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Race Design Thread

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.

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Re:

16 Apr 2018 06:54

RedheadDane wrote:Hey, Velolover2, why aren't you a member of the DCU? Of course the fact that you're Norwegian - and therefore not Danish - might be a reason, but still; those suggestions up there are much better ideas for a Danish Grand Depart than letting Copenhagen have all the fun!
I'm partial to the one starting in Århus, but that's because I'm biased.

Thank you, RedheadDane! And yeah.. it's a shame that it's most likely to be three flat stages.

Denmark doesn't have the mountains like Norway but there are plenty of hills and cobbles like in the Benelux. I was trying to make another WT race for the classics riders. The climbers already have most of the big one-week races, the classics specialists only have the Eneco Tour.

I want it to be held in the autumn a few weeks after BinckBank. There need to be another late WT race for those who aren't into mountains. There is almost a Dane on every WT team, so they deserve their own stage race as well and not just some miletoast "Tour of Denmark" with monotonous laps.

The recipe:
Prologue: Short, cobbled ITT
Stage 1: Lumpy stage with a few hills/cobbles
Stage 2: Flat, gravel stage
Stage 3: Hilly stage
Stage 4: Mur stage
Stage 5: Flemish classics-inspired stage
Stage 6: Echelon stage (still in the making)

This is should be the ultimate test for the one-day specialist. Imagine if Sagan, GVA, Wellens, Terpstra, Gilbert, Stuyven, Stybar, Valgren, Wellens, Vanmacke, Valverde, Alaphillipe, Teuns, Van Aert, Naesen, Benoot, Kwiatkowski and even Nibali all showed up. Could be a great race.
Velolover2
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Posts: 3,190
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16 Apr 2018 07:07

Personally I'm quite happy Tour of Denmark isn't a WT race. Not just because it simply isn't big enough, but also because it's the only chance the Danish Continental riders have to test themselves against the big guys on home turf.
Just take a guy like Cort.








(So, we can't kidnap you, forcefully turn you into a Danish citizen, and get you into the DCU?)
Aka The Ginger One.
User avatar RedheadDane
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Posts: 9,581
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Location: Viking Land! (Aros)

Re: Race Design Thread

16 Apr 2018 15:48

@Velolover2, i would like to see those sectors myself. You could at least elaborate a bit more about them or just show, where they are. Also, the naming of the sectors is borderline unacceptable. I mean, what is "sector 4" or "the grand sector"? Aren't there any villages nearby? At least it would be easier to trace them. BTW, this Knavvej road... i think it could be featured in a real bike race.

Now, my stage won't produce any interesting racing, but it should be nice to look at as it goes through Polish Jura - heavily inspired by the French/Suisse Jura, but smaller and covered with more foliege. It also has plenty of castles or their ruins hidden withing the rocky outcrops. These are known as "eagle's nests" and they'll be the primary focus of this stage. BTW, it's one of the oldest stages i've designed for this race and i decided (because of laziness) to leave the old map in.

Last stage: link

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/hd/165100
Tour de Pologne 2 – stage 3. Bochnia - Częstochowa, 202km, hilly.
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Climbs:
Skała – 6km, 2,2%, cat. 3, 416m
Syborowa Góra – 1,4m, 4,5%, cat. 3, 421m
Świniuszka – 3,1km, 3,7%, cat. 3, 462m
Góra Zborów – 1,5km, 3,5%, cat. 3, 377m

This stage takes place in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, also known as the Polish Jura. It's a limestone system stretching from Kraków to Częstochowa. It's home to a small Ojców National Park. The most popular limestone creations are the Hercules' Bludgeon (Maczuga Herkulesa) and the White Hand Rock (Skała Biała Ręka).

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White hand rock.

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Hercules' Bludgeon.

Within those limestone rocks are hidden a bunch of small castles and castle ruins. They're known as eagle's nests. Many of them are built into these rocks. I need to admit, it's quite amusing to look at. These castles were mainly built during the reign of Casimir the Great in XIV c. to protect Lesser Poland from the Teutonic Order and Czechs from Silesia.

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Gate to the remains of Ojców castle built into the rocks.

The stage starts in Bochnia. Bochnia, while slightly older, is less known than Wieliczka. It's home to one of the oldest in Europe still operating salt mines. The town and its salt mine were founded in 1248. Like Wieliczka it was soon one of the most important towns in Poland. However, the prosperity ended with the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in XVII c. when the town was sacked by Swedes and Cossacs from East Ukraine. After the partitions of the Commonwealth in late XVIII c. it was in Austro-Hungarian Empire. Main sights include XV c. St. Nicholas Basilica, a XVI c. wooden belfry and a XIV c. Dominican monastery (now a museum).

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Sutoris shaft of Bochnia's salt mine.

In an effort to somehow dodge a quite vast agglomeration of Cracov i need to head north through the eastern edges of the Niepołomice forest. Niepołomice and its forest was a royal estate (and hunting ground) during the middle ages and plenty of villages and towns were founded during that time. First such town on this stage is Mikluszowice. It's home to a small St. John hill which was supposed to house a pagan chapel (gontyna). In XII c. a first christian church was built in place of the previous chapel, but after being destroyed and burned down a couple of times throughout the history (last one in XIX c.) the church was left in ruins. There are a number of such cases in Poland and in the next stage one such hill will have a pivotal role.

Next town is founded in XIII c. Proszowice. For a while Proszowice was a royal residence before the creation of Niepołomice Castle in mid-XIV c. Proszowice is also the birthplace of a XVI c. court jester known as Stańczyk, who was often a hero of various reinassance polish poems by Kochanowski, Rej or Kromer.

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Proszowice.

The stage is quite hilly, but the hills are quite small and easy. There are 4 categorised climbs (all of them are cat. 3). The first one is to the town of Skała (Rock in Polish). It's one of the oldest towns in Lesser Poland. In Poland (and other Slavic countries) there were those wooden fortified settlements called gord (gród) and Skała was one of them. Because of the architecture they soon became obsolete and were walled up hence nowadays they can be only traced by artificial terrain changes.

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Ostrów Lednicki – an example of gród.

Skała was first mentioned during the fragmentation perid of XII c. as it was located at the border between the duchy of Cracov (seigniory) and duchy of Masovia (one of the most powerful at the time) and that resulted in a short-lived war between Konrad of Masovia and Henry the Bearded. The town was officially founded in 1267. Thanks to its location on a trade route between Cracov, Masovia and Greater Poland the town prospered. Sadly, it was sacked plenty of times during the XVII c. and heavily damaged during the WW2 hence it doesn't have many historic monuments. It was also in the middle of the Kościuszko Uprising as a fortified camp and also in the center of the January Uprising of 1863.

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XVIII c. wooden church in Iwanowice near Skała.

When Poland and Lithuania were partitioned in late XVIII c. Poles and Lithuanians were fightning against their respective rulers in a bunch of uprisings. The most orginised ones were the November Uprising of 1830 and January Uprising of 1863. I guess both were fair attempts to regain the independence, but German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires were arguably the strongest nations in XIX c. so the chances of succeeding were very slim. The Kościuszko Uprising was during the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and it was an absolute mess that i just have trouble understanding. I guess it was an open war between pro-Polish and pro-Russian sectors in the Commonwealth's "parliament".

The town of Skała indicates the entrance to the Polish Jura. From here the stage sort of follows the Trail of the Eagle's Nests. First is the Prądnik valley (DW773) – home to both Hercules' Bludgeon and White Hand Rock. Sadly, the valley is quite densly forested so the rocks are partly obscured from the road. Just behind Hercules' Bludgeon is a small XIV c. castle of Pieskowa Skała, one of the "eagle's nests". I need to admit its location on a rocky outcrop over a small lake is quite pretty.

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Hercules' Bludgeon seen from DW773.

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Pieskowa Skała castle.

Soon riders will leave the Prądnik valley and enter the town of Olkusz. Olkusz was known as "silver city" as silver was mined here since Celts were inhabiting the land. It also has a ridiculous origin myth, which states it was found by Phoencians (!?!). The original Olkusz was west of the modern location because the old Olkusz burned down in XIV c. Thanks to silver the town prospered, but in XVII c. deposits were exhausted. Combined with the Swedish invasion the town was in ruins. Nowadays it's mainly an industrial center. Main sights include XIII c. St. Andrew's Basilica which is home to one of the oldest still existing pipe organs in Europe, fragments of XIV c. city walls and a bunch of XV-XVII c. apartments.

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St. Andrew's Basilica, Olkusz.

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Remains of city walls in Olkusz.

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Remains of Rabsztyn castle in nearby Rabsztyn.

Just outside of Olkusz starts the 2nd climb of the day – Syborowa Góra. It's cat. 3 with 1,4km at 4,4%. On the other side is the village of Klucze, which is located on the edge of Błędowska Desert (Pustynia Błędowska). It's interesting to see an actual desert in Poland – one of the greener regions of Europe. It was created in the middle ages probaly by the silver mines of Olkusz.

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Błędowska Desert.

In Klucze starts the next and possibly hardest climb of the day – Świniuszka. It's nothing special with 3,1km at 3,7% (max 8%) but for Polish standards it's enough to be categorised. The descent leads to the town of Ogrodzieniec – home to probably the most beautiful of "eagle's nests". It's located on the Zamkowa (Castle) hill – the highest hill (515m) of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. This XIV c. stronghold was destroyed by Swedes during the Great Northern War of 1700-1721. This castle also has a Baskerville black dog and headless horseman legends... neat. The footage of this castle was also use in this jam.

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Ogrodzieniec castle.

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Closer look at the Ogrodzieniec castle.

From Ogrodzieniec the race goes through some smaller roads to the village of Kroczyce, where the last categorised climb of the day starts. This climb is Góra Zborów (Zborów hill). It's 1,5km at 3,5% so nothing outlandish. Góra Zborów is a quite interesting rocky structure with a number of caves.

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Góra Zborów.

The descent leads to the village of Mirów and nearby village of Bobolice. Both are home to their respective castles, which are located on a local rocky system. Both castles had similar fate – started as strongholds, later constantly changed hands between nobilities to then get destroyed by Swedes in XVII c. Thankfully lately the Bobolice castle was restored and the Mirów one also may get restored in the future.

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Ruins of the Mirów castle.

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Bobolice castle.

From there the race goes up and down to the village of Złoty Potok, home to some interesting rocky formations like Twardowski's Gate (Brama Twardowskiego), a number of small caves and remains of a small and mysterious XIV c. fort in nearby Ostrężnik. Złoty Potok was an estate belonging to Potocki, Krasiński and Raczyński families. In XIX c. a Polish poet Zygmunt Krasiński lived here.

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Twardowski's Gate, Złoty Potok.

From Złoty Potok the race goes straight to Częstochowa via DK46. There's still one "eagle's nest" left – ruins of a castle in Olsztyn. It's in my opinion the 2nd best looking castle of today. It's the oldest castle of the "eagle's nests" as it was founded before XIV c. The castle was heavily damaged during an election mess of 1587, when one of the pretenders to the Polish crown – an Austrian prince Maximilian Habsburg was besieging the castle. Ultimately Poles chosed Swedish king Sigismund Vasa. It was back, when the relationship between Poland and Sweden was good. The castle was destroyed by... Swedes 50 years later.

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Olsztyn castle.

Roughly 10km after Olsztyn the race enters Częstochowa. This metropolis last seen TdP in 2015. Sadly, i need to use DK1 for a short time which is less than optimal. I'm also using some backroads to not interfere with tram lines.

Of course Częstochowa is a major pilgrimage site in Central Europe, home to the XIV c. Pauline Monastery and Citadelle of Jasna Góra, which is home to an icon of Black Madonna of Częstochowa, possibly of Bysantine origins. This monastery is also known for the 1655's Siege of Jasna Góra, which was one of the turning points of the Swedish invasion of Poland. Thanks to it Virgin Mary is now considered the patron and "queen" of Poland.

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Jasna Góra, Częstochowa.

