 May 2018 04:51

It's been a good year for Spratt - She's got stronger each year which gave her the opportunity to successfully try a long-range attempt - Thought she was unlucky in LBL in that the only rider in the peleton who has the ability to bring her back on Saint Nicholas was AVV - Anyway it's been a good season for MS - Would have liked another win or two from D'Hoore and it's a pity the gifted climber Kennedy is injured, though she should be back for the Giro Rosa.
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28 May 2018 23:16

It's been a fairly busy weekend for the women's péloton, with races spread all over.

First up, there's the Bréton doublette, the Classique Morbihan and the GP Plumelec, which were on consecutive days on Friday and Saturday, drawing a decent field including Cervélo, Alé, FDJ and a host of decent second tier teams. The Classique was won from a small breakaway of five, with Janneke Ensing the highest profile rider to miss out that you might have assumed could make the move. When it came to the final uphill sprint, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio somewhat predictably proved the strongest, outclimbing consistent puncheuse Rasa Leleivyte and Movistar's Alicia González, one of the most rapidly improving of their developmental riders, just pipping Alice Maria Arzuffi and Eugénie Duval to the podium. From the pack behind, Ensing proved the strongest, ahead of Iakovenko and Eider Merino. In the GP Plumelec, it came to the final sprint up the Côte de Cadoudal, and once more nobody could stop one of the world's elite climbers in this field, so Moolman-Pasio doubled up, this time ahead of two other riders who were prominent in the Emakumeen Bira, Małgorzata Jasińska and Ane Santesteban, making this a fruitful weekend for Movistar. Iakovenko and Duval made 5th and 6th, thus confirming themselves as in great form, but there were also a couple of surprise youngsters in the top 10 - 21-year-old Colombian Paula Andrea Patiño made 4th place on one of her rare exploits in Europe, with her prior results suggesting climbing is, predictably, her thing, and squeezing into the top 10 behind two very well-proven climbers, Shara Gillow and Hanna Nilsson, was 19-year-old Frenchwoman Laura Asencio.

In the good ol' US of A, Winston-Salem was on, with the criterium being won by Samantha Schneider (sister of Boels' Skylar, who was also guesting alongside her) for the tiny ISCorp team, ahead of the far more established Arlenis Sierra and domestic scene veteran Erica Allar. A few other moonlighters here too, most notably notorious mercenary Flavia Oliveira, showing up for Fearless Femme Racing. Today's Winston-Salem Cycling Classic was more to her liking, less crit-like and more tricky, but not enough for her to make that final decisive move as the bunch splintered at the end on the climb. 23-year-old Hagens Bermans-Supermint rider Lily Williams emerged the surprise winner, pushing Sierra down to her second successive second place, with UHC's experienced Colombian Diana Carolina Peñuela, Rally's Kirsti Lay and Alison "Action" Jackson for TIBCO making up the first group, just ahead of the Brazilian mercenary.

Belgium hosted Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, a Classics-styled one-day race which swiftly became an exhibition as despite a strong field, the on-form Mitchelton-Scott team were able to obliterate the field when they successfully got both Sarah Roy and Gracie Elvin up the road; a disorganized chase which was also expertly disrupted by the Australian team, most notably by Georgia Williams, led to the two riding away to a colossal advantage - eventually riding in arm in arm six minutes up on the bunch, Roy taking the win by virtue of rolling in slightly in front of Gracie. The chase group of 5 contested the podium, and though she'd not had to work for obvious reasons, Williams was unable to lock out the podium for Mitchelton, with Elisa Balsamo of Valcar-PBM winning the sprint for 3rd, the bespectacled Italian 20-year-old has been having a good season to date, outmatching Williams and her other breakmates Sofie de Vuyst (the Belgian having had a long drive over from the Bréton races the previous days), Demi de Jong thanks to the help of teammate Maria Giulia Confalonieri.

Finally, having had to move out of its traditional July slot thanks to the enforced changes to accommodate ASO's follies, the International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen got underway today. A rare long-form stage race, this 7-stage race is long established on the calendar - it's the oldest extant stage race other than the Giro, predating Emakumeen Bira by a year. There are seven stages which run the gamut from flat to bumpy with a decent ITT in the middle, with each stage starting and finishing in the same place and saving on logistics as riders will generally stay in the same hotel throughout. There's a good field; Wiggle have the defending champion in Lisa Brennauer, accompanied mainly by their younger riders but with decent help from Emilia Fahlin; Sunweb have an almost full strength squad, with Brand, van Dijk, Rivera and Mackaij all in attendance. They look formidable. Canyon have their more rolling set of riders in attendance, with Alice Barnes but not elder sister Hannah, alongside Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell and home favourite Trixi Worrack. BTC have a strong team with Bujak, Batagelj and Pavlukhina all on hand, while FDJ have no Gillow but do lead the sprints with Roxane Fournier, and Movistar have a decent strength team led by Jasińska and Neylan. On the smaller teams and national representations there are a few decently well-known names such as Tayler Wiles (who has unfinished business here after losing a stage in heartbreaking fashion after being sent the wrong way and then being a few seconds down chasing the new lead group all the way to the line), Dutch durable sprinter/puncheuse Eva Buurman, British TT specialist Hayley Simmonds, Chongming Island winner Charlotte Becker, and others.

The first stage appears to have had a somewhat complex run-in which has allowed some small gaps to form, with Coryn Rivera finally getting belatedly off that zero wins hex following last year's successes, the American outsprinting Roxane Fournier to the win. Brennauer also picked up some bonus seconds for third but lost two on the road to the Sunweb rider, ahead of Cecchini and Buurman. Most of the other key names came in at +5", though Brand, Simmonds and Cromwell lost 12", while Alice Barnes had a terrible day losing 1'44" which suggests something went wrong for the Briton, maybe a crash or an ill-timed mechanical, as one would expect that she would not ordinarily lose time especially to several of those who stayed in the bunch, and U23 European RR/TT double champion Pernille Mathiesen lost over 2 minutes. Aafke Soet also abandoned, which may give some hint.
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02 Jun 2018 09:10

Follow up on what's been happening in Thüringen:

Stage 2 saw the bunch reduced in number to around 45 over some small climbs, but all the major protagonists made the selection save for Tiffany Cromwell who had teammates up front anyway. There was unfortunately a late crash which took out a number of riders, including Aude Biannic, a reasonable sprinter for Movistar, Liane Lippert, the young Sunweb prospect, and Grace Brown, the Australian in only her second race since moving to Wiggle-High 5 midseason following a successful Aussie domestic season. In the confusion, Elena Cecchini was able to take the stage ahead of the stronger sprinters like Rivera, Brennauer, Fournier and van Dijk (in that order), but with time bonuses Rivera was able to retain the leader's jersey.

Stage 3 was around the town of Schleiz, though strangely not on the old Schleizer Dreieck racing circuit that hosted the Friendship Games road race back in 1984 and was a regular DDR-Rundfahrt stop-off point. It was very much a rolling stage with a finish that was undoubtedly a sprint but slightly uphill so as to mean that quite a few minor time gaps opened. The sprint was won again by Coryn Rivera, but only ten riders escaped without a time gap - behind Rivera, there ws Brennauer, Fournier, Eva Buurman (who's had a very good race here for Drops), van Dijk, Jasińska, Bujak, Mackaij, Wilkoś and Brand. Cecchini, Lippert, Worrack and Wiles lost 3", Fahlin 11", and everyone outside the top 50 was at least 8 minutes down thanks to the mid-stage significant climbs before the rolling finale.