The city itself was founded in XI-XII c. It's history is closely tied with the monastery. For a long time it was quite small and (like similar Łódź) got bigger only in XIX c. hence plenty of eclectic apartments in the city. The oldest buildings in the city are St. Sigismund's and St Barbara's Church of XVI c. Nearby the city is also a Lusatian culture (VIII-VII BC) excavation site. During the WW2 Częstochowa was home to a massacre done by Nazis on 227 people and one of the main centers of Polish resistance.

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XIX c. Franke's House.

In Częstochowa there are 3 short laps with a small hill to the front of the Jasna Góra monastery. This hill is on Klasztorna street. It's 0,5km at 5,1%, but there are 200m in the middle at 8%. This hill is roughly 2,5km from the finish line.

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Profile of Klasztorna street.

It should be the first stage to end in a bunch sprint, but i guess it should be slightly more interesting with this small hill near the finish line, which is on Władysława Biegańskiego place, part of the Virgin Mary pathway which connects the historic center of Częstochowa with the Jasna Góra monastery.

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Virgin Mary pathway, Częstochowa.

Next stage will lead to a quite distinct hill in Lower Silesia, which is quite often used in local races.
railxmig
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Posts: 401
Joined: 19 Oct 2015 08:38

Re: Race Design Thread

16 Apr 2018 21:24

Right, I've got another race to post shortly, but before I do, one more of these - need to get this one out of the way before railxmig arrives in this part of the country otherwise it might cause some confusion. I'm thinking this climb will be Góry Święty Anny, I did once have an out-and-back kind of race in the style of the 2012 Olympic road race from Opole there, as a Memorial Joachim Halupczok race.

Nordic Series 12: Jakuszyce

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Sitting just beneath the Przełęcz Szkłarska pass, the Jakuszyce sport hotel & spa has long been a major centre for Poland's leisure facilities, with mountain biking facilities as well as the extensive Nordic skiing trails. A biathlon centre was installed comparatively recently, and although the venue has yet to take precedence in Polish biathlon's focus from Duszniki-Zdrój, it has stepped in as an IBU Cup host, and has also appeared as a host of a round of the Cross-Country World Cup since the reprofiling a few years ago. It is also the home of the Bieg Pastów ski marathon, which has been held since 1976 and part of Worldloppet in recent times. And if you've got the infrastructure to deal with the World Cup and Worldloppet, you've got the space and capacity to cope with the influx of athletes that a bike race will create.

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As you'll no doubt be aware, the only WT race in this area is the Tour de Pologne, but the old Friedensfahrt, if it ever got started, could go here, as could its present U23 version and the Czech Cycling Tour, given that we're very close to that border - Jakuszyce was the border station of the old Zackenbahn railway that ran through the Sudeten and Karkonose mountains back when the area belonged to Germany; after WWII the railway lay unused and out of service until as recently as 2010 when Tanvald, the terminus in the south of the old Zackenbahn, was reconnected to the Polish side of the railway and service resumed. There's always the Szlakiem Grodów Piastkowskich, though the lack of a castle at Jakuszyce would hurt its prospects for that particular race.

Even if there are concerns about space (which there shouldn't be) the close proximity to Szklarska Poręba (indeed, the XC World Cup stage here was credited to Szklarska Poręba) which also has some Alpine facilities and a scenic centre. The town also hosted the Tour de Pologne fairly frequently back in the early 2000s, when the race tended to end with a semitappe, MTT or short circuit race around the legendary mountain town of Karpacz, whose reputation was set in the old Peace Race days. Riders to win in Szklarska Poręba back then include Raimondas Rumšas, Franco Pellizotti, Rinaldo Nocentini and Fabian Wegmann - though since the mountainous element of the Tour de Pologne moved down in to the Tatras and away from the Karkonosze range, the town has been off-limits for thirteen years.

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The actual finish at Jakuszyce essentially sits at the second (travelling north to south) of a double summited ascent, with the Przełęcz Szkłarska being the first and the arena being the second. This really isn't that threatening a climb, as you can see from the Quäl dich page - the northern side is essentially 5,5km at 4% with the max ramp being 9%, before a rolling final 2km. The southern side, from the Czech Republic, is more promising, 4,8km @ 5% with a max ramp early on at 11% and only 500m flat to the summit. There are some more interesting ways through Szklarska Poręba to make things a bit spicier, however, and I've chosen to use one of them in a stage that could shake things up.

Stage proposal #1: Zielona Góra - Jakuszyce, 173km

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This is perhaps the most 'basic' stage, and thereby one that's comparatively realistic for the Tour de Pologne, save for the absolute monstrosity in the middle. Javier Guillén would love the Stog Izerski climb, to the signal station above Świeradów-Zdrój. It's the first 4km of this absolute killer, with 2km averaging 16,2% at the end. This is very much the kind of thing that the Vuelta has been adding with La Camperona, Mas de la Costa and so on. Carnival gradients. But unlike the Vuelta, this is more like if we put in the Collado de los Ballesteros - since it can't be the finish. We instead have a narrow descent back into the outskirts of Świeradów-Zdrój before an Aprica-like 8km @ 3,5% climb and a plateau into Szklarska Poręba. This means that once we factor in that gradual ascent up to Jakuszyce, we've essentially had 34km between the monolithic gradients of Stog Izerski, 26 of which were flat or uphill false flat, so hopefully we should see the steep gradients shred the field, and then 30km of riders struggling to cope with the more simple challenges with the lack of support and with their legs having had to wrestle them over the complete opposite type of climb.

Vuelta al Polish Vasco, anyone?

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Stage proposal #2: Wrocław - Jakuszyce, 196km

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This is a more up-and-down all day kind of stage of the kind that the real Tour de Pologne tends to present in the Tatras, only without the circuit element that Czesław Lang seems to love. 9 categorised climbs, and the finish isn't one of them even though it possibly should be. The first couple don't really count for much, except that I wanted to go through Sobotka, which has hosted the national championships a few times recently, and keep the first half of the stage rolling so it's not a complete cold open when the riders reach the real climbs.

The first one, Przełęcz Rędzińska, has a final 2km at 11% which is plenty tough enough (just check out the profile!) before a quick loop-de-loop; Przełęcz Kowarska from this side is just a stop off on the way to the Okraj pass, and is simply not threatening as this profile shows - so ending before any serious gradients; as a result I quickly loop around the town of Kowary and up the steeper old road - with the final 2km at 8,2% to resolve it before descending the same drop back into the town on the newer main road. The next climb is the legendary Karpacz-Orlinek climb, where Alberto Contador got his TT victory that was his first pro success, and where vaunted Soviet climber Sergey Sukhoruchenkov took the lead of the 1984 Peace Race, wrestling it from the shoulders of Bulgarian grimpeur Nencho Staikov in an epic duel. The last time professional cycling saw this climb was 2012, but early in the stage, while its last time as a finish was 2006. Here, it's 45km from the finish, but precious little of that is flat.

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This ascent may be iconic, however, but on modern tarmac and for a modern péloton, it isn't quite the danger it was then. As a result, we add the Złoty Widok climb before arriving at the base of Szklarska Poręba. However, instead of going straight to Jakuszyce, we have something more interesting in store. Firstly, we ascend towards Świeradów-Zdrój as though we were climbing toward the famous Zakręt Śmierci mirador. The spot is a 180-degree hairpin with stunning views of the valley and the mountains, but hazardous for vehicles and inheriting the name, which translates as "turn of death". We don't quite make it to the turn of death, though, turning left just beforehand, after climbing a 4,1km @ 6,8% climb - first kilometre at 8% - through the northwestern part of the town, staying away from the valley roads. There's then a short respite before a final 700m at 7% cresting 11km from the line. We then descend into the middle of Szklarska Poręba and then, the coup de gras.

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The Odrodzenia road in Szklarska Poręba is ugly-beautiful - a blight on the town and a nuisance for commuting and living on, but a thing of beauty for cycling enthusiasts - 925m in length and ascending 86 vertical metres - 9,3% average and max 18% - on rapidly worsening cobbles that get very gnarly near the top, mis-aligned, narrow and just generally not very pleasant. And cresting less than 7km from the finish because this is a slight diversion that means we take this instead of part of the ascent to Przełęcz Szkłarska. So when we finish the cobbles it's literally 100-150m of downhill and then back onto the false flat that takes us to the finish - so it'll be very interesting to see who deals best with this.

Stage proposal #3: Jelenia Góra - Jakuszyce, 142km

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A short and sharp mountain odyssey, this one, which also includes our first approach from the south side of Przełęcz Szkłarska, from the Czech Republic. As ever, Poland does not really have any of those super-sized Alpine ascents, so we have to go with quantity to create the same effect - à la the old Mozart quote about writing music "as a sow piddles". As a result, this particular stage, which starts close by to the finish and loops around it in a complex S-shape which includes a couple of looping ornaments, has no fewer than 9 categorized ascents, including the HTF/MTF. Jelenia Góra also has some cycling history, hosting a MTB challenge named for Polish star Maja Włoszczowska and the 2014 University Cycling World Championship, attached to the Universiade, which was won by Petr Vakoč. It has also hosted the Friedensfahrt on many occasions, even after the Wende, most recently in 2004 when Sławomir Kohut won in the city. It was frequently the host of stages which came across the border through the Karkonosze range, or routes circling the Riesengebirge such as in 1980 and 1992 when it directly followed Karpacz MTFs. Part of the benefit of this was that it meant the organizers could precede ASO by a great many years, and use both sides of the same climb, with the harder northwest side of Przełęcz pod Czołem featuring a descent which ran through the main body of the town and then meeting up with the lower half of the Orlinek climb - a typical design of the time would climb through Przełęcz pod Czołem through the town of Karpacz, loop back on itself and then finish with the MTF at Orlinek, then the following day's stage would start as we do here, with the harder side of the pass. By modern standards it's not the most challenging climb, but in those days, coming off day after day of chasing those monster USSR and DDR teams around over horrific cobbles, often in awful weather, it could shatter some wills.

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Here, its role is to create a strong breakaway, as the next couple of climbs are not especially threatening, featuring Borowice, which includes looping around and matching the same first 4km of the Przełęcz pod Czołem before looping back around towards Podgórzyn for the Złoty Widok climb that we saw in the last stage. From here we once more climb up through Szklarska Poręba and this time we go all the way to "Death Turn" before continuing along the plateau toward Świeradów-Zdrój.

Now, I'm not such a sadist that I'll make people descend that ridiculous couple of kilometres of Stog Izerski, so instead we have a little loop around the ski resort town; this entails the brutal climb - which comes at a little under 60km to go - being bookended by two ascents of a small and barely significant cat.3 ascent. After this, there's 20km of rolling terrain as we cross the border into the Czech Republic, not far from the tri-national border with Germany also, before we come up against possily the most sustained climb of the day.

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Smědava from Bílý Potok is an undulating ascent of 7,9km @ 5,6%, which crests with 23km remaining and, crucially, very little respite as the descent is only a couple of kilometres long before a plateau to the scenic mountain lake of Vodní nádrž Souš before a small rise and then descent into another famous wintersport venue with one notorious piece of cycling heritage - Harrachov.

Harrachov is home to one of the small number of authentic ski flying hills in the world - only five are cleared for competition, with Čerťak (the Harrachov venue) having a hill size of 210m. Vikersund, Planica, Tauplitz/Kulm and the Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanze at Oberstdorf are the only larger ski jumps in the world currently in operation. And why is it notorious for cycling fans? Because it's the only ski jump hill to have ever been climbed in a cycling race.

Yes, that's right: after 30km of time trialling, the riders had to climb this.

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You know the best thing about it? Nobody knew about it until the day before. There was a scheduled ITT finishing at the wintersport venue. But when the teams arrived the night before the race, chaos ensued as team directors saw the outrun from the ski jump paved and the finishing line being set up at the end of the table. Only 1/3 of the riders were able to ride to the top without putting their feet down; the East German team once more predated modern cycling by a good generation in undertaking complete changes, clambering off and swapping their wheels for fatter, heavier ones to get more purchase on the absurdly steep surface, eventually putting the majority of their team right at the top of the standings, the only interloper being Poland's Zenon Jaskuła, who of course later went on to podium both the Friedensfahrt and the Tour de France, beaten only by Peter Winnen to that accolade. Just for the lolz, Altimetr.pl has mapped the ski jump climb with a total of 1km @ 11,1% from the town up to the summit, but 200m at TWENTY NINE PER CENT on the actual ski jump.

Here, we're just a few kilometres from the finish with that 4,8km @ 5% to give us a sprint-of-the-remaining-elites. We can, however, include the false flat and ramp beforehand here, so the final climb is a total 7km @ 4,1%... enough options to try to break up a small group but perhaps not a large one.

Stage proposal #4: Jawor - Jakuszyce, 177km

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This stage has a fairly unusual setup in that it starts and finishes in Poland, but the majority of the stage's distance is spent in the Czech Republic. This isn't impossible - countries are sometimes used 'in transit' in major races, such as Italy in the 2009 Tour or France in Gent-Wevelgem, but not typically for this much of their distance without getting a start/finish so presumably for this kind of stage to work the ensuing stage would need to start from Harrachov or Tanwald. It also approaches Jakuszyce from the south, but has a range of different, difficult Czech climbs to mark it. One down from the last proposal (eight) but more connectivity and less Amstel Gold-like complexity in the route. Also, Jawor is one of the castle towns that make up the route that is the basis of the Szlakiem Grodów Piastowskich, so this could potentially fit into that race, although unlikely given the amount of time spent off of Polish territory. The start features the same Przełęcz Rędzińska climb that opened up the festivities in the earlier proposal, but where in my second stage I only ascended the Okraj climb as far as Przełęcz Kowarska, here, we climb all the way to the summit, which is a long and gradual but iconic climb along the border that frequently was a major challenge in the Peace Race in stages connecting cities like Wałbrzych, Trutnov, Jelenia Góra and Karpacz. It's an iconic summit, but it's not especially selective in modern cycling - though it gets progressively steeper, the average is still only 2,5% with the final 5km being the only parts averaging over 5%.

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Just after the border crossing, there is the Skigebiet Mala Upa:

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We are now headed into the Krkonošský Národni Park, the Czech side of the Karkonosze range, and after the long and gradual descent, we climb the first part of Černá Horá, one of the Czech Republic's most feared climbs - the first half is not all that tough, however, with only a couple of steeper sections, so I guess it's kind of like doing Viapará and not continuing on to Anglirú.

The rest of the climbs will certainly keep the riders honest - from Vrchlabí we climb up to the mountain shoulder town of Benecko - around 7km @ 5,1% according to the Altimetr.pl profile - before the Rezek climb which consists of a long section of uphill false flat at around 2-3% before ramping up to a final 3km @ just under 8%. Františkov (or more accurately, the junction with Penzion Družba at it) is actually further along the summit from the Rezek climb on the road down to the ski town of Rokytnice, but instead of that we descend another main road and climb back up, to ramp up the difficulty, instead taking on this 4km @ 7,5% climb which is very inconsistent and includes ramps of double that on a narrow and tricky road cresting just 30km from the finish.

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From here, though, we have the most important climb of the day. After descending into Dolný Rokytnice, we cross the river and climb up toward Rozhledna Štěpánka. Only we are headed to the Paseky nad Jizerou ski station, but we don't take the main route, climbing the 290 and turning right before Příchovice, and instead we take the smaller, narrower road through the village of Paseky. You can see it on the right here.

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This is 4,6km @ 6,6%, so not exactly monolithic, but it crests just 17km from the line and the steepest 500m - from 1,1km to 600m from the top - is at an average of 12,8%. The last 1100m averages 10%, so there's plenty of chance to make it selective, before the short drop then a kilometre or two of false flat that then leads into the same final climb as the last stage, past Harrachov and then up to Jakuszyce.

The problem with some of these less well known regions to racing is that not so many of the climbs are fully traced so getting precise data is sometimes difficult - indeed there's the possibility some of these figures may be slightly out as I've had to trace them myself in these Czech climbs, as only some of them have been picked up by the main sources for these areas, the two major Polish mapping sites (Genetyk, which unfortunately also includes a wide number of climbs which are absolutely impassable for road bikes, and Altimetr.pl) only have selective climbs around the Czech side of the mountains, mostly focusing on the big MTFs from when the post-Wende Peace Race used to finish at places like Praděd and Vrbatova Bouda, whereas there's pretty good mapping of a lot of Polish climbs; let's also not underestimate the impact having a WT race has on that too. Quäl dich! has a fair few Czech climbs but only clustered together as it seems like there's only a couple of users who have been adding climbs in specific areas in the Czech Republic.

However, this does have the flip side, which is that it's a lot easier to be innovative with uncharted waters; lots of opportunities for a creative stage in this area using climbs which could produce some great racing but are not clichéd super-sized climbs, and also some Guillén fantasy ramps on some narrow roads that would potentially make the Tour de Pologne into a much more dangerous race than it presently can be - but then we've had a few Friedensfahrts and Tours de Pologne in this thread that showcase that, underneath that seemingly bland, featureless flat top 3/4 and the repetitive stages through specific areas of medium mountain terrain in that southern quarter, actually there's a lot of potential in Poland for racing going untapped. Railxmig is in the middle of showing us that once more, in fact, producing a series of great climbing stages around the Tatras and showing that even the flat parts of the country needn't be dull. The Ostbloc past means there's still a few cobbled streets and Plattenwege, the former kolkhoz lands give opportunities for exposed open roads and crosswind carnage, and some of the roads up the few mountainous regions the country has are garage ramps. Most finishes may be on more gradual slopes, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Location: Land of Saíz

Re: Race Design Thread

17 Apr 2018 15:51

Libertine Seguros wrote:Right, I've got another race to post shortly, but before I do, one more of these - need to get this one out of the way before railxmig arrives in this part of the country otherwise it might cause some confusion. I'm thinking this climb will be Góry Święty Anny, I did once have an out-and-back kind of race in the style of the 2012 Olympic road race from Opole there, as a Memorial Joachim Halupczok race.

No worry, i won't be in this part of the country. I will be in Silesia, but not in this region. Please, if it's possible, wait with your race after i with Velolover2 finish our races. You will just plain suffocate us. I will speed up my race so it should take 2-3 days to finish it.

Lately TdP seems to peek up some pace. Rzeszów and Szczyrk stages were quite good and revamped Zakopane loop is better than Głogówka's false-flat. I still wait for merging the Bukowina stage with Zakopane stage. Get Gliczarów with Głodówka from Brzegi and forgotten Murzasichle via Majerczykówka and finish it in Zakopane. As for Stóg Izerski. If it will be resurfaced in the future then i hope TdP will garner some interest in it as it's a nice "little" wall. As for the Czech Rep. i did some research of the country and i think Moravia may be even nicer than Karkonosze.

Originally i planned to start in Olesno to include a bunch of local wooden churches but the stage was too long, so i decided to move it to Kluczbork. That means the transfer from Częstochowa is quite long (~100km). Ślęża is one of the most popular of "pagan" climbs in Poland. It's also quite popular in local cycling culture being used in a number of local races and also in the Polish Championships (at least in 2015).

Last stage: link

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/204837
Tour de Pologne 2 – stage 5. Kluczbork – Sobótka (Ślęża), 196km, medium mountain, HTF.
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Climbs:
Przełęcz Sulistrowicka 1 – 2km, 4,3% (max 8%), cat. 3, 293m
Przełęcz Tąpadła x2 – 2,8km, 5% (max 11%), cat. 2, 386m
Przełęcz Sulistrowicka 2 x2 – 2,1km, 3%, cat. 3, 284m
Schronisko pod Wieżycą – 1,9km, 6,1% (max 12%), cat. 2, 286m

The stage starts in Kluczbork right on the border of Lower and Upper Silesia. It was founded in 1252 by Knights of the Cross with the Red Star. For the majority of its history it was a German town populated by Polish descendants. After WW2 the Germans fled or were expelled and replaced with Poles from Poland's eastern provinces. That was a Soviet plan of basically shift Poland and its population west and then Soviets incorporated Belarus and western Ukraine into their empire.

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Kluczbork's main square.

During the XIII c. fragmentation of Poland Silesia was the most fragmented of regions as the majority of towns were capitals of their respective duchy which throughout the centuries were one by one incorporated into Holy Roman Empire. One such short-living duchy was the Duchy of Namysłów and its capital is the next town of this stage.

Namysłów was founded in XIII c. For a short time in XIII-XIV c. it was a capital of a local duchy. In 1348 an important treaty was signed here in which Polish king Casimir the Great basically gave Silesia to Czechia (and the Holy Roman Empire). That meant the end of the skirmishes between Poles and Czechs in Silesia. The main sights include the ducal palace of XIV c. St. Peter & Paul church of XV c. St. Mary's Assumption church of XV c. and the remains of XIV c. city walls with a bunch of towers and one still remaining Krakowska gate.

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Main square of Namysłów.

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Krakowska gate, Namysłów.

From Namysłów the race heads towards the town of Brzeg, which is located on the Odra (Oder) river. In the middle ages the duchy of Brzeg was one of the more prominent principalities in Silesia. Interestingly, on the II c. Claudius Ptolemy's map in the whereabouts there was a municipality called Budorigum, so it may be possible it was a major Celtic settlement. Like the majority of towns in Silesia Brzeg was founded in XIII c. The Duchy of Brzeg has the distinction to be ruled by the longest living line of the Piast family (first royal family of Poland), as the last Piast duke – John Wilhelm IV died in 1675. The town was heavily damaged in 1741 during the War of Austrian Succession and also during WW2. The main sights include a XIII c. ducal palace (now the Piast dynasty mausoleum), XV c. St. Jadwiga's church, XV c. St. Nicholas' church, XVI c. town hall, XVI c. Piast gymnasium and the remains of city walls with Odrzańska gate.

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Ducal palace of Brzeg.

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St. Nicholas' church, Brzeg.

From Brzeg the race continues on route 39 which includes small towns of Wiązów (first mentioned in XII c.), Strzelin and Łagiewniki. It's worth mentioning near Strzelin is the biggest granite mine in Europe. Also worth noting is nearby town of Niemcza, which is one of the oldest towns in Silesia. It was already a major settlement in VIII c. closely tied with Great Moravia. It's also home to an archaelogical site of one of the oldest churches in Poland (from IX c.). The town has a nicely preserved medieval downtown with city walls and plenty of reinassance apartments.

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Wiązów.

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Niemcza.

Just after Łagiewniki the race enters the Ślęża massif, part of Sudeten Foreland. This small massif is topped by Ślęża mountain (718m). It's an ancient (lusatian culture of VIII-VII BC) pagan sacred mountain with plenty of legends tied to it. Possibly the name of the whole region – Silesia (Śląsk) originates from this mountain. Nowadays at the top is a small XIX c. chapel which stands on top of a previous ducal palace from XII c. The main mountain passes are Przełęcz Tąpadła and Przełęcz Sulistrowicka.

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Ślęża.

At the bottom of Ślęża is a small town of Sobótka. It's one of the older towns of Silesia, founded in early XIII c. as... Sabath (!). For a short time it was home to an Augustian monastery, which was later moved to Wrocław. It's home to a XIII c. ducal palace (former Augustian monastery) and St. Ann's church of XIV c.

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Ducal palace in Sobótka.

The race enters the Ślęża massif from the village of Oleszna near Łagiewniki. First climb is the south side of Przełęcz Sulistrowicka. There are three variants of this pass and just so happens i'm using all of them today. The south variant is cat. 3 with 2km at 4,3% (max 8%). The ascent and descent to Księgnice Małe is not the widest nor the nicest.

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Profile of Przełęcz Sulistrowicka (variant 1).

There are 2 laps around Ślęża which starts near the top of Przełęcz Sulistrowicka. From Księgnice Małe there are 6,5km of flat/bumpy terrain to the town of Sobótka, where (on each lap) an intermediate sprint is located. From Sobótka the stage goes around the Ślęża mountain to the village of Sady, where the next climb start – Przełęcz Tąpadła. This is the only major pass of the massif as it separates Ślęża from Radunia peak (573m). There are 3 sides of this pass and the Sady one is the hardest with 2,8km at irregular 5%, which includes 0,9km at 8,2% (max 11%). it's good enough for cat. 2.