The traditional Rund um Gera was stage 4, which usually results in an Olaf Ludwig sighting. This was a stage which consisted of a large loop, with the now-traditional trip over the Land border into Sachsen for a mid-stage climb of the Steiler Wand von Meerane, albeit in a much less decisive role than you might otherwise expect from the legendary cobbled berg this year, before a hilly final circuit around Gera, though not as hilly as the depart, which featured two notable climbs in the first 20km. This time the group that settled things numbered slightly less than 50, as the same kind of names cropped up again and again, with a few being tailed off by that final climb on the closing circuit, but the parcours proving a bit more repetitious than normal, and the péloton more adept at chasing those breakaways than they have been in previous years here (will always remember Gracie Elvin's solo escapade in Meerane, and her dying a thousand deaths as she zig-zagged her way up the final 350m wall to victory, or Tayler Wiles being sent the wrong way when leading solo, and being sent back onto the course, only to find herself a few seconds behind the new leaders, chasing them all the way to the line helplessly). This time, however, it was the home favourite and defending champion, Lisa Brennauer, who took the sprint, ahead of van Dijk (who was 3rd in 2016 and 2nd in 2017 so is looking to continue that upward trend) and 2016 winner Elena Cecchini. Truly, this gives you an idea of who likes the Thüringen Rundfahrt! The more versatile sprinters made up the remaining placements - Bujak, Rivera, Fournier, Buurman the next across the line in that order, and while Coryn's 2018 has shown signs of 'difficult second album syndrome' so far, she's certainly getting closer to where she would want to be at this stage. A lot will hinge on that final ITT, however, where you would expect her to be tailed away by the likes of van Dijk and Brennauer.

The fifth stage was the most decisive yet, a circuit race including the Dörtendorfer Berg, affectionately dubbed the Hankaberg after local heroine Hanka Kupfernagel. The climb is not the trickiest puncheur finish in the world, but several times up it can have an effect, and indeed it did as on the final ascent we saw the race splinter and serious time gaps be presented for the first time. Rozanne Slik took the victory, which perennial women's cycling info source Peter van den Veen suggests is the very first win for the Vienne-Futuroscope team since FDJ took over as title sponsor (other than national titles), which seems almost improbable for a team which has the likes of Shara Gillow and Roxane Fournier in it. Looking into it it seems to be correct at the UCI level, as Gillow won some domestic races last year at the pro-am level, but for UCI categorised races while they had a couple of podiums (Gillow in Emakumeen Saria and GP Plumelec, Fournier in Madrid) no wins to date. That could be a trivia question in future years - who won FDJ's first UCI race: Rozanne Slik. Anyway, only Ellen van Dijk (unsurprisingly, given her strong Ardennes results) and Małgorzata Jasińska (again unsurprisingly, given she's one of the strongest climbers in the field here) got away without a time gap, while Lisa Brennauer and Lucinda Brand lost just 2" at the line, which meant that with her bonuses for the stage win on stage 3, Brennauer is able to take the race lead over Ellen, since Rivera lost over 30 seconds on the climb. Bujak and Buurman continue to race strongly, coming in at +5" (the latter has proven surprisingly adept at punchy sprints this season, I think she's moving into the kind of territory that Leleivyte fills, and could probably get a contract at a bigger team next season off the back of this [edit: possibly not though, it depends if a bigger team would want her to give up her off-season speed-skating exploits]), Cecchini at +13", and Mackaij a further ten seconds back. It sets up an interesting final weekend, with the Gotha stage including a circuit including a decent hill and a cobbled drag in the finale, but the large first loop including a genuine mountain, easily the biggest single obstacle of the race, and then the 18,7km ITT that will finish the race on Sunday.
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03 Jun 2018 10:52

A dramatic final weekend in Thüringen. In the Saturday stage around Gotha, the large climb in the first half of the stage heavily reduced the field and, whereas in previous days the sprinting field had been circa 50, on this day fewer than 30 remained in the péloton at the end of the day. There were a few splintered groups all over the road but the majority of the remainder lost over 20 minutes, with their GC bids over and wanting to save energy for the final day time trial. Having had a fairly quiet race, Canyon-SRAM's Alice Barnes managed to sneak away with 6km remaining, and with a less than organised chase she was able to hang on on the slightly uphill cobbled finale in the city centre, with just a 3" advantage over the first group of chasers, from which her teammate Elena Cecchini, having rested up for the whole run-in with Alice up the road, sprung to take 2nd. A 1-2 for Canyon is not bad for a team which only had two representatives in the group! Lisa Brennauer took some potentially vital bonus seconds by taking third, ahead of Buurman and van Dijk. The next group, with Slik, Bujak and Brand, lost a few seconds, and Jasinska, Rivera, Lippert and Mackaij lost a couple more as well as the slightly uphill nature of the finish opened some small gaps in the sprint field.

All this set us up for a dramatic final ITT, with a likely head to head between Brennauer and van Dijk, two excellent time triallists, split by less than ten seconds on the GC. The early time to beat was set by Trixi Worrack, after a disappointingly uncompetitive time by Hayley Simmonds, the other genuine TT specialist threat in the early starters. The veteran German's time was quite significantly faster than anybody for a long time, even once some of the TT riders who were in a slightly better GC position came in. Pernille Mathiesen, Tayler Wiles and Martina Ritter all only just got within a minute, while Liane Lippert managed to set a strong time once the higher GC riders started to finish, but even so only in the same kind of ballpark (this time also wrapped up the U23 classification for the German).

Lucinda Brand was the first to beat Trixi, setting a rocket time of 26'42. She may have been unfancied against such decorated time trial opposition for the GC, but she was going to make them work for it. Some of the riders who've been central to the race stood to lose big time given the limited time gain options and their TT deficits - Buurman was over 2 minutes down, Slik two and a half, Richioud three. Even fairly established riders like Małgorzata Jasińska were losing the best part of 2 minutes, which shows you how good the time from Brand was. Coryn Rivera, however, set a very strong time, only around 40 seconds off Brand, setting up a strong finish to the race for the American, but she couldn't compete, naturally, with Ellen van Dijk, who left everything on the course, but showed just how good Lucinda Brand was today when she crossed the line, just 4 seconds ahead of her compatriot. All eyes then turned to Brennauer - the defending champion only had 7 seconds to play with against Ellen, she was on similar pace, could she go back to back?

The answer was a resounding yes, as though she couldn't dethrone her rival's time for the stage win, she neatly bisected the two Dutchwomen, coming in 2" behind van Dijk and 2" ahead of Brand, meaning that the same 1-2 as last year would be the final GC, Brennauer ahead of van Dijk - they may have a new slot in the calendar but the outcomes still have strong similarity! A couple of interesting statistics have come out in light of this - Lisa is only the second rider to go back to back in the Thüringen Rundfahrt - after Judith Arndt in 2007 and 2008. A Dutchwoman has only won the race once, and that was all the way back in 1989 when Vanessa van Dijk took home the trophy when it was still held in the DDR! Brennauer has been a picture of consistency here, finishing in the top 4 in every single stage, crucially including the time trial which is so decisive in this final stage position, whereas in previous years it has been mid-race setting up more aggressive final stages (as Eva Buurman can attest, six top 7 performances back to back but a lack of chrono skills means she drops out of the GC top 10 on the final day). It's a great result for Wiggle too, as obviously this is what Lisa has been brought in to do, the team crucially needing a secondary leader to keep pressure off ELB, and seeing as with Brennauer and Wild being the main other 'name' riders now, Elisa is going to be on her own in the mountains a lot, so the rouleuses need to be picking up the results in the less mountainous races to counterbalance that. And Sunweb threw absolutely everything at her, seeing as they eventually stuck almost their whole team in the top 10.

The final GC of the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen therefore looks like this:

1 Lisa Brennauer (Wiggle-High 5) GER
2 Eleonora van Dijk (Team Sunweb) NED +5"
3 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +38"
4 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +1'05"
5 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +1'33"
6 Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) GER +2'07"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) POL +2'11"
8 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL +2'26"
9 Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) NED +2'30"
10 Tayler Wiles (Trek-Drops) USA +2'40"
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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03 Jun 2018 11:24

Why's the Thüringen Rundfahrt taking place this early? It's normally in July isn't it?
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03 Jun 2018 11:32

lemon cheese cake wrote:Why's the Thüringen Rundfahrt taking place this early? It's normally in July isn't it?

Yep, but ASO moving La Course to mid-week nearly killed it last year. They'd done all this preparation work for their 30th anniversary edition, only to then be told they'd have to sacrifice half the field quality for ASO's big plans, even though they weren't allowed to know what ASO's big plans were until it was announced as when the provisional WWT calendar for 2017 came out, La Course was still on the Sunday. Of course, ASO's whims have changed once more, but they've moved to what they feel to be a safer spot on the calendar, as there's a nice build into the Women's Tour (which, parcours-wise, has more resemblance to Thüringen than the Giro did) and a spot in the middle of stage race season after Bira.
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10 Jun 2018 16:46

The Women's Tour starts this week, sponsored as before by OVO with its rather plush looking green jersey. As one of the best supported and best organised races on the calendar this one ought to be good, not sure what time the highlights are out this year (last year's were relegated to late night, which was a shame) but the race has seemingly caught on and as ever the Britons are very good at turning out a crowd for a bike race at present, which has made the race an instant hit on the women's calendar.