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Profile of Przełęcz Tąpadła.

The descent to Sulistrowice is roughly 5km long at a relatively mild gradient (max 8%). In Sulistrowice the race enters a smaller road, which is not in the best of shapes. This road leads to (almost) Przełęcz Sulistrowicka (the pass is roughly 200m further up). This side is 2,1km at a shallow 3%. It is possible to skip the whole thing by going straight to Sobótka via Strzegomiany, but then the last climb would be shorter. This climb was used in 2015's Polish Championship.

The last climb starts in Sobótka and it's not part of the laps. It leads to a "hospice/parador" Schronisko pod Wieżycą. It's 1,9km at 6,1%, which is cat. 2. First 1km to a cross of Garncarska and St. Ann's street is at 5% (max 6,5%). The last 0,9km are at 7,3% (with the last 100m at 12%). I hope this will be enough to give punchers ('caugh' Sagan 'caugh') a higher chance of winning the stage.

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Profile of Schronisko pod Wieżycą. The finish line is highlighted on the profile.

Ther's quite a lot of space halfway through this climb, but there's not that much at the top besides a small parking. It may be too small for this race.

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Finish in Sobótka.

Next stage is an important one. It doesn't have any particular views as it's heavily forested, but it may tourn out to be more interesting than that.
railxmig
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Posts: 401
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18 Apr 2018 11:51

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Tried to design a Liege route for the likes of Nibali, Roglic and Dumoulin but it could be a reduced sprint as well. Horrible route? Hopefully the extra kilometers would make it a bit harder.
Velolover2
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Posts: 3,190
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Re: Race Design Thread

18 Apr 2018 17:35

I had a stage for TdP ready to post, but i missed this. I don't even question how he manages to come up with this stuff years before enyone else. There's also this which badly corners me... However, after closely reading his Zielona Góra venture i think i can improve on that. Sadly, there's an actual local race using parts of the route i think i've decided to settle in, which i'm not very happy with, but better than copying someone's work. I will need hopefully just 2 days to write stuff down so i will take a short break from posting or maybe tomorrow i will post my last stage and hopefully do this all before LS will start his next race. If i will struggle then i may post the stage raw.

Below is the stage i was going with but it happens LS already has this stage and my long time of quite extensive research can go screw itself.

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Lap around Drezdenko i was going with.

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Profile of the stage.

EDIT: I'm thinking of doing my last venture into Switzerland with either TdS (i still have some stuff left in the pocket) ot Romandie with some parts of other regions of the country (most of my leftovers are in the French part of Switzerland). I don;t think it will be a proper tour as it's really hard to design a flat stage in Switzerland so i may consider it more as a colection of ideas than a proper race. It will maybe take me a month or so to do and write down, so it's still plenty of water to flow by and things can still change. Sorry for my poor English, but i'm in a hurry and thought to just write a quickie on my whereabouts. Cheers.
railxmig
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Posts: 401
Joined: 19 Oct 2015 08:38

Re: Race Design Thread

19 Apr 2018 17:07

Time for my "improvement"...

Last stage: link

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/207516
Tour de Pologne 2 – stage 6. Głogów – Zielona Góra, 189km, flat, cobbles.
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Climbs:
Przytok x3 – 1,9km, 4,5% (max 7-8%), cat. 3, 153m

Cobbles:
1. Tuchorza – Karna, 3,1km, ****
2. Jany – Przytok (variant 1), 8,2km, *****
3. Jany – Przytok (variant 2), 2,8km, ****

I have two versions of this stage. The one i'm using is easier as the cobbles of Tuchorza and Przytok are really bad and i don't want to undermine too much the first 3 stages to try and keep the race somewhat balanced. It is also possible to limit the number of laps or just get rid of them entirely and for example extend the stage to also include the cobbles of Smardzewo north of Sulechów. I decided to keep the full cobbled sector only on the first lap to ensure action from quite early on but give the chasers a chance of catching on. If it was a one-day race i wouldn't care less but here i don't want to have too big time splits to try and keep the race somewhat balanced. Below is the harder version of this stage.

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Harder version of this stage.

The stage starts in Głogów. It's one of the oldest towns in Silesia being founded in X c. Because of it's location it was often a subject of various wars between Poland and Germany between X-XIII c. In 1109 a major battle took place in the city. It was a result of a long dynastic rivarly between brothers Bolesław Wrymouth and Zbigniew after previous duke of Poland Władysław Herman died. As Zbigniew lost the battle for succession he fled to Germany, where he managed to convince the Emperor Henry V to intervene in Zbigniew's name. However the battle of this war – battle of Głogów was won by Poles and ensured Bolesław Wrymouth as the duke of Poland. From 1251 Głogów was the capital of a quite powerful duchy, which was incorporated to the Holy Roman Empire in 1526. Sadly, majority of the town was destroyed during WW2 and most of today's town was rebuilded after the war.

The town is home to a number of historic (mostly rebuilded after WW2) sites like a ducal palace of XIII c. quite extensive XIII-XIV c. city walls, XII c. collegiate church, remains of XIII c. St. Nicolas' church and XV c. town hall.

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Głogów's ducal palace.

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Głogów's collegiate church.

Głogów is located at the edge of Silesia and the stage soon enters the westernmost edges of Greater Poland. The first town of Greater Poland is Wschowa. It begun as a XII c. border fort. It was in the center of various conflicts of XIII-XIV c. when various dukes of Silesian counties were slowly incorporated into Holy Roman Empire. However, Wschowa just remained inside the Polish kingdom. In 1706 a major battle (part of the 3rd Norther War of 1700-1721) had occured near Wschowa between Swedes and combined forces of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Saxony and Russia, which was won by Swedes. Main sights include XIV c. St. Stanislaus' church, XVII c. Franciscan monastery, a quite distinct XVI c. town hall and the remains of city walls.

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Wschowa's city hall.

From Wschowa the race continues north, where you can see a forest, another forest, an occasional hidden lake, yet another forest... you get it. It's boooooring. There are however an interuption of this boringfest. It's a 3,1km long cobbled sector from Karna to Tuchorza. As you can see below, it's composed of large and chunky stone, which i don't know if it's suitable for a road bike. This section is there mostly to provide a preview of what's to come.

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Road from Karna to Tuchorza.

After a 40km transfer to the outskirts of Zielona Góra, which includes the towns of Babimost, Sulechów and Cigacice the stage enters the next cobbled sector. It's long, complicated and quoting LS: "spine-destroying". The surface is mostly on chunky, randomly placed stones. First 5,4km are flat, the stones are in some placed mixed up with a bumpy tarmac. Last 2,8km are uphill with the first 1,9km at 4,5% (max 7-8%).

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Profile of Przytok.

This "climb" is used in a local race called "Piekło Przytoku" (Przytok's Hell). I think it's exclusively an MTB race. At least you can see how awful the surface is if MTB's are recommended.

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Stones of Przytok.

There's a dirt track going alongside the main road. I don't know if i want to cut it off or leave it open. The cobbles ends roughly 1km after the top of the climb. From there, there are 10,7km to the finish line.

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The aformentioned dirt roadside.

There are 3 laps around Zielona Góra, which include a shortened version of the previous sector starting from the village of Jany. This shortened version includes only the last 2,8km of cobbles. While the laps are quite long – 25km i'm not sure if it isn't too much to not destroy the racing on the previous stages. If you think it's too much (and i personally think so) it's perfectly possible to limit the number of laps or just get rid of them entirely.

I've managed to find a number of cobbled sectors in Poland that i didn't used in this race and i think LS also didn't use in any of his races. Sadly, they're quite spread out so it's not easy to connect them. Below is a list of them with their (approx) locations.

Greater Poland:
1. Cieśle Małe
2. Boryszyn – Sieniawa
3. Gądków Wielki - Gądków Mały
4. Kłopot
5. Sucha – Przydroże

Lower Silesia:
1. Łukaszowice - Żerniki Wrocławskie
2. Pustków Wilczkowski - Tyniec nad Ślężą
3. Krzelków

Pomerania:
1. Żelisławiec – Binowo
2. Zaleszcze – Grzędzice
3. Nieżyn – Głąb

I also have one addition to Żuławy Wiślane region, which is a road from Krzyżanowo to Królewo Malborskie and also one on the outskirts of Warsaw, but i'm not sure if it still exists.
railxmig
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Posts: 401
Joined: 19 Oct 2015 08:38

Re: Race Design Thread

20 Apr 2018 16:06

After the last-minute change of the last stage the transfer to Gorzów Wielkopolski is quite large. I decided to go with Szczecin as it offers more oppurtunities for quality racing than my original pick – Poznań. While Szczecin is a relatively popular pick i don't think i've seen any of the hellingen that are near the city. Sadly, they're on the outskirts so they're not the focus of this stage, but there is an "artificial" one that i'm focusing on today.

Previous stage: link

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/205478
Tour de Pologne 2 – stage 7. Gorzów Wielkopolski – Szczecin, 176km, flat/hilly, cobbles.
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Climbs:
Podjuchy – 1,5km, 2,8%, cat. 3, 44m
Arkona x3 – 1,2km, 3,1%, cat. 3, 50m

Cobbles:
1. Podjuchy, 1,2km, **
2. Arkona x3, 1,2km, **

Original stage to Poznań featured plenty of places tied in with the origins of Poland, but finally i decided to go with a cycling focused stage, but very boring contentwise as it goes through countless amount of nothingness.

While being a very large city Gorzów is nothing special. The only notable sight is XIII/XIV c. St. Mary's Cathedral. Sadly, the city suffered from the damages of WW2 and not that much remained. It has quite a lot of parks and green spaces though.

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Gorzów's cathedral.

Originally i've planned to have the last stage entirely in Greater Poland including Poznań, Gniezno, Ostrów Lednicki, Biskupin, Kruszwica and a peculiarity called Wenecja (which basically means Venice) but i decided to do a stage, which should have better chances of quality racing. There's a number of hills in and near Szczecin and some of them are cobbled. I've managed to use two of them – Podjuchy and Arkona.

Podjuchy is one of the farthest districts of Szczecin, located good 10km from the downtown. The climb to Podjuchy uses Krzemienna and Smocza streets. This cobbled climb is 1,5km at 2,8% which includes a short section of 7% near the top. The cobbles on Krzemienna street are nicer and mainstream than those from the previous day. The ones on Smocza are more reminescent of yesterday's though.

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Cobbles on Smocza, Podjuchy.

In Szczecin there are 3x15km laps, which include a quite complicated cobbled climb in the city's district of Arkona. It uses Tatrzańska, Księcia Borysa, Stanisława Wojciechowskiego, Malinowa and Wiosny Ludów streets. The cobbles of Tatrzańska, Malinowa and Wojciechowskiego streets are quite soft. The 200m section on Księcia Borysa is a bit less refined. Because of multiple twists and turns the climb is irregular. It's mostly a false-flat but there are steeper ramps (up to 8%) mainly on Księcia Borysa and Wojciechowskiego streets.

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Climb of Arkona.

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Cobbles of Księcia Borysa street.

Overall, this climb is 1,2km at 3,1%. The top is roughly 8km from the finish line. I decided to place the finish on Wojska Polskiego street at the end of a 500m straight. This lap does interfere with some tram lines and i hope it won't be a big problem (they worked this out in Katowice though).

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Laps in Szczecin.

I guess you may try to do some selection on the Arkona climb but i guess it should end up in a slightly reduced sprint. I still guess the last 10km should be quite interesting as there should be a serious attempt to win a stage or gain time in GC.




Tour de Pologne 2 – recap.
https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/tours/view/7315

I am really happy with this Tour de Pologne even if i missed plenty of regions i wanted to invest more time into, but i prefered to go with better stages and more in-stage content and also needing to have a "day-one patch". That resulted in one short ITT, two mountain (for Poland) stages with one finishing on an actual mountain, two stages featuring cobbles, one stage with a hilltop finish and one "normal" stage with a small bump near the end. I think that should be plenty of content to give a week full of entertainment.

I'm not sure if it's a balanced route or not. The problem are the cobbles of stage 6, which are really rough and i hope they won't destroy any results of first 3 stages.

This race has at least two quite large transfers (~100km) and 5 over 190km stages (but only one over 200km). The cobbles, some of the roads and maybe some of the climbs from stage 3 are probably unrealistic but i feel Przehyba – finish of stage 2 could someday see the light.

Race stats:
Overall length: 1163km
Image Flat stages: 2
Image Hilly stages: 1
Image Medium mountain stages: 1
Image Mountain stages: 2
Image Time trials: 1 (overall: 15,4km)
MTFs: 1
HTFs: 1

Stage list:
Image 1. Kraków – Kraków, 15,4km
Image 2. Wieliczka – Przehyba, 191km
Image 3. Nowy Sącz – Nowy Sącz, 197km
Image 4. Bochnia – Częstochowa, 202km
Image 5. Kluczbork – Sobótka, 196km
Image Image 6. Głogów – Zielona Góra, 189km
Image Image 7. Gorzów Wielkopolski – Szczecin, 176km


Profiles:
1. Kraków – Kraków:
Image
2. Wieliczka – Przehyba:
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3. Nowy Sącz – Nowy Sącz:
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4. Bochnia – Częstochowa:
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5. Kluczbork – Sobótka:
Image
6. Głogów – Zielona Góra:
Image
7. Gorzów Wielkopolski – Szczecin:
Image
railxmig
Member
 
Posts: 401
Joined: 19 Oct 2015 08:38

24 Apr 2018 22:27

So as threatened, I have a race for here. Well, it's actually sort of two races, but I'll probably post something else in the middle to prevent it getting monotonous. But not too long, lest this become too much of a disaster and I get yet another Vuelta added to the queue of Vueltas I have that are just about post-ready. Instead, I'm going to go for a different re-tread.

I've had a go at the Giro d'Italia Femminile, abbreviated in popular parlance to the Giro Rosa, once before, but a bit like my first go at the Volta a Portugal, it does come with something of a caveat, and that caveat is that I played hard and fast with the format, extending the race to two weeks to fulfil what I want the race to represent on the calendar, and returning it to the days of the late 90s, after the 1993 reboot under the tutelage of Brunello Fanini and then subsequent expansions. A bit like the Peace Race, the length did fluctuate but hover around the two week mark for most of the rest of the decade, peaking with the 16 stage 2000 edition, before the protracted battles around Zinaida Stahurskaia's positive test and problems hitting the men's Giro as well led to the adoption of the format that we're all now familiar with from 2002 onwards, which has had some minor tweaks but has stayed fairly balanced since - ten stages in ten days, held entirely in July.

For much of the time before the rebrand as the Giro Rosa in 2013, the Giro Donne would alternate between 'northern' and 'southern' routes, although there weren't really many editions we could truly call 'southern' as in using Sicilia, Calabria and so on in that era. There are some trips that head fairly far south - the 2009 and 2017 editions headed down towards Campania and Basilicata, for example, but even then there are some stages further north, and most 'southern' routes include the mythical Monte Serra, a long-time Giro Femminile standard, perhaps as Fanini was an organizer for a period around the peak and premature death of his daughter Michela, and subsequently the domination of Fabiana Luperini, both of whom were Tuscan and from nearby. Northern routes have varied the mountains a lot more, including some innovations such as the discovery of Monte Zoncolan all the way back in 1998, five years before the men took it on, although they climbed it from Sutrio back then (the now more legendary Ovaro side debuts in the women's Giro in 2018), and bizarre stages such as the 2004 mountain team time trial to Leukerbad (during this period, the success and popularity of Nicole Brändli resulted in a few excursions into Switzerland for the race; trips overseas have more or less ground to a halt, although 2015's edition did have its prologue and first road stage in Slovenia). So I've had another go at the Giro Rosa, but using a more realistic set of course design parameters.

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Anna van der Breggen kicks all of the asses

So: self-imposed regulations, so as to make the race cohesive but also feasible, producing maximal spectacle and also a realistically achievable Giro Rosa.

1) One of the things I have liked a lot in recent years in the Giro Rosa has been the attempt to bring the race to iconic historic cycling spots. I love that Monte Serra and San Domenico di Varzo now have tradition and history exclusive to the women's Giro, and I used the latter in my 15-day Giro for that reason. But also, the women deserve the chance to contest those iconic spots that men's cycling take for granted as part of the scenery; this also helps add intrigue as obviously the prestige of these locations is already established in cycling lore, making them attractive to competitors and fans both new and old alike - the new fan is perhaps better equipped to understand riders' strengths and weaknesses and to accept and acknowledge prestige when they see the race on a climb, a berg, a stretch of cobbles or whatever that they are already familiar with, and old fans of women's cycling have dreamed of seeing the women compete on some of the illustrious playgrounds of the campionissimi. Stelvio in 2010, Madonna del Ghisallo in 2014 (also back in 2004), Aprica in 2015, Mortirolo in 2016, Zoncolan in 2018, these are names every cycling fan worth their salt know like the back of their hand. I had to include at least one iconic climb with established history outside of women's cycling.

2) Circuits. Stages which loop around themselves and take place within a fairly small area, using circuits around either start, finish or both are simply a fact of life in women's cycling; reduced budgets and limited coverage means the number of municipalities the race travels through can be smaller. Some stages will start and finish in the same place and the route will have to adapt itself to that accordingly. I have included some stages that start and finish either in the same place or in fairly close proximity to one another, however I have looked to ensure that the most important stages, and the most important parts of stages, are not repetitious.

3) Transfers. The Giro Rosa is, at the moment, pretty notorious for its absurd transfers. I have tried to limit these, although there is one very long one mid-race. I've tried to get it to make sense. The race also takes place in July and so the stupendous heat has become a significant feature that riders need to consider, so the big long transfers are not ideal when you've just been riding in 40º heat for the last three hours.

4) The Giro Rosa has tended to shy somewhat away from this but back in the early days of the race, the event would start and finish in major conurbations and iconic cities. The original Giro Donne all the way back in 1988 started in Milan and ended in Rome. I like the idea of bringing women's cycling to the masses, but also appreciate the budgetary restraints that mean that finishing in the Piazza del Popolo or outside the Coliseum or whatever is prohibitively expensive. I have tried to find a way that could be achievable but it is arguable. Places like Cremona, Caserta, Ljubljana and Mantova have been among the larger cities used in recent years, but I wanted to include some major cities. 2012 perhaps went a bit too far - it got close to harming the race's future - but they did manage to include Napoli, Rome, Modena and Bergamo in the same edition - so it can be done.

5) The Giro is the only women's Grand Tour and one of very few races that has the scope and scale to include real genuine mountain stages, so we should do that. Just not to excess. However, there are only a small number of women's stage races long enough to not be totally skewed and imbalanced by proper mountain stages, so we need to give them some proper mountain stages, and some mountain stages with variety.

So, without further ado!

Giro Rosa
Stage 1: Lido di Venezia - Lido di Venezia, 7,5km (ITT)


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The first stage is a prologue. Well, sort of. I'm kind of in two minds about it. The definition of a prologue in men's races is of course under 8km, but the max average distance per stage for the women is 33% shorter than for the men (120km vs. 180km - until recently it was only 100km) so realistically I think being over 6km this should count as an individual stage.

The Giro Rosa does tend to start with a prologue in recent years - since the rebrand it has accounted for 3/5 editions' first stages (the 2013 edition had a road stage and 2017 began with a TTT) but there have been a variety of other options explored. That said, however, I am looking deep into the history books and the prologue is the most common method of starting the race, going all the way back to the very first Giro Rosa stage, which was a 3km prologue in Milan, which was won by Petra Rossner, the veteran German sprinter holding the record for most stage wins all the way until the 5th stage of the 2014 edition when she was surpassed by (of course) Marianne Vos. Rossner's storied career covered the whole emergence period for women's cycling, with her best Giro performance being 3rd place back in 1988 and when she retired at the end of the 2004 season - just two years after winning the World Cup overall - she was one of the very last active cyclists to have represented East Germany. And despite all this, she's probably best known for being the reason Judith Arndt flipped off all and sundry at the 2004 Olympic Road Race, as the two were long-time partners.

My race, however, begins not like the 1988 edition but the subsequent 1989 edition, which ran from Venice to Rome, beginning once more with a prologue, which was won by Swedish power rider Paula Westher (née Svensson). Records are not ideal from those early Giri before the 1993 reboot, however, so rather than pointing back to the 1989 edition I've taken more inspiration from the 2009 men's Giro team time trial on the Lido di Venezia.

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As you can see, I've more or less kept the first and last parts of the stage intact, but for the sake of brevity and not totally overbalancing the course on day one (and because this is an ITT, you know, a PROPER time trial, as opposed to a TTT) I have omitted the lengthy out-and-back on the Via Malamocco. After all, we can save some money in road cones :p

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I really don't think it's worth me doing my usual travelogue section on the reason for choosing Venice as a host. We all know about the history of Venice and its glamour and importance, and the Lido is obviously as a lengthy sandbank off the coast somewhat isolated from the more cramped and seedy main part of the city. The hotels that we pass on the first part of the route form the setting for the famous Thomas Mann novella Der Tod in Venedig, translated as "Death in Venice", involving an aging author descending into an uncontrollable Dionysian fit that ultimately destroys him, in his feelings towards, and pursuit of, a young Polish boy. The city was first introduced to the Corsa Rosa via an ITT in the 1936 Giro and has been a fairly sporadic host since. And although the province of Veneto hosts multiple stages of the Giro Rosa most years, I can't actually trace that the race has been back since 1989, which makes it ripe for reuse.

As this ITT is slightly longer than a prologue it may be less of a hectic sprint, but still I would expect the same candidates for the victory, except perhaps the more sprint adept riders would be less competitive. Surprise 2016 prologue winner Leah Kirchmann, for example, is less likely to be the queen of the show here, but the classic all-rounders like Anna van der Breggen and Elisa Longo Borghini will obviously be major candidates as will ITT specialists like Lisa Brennauer (if she enters, now she's moved teams and Wiggle don't have the same strength of backup team for Elisa) and Ellen van Dijk. And perhaps chief among those candidate for the win will be one lady, who podiumed the Giro just last year and has made a name for herself as something of a star in prologues, yet who still loves a good long ITT as much as anybody else: Annemiek van Vleuten.

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A veteran whose breakout came thanks to the budget cuts at DSB Bank when it became Nederland Bloeit (the team that became the all-conquering Rabobank steamroller of a few years ago) and she was able to take advantage of others' reluctance to give Marianne Vos a free ride to the finish, Annemiek cut her teeth on tough rolling courses, but has reinvented herself as a genuine mountain threat - losing last year's Giro thanks to an ill-timed lacuna in a flat stage but being the main animator of proceedings in the toughest uphills, before winning La Course on the Col d'Izoard pretty comprehensively. But she never forgot the skills she learnt avoiding the 32857 pieces of road furniture that line every Dutch road, and has put this to good use, becoming Annemiek the Prologue Queen and, a few years ago, going on an incredible tear where she would win almost every prologue in every race available to her while on the smaller Bigla team, before moving up to the Orica (now Mitchelton) team where she settled into the old extranjera leader role that Emma Johansson previously had, and built up to her memorable Olympic Road Race where she looked a sure shot for gold, leading with a clear gap over Mara Abbott, a notably worse ITT rider on the flat and a miserable descender, with the group behind that not cooperating thanks to Anna van der Breggen not wanting to chase her own teammate. And then in an instant it was over, and we were actually incredibly fortunate that wasn't all that nature wrote for Annemiek van Vleuten, thrown violently from her bike after misjudging a corner and getting caught with that unusual (for European cycling) guttering, catapulted head over heels and left motionless sprawled half on and half off the road. It was a scary moment. But because Annemiek is made primarily of a combination of titanium and awesome, she wouldn't let anything so trivial as a fractured spine hold her back, and was winning - you guessed it - a prologue at the Lotto Belgium Tour just 30 days later.