Last year's race was a bit of a strange one in that a bit of lethargy and presumption in the bunch led to a near 2 minute breakaway being attained on stage 1 by a climber on the flattest stage, then defending her lead on the hilly stages despite the team's depleted resources. While it was nice to see Niewiadoma pick up her first WWT win, and her attitude and riding went down well with the supporters of the race, it was rather over-sold as an emergence from somebody who was already one of women's cycling's elite talents. Nevertheless, I'm not going to bewail more attention for the women's game or a win for a rider who has been among my favourites throughout her career and especially now that my long term favourites Pooley and Häusler/Lichtenberg are retired.

Like last year, the first stage is flat, returning to the East Anglian heartland that supported the race at its inception, and finishing in Southwold. This small town hosted the grand départ in 2016 and is the home of Adnams, which is one of the race's sponsors, which is why they're going there. There is an innovation, though - they've moved from awarding two GPM points per stage, regular as clockwork and not always at the toughest points, to a more nuanced, 'normal' system of awarding points per the difficulty of the climbs, so there's only one categorized climb in this stage, unsurprisingly given how pan flat the region is (and that climb is a bit of a joke, it's not quite as bad as the official profile - more like 3% than 1,5% - but still pretty much not worth categorizing other than to give the QOM jersey sponsors a reason to show). I'd say expect a sprint (other finishes in East Anglia have always been sprints) but there's always the possibility of a technical run-in and also, of course, remembering stage 1 last year, though I'm sure the péloton will be wiser to that this year.

Stage 2 moves into the East Midlands region, running to Daventry, which again has history as a départ town, being the start of last year's stage 1. It's mostly flat to rolling, but it features a long loop around the town which culminates in an ascent of Newnham Hill, which the official profiles tell us is 1,6km @ 5,2%, cresting 2,3km from the line. They ascend it twice, once around 35km from the finish and once immediately beforehand, so this is a chance for punchy riders to make some early time gaps, which has in earlier editions not always been the case.

Stage 3 is the longest, at over 150km (the average stage distance in this race is above the UCI's mandated 120km, which itself was an improvement on the old 100km, so they've obviously got some dispensation for it), and is a direct copy of last year's stage 3 which was won by Chloe Hosking despite numerous attempts to break things up and threaten Niewiadoma from other teams. Edge Hill is the main challenge, 800m at 10%, 37km from the line, there's a longer but more gradual follow up climb, but the run-in is fairly straightforward.

Stage 4 is the first to introduce two new stage towns, Evesham and Worcester, as we continue westwards into the West Midlands area, closer to the border between England and Wales. There's a couple of climbs but they're far from the finish and this one is likely to end up a sprint.

Stage 5 is the shortest, all in North Wales and, if I'm totally honest, a huge disappointment as a much tougher stage could have been had in this area. Nevertheless, if any climby types want to make a difference, they'll need to do it here since apart from Newnham Hill they haven't been given too many chances to get away. Stage 3 offers opportunities but they'll need to commit to the move and probably have a bit of help, in order to distance the sprinters sufficiently. Here, the sprinters may well struggle given we have a 7km climb at just under 5% with some serious inconsistencies, 50km from home, but there is an uncategorized ramp around 10km from home that may be needed to be used if bonus seconds aren't enough to settle it.

Overall, it's an OK route, but there's not a massive amount to enthuse the climby types. Then again, it's not like last year was a veritable 2013 Giro Rosa either, and it was won by a grimpeuse, so who knows? Certainly Canyon are of the opinion they can win this with climbers, sending their full trifecta of escaladoras, with defending champion Kasia Niewiadoma pinning on bib #1 and ably assisted by Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Alena Amialiusik. After a fantastic duel over the best British rider jersey last year, the two Barnes sisters line up as teammates instead this year, and could be GC candidates if the team's bid to win it by outclimbing the opposition proves fruitless. Lisa Klein rounds out the lineup, the young German can sprint, can time trial and can work, and likes racing in Britain, having had a successful introduction to the Women's Tour last year.

Boels-Dolmans, however, disagree, and think they will have to win this with rouleuses, in the absence of Lizzie Deignan. Chantal Blaak brings the rainbow stripes as team leader since van der Breggen is resting, and the team brings a full complement of its classics team - Amy Pieters, Amalie Dideriksen, and perennial Women's Tour podium rider Christine Majerus, having won a stage in 2 of the last 3 seasons and finished on the GC podium of 2 of the last 3 seasons too. Anna Plichta and Jip van den Bos complete the lineup, Jip now moving into the role that Amalie had a couple of years ago when she was a breakout helper in Armitstead's GC triumph.

Sunweb agree with Boels, and their lineup is formidable. Coryn Rivera is the nominal leader, having worked her way into form in Thüringen, but realistically any of their team (bar possibly Soek who will be a domestique I anticipate) is a genuine threat to win. Lucinda Brand, Ellen van Dijk, Floortje Mackaij, all are capable. Leah Kirchmann hasn't quite been at the level of a couple of years ago for a bit but if she can recapture that she's dangerous, especially in stage 2.

The other super-team, Wiggle, are dividing their goals in two, between stage goals with Kirsten Wild, and the GC with Elisa Longo Borghini, and keeping Thüringen Rundfahrt GC winner Lisa Brennauer as a happy medium between them, the German of course won the race outright in 2015, and is capable of picking up time bonuses with her sprinting prowess - and not much of this parcours is tough enough to drop her if she's on the same form she was a week ago. And the team has some mighty help for the flat lands too with track convert Annette Edmondson, upcoming prospect Katie Archibald (who also comes from distance track), and The Best Damned Female Domestique In The World Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

Cervélo are resting 2016 podium rider Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, for whom the parcours is less than ideal, and so instead are likely to be stagehunting around Lotta Lepistö, although we all know Cille is capable enough of doing a good GC in a hilly race. Ann-Sophie Duyck adds power. FDJ are presumably looking for Fournier in the sprints, with Gillow out, but Kitchen could do an OK role in the hills (her best performances are a while ago now though) and Rozanne Slik did win an interestingly tough stage in Thüringen. For Cylance a lot will depend on which Rossella Ratto shows up - though they'll have a presence in the sprints especially if they're reduced, with Gutiérrez and Bronzini. Annemiek van Vleuten, like Moolman-Pasio and van der Breggen, skips the race as it doesn't fit with her Giro preparation, so Mitchelton are likely to prefer to crystallise around Jolien d'Hoore's sprint weapon, though Sarah Roy has good history on this kind of course and Gracie Elvin will seldom die wondering.

Plenty of other strong riders around though. Not least a Certain Miss Marianne Vos (© Phil Liggett) who has of course won the GC here before and races that allow for reduced sprints with a bit of smaller sized hilly finale action are going to be right up her street, especially with a good backup team including some decent climbers (Rooijakkers and Stultiens) and some motivated rouleuses (the returning Anouska Koster, and Dani Rowe on home roads). Alé also shore up a very strong sprint field by bringing both Bastianelli and Hosking, while even in the smaller teams there are some genuine threats - Drops' Eva Buurman was in great form over similar kinds of terrain in Thüringen, Hitec have Nina Kessler to mix it up in the sprints and nascent superprospect Susanne Andersen, BTC have Eugenia Bujak who has won WWT races before over a similar finish to stage 2 and the impressive young puncheuse Nastya Iakovenko, who was top 10 in Flèche Wallonne and both Plumelec/Morbihan races, Virtu have Guarischi and Moberg, neither of whom are shy of mixing it up in the sprints, and Valcar-PBM have the versatile Maria Giulia Confalonieri.

It's a very strong lineup and the mix between teams in their thoughts on how to approach it should hopefully lead to intrigue...
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12 Jun 2018 06:46

http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/ovo-energy-womens-tour-2018/preview/
After conflicting events at the Amgen Women's Tour and Emakumeen Bira in May, the Women's WorldTour (WWT) resumes this month with the OVO Energy Women's Tour from June 13-17 in Great Britain. For the fifth edition of the race, organisers SweetSpot promised an increased prize purse by three-fold to €90,000.