I did a "lady of the stage" profile for every stage of my previous Giro Rosa. I don't intend to do that for this one - I've already profiled most of the key names and the prominence of women's cycling has increased markedly over the last few years such that it is less necessary to maintain the narrative, but Annemiek was left out last time around which was something of an injustice. And you know, there's only so much you can write about a prologue!!!
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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25 Apr 2018 21:21

Stage 2: San Fior - Giavera di Montello, 104km

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Climbs:
Montello (Salita dei Mondiali)(cat.3) 2,8km @ 5,3%
Montello (Salita dei Mondiali)(cat.3) 2,8km @ 5,3%

Now we're back on more familiar territory, as we head around some of the roads best known to the Giro Rosa especially in recent years, around the Veneto region and the foothills of the mountains. It's a course with circuits and a fairly comfortable length for a first road stage, around a popular host town.

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Around 50km from Venezia, San Fior is a smallish town of 6.500 inhabitants, which has been on the route of the Giro Rosa each of the last four seasons. It was introduced to the race in 2014, in the wake of the breakout of the local star (born in nearby Conegliano), Francesca Cauz. Cauz looked like a star in the making in the 2013 Giro Rosa, climbing into the top 10 with great stages to Monte Beigua and San Domenico di Varzo. As a result, San Fior became a hot spot for the 2014 Giro Rosa, with a key mountain stage including La Crosetta, with the hope that the local girl could come good that day. It didn't quite work out like that; Francesca Cauz, as we all know now, is insanely inconsistent and never quite managed to recapture that lightning in a bottle, and was well down from contention by the time the stage even began. Instead the fans in San Fior were treated to the emergence of a different new star, in a great stage where Emma Pooley attacked on the smaller climb before La Crosetta, Piai, and then rode through the group up the road, dropping everybody like flies... and the last person left clinging to her wheel was a 19-year-old Polish neo-pro well down the hierarchy at Rabobank, Katarzyna Niewiadoma. After she was finally dispatched, she was set to work helping the Rabo TTT with PFP and van der Breggen trying to defend Vos' lead from Emma, with three other elite climbers, the home favourite Elisa Longo Borghini, and two former Giro winning escaladoras, Claudia Häusler (pre-marriage) and Mara Abbott, also adding to the mix. Then a frantic chasedown over the flat and rolling run-in around Colle Umberto began, with Pooley just holding on to take the first of three stage wins in that Giro - all three of the big mountain stages of the race.

After that success, the city was back the following year, Gaiarine to San Fior again, but a less brutal stage, where instead of the precursor to the big mountain climb, Piai was the central climb of the day. Once more it was a spectacular stage, early in the race as this is in my course. Cauz was back on a competitive level, but she missed the all important move with Guarnier, Stevens, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, Abbott, van der Breggen, Canuel and Moolman-Pasio. Carlee Taylor crashed out spectacularly from the lead, riders were all over the road and it was tough from the coverage to figure out what was going on. A slightly easier stage was the first stage of the 2016 Giro again, once more between Gaiarine and San Fior, which enabled Giorgia Bronzini to make the selection of 10 that fought out the win, and the two-time former World Champion took the stage in the reduced sprint from that group, ahead of Megan Guarnier and Rasa Leleivyte. Although given the other three in the group (Stevens and Armitstead dropped off it after leading Megan out) were Niewiadoma, Lichtenberg and Guderzo, that was perhaps to be expected. In 2017, stage finishes in San Fior were over, but the nearby town of San Vendemiano assumed that role, with San Fior becoming the stage start - the stage was far less selective than previous stages in the vicinity and Hannah Barnes won a sprint of the main body of the bunch.

The first part of the stage consists of three laps of a 15,5km circuit around San Fior and includes the little uncategorizable ramp into Colle Umberto that proved the last platform for attacks and selections in the San Fior stages but ultimately likely wouldn't be decisive. It's a shorter and less drawn-out circuit than the first half of the 2017 stage, but that's because the second half of the stage is going to be more selective than that one. Colle Umberto also includes the frazione of San Martino, which was the birthplace of the first Italian Tour de France winner, Ottavio Bottecchia.

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After those three laps, there is an intermediate sprint in San Fior where we finish the first section of the stage, before heading for Conegliano. As well as being the hometown of Francesca Cauz, it also has its own wine denomination and was the birthplace of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Here it's the feed station before we head through the Battle of Piave River territory, before we arrive at the second circuit of the stage, which has even more historic connotations.

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The legendary hill of Montello, ovaloid in shape, sits at the foot of the Alps in the Treviso region and has been a major source of timber for Venice during the major shipbuilding era. It is well known to cycling of course, as it's almost perfect for the sport - there's a nodal road which runs up the spine up the hill, and a stupid number of side roads giving literally dozens of opportunities to create some interesting courses, some tarmac, some sterrato, some dirt. So it's probably some sense of disappointment to most of you that, in all honesty, I've gone for what is literally the least interesting option that Montello has to offer: because it's the route that's been used in one of the biggest races of the sport.

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In 1985, Giavera di Montello hosted the World Championships. The circuit was 14,75km looping up Montello, down the nodal road, into Nervesa di Battaglia, and then swinging into Giavera for the finish. The main climb was 2,77km in length, with an average of just 5,3% but ramps of 11%; the first half of the climb is the tougher part. It proved selective enough for those World Championships, which were won by the oldest ever World Champion, Joop Zoetemelk, who took the title shortly before his 39th birthday, in a classic finale.

Among the women, however, there was hope for a home win; no Italian had won the women's World Championships at that point. They had a big hope though - 36-year-old Maria Canins, a former cross-country skier who had converted to cycling late and had been on the podium of the 1982 and 1983 World Championships; with no race in 1984, there was hope for a home win. However, it was a third close-but-no-cigar near-miss for Maria, who finished 2nd behind a new star, the 26-year-old Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo, who was to win four straight World Championship road races on the way to her super-storied, long-form career which only ended into her 50s.

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The Giro Donne also included a 3km prologue in nearby Crocetta di Montello, on the opposite side of the climb, in 2007, which was won by reigning Giro winner Edita Pučinskaitė, who indeed also won that edition, and in 2005 a stage in the same position as this in the race finished in Caerano di San Marco; I don't have a profile for that stage but Nicole Brändli won so presumably it was pretty hilly... but either way, as you can see, the climb and region has heritage within the women's sport as well; so, it's not unreasonable to include Montello in the race, so the stage finishes with two laps of the circuit from the 1985 World Championships, with the climb - categorised as a 3rd-cat - coming at 11 and 25,5km from the line. There is no hectic and dramatic downhill to the line as we often see in women's cycling, where the descents can often be as important as the climbs, instead it's a kind of vague sauntering downhill before a frantic run-in as you can see from that video of Joop's win above.

This stage will probably see an ok level of selection; there's the opportunity for it to become a selective stage, but there's also the chance for the attacks that go on the climb to be chased back. This is hopefully enough to be an early selective stage along similar lines to the 2016 San Fior stage, and even if it's less selective than that it can at least be potentially like the Velletri stage in the 2011 Giro Donne. Hopefully we won't be throwing people too far out of contention like Montereale Valcellina in 2017 or Santa Maria a Vico in 2014, but we don't want to go the 2010 route when Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won four straight stages at the start of the race either. Hopefully this will give us a good compromise because we've got a potentially selective, but not too selective, first road stage which ties in to the type of racing that we regularly get from the women thanks to the courses provided, and would be realistically achievable for the race and plays into cycling history and supportive regions of the Giro Rosa too.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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28 Apr 2018 12:34

Stage 3: Marostica - Sorgà, 134km

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GPM:
Monteviale (cat.3) 1,1km @ 9,7%

The next stage of the Giro Rosa comes after a short transfer from Montello, with the riders likely overnighting in Montebelluna or Bassano del Grappa. We're still in the early parts of the race and so we're going to move through the Po Valley for the most part today, but with the area being so flat, the choice of start down bears some explanation.

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Marostica is a scenic castle town at the feet of the mountains, where they rise out of the floodbasin, which is best known to people who aren't cycling aficionados for its tradition of human chess, a long-standing tradition which has been retrofitted to a fictitious story to explain it. But this is a board of cycling enthusiasts, so there's a different reason to be aware of this small city of 13.000 inhabitants for us.

The main reason is that this is the hometown of Giovanni Battaglin, a veteran of the 70s and 80s who was the second rider, after Eddy Merckx, to win both the Vuelta and the Giro in the same year (1981 in his case). Only Alberto Contador in 2008 has been able to replicate Battaglin's feat in the time since, although Nibali came extremely close in 2013, only to come up against SuperGrandad Chris Horner and lose the Vuelta a couple of days from the end. But their feats don't quite stack up to Merckx's or Battaglin's, for they took place after the Vuelta moved to September in the mid-90s; when Giovanni Battaglin won both races back to back, he did so with just two days' rest between them - the Vuelta finished with a short circuit race in Madrid on May 10th, and the Giro commenced with a prologue in Trieste on May 13th. Having debuted in the 1973 Giro, when Merckx set the feat that Battaglin would later replicate, it was a touch of poetic symmetry. He was helped by circumstances, and as a prodigious climber (having won the polka dots in the 1979 Tour despite a doping penalty) he had taken the Vuelta based on his stage win in the Sierra Nevada MTT on stage 10; his Inoxpran team were then worked over controlling the likes of Pedro Muñoz and Vicente Belda, but especially his Danish domestique Jørgen Marcussen stood strong. In the Giro, however, he only took the lead a couple of days from the finish, lying low early in the race and then expressing himself in the late mountains, winning the stage to San Vigilio di Marebbe and then capturing the race lead on the 100km mini-stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo the next day, surviving by the narrowest of margins ahead of Tommy Prim and Giuseppe Saronni. With two other podiums in the Giro, and an overall victory in the Vuelta al País Vasco as well as a number of Italian one-day races, the most prominent being the Milano-Torino and Giro del Apennino, as well as stage wins in all three GTs, he never recaptured that 1981 magic, but had cemented his legacy by then.

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Of course, though... I didn't actually pick Marostica to honour Battaglin, it was a happy coincidence (or rather less so a coincidence as many such towns have big cycling tradition, like Varese, Firenze, Bejár, Kranj and so on. It's only when they get really small like Palù di Giovo or El Barraco that it becomes truly remarkable). In fact, the selection of Marostica as a stage host had more to do with the city's other famous cycling offspring, Enrico Battaglin.

Only kidding. No offence due to Enrico - who despite being from the same town and with a comparatively uncommon Italian surname is not related to Giovanni - and he's had a decent enough career including a Giro stage win. But here we're referring to a former world champion.

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In the late 2000s, Italian women's cycling stood at an awkward crossroads. Their teams were clearly starting to lose their ascendancy to the Dutch, and though they had some world class prospects (more on that later) they were losing their stalwart, long-term star as Fabiana Luperini was now aging and unable to impose the same kind of dominance in the mountains as she had in her heyday, and was being increasingly usurped by the newcomers like Pooley, Abbott and Häusler as well as stalwarts like Arndt. In Giorgia Bronzini they had a great sprinter, but the 2009 World Championships were not suited to that type of rider. 2007 World Champion Marta Bastianelli was still suspended, the pressure placed upon her to try to be more of an all-rounder and compete for the Giro in the wake of her rainbow jersey win, with the Italian press wanting a home star to cheer having led to eating disorders and a positive for an appetite suppressant, but Italy was still at the forefront of the sport. And with Tatiana Guderzo, they had somebody who could climb, who could TT, and who could outsmart the opposition; and with able lieutenant Noemi Cantele running interference against Kristin Armstrong and Marianne Vos behind, they could win a spectacular World Championships road race in Mendrisio (caution, commentary as ever seems to think her name is "Gerduso").

As one of the stronger climbers in the field, Guderzo naturally has turned her head to stage racing, especially as now she counts among the veterans in the bunch and her kick of acceleration has been dulled somewhat. She's never managed to quite pull off the big one and take a Giro Rosa, but she has come close. Most notably, her closest performances have been in two of the most mountainous editions - the ones won by Mara Abbott in fact, a rider who can climb as well as anybody ever has and do, well, next to nothing else competitively. Tending to focus more on stage races in recent years, she's become something of a journeywoman, but her experience and her climbing nous do mean that she can still pull a rabbit out of the hat from time to time, finishing 6th in the 2016 Giro and winning the 2017 Giro dell'Emilia. At 33 she's now winding down somewhat, but she's still a strong rider and, having returned to the Hitec Products team this year, she will undoubtedly be their leader come Giro time once more, with tough climbing stages on the 2018 route.

She's not even the only world champion we honour here though; the stage is almost pan flat through the Po floodplain as mentioned, but before we get there, we head through Sarcedo, which is the hometown of Italy's first women's world champion, Alessandra Cappellotto.

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Cappellotto was a star of the 90s in women's cycling, although obviously the exposure was somewhat limited compared to today. Nevertheless, she was less of a stage racer, although she did win the Thüringen Rundfahrt; she managed 3 stage wins in the Giro Rosa and 5 stage wins in the Tour Féminin, however, but most importantly, in 1997 in San Sebastián she won the World Championships road race, the first Italian to do so after so many near misses from the likes of Canins and Bonanomi before. She also won a national championship in 2003, her last notable win, following in the footsteps of her younger sister Valeria who had won the same title in 1999. Emerging in the mid-90s, it initially seemed that Valeria could be the more successful of the sisters, winning the Trofeo Binda twice, finishing 4th in the Giro Donne in 1995, as well as a stage of the Giro and two of the Tour in 1997, but not only did Alessandra then one-up her in GC performances with 2nd in 1996, but after missing out on the World Championships in Verona in 1999, Valeria's results tail away dramatically. There is also a sad coda to the tale of friendly sibling rivalry too, as Valeria unfortunately passed away in 2015 at the age of just 45 from a tumour. The town hosts an annual Memorial Valeria Cappellotto race at the .NE level for the Italian domestic scene; both editions to date have been won by Sofia Bertizzolo.

There is one climb on the course - the stats may be somewhat exaggerated but in truthfulness I couldn't be bothered to source a more accurate profile, as it is not going to be decisive in any way shape or form, coming 100km from the line and being less than 2km in length; its only real value within the stage is to direct the race away from Vicenza itself, preventing the need for costly road shut-down in a major city. While stages like this have proven surprisingly decisive in the past in the Giro Rosa (for example, in 2015 this stage saw a surprising breakaway of 9 including the likes of Lucinda Brand, Claudia Lichtenberg and Elena Cecchini stay away with a minute's advantage, and this stage was the one that cost Annemiek van Vleuten victory in 2017), there are not many real opportunities for the sprinters in this edition, so this will likely see the teams for whom the sprint success is a key element of their goals - even if, like Wiggle and Mitchelton-Scott they have bonanza GC options - want to keep this one together.

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As rolling hillside gives way to pan-flat floodplain, as we head towards the legendary Po itself (we don't quite reach it on this stage), one of the last towns we pass through before we hit our finishing circuit is Bovolone. This recently-upgraded city of 16.000 is home to one of women's cyclings great "what-might-have-been" stories. Back in 2007, a 17-year-old junior finished just one place below the aforementioned Tatiana Guderzo in the Emakumeen Bira that she was riding as a guest for the national team. Being sent to the junior World Championships, which that year were on a hilly course in Aguascalientes, Mexico, this same junior made the important selection and won from a select group which included future destroyer Anna van der Breggen along with other established pros like Valentina Scandolara and Lauren Kitchen. Dropped riders included Audrey Cordon, Chantal Blaak, Carlee Taylor, Olena Pavlukhina, Jessie Daams, Jolien d'Hoore. Serving an apprenticeship at the Titanedi team before moving to Safi-Pasta Zara following a merger, she spent most of her year domestiquing for Diana Ziliute before getting some freedom in 2010.

And in 2010, Eleonora Patuzzo looked like a million bucks. She was top 10 of La Flèche Wallonne, narrowly missed out to Bronzini in the Muri Fermani race after being the best climber but being caught again by the soon-to-be World Champion on the last descent, 5th in the Emakumeen Bira after being one of the few able to go with the moves of Vos, Arndt, Johansson and Häusler but outsmarted on the final stage, before winning a stage of Trentino by besting Arndt, Häusler and Cantele in a difficult mountainous stage into Clès. Ill-timed crashes in the Giro derailed any hope of a strong performance there, and it was decided that the 20-year-old needed a bit more time to learn; Diadora put a lot of money into their buy-out of the Safi team, and hired not one but two superstar climbers to lead the team - 2009 Giro winner Claudia Häusler, and 2010 Giro winner Mara Abbott. Patuzzo was to be their understudy.

It just didn't work out for Diadora-Pasta Zara though. That was the year Mara's eating disorders came back with a vengeance and she was unable to be competitive; the team were inflexible about her leading, and of course as we well know, Mara is somebody who needs careful management; she likes to race at home where she's comfortable and then move in for the key races she's planned to lead. Working for Mara is seldom reciprocated, even if she's in a fit state to do it, which for much of 2011 she really wasn't, and she had to take a break from her career to get herself back in shape. The team staked far too much on the Giro, hardly racing the leaders before that, and relying instead heavily on Olga Zabelinskaya for results. Häusler salvaged the season somewhat in the autumn, but with little to show in the World Cup and only just scraping a rider into the top 10 of the season's big aim, the Giro, the sponsors pulled the plug and killed one of the longest-standing teams in the péloton. Patuzzo got precious little freedom to race for her own aims, the team got embroiled in personal life scandals, and in general it seems like by the end of the 2011 season Diadora-Pasta Zara was not a fun place to be. She joined the brand new BePink team for 2012, built around Noemi Cantele and then breakout talent Alena Amialiusik, but the motivation was gone; she did some travelling around to pre-season races, but by the end of April Eleonora had had enough, and she quit the sport to concentrate on her studies at the age of 22.

What could have happened had she been able to continue? Would she have burnt bright young and fizzled out like Callovi, or carved out a quieter niche for herself like Rossella Ratto? Could she have become that GC talent that her showings in Trentino, Emakumeen Bira and so on suggested she could, or at least become somebody for the hilliest one day races? I mean, she was beating van der Breggen as a junior, and in 2010 she looked like a star in the making. But we'll never know, because, now 28, Patuzzo is long gone from the sport and shows no desire to return.

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The stage finishes with two and a half laps of a 13km circuit, which is completely pan-flat, around the town of Sorgà. It's only a small town - 3200 inhabitants - but that's not especially uncommon for women's cycling, especially as the town does have some significant connection to the sport, in the form of being the home of the Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Alé, or ASD Alé, better known to fans of the sport as Alé-Cipollini.

This fluoro-clad team was established as another prospective super-team in 2011, under the name of MCipollini-Giambenini. A major - and somewhat ridiculous, but then what would you expect with Super Mario involved? - promotional campaign was launched and the team was treated as a sister team to the Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli team of the time, led by Giovanni Visconti. The team was to be led by two former world champions, 2009 victor Tatiana Guderzo and 2008 champion Nicole Cooke. They also made Nicole a special Olympic champion's jersey, however they were prevented from letting her race in it, because the UCI were afraid of a jersey that was that awesome showing up their silly stripey World Cup leader's one.

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Through the years, the team have been nothing if not visible, given their preposterously bright kits. They became MCipollini-Giordana in 2013, and then the following year adopted the name we're now familiar with. After initial disappointment they reinvented themselves as the big fish in the Italian national scene and are now at the stage where they've improved the cosmopolitan nature of the team so that, while they do still rely quite heavily on home favourite Marta Bastianelli - who rode for the team in 2011 following her return to the sport with Fenixs - the team leadership is also shared with Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking and Dutch late-starting ex-speed-skater, the combative Janneke Ensing. Despite this, they won their first WWT race with Emilia Fahlin in Vårgårda (Hosking and Ensing have both taken stages and Bastianelli a one-day race at this level since, of course). Of course, this stage could be a quandary for them, because the sprinters are probably their best chance of winning the race but they have also made something of a habit of tripping one another up, not deciding which to focus on until it is too late. They'll want to not make that same mistake in front of the bosses here... Sorgà also hosts a U23 one-day race which typically ends in a sprint (of course, given the location) so I've borrowed that finish.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re: Race Design Thread

30 Apr 2018 17:09

Ok, before LS will continue with his race (which i gues sit'll be a matter of hours) i'll entertain you with this small race, which is a collection of Tour de Suisse leftovers. Consider it sort of a half-time entertainment.

I have a number of leftovers from my Tour de Suisse. Because the majority of them are in the French part of the country i decided to do a quick Tour de Romandie. I also decided to include a TdS climb categorisation as otherwise there would be too many cat. 1's. For Romandie it's probably a bit too difficult but it's mostly a presentation of ideas i've came up with. Some other ideas will be left as they may find some use in the future.

Whole tour: https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/tours/view/9131

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/209396
Tour de Romandie – stage 1. Avenches, 11,3km, ITT
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The Swiss canton borders are one of the craziest in the world. Avenches is part of the canton of Vaud even if it's in the middle of the canton of Fribourg. Avenches was the Roman capital of Helvetia. From those times are the remains of an amphitheater, theatre, city walls and Cigognier temple. Other sights include a stunning XII c. Château d'Avenches.

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Roman amphitheater in Avenches.

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Château d'Avenches.

This short time trial includes a climb to Oleyres – 2,5km@4,7%, which includes a 1km@6,8% to the village of Pra-Gaud. After a quite steep descent there are still a couple of bumps left before the final descent to Avenches. The uphill part is on a smaller road while the descent is wider. I won't say it's technical, but there are not too many straights either.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/207668
Tour de Romandie – stage 2. Avenches – Les Replans. Sainte-Croix, 172km, medium mountain/mountain
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Climbs:
Côte de Lignières – 4,3km, 8,3%, cat. 2, 798m
Col du Chasseral – 7,4km, 9%, cat. 1, 1502m
Col du Mont-Soleil – 4,5km, 9,5%, cat. 1, 1249m
Côte du Grand Sommartel – 3,6km, 5,3%, cat. 3, 1113m
Col de la Tourne – 3,4km, 4,9%, cat. 3, 1170m
Col de l'Aiguillon – 6,2km, 9,8% (max 15%), cat. HC, 1277m

A complicated stage in Jura including a couple of major climbs of the area – Chasseral, Mont-Soleil, Tourne; and a number of historic, mainly watchmaking centers like Saint-Imier, La Chaux-de-Fonds or Le Locle. Both La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle are even part of UNESCO WHS because of their watchmaking history.

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La Chaux-de-Fonds.

First 3 climbs are steep. Last time i've used the La Neuveville side of Chasseral. This time it's Le Landeron side. It's very similar to La Neuveville one with the difference of longer false-flat after the village of Lignières. Because of that i decided to break the climb into two. Just after the descent to Saint-Imier is Mont-Soleil. Just roughly 20km further is La Chaux-de-Fonds. I allways found this combo more interesting than Vue-des-Alpes and if Mont-Soleil is a bit too far away from the city then there's also La Cibourg with 2,5km at 7,6% closer to the city.

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Profile of Mont-Soleil.

After La Chaux-de-Fonds the race continues in the Jura mountains and then descends down to Lac de Neuchâtel. After a long-ish flat around the lake the race just misses Yverdon-les-Bains before tackling the main feature of the day – Col de l'Aiguillon. It's a serious, but not that well known climb. 6,2km at 9,8% with max 15% is enough for me to earn HC cat. The top is 14km from the finish line. The road is quite narrow but on relatively fine tarmac.

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Profile of Col de l'Aiguillon.