This year's general classification winner will earn €14,460, the same as the winner of the men's Tour of Britain, while stage sums will also be equal to those offered during the men's stages.


Good for them! :) Get them on TV too.
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13 Jun 2018 16:52

Well, in fairness to the Women's Tour, they do get a full one-hour highlight package and the coverage provided is top draw with excellent graphics, helicam footage and everything required to convince you that the race is a big deal (I've often maintained that making the race look like a big deal is a big part of making it a big deal - the fact so many women's races can't afford the big game graphics and helicopters in their short footage puts them at a level with the lower category men's races in the audience's mind, whereas the Women's Tour's highlights packages include rider profiles, interviews, and the same production given to the men's Tour of Britain which helps the race look good externally, making it attractive to sponsors. The crowds are always a plus point as the Britons love to turn out to a bike race at the moment.

I wish there was live coverage too, but I find it difficult to be too critical of the organisers for the coverage they do put out, other than that the host channel relegated them to late night last year, I think they're in a better time slot this year again though. If they could baby-steps it to try to push for live coverage that would be great, like the Emakumeen Bira does where they've been extending the highlights footage and then broadcasting the final day live for the last couple of seasons, that might be a way for them to persuade the broadcasters to extend it out.

Anyway, the race began today, and if I'm honest I'm not so sure live coverage would have helped this particular stage out too much as it seems this one was fuel to the fire for the "women's cycling is boring" crowd as little of note happened until the final sprint, save for a solo breakaway through a technical section from Susanne Andersen of Hitec Products, helping the beleaguered team get some airtime. We've seen countless similar men's stages of course, especially in this region as East Anglia has become one of Britain's most cycling-supportive regions after Yorkshire - since first bringing the men's Tour of Britain into the area in 2010, the men have been in the region in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017, and the women have raced through the area in 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2018. Unfortunately, the region's geography is such that it makes Denmark look like Norway, so sprints have dominated.

There was further reason to believe that the sprinters would prevail today too - the péloton made a dreadful miscalculation in the first stage last year (well, dreadful for them. As a known Niewiadoma fan and a dyed-in-the-wool critic of flat stages, I was perfectly happy with the outcome) that led to the GC being settled on day 1, leaving the sprinters with fewer chances than anticipated to make a difference and everybody not named "Katarzyna Niewiadoma" with an uphill struggle (against somebody who's very good at going uphill) to overhaul the GC. As a result, nobody was in the mood to let even the not-especially-threatening attacks go (after all, who'd have thought a climber riding away 50km from home in a flat stage would be so dangerous?) and so the bunch held everybody on a tight leash, also enabling some battling at the intermediate sprints, with bonus seconds being taken by Dani Rowe (interesting to see her sprinting for Waowdeals instead of Vos, though it is of course her home race) and Coryn Rivera, but most notably 5 seconds being collected by Amy Pieters. All of those are capable of getting over a few obstacles (well, in Coryn's case obviously since she's won the Trofeo Binda) so this kind of accumulation could be crucial in the long run.

When the sprint did come (inevitably), it was a fairly straightforward one. The course was a much safer run-in than the last time the Women's Tour was in this part of the UK (the Norwich finish with about 11 corners in the last kilometre in 2016, which caused carnage and all time gaps were annulled, though did lead to some intrigue with a solo breakaway staying until only 150m from home), and when the riders arrived at the seafront they took a right and faced a slight headwind on a slight uphill to the line. It's the kind of finish that favours the power sprinters, but Kirsten Wild, perhaps the most powerful of all, was hampered by a lack of teammates in the group so it fell to Jolien d'Hoore, arguably the strongest sprinter on the startlist but with her form a gigantic question mark given it was her first race back from a collarbone break (only three weeks ago!), to force the issue, driving home comfortably ahead of Marta Bastianelli and Coryn Rivera; the American looks to be getting up to last year's form a bit now, especially given a key part of the team's leadout was scuppered when Floortje Mackaij punctured late on and wasn't able to contribute fully to it, but with Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand at least Coryn had a decent level of protection and the day's results suggests it's her that is plan A for Sunweb.

1 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL 3'14'39
2 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +st
3 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +st
4 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +st
5 Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) DEN +st
6 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
7 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
8 Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High 5) NED +st
9 Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) GBR +st
10 Barbara Guarischi (Virtu Pro Cycling) ITA +st

Thanks to time bonuses, the GC is slightly different as plenty of riders had accrued some bonus seconds at the intermediates.

1 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL 3'14'29
2 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +2"
3 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +4"
4 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +5"
5 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +8"
6 Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) AUS +9"
7 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +10"
8 Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) DEN +st
9 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
10 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st

Perhaps the most significant of the few riders to have dropped time is Lisa Brennauer, who came in 38" back, with three teammates trailing further back. The 2015 winner was seemingly on form, having just won Thüringen, so that suggests there was a crash or a mechanical at an inopportune time involved, similar to Mackaij. Katie Archibald had a very strong race here last year too, and is already 2 minutes down, so she may now focus on the intermediate sprints, or Wiggle will throw everything behind Elisa Longo Borghini as Wild is unlikely to survive the hills tomorrow and Elisa is the only other rider they have who's on the bunch's time.
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13 Jun 2018 18:17

Surprising that Van Der Breggen is missing the Giro - Though she find the true alpine passes challenging and the mainly uphill ITT is not to her advantage, she would still probably have podiumed - And I doubt she is ideally suited to this year's Worlds.
yaco
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Re:

13 Jun 2018 21:24

yaco wrote:Surprising that Van Der Breggen is missing the Giro - Though she find the true alpine passes challenging and the mainly uphill ITT is not to her advantage, she would still probably have podiumed - And I doubt she is ideally suited to this year's Worlds.


Is the women’s circuit the same as the men’s one in this year’s WCRR?
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13 Jun 2018 22:30

No Gramartboden for the women or the U23s but still 3x the Igls climb which should be enough to make it one for the likes of van Vleuten, van der Breggen, Niewiadoma, Moolman-Pasio, Longo Borghini, Spratt and co.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re:

14 Jun 2018 20:10

Libertine Seguros wrote:Well, in fairness to the Women's Tour, they do get a full one-hour highlight package and the coverage provided is top draw with excellent graphics, helicam footage and everything required to convince you that the race is a big deal (I've often maintained that making the race look like a big deal is a big part of making it a big deal - the fact so many women's races can't afford the big game graphics and helicopters in their short footage puts them at a level with the lower category men's races in the audience's mind, whereas the Women's Tour's highlights packages include rider profiles, interviews, and the same production given to the men's Tour of Britain which helps the race look good externally, making it attractive to sponsors. The crowds are always a plus point as the Britons love to turn out to a bike race at the moment.

I wish there was live coverage too, but I find it difficult to be too critical of the organisers for the coverage they do put out, other than that the host channel relegated them to late night last year, I think they're in a better time slot this year again though. If they could baby-steps it to try to push for live coverage that would be great, like the Emakumeen Bira does where they've been extending the highlights footage and then broadcasting the final day live for the last couple of seasons, that might be a way for them to persuade the broadcasters to extend it out.

Anyway, the race began today, and if I'm honest I'm not so sure live coverage would have helped this particular stage out too much as it seems this one was fuel to the fire for the "women's cycling is boring" crowd as little of note happened until the final sprint, save for a solo breakaway through a technical section from Susanne Andersen of Hitec Products, helping the beleaguered team get some airtime. We've seen countless similar men's stages of course, especially in this region as East Anglia has become one of Britain's most cycling-supportive regions after Yorkshire - since first bringing the men's Tour of Britain into the area in 2010, the men have been in the region in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017, and the women have raced through the area in 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2018. Unfortunately, the region's geography is such that it makes Denmark look like Norway, so sprints have dominated.

There was further reason to believe that the sprinters would prevail today too - the péloton made a dreadful miscalculation in the first stage last year (well, dreadful for them. As a known Niewiadoma fan and a dyed-in-the-wool critic of flat stages, I was perfectly happy with the outcome) that led to the GC being settled on day 1, leaving the sprinters with fewer chances than anticipated to make a difference and everybody not named "Katarzyna Niewiadoma" with an uphill struggle (against somebody who's very good at going uphill) to overhaul the GC. As a result, nobody was in the mood to let even the not-especially-threatening attacks go (after all, who'd have thought a climber riding away 50km from home in a flat stage would be so dangerous?) and so the bunch held everybody on a tight leash, also enabling some battling at the intermediate sprints, with bonus seconds being taken by Dani Rowe (interesting to see her sprinting for Waowdeals instead of Vos, though it is of course her home race) and Coryn Rivera, but most notably 5 seconds being collected by Amy Pieters. All of those are capable of getting over a few obstacles (well, in Coryn's case obviously since she's won the Trofeo Binda) so this kind of accumulation could be crucial in the long run.

When the sprint did come (inevitably), it was a fairly straightforward one. The course was a much safer run-in than the last time the Women's Tour was in this part of the UK (the Norwich finish with about 11 corners in the last kilometre in 2016, which caused carnage and all time gaps were annulled, though did lead to some intrigue with a solo breakaway staying until only 150m from home), and when the riders arrived at the seafront they took a right and faced a slight headwind on a slight uphill to the line. It's the kind of finish that favours the power sprinters, but Kirsten Wild, perhaps the most powerful of all, was hampered by a lack of teammates in the group so it fell to Jolien d'Hoore, arguably the strongest sprinter on the startlist but with her form a gigantic question mark given it was her first race back from a collarbone break (only three weeks ago!), to force the issue, driving home comfortably ahead of Marta Bastianelli and Coryn Rivera; the American looks to be getting up to last year's form a bit now, especially given a key part of the team's leadout was scuppered when Floortje Mackaij punctured late on and wasn't able to contribute fully to it, but with Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand at least Coryn had a decent level of protection and the day's results suggests it's her that is plan A for Sunweb.

1 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL 3'14'39
2 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +st
3 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +st
4 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +st
5 Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) DEN +st
6 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
7 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
8 Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High 5) NED +st
9 Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) GBR +st
10 Barbara Guarischi (Virtu Pro Cycling) ITA +st

Thanks to time bonuses, the GC is slightly different as plenty of riders had accrued some bonus seconds at the intermediates.

1 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL 3'14'29
2 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +2"
3 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +4"
4 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +5"
5 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +8"
6 Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) AUS +9"
7 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +10"
8 Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) DEN +st
9 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
10 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st

Perhaps the most significant of the few riders to have dropped time is Lisa Brennauer, who came in 38" back, with three teammates trailing further back. The 2015 winner was seemingly on form, having just won Thüringen, so that suggests there was a crash or a mechanical at an inopportune time involved, similar to Mackaij. Katie Archibald had a very strong race here last year too, and is already 2 minutes down, so she may now focus on the intermediate sprints, or Wiggle will throw everything behind Elisa Longo Borghini as Wild is unlikely to survive the hills tomorrow and Elisa is the only other rider they have who's on the bunch's time.


Both Brennauer and Archibald crashed on the road after leaving the A12 and before Roydon. Brennauer first, then as they chased back on Archibald went down. There was another rider lying poleaxed on the road after the first left hander just as you enter Southwold - not sure who that was.
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14 Jun 2018 22:49

The rider who was poleaxed in Southwold itself was Abigail van Twisk, from Trek-Drops. She crossed the line, but several minutes after the others, and was then taken to the hospital. Luckily nothing lasting (she certainly looked in a bad way face down on the tarmac) but she recorded a DNF today.

I have some mixed feelings about today's stage - I'm concerned that with this being the most dramatic finale of the race, the closest a significant obstacle is to the finishing line, that the outcome suggests we could be looking at the race being settled on bonus seconds again, I thought we'd got past those days from the first couple of editions and indeed hope that a couple of the stages to come will enable some of the teams to produce a decisive breakaway rather than it being a matter of control. I was hoping that Newnham Hill would open up some smaller time gaps to incentivize some more aggressive racing later on. As it is there are some, with some of the stronger climbers in the race having ended up losing a few seconds at the line, but from her interview yesterday I don't think Niewiadoma sees this race as one for her and indeed now it's the other two of the team's climbing trifecta, PFP and Amialiusik, who will shoulder the team's GC aims, seeing as they are at the top end of the GC. Very interesting to see that it's quite clear Dani Rowe is WaowDeals' designated here, because certainly when placed in a GC mix against strong sprinting riders like Coryn Rivera you would anticipate she would have a deficit in that department, but she's also been climbing pretty well this season and the chance to lead on home roads may well have been a factor.

Despite yesterday, the bunch were happy enough to allow a breakaway today, and in something a bit more akin to men's cycling, with Maaike Boogaard of BTC City-Ljubljana, those perennial race animators, probably cursing her luck that nobody chose to join her on her 70km solo odyssey, however the women are a bit less well-versed in the timing of the catch to kill off counter attacks and manage the sprints than the men, which is a good thing for the spectacle because it meant the Dutch teenager was brought back with some 50km to go, before the battle for the QOM began. I got a bit excited by the first climb with Kasia and Cille putting on the hurt, but there wasn't really the opportunity to make any significant differences on that first ascent - and looking at that top 4 on the first climb - Majerus, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, Ludwig - it's really no surprise to see the Luxembourger win the sprint there, she should beat that trio 11 times out of 10 in a sprint.

Of much more interest was the attack group that was formed on the first passage of Newnham Hill, with a very elite group being formed after a strong bit of climbing by Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma who broke away a bit with a chasing group led by Rowe, Ludwig and with a few others in line including Marianne Vos. ELB's descending prowess pressured the chasers and dropped Kasia, but eventually a specialist quartet was found when the Pole was ridden across to the Italian champion by the WaowDeals duo of Dani Rowe and Eddy Merckx. The big problem for WaowDeals in that group was that not only did they outnumber the others, but they also had the strongest - and the second strongest - sprinter in the group, meaning that they couldn't bank on any assistance at all from the two grimpeuses. It very much looked like Elisa and Kasia were the strongest climbers, as you might expect given there is no Annemiek, no Anna and no Ash in the race, but with few obstacles as close to the finish as this in the coming stages, they'll have to make a hard race of the climbs there are in order to distance the stronger teams like Sunweb and WaowDeals who have numbers on hand.

As it was, however, today they didn't have the chance to make it count as once that less-than-cooperative quartet was recaptured by the main bunch marshaled by the Sunweb troops - their strength in depth with the likes of Brand, van Dijk and Mackaij means that they are able to do a lot of work over varying terrain as well as contribute at least one viable winner even if Coryn is dropped. But it doesn't look like that ought to be too much of a worry on today's evidence; having had a somewhat slow start to the season compared to last year's dramatic adaptation to the World Tour, Rivera seems to be finding her form again and she was untroubled by Newnham Hill the second time, which is ominous for the other GC candidates seeing as Coryn has built up a pretty successful bank of bonus seconds. Longo Borghini did her best to make the final climb difficult, but was being chased down happily by PFP and Marianne Vos, an imposing duo no doubt. Others looking prominent at the front included Amialiusik, Rowe and Ensing, but the group did not split up as much as on the first time; riders seemed to have a better idea of how to pace it, and other notable climbers who'd been well-placed the first time over such as Ludwig and Niewiadoma were nowhere to be seen at the front of the bunch the second time. A small elite group got away but was chased onto by a second group meaning around 20 riders contested the sprint, but from those there, Rivera was both the strongest sprinter comfortably and the rider with the best support to lead her out for it, enabling her to take the stage victory ahead of Vos and Majerus after a sneaky dart to the inside from on the legend's wheel. Very interesting to see some of the names that made that final group - continued strong form from Eva Buurman for Trek-Drops, after an excellent Thüringen Rundfahrt and knowing there isn't an ITT here to drop her down the order as that meant she didn't quite get the GC result her consistency deserved there, and also impressive to see BTC's young Russian Anastasiya Iakovenko, who is quietly having a very impressive season - being in the break that went in Chongming, but also being in the top 10 in both Plumelec races and Flèche Wallonne - but also very interesting that Niewiadoma didn't make the selection while PFP and Alena did, the defending champion being in the second group of 15 at +17" alongside Ludwig, Ensing and Blaak. I would say that, with Hannah Barnes losing 1'20", the chances of any sprinters (other than Rivera, if we still consider her one, which we probably shouldn't at this stage) taking the GC are now pretty much over. Most of the big teams had at least one rider up front - Sunweb with Rivera and van Dijk, WaowDeals with Rowe and Vos, Canyon with Amialiusik and Ferrand-Prévot, Boels with Pieters and Majerus, Wiggle with Longo Borghini and Brennauer (though Lisa lost 38" yesterday so isn't the same level of GC threat) - so one would expect that anybody attacking from a weaker position on the GC will find a good few of those large teams working to limit their advantage so the GC winner may well come from that group. And it may well be Coryn, since somebody's got to drop her AND stay away from a chase which will have the likes of Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk at its disposal.

Stage 2:
1 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA 4'08'06
2 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
3 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +st
4 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +st
5 Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +st
6 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) FRA +st
7 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +st
8 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +st
9 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +st
10 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA +st

GC after stage 2:
1 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA 7'22'22
2 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +15"
3 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +16"
4 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +17"
5 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +19"
6 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA +21"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +23"
8 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +23"
9 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +23"
10 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) FRA +23"

It seems I have failed to notice that her 3rd place in last week's Ljubljana-Domžale-Ljubljana ITT also means that Eugenia Bujak has become the Slovene ITT champion, as I hadn't realised that it doubled as the national championships (Zabelinskaya won ahead of Hayley Simmonds, for the record). And to be honest, I had thought that the Slovene flag appearing next to Bujak's name was simply an error through conflation with the team for whom she's been by far the most visible name, but she has adopted Slovene nationality.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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15 Jun 2018 22:56

Stage 3 from Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa is one of the longer stages in the women's calendar, at over 150km, and a direct clone of last year's third stage too, which was supposed to be one of the better stages for challenging the sizable advantage held by Niewiadoma, but everything came back together as the moves were marshaled and Chloe Hosking wound out the victor. The finish had been slightly altered, but with the GC much more tightly-bound than at the same stage last year, it was a more nervous péloton that set off through the Midlands. The sprints came before any of the challenges also, which offered the possibility for those all-important bonus seconds as, unfortunately, it looks like we are liable to return to one of the earlier editions of the race, which had the problem of basically providing large crowds and coverage and receiving praise for its organisation and exposure, but also receiving criticism for not producing routes conducive to racing (Emma Johansson in particular in 2015 said that she wouldn't bother returning unless they improved the parcours). The courses have branched out geographically and now cover more of the country over more varied stages, but I am still somewhat concerned by the placement of obstacles in the course. Still, you're never going to get a particularly selective stage in East Anglia unless the weather plays ball and each stage is progressively more difficult in terms of its features as a ride, I'm just concerned too many of the obstacles are not close enough to the stage finishes to enable them to be decisive, though to an extent that is also a function of the fact that Sunweb are clearly keen to win this one with Coryn, and she can get over these small hills, and only really the final stage ought to cause her any trouble, and with the strength of the riders she has at her disposal to keep her in contention, escaping from her is tough enough but staying away is even harder. And with the American continuing to pick up seconds in the metas volantes, the time gap needed keeps getting bigger as well.

As ever in the Women's Tour, the importance of those bonus sprints in setting the GC serve as an obstacle to breakaways forming, but like in stage 1 Hitec Products are keen to get their jerseys some airtime, with their current problems in respect of funding, and after Susanne Andersen's foray that day, today it was Vita Heine's turn to try to escape, getting away with strong rouleuse Ann-Sophie Duyck and building up a lead of over two minutes as a result, with Rivera happy to extend her lead by mopping up the remaining one second bonus. Did I mention that I wish these weren't as decisive as they are (maybe I'm still smarting from Ratto not winning in 2014 despite being the only person to win other than from the bunch, but I always have a bit of a distaste for when the metas volantes jersey, a title ostensibly for the breakaway, is worn by the GC leader when that leader has never left the péloton)?

Either way, the péloton seemed happy to allow the duo to hang out there for a while and entrust Sunweb with the responsibility of protecting Rivera's lead, in the hope of weakening them for the final run-in. When they got to the climbs, interestingly it was Marianne Vos who decided to spring from the group, but Niewiadoma was alert, and so she, Longo Borghini and Ferrand-Prévot wound up at the front with Merckx, albeit still some way back from the escapees, who had separated with Duyck proving the stronger climber. Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma escaped from there, proving themselves the stronger climbers just as yesterday, but only really opening up a smallish gap which was never going to be decisive. The increase in the pace harmed the breakaway's chances, and even more so the counter-attack from Rossella Ratto, seeing as she's not that far down and has won difficult stages here before; the bunch was not keen to let her get too much time up the road and this doomed the escapees once and for all. On the second climb it was the same duo of Kasia and Elisa who were the strongest climbers, but also accompanied by Sabrina Stultiens. Amialiusik counter attacked, and we were left with the same situation as yesterday, with a four woman breakaway but two in the same team, which harmed cohesion once the summit of the QOM was over (Longo Borghini winning the sprint, which would be a wtf scenario if it weren't a two-up against the similarly un-sprinty Niewiadoma).

There were attempts to escape from the sprint on the final run-in - Stultiens and Amialiusik stayed in there, and were assisted by Dani Rowe and Christine Majerus, who are keen on the GC here and now know they are unlikely to win back enough time from Coryn Rivera without escaping, and Omer Shapiro. Sunweb were not keen on letting that group go, so Boels tried again with Amalie Dideriksen, joined by the ever-combative Niewiadoma but anchored by Lucinda Brand who of course was not going to cooperate. Canyon were determined to escape, PFP tried to counterattack once they were pulled back and they'd done enough of a job on the Sunweb domestiques that Coryn had to chase it herself, but once that threat was neutralised the race calmed down somewhat as Mackaij and van Dijk restored order for Sunweb at the front despite the attempts by the impressively persistent Vita Heine to escape as well as further attempts from Rowe and Dideriksen. Niewiadoma tried to explode away from the front with 5km remaining, but the gradients really weren't enough to enable her to use her punch to make a decisive gap and she really had to fight hard just to open up a small amount of breathing space between her and the péloton. One of the reasons I like Kasia is that she won't die trying though, and she wrestled her bike until she had a gap, forcing van Dijk to chase her, but once the false flat was over she was doomed against such a strong TT engine. Amialiusik countered (did I mention I love this Canyon climbing trifecta?) with Mackaij and Blaak killing that move, the latter setting up a move from Majerus, for whom this is a much more suitable terrain for escaping. Having been invisible to date, Mitchelton then came to the front to help Sunweb pull the Luxembourger back. It was a calculated gamble given that they don't have their most versatile riders here and Jolien had been dropped on the climbs. But it was a gamble that paid off as with the sprint being up into a headwind like on stage 1, it was the Australian team that once more took the triumph, with Vos trying to go for a long one and catch the bunch unawares; it didn't quite work as Sarah Roy snuck past her followed closely by Giorgia Bronzini. Rivera was slightly caught on the hop but despite missing out on time bonuses still got a helpful bonus as Vos' late move taking all but the first few riders by surprise meant that behind Rivera and the two French FDJ sprinters, a time gap of 2 seconds was given to the remainder of the bunch, meaning that despite Vos taking time bonuses on the line, the overall extent of Rivera's lead slightly extended thanks to her collection of intermediate bonuses. Nobody unexpected lost time, as everybody who has been in the key positions in the GC made the front group.

Stage:
1 Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS 3'55'09
2 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling) ITA +st
3 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
4 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +st
5 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
6 Eugénie Duval (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
7 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +2"
8 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +st
9 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +st
10 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +st

GC:
1 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA 11'17'27
2 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +16"
3 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +20"
4 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +23"
5 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +23"
6 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA +27"
7 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +29"
8 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +29"
9 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +29"
10 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) FRA +29"
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Location: Land of Saíz

17 Jun 2018 10:08

The fourth stage of the Women's Tour ran through the West Midlands, and was dedicated to former rider Sharon Laws, who sadly died in December at the age of just 43, after a year-long battle with cancer. She had been part of last year's broadcast team on the race and won the Queen of the Mountains in the first edition of the race. Although she rarely settled at any teams long-term, only one of her former teams was in attendance in the race - Cervélo-Bigla, for whom she rode in 2015, and although Lotta Lepistö is the only rider in attendance at the Women's Tour who was a teammate of Sharon's back then, the team was keen to be visible as a result. Unfortunately they were also stripped of one of their strongest engines, with Ann-Sophie Duyck withdrawing due to illness. Trek-Drops, similarly, lost two of their young British riders, which with van Twisk having withdrawn after her stage 1 crash also leaves them with very few riders left to defend Buurman's high GC position. A huge crash almost immediately after km0 added further riders to the list of abandons, with Alé losing two riders from their sprint set-up, former German TT champ Mieke Kröger, and two major teams losing a domestique - Boels' Jip van den Bos and Wiggle's Anna Badegruber - all from the injuries sustained.

Hitec Products' determination to get their sponsors shown and to get some exposure in the race given their unfortunate financial position continued, and given that she'd had surprising success in similar fashion in Chongming Island, the veteran German Charlotte Becker launched an attack which the péloton, seeing she was 5 minutes down on the GC, was less than fussed about chasing. The unfortunate thing for the former Cervélo rider was, however, that nobody was tempted to join her, so while she was able to build a 3 minute lead, she was stuck all alone. Being no threat to the GC, Sunweb were happy to peg her, and help Coryn to pick up more points - and those crucial seconds - in the intermediate sprints. More frustration for the likes of Rowe and Vos as with BTC City-Ljubljana looking at a strong GC position, Eugenia Bujak started contesting the intermediates also, the former Pole being a more than capable sprinter in her own right.

Being well down on the GC, Pauliena Rooijakkers was keen to attack on the large climb of the day, which was Laws' favourite training climb, trying to set up Vos, but she couldn't get far, and the previous status quo in the climbs was restored as Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini were the ones to put the pressure on at the front of the group - though the bunch was trimmed, it was a long way from the finish and nothing decisive could be created; ELB was able to sprint away from the defending champion for the GPM, but with van Dijk able to peg her gap and Rivera not dropped - and indeed the likes of Amy Pieters picked up mountains points here, so we can tell that the climbing wasn't too tough at this stage.

Rather unexpectedly, given a sprint outcome was still quite likely, Lotta Lepistö got on the front, a strange waste of energy for the Finnish champion, but there was method in the madness as she set up an escape from her teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who is of course a more understandable rider to be making aggressive moves over hilly terrain. The Danish TT champion drew Audrey Cordon-Ragot out of the péloton too, which made for a strong time trialling duo, and the two swiftly crossed the gap to Becker - both Audrey and Cille are popular riders as well, and their presence in the breakaway gave a couple of features - one, that Laws' former team was represented up at the front, even if Sharon had already retired at the point that Cille turned pro, and secondly that it took their teams out of the chase, helpful for Lotta as well seeing as the team had lost one of their strongest TT engines. Ludwig was also a serious threat, being less than a minute down on the GC, so Sunweb got into the business of pegging them, helped a bit by Mitchelton-Scott seeing as the second péloton had rejoined the first and Jolien d'Hoore was present. Cille looked like she had some interest in the QOM, seeing as she's picked up a few points here and there so far, but really she'd need max points and ELB to score none at any climb today or tomorrow to get it, and when Cordon-Ragot showed she was going to contest it to protect her "twin" Ludwig conceded. I think mathematically Kasia can top Longo Borghini but it's unlikely as I don't see ELB not scoring any points if she doesn't crash. However, nobody challenged the Dane at the intermediate sprint as obviously being easily the biggest GC threat in the group, she was the only one really interested in the potential GC benefit of the move rather than the stage.

The trio had 30 seconds at 10km remaining, but the group was starting to play games, Becker had been out for 100km and was not too keen on being together with fresher riders too, and when the counter-attacks came, the lead trio were swept up as they didn't have an answer. Aafke Soet and Sara Penton were the first riders to make significant headway in the run-in, but it was unlikely that the duo, from two of the smaller teams in the race, would be able to stay away from a rather determined bunch, especially as the climbs were too far from the finish to really be effective in creating a selective stage (my biggest continuing gripe with the Women's Tour, even when they have the terrain the stage doesn't necessarily make the best of it, like the trips around Chesterfield the last two years where they use the excellent terrain to the west early in the stage then a rolling second half in the flatter terrain to the east, rather than the other way round) and so most teams had their full sprint trains in attendance.

One thing that the Women's Tour does tend to give us, however, is very technical run-ins. If you'd asked before last year what the Women's Tour was all about in terms of the important factors in the GC, I'd have told you, managing technical finishes and sprint bonuses. Christine Majerus in 2015 was the only one to make any time on the bunch whatsoever with a late escape on a technical run-in. To add to the troubles, you got that most British of things: rain - just to add to the difficulty in managing the obstacles. And it was the Best British Rider jersey wearer that was caught out by it, as of the biggest names in the race Dani Rowe was the one that got caught up in a significant crash taking her out of contention; she doesn't lose out too much as it was inside the final 3km, but nevertheless the chance of taking any bonus seconds was taken away from her and the chance of placing herself in the group was gone too, with the pace high as Mitchelton-Scott and Boels were pushing hard to set up their sprinters - d'Hoore was boxed in however, and the sprint got pretty messy with riders in several different lanes; Pieters did a great lead out and Dideriksen got out of the wheel on the right hand side, which with everybody going left gave her some nice space to force the pace, and she took it home clearly as Vos was unable to draw her in, and as she faded she was pipped by Lepistö, who was just about the quickest in the sprint, but was too far back to make it count, sneaking into 2nd but still a bike length short of Amalie. Still, Rivera being unable to pick up any bonus seconds on the line means Vos drew slightly closer, and Rowe doesn't lose out too heavily, so long as she suffers no lasting damage from the crash.

Stage 4:
1 Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) DEN
2 Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) FIN +st
3 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
4 Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) AUS +st
5 Barbara Guarischi (Team Virtu) ITA +st
6 Chiara Consonni (Valcar-PBM) ITA +st
7 Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen (Cervélo-Bigla) DEN +st
8 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL +st
9 Neah Evans (Storey Racing) GBR +st
10 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st

GC with one stage remaining:
1 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA 14'48'44
2 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +14"
3 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +22"
4 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +25"
5 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +25"
6 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA +29"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +30"
8 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +31"
9 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +31"
10 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) FRA +31"

With the final stage including the toughest climbs, but a similar issue to this stage in terms of the actual obstacles being rather too far from the finish to make an attack on them stick unless you have a seriously elite group, then I would suggest that the strength in depth Sunweb have and the engines they have at their disposal, given how comfortably van Dijk looked on the climb today and that the cat.1 wasn't able to drop the likes of Rivera and Pieters, that it's likely that we're going to see another edition of the Women's Tour where the race winner has never left the péloton - that said, it hasn't been like the first two editions where the fastest rider on the road (Rossella Ratto and Christine Majerus respectively) has not taken the race as nobody has been able to actually gain any time on Coryn yet, other than limiting her gains at metas volantes. Vos and Rowe did get into that attack quartet on stage 2 alongside ELB and Kasia, but there's not been any real GC-significant moves that looked like they would stick, as Sunweb have executed their plan perfectly, they have been able to maximise their gains in the intermediates and haven't looked troubled on the climbs either. Coryn Rivera is more than just a sprinter, it's just that the sprints are how she makes her gains; she's a follower in the hills, but a threat to anybody that can't drop her. If the race was harder and the obstacles closer to the finish, she might still have wound up the victor based on the form she's been able to show.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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17 Jun 2018 23:13

The arguably best-covered and almost certainly best-attended women's race of the season wound to a close today, with the final stage of the Women's Tour introducing it to Wales for what I believe is its first sojourn outside of England. Rather disappointingly, the riders were crossing Snowdonia, but only early in the stage with the latter stages winding along flat roads along the coast and not even the punchy climb of Bryn-y-Maen which could be approached from several sides of varying difficulties to give a final challenge that could be significant for the GC and put some pressure on Coryn Rivera, who of course was unlikely to be challenged over the flat roads by anybody in real GC contention, with her sprint prowess and the team support at her disposal.

That wasn't to stop riders from trying, of course, especially as there was a bit of rain in the air. At first a fairly unthreatening breakway got away featuring Susanne Andersen, Emilie Moberg and Marta Tagliaferro, later joined by Natalie Grinczer, none of whom were serious GC threats but it did continue Hitec's determination to get their sponsors airtime, and with that format it more or less resembled a men's racing stage for some time there. Now, when the climbs began, we saw some serious long-range attack attempts as Kasia Niewiadoma pushed away on the first climb of the day, well over 70km from the finish, but the problem was that the steepest sections weren't all that long and on the false flats and more tempo-suitable gradients, Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand were able to peg the Polka back. Chasing an elite climber like that killed the breakaway's chances stone dead, however, and coming over the climb with the Sunweb train happy to roll over, seeing Rivera second in line was pretty daunting for those climbers hoping she might wilt on the Nant Gwynant climb.

The next move was a bit of a strange one, Marta Bastianelli of all people riding away solo, turning the clocks back to Marta Mk I, the exciting and combative rider of the Stuttgart Worlds, before she was persuaded to try to become a GC climber and turned to diet pills. The strangeness continued as the first Canyon rider to attack on the biggest climb of the race was not Niewiadoma, not PFP and not Amialiusik, but Hannah Barnes, the strongest sprinter they have in the race - strangely quiet after last year's breakout. The GPM wasn't really challenged at all with Niewiadoma unwilling to chase her own teammate, and no longer mathematically able to pass Elisa for the QOM title, so it was uncontested with Bastianelli riding over solo, followed by Barnes and Georgia Williams who joined her mid-climb, then Longo Borghini and pretty much the entire Sunweb team.

The iron grip of the black and white mafia continued as they reeled back all moves until the intermediate sprint, enabling Rivera to take further bonus seconds, before the winding, undulating run-in; an interesting attack came in from Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini again (easily the most combative riders of the race, along with Susanne Andersen) with Amy Pieters, but with Brand and Rivera making the junction it came to nothing. The next significant move came from Chantal Blaak, followed by Ellen van Dijk and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, fresh from yesterday's aggression. Canyon-SRAM and Boels having missed the move meant that they were keen to chase, while Cille was relatively reluctant to commit long turns to her break companions, as the weakest sprinter in the group. With a long and mostly straight run-in, it became inevitable that we would see a sprint to complete the stage, and so it turned out; while we'd had a good idea who the strongest sprinters in the race were, d'Hoore left the race today and Hosking was dropped early on, but nobody had really been talking about Lotta Lepistö after a pretty quiet race - yet the Cervélo-Bigla sprinter was able to manage it perfectly and hit the front at just the right time; it was a day for the veterans, with Giorgia Bronzini, the ever-durable and ever-dependable former World Champion, hitting the line for 2nd, and Vos taking the last few bonus seconds, but at this stage even the win couldn't dethrone Rivera, who was able to comfortably defend her overall lead from safely ensconsced within the péloton. Despite the most sustained and lengthy climbs of the entire race, even with the top 10 separated by only 30 seconds, the long flat run-in meant that the only casualty among the GC upper echelons was Maria Giulia Confalonieri, who finished with the laughing group, enabling PFP to move up a place and Stultiens to move into the top 10, giving WaowDeals three of the top 10.

Final stage:
1 Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) FIN 3'03'55
2 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +st
3 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
4 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +st
5 Roxane Fournier (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
6 Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High 5) NED +st
7 Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +st
8 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +st
9 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +st
10 Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) GER +st

Final GC:
1 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA 17'52'36
2 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +11"
3 Danielle Rowe (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) GBR +25"
4 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +27"
5 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +28"
6 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA +32"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +33"
8 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +34"
9 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) FRA +34"
10 Sabrina Stultiens (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +34"

I have some mixed feelings about the Women's Tour this year. It's great to see the crowds that the race draws, and Lord knows it's really pleasing to see a full hour of coverage of every single stage, with rider profiles, interviews and all sorts that give us a much more detailed look into the race than we often get from TV coverage of the women's races. It's a shame it isn't live, but the actual coverage provided is one thing I really haven't ever been able to fault the Women's Tour for - and that this year's have returned to a more acceptable timeslot (last year's didn't go out on UK TV until very late, even less accessible for European audiences). However, the parcours really wasn't ideal to showcase the best of women's racing, with fairly limited variety and indeed Coryn Rivera eventually won fairly comfortably and never looked threatened, but simultaneously she won the race without ever leaving the péloton once - on the plus side, it's not like she didn't win the race on the road like Vos or Brennauer, but I really thought after 2016's entertaining middle stages with aggression from Armitstead and Moolman-Pasio, and last year's surprising racing that was enforced by the péloton's miscalculation on stage 1, I really felt from a racing perspective we were headed in the right direction, but this year they've put some nice tough climbs in the race, but nowhere that can be reasonably used as a platform to gain time, other than Newnham Hill on stage 2, which wasn't really long enough to create severe separation - there were a few seconds between groups but it was still sprints of sizable groups at the line. I would like a bit more variety ideally - on the TV coverage Joanna Rowsell-Shand was suggesting a short ITT or a hilltop finish would be beneficial to try to counteract the reliance on bonus seconds for the GC because while you can provide world class coverage, you can provide a lot of money, and you can provide a great live audience, but the show is the race, and when 3/5 editions have been won from the péloton the media about it being one of the top women's races feels somewhat harder to accept than it ought to be.

I suppose what I'm getting at is, while I love almost everything that surrounds the Women's Tour - the media and promotion work that SweetSpot does is first rate, the TV coverage is excellent, and the support for it is the best you'll see all season (there are a lot of races in the Classics that can put together crowds like this, but all too often they're mainly there for the men's version that follows later, whereas at the Women's Tour they're there for the Women's Tour only - I'm still not convinced that I should love the Women's Tour itself, as I say I thought they were headed in the right direction, but then I think last year's race might have been interesting from a racing perspective in a slightly artificial way, i.e. that the reason the racing was aggressive like that was because of the stage 1 miscalculation and had that ended in a sprint, we'd have seen a similar type of racing to the earlier years. Ultimately though, the racing is the main event, and I really wish they would allow for a wider range of styles of stage; in the early editions they were restricted by the regions used for travelling through, but now the race has established itself they have a lot more at their disposal, and I really hope they can utilize that terrain a bit better in coming editions to further justify the race's developing pre-eminent position at this time of year and cement a bit more prestige for the actual victory in the race rather than have the in-race talk dominated by the crowds and the prize money - and so that the presenters' hyping of thrilling finales and exciting finishes doesn't sound so hollow with all stages ending in sprints of approximately half the péloton.

I guess also, given this is one of the few races where the women really get the coverage available to showcase what they can do, racing-wise, I just wish they'd be given a route that maximises this opportunity by letting them put on a show, rather than hamstring them with long flat run-ins. There's a lot to like about the overall package of the Women's Tour... but for me it's just lacking a little something to kick it up to the position that it clearly is looking for within the women's péloton. It's noteworthy that despite the improvements in the budget and the prize money, several of the most prominent climbers in the world stayed home. A couple more editions with racing like 2016 would be preferable, but a couple of these stages here could have been vastly improved from a racing point of view with only a couple of minor tweaks, and I hope they can make such tweaks for future editions without needing prominent riders to call them out publicly like Emma Johansson did in 2015 or Annemiek van Vleuten did about the 2017 Giro.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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18 Jun 2018 06:47

It's not like there aren't places where you could put on a cracking finish. How about a last 20 km around the Ironbridge Gorge, involving an ascent of Jiggers Bank, descend Madeley Bank, cross the river, climb Bridge Bank, through Broseley, descend Coalport Road, back over the river, climb up Sutton Maddock Bank then onto the A442 with a 8 km dash to a finish with a slightly uphill sprint in Telford Town Centre. That would give you 500m of sharp climbs sufficiently close to the finish to make it interesting.
Andy262
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18 Jun 2018 12:50

For me, it was a rather tedious race. Going to North Wales and doing two small climbs... well, it's disappointing. Logistics can be an issue in those parts but even so, that was a tame finish top the week I thought.

Clearly there is much that's good about the race and the riders do seem to like it.

Top ten for Drops’ Eva Buurman, de kleine raket, was impressive and backed up her excellent results at Thuringen. Go Eva.
User avatar Jonhard
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18 Jun 2018 14:52

It’s nice to see Rivera getting back towards last year’s (amazing) level.
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