The descent is narrow and quite technical but also quite also now very steep. The surface is also not the greatest. Interestingly, this descent goes almost alongside the French-Swiss border. At the bottom there is a 200m at roughly 10% ramp before a small descent and then next 1,2km at 6,4% ramp to Col des Etroits. From the top it's 1,7km to Sainte-Croix before a 450m at ~14% ramp of Chemin du Crêt-Martin. The inclusion of this small, narrow murito is recent so it's not replicated on the profile. From the top there are still 600m at ~3,5% left to the finish line. The finish is near a Piscine de Sainte Croix sports centre in Les Replans.

I guess Aiguillon will provide a fair selection and some of those local ramps before the finish may be a fine launch pad for some minor attacks. I guess GC guys will be close to each other while the rest of the peloton should lose a lot of time.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/208972
Tour de Romandie – stage 3. Yverdon-les-Bains – Les Diablerets. Lac Retaud, 177km, mountain, mtf
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Climbs:
Côte de Cronay – 4,2km, 3,8%, cat. 3, 612m
Côte de Chanéaz – 6,1km, 4,7%, cat. 3, 777m
Montée des Giettes – 12km, 7,8%, cat. 1, 1132m
Montée de Morgins – 9km, 6,4%, cat. 2, 1301m
Côte du Sépey – 12km, 5,5%, cat. 2, 1073m
Montée du Lac Retaud – 6,2km, 8,4%, cat. 1, 1677m

You may ask: why no Croix? Croix will be in the race, no worry. I decided to have an easier approach to try not to overkill it. Croix+Pillon in this small race would kill any racing on the previous stage and also maybe the next stage will profit on it. Before the MTF there's a (sort of) lap including the climbs of Giettes and the upper part of Morgins, which should warm up legs before the main dish of the day – Col du Pillon.

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Profile of Les Giettes.

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Profile of Morgins (only from Troistorrents).

Because Pllon is part of the vast ski area of Gstaad/Les Diablerets (Glacier 3000) there are plenty of theoretical finishes in the area. For this stage i've decided to use Lac Retaud, which is just above Col du Pillon. Like with Chasseral day before i decided to split the whole climb into two. Pillon itself is 5km at 7,8%. The run-in is on the lower slopes of Col des Mosses, which is 12km at 5,5% (cat. 2).

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Profile of Col du Pillon.

From the top of Pillon to the finish line near Lac Retaud there are still 1,6km at 8,2% left, which includes the last 300m at roughly 12-13%. There's some amount of space at the top, which should be enough for a race of Romandie stature. I guess the majority of cars and busses will be stored at the top of Pillon and potentially in Les Diablerets and Villars-sur-Ollon. I think there might be a different side of Lac Retaud via Chalet d'Isenau available, which is 6,7km at roughly 8%. I'm not sure if it's entirely surfaced though.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/207731
Tour de Romandie – stage 4. Ollon – Schwarzsee (Lac Noir), 149km, mountain
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Climbs:
Col de la Croix – 17,3km, 7,2%, cat. HC, 1778m
Col du Pillon – 4,8km, 8,1%, cat. 2, 1546m
Côte de Saanenmöser – 5,5km, 4,3%, cat. 1, 1270m
Mur de Grundback – 2,8km, 9,6%, cat. 2, 861m
Col du Gurnigel – 8,8km, 8,8% (max 14%), cat. HC, 1608m
Côte de Schwarzsee – 5,2km, 3,1%, cat. 3, 1050m

I think it's my first attempt at a short mountain stage. I've decided to move Col de la Croix from yesterday hoping that maybe this combination with Pilllon will encourage some longer attacks from outsiders. It's mainly a preparatory race and i feel this stage should be a nice ground to test the team's strategic skills. Of course Gurnigel-Schwarzsee was used previously by LS. Our stages are quite similar to each other, the difference lying in the length and amount of flat between the main climbs.

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Profile of Col de la Croix.

I've did this stage because i like Gurnigel and i feel it should be known a bit more. Sadly, i think it can be only used either with Schwarzsee or as an MTF. It's not that far from Fribourg and Bern, so it could be part of a transitional/breakaway stage.

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Profile of Col du Gurnigel.

The road to and down from Gurnigel is wide. The top is 21km from the finish line. The descent is irregular and in some parts quite technical. It's 12km at 5,2%, but there are some mixed in 9-10% pitches. The last 8km include a 5km at 3% drag to the finish line in a medium-sized winter resort of Schwarzsee (main ski station of the Gantrisch massif, just east of Fribourg).

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Descent from Gurnigel.

I hope there'll be plenty of action, but i guess the outcome will be similar to the Aiguillon stage. As i've mentioned, i hope it'll be used as a training ground for elaborate tactical moves. To test, how each team will handle such actions.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/209180
Tour de Romandie – stage 5. Bulle – Lausanne, 162km, hilly
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Climbs:
Côté de Cremin – 2,9km, 4,9%, cat. 3, 636m
Côté de Denezy – 4,3km, 3,6%, cat. 3, 780m
Côté de Cossonay – 3,1km, 5,1%, cat. 3, 590m
Côté de la Coudre – 5,5km, 3,2%, cat. 3, 751m
Côté de Saint-George – 8,3km, 3,9%, cat. 3, 938m

The only sprint stage of this race. It's quite hilly as it includes a bunch of cat. 3's in the Suisse Prealps and also the Jura foothills. Some of these hills were featured in this year's Romandie. The finish in Lausanne is based on an ITT from Romandie 2017. I tried to have as easy of a run-in as possible, but the streets of Lausanne are not the straightest or easiest to navigate so i do consider this run-in as technical. This run-in consists of Avenue de Tivoli, Avenue Louis-Ruchonnet, Avenue de Frédéric-César-de-la-Harpe and Avenue de l'Elysée The finish is on Quai de Belgique.

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XIII c. Château de Gruyères, Bulle.

https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/viewtrack/209385
Tour de Romandie – stage 6. Lausanne, 17,7km, ITT
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The last stage of the race and it's almost a copy of the 2017 ITT. The only change is that i'm approaching the historical centre more eastward to include the Parc de Mon Repos. Lausanne is the centre of international sport as it hosts the International Olympic Committee and an Olympic museum. It's also a quite historic city as it was founded by Romans (Roman ruines of Vidy). It has a number of sights like the aformentioned ruins of Vidy, XIII c. Cathédrale de Notre-Dame or XIV-XV c. Château Saint-Maire.

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XIII c. Cathédrale de Notre-Dame with XIX c. Palais de Rumine.

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Château Saint-Maire, Lausanne.

This time trial is quite technical. It includes a number of smaller, often cobbled (easy ones) roads in the downtown. There's also a number of small climbs and descents, of which the most notable is a small ramp to Parc de l'Hermitage, which includes short 14% pitches. The stage peaks near the Zoo de Saubavelin. The overall climb is 6.3km at 4.5%. The descent is mostly straight and can be quite steep.

Ok, that would be it for this small race. I'm quite happy with it, maybe because it's mostly a collection of leftovers from Tour de Suisse which i wanted to share with you. I also have a potential Sion-Ovronnaz stage, Disentis 3000 finish and a Suisse-German Schaffhausen stage including some local ramps and dirt roads, which i guess i'll find a way to post them in the future, even if as standalone stages. There's also a different approach of Verbire (which doesn't include Croix de Coeur) but that may be used someday in the future.
railxmig
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30 Apr 2018 19:54

Okay, I know this isn't actually race design, but I "just" (well, earlier today) realised what the reducing of team sizes means:
GT teams are an even number! which means that it's actually possible to have a stage in pedal boats when a race starts overseas, without worry about the "last guy" for two-person pedal boats!
(Of course there's still the issue of teams having lost a rider...)

So, now it's up to you people to figure out how such a stage would be designed.
Aka The Ginger One.
User avatar RedheadDane
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30 Apr 2018 21:47

Giro stages using Pennes and Monte Giovo

Right now I have a Paris-Nice and a Giro d'Italia ready for posting in next couple of weeks, and this post could be seen as a teaser for the latter (although the Giro won't include any of these stages).

This is more of an attempt to create a stage using two climbs that have been completely ignored by RCS the last couple of decades, namely Passo di Pennes and Passo di Monte Giovo. Although fairly centrally placed in the area between Bolzano and Merano, these two climbs have suprisingly enough not been used at all since 1995 where they were used in a stage ending at Val Senales. Of the big Italian climbs, I can think of only one climb beeing so completely ignored the last years, and that is Passo San Marco, which have been used only one time since 1988.

Both the two first alternatives are similar in the first two thirds of the stage. From Bolzano the route takes the riders east, then north, and more or less immidiately starting the climb to Aune di Sopra. The detour over Aune di Sopra is done of two reasons, first it adds length and an additional climb to the stage. Secondly, by riding over Sopra, one avoids the many tunnels in the lower part of Val Sarentino on the way to Passo di Pennes.

After descending, the route continues up Val Sarentino. The categorized climb doesn't start before 57 km, but the route gains about 500 height meters in the last 20 kms before the categorized part. The last 10 kms of Pennes averages almost 10 %, before the top is reached at 2215m, the highest point of the stage. The descent is just over 15 kms, and after passing through the village of Vipiteno, the riders turns southwest and starts the next climb almost immediately. The climb to Monte Giovo is almost 15 kms with an average gradient of about 7,5 % and the top is reached after about 99 kms.

The descent from Monte Giovo is about 20k, and after passing through San Leonardo in Passiria, there are two different route options. The most obvious would be to continue another 25 kms down the valley towards Merano and start the ascent to Merano 2000/Falzeben, a 16 km, 8 % climb. I'm bit suprised that this finish has only once been used in the Giro history, since it's situated just above one of the larger towns in the region. This option would probably mean no big attacks until the last climb since there is over 40 kms between the top of Monte Giovo and the start of the last climb to Merano 2000.

The option would be to turn north after passing San Leonaro in Passiria and starting the climb towards Passo del Rombo/Timmelsjoch on the Austrian border. But instead of heading of Austria, the route turns after about 8 kms of the climb and starts the last 10 kms of climbing, to the stage finish in the small ski resort in Pfelders. The last climb is a bit irregular, averaging about 5 % over 17 kms, the toughest part is about 6 kms of 8 % from 10 to 4 kms left of the stage. This option could encourage long range attacks from the slopes of Monte Giovo.

Alternative 1: Bolzano - Merano 2000, 157 km
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Alternative 2: Bolzano - Pfelders, 136 km
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The last and third alternativ also starts in Bolzano, but heads the opposite way. From Bolzano the route heads southwest of Passo Mendola, then north over Passo Palade. This combo was used in this year's edition of Tour of the Alps, with a stage finish in Merano. But this time they route continues through Merano after descending from Palade, and starting the way up Val Passiria towards Passo di Monte Giovo.

This alternativ route options have to advangtes compared to the first two alternatives. The extra loop over Mendola and Palade makes this stage somewhat longer than alternative 1 and especially alternative 2, but above all this allows for climb the toughest side of both Monte Giovo and Pennes. After about 25 kms into Val Passiria, the categorized part of the climb to Passo di Monte Giovo starts. The average gradient is about the same, but the eastern ascent is about 4 kms longer.

After descending to Vipiteno, the climb to Passo di Pennes starts after only a few kms of flat, and this is where things should start to heaten up. The northern side of Pennes is brutal, 13 kms long and averaging over 9 %. This could definitely be an chance for an long range attack. The descent from Pennes is about 25-26 km before the riders turn of the main road just before reaching the Sarentino village, and starts the last climb towards the stage finish in the small ski resort of San Martino Reinswald. This climb is fairly easy compared to the last two, only 8 kms and 6 %, making it more likely to attack already on Pennes. This alternativ is my personal favorite if one were to use Pennes and Monte Giovo in the desicive part of a Giro stage.

Alterntative 3: Bolzano - San Martino Reinswald
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OlavEH
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Re:

01 May 2018 08:05

RedheadDane wrote:Okay, I know this isn't actually race design, but I "just" (well, earlier today) realised what the reducing of team sizes means:
GT teams are an even number! which means that it's actually possible to have a stage in pedal boats when a race starts overseas, without worry about the "last guy" for two-person pedal boats!
(Of course there's still the issue of teams having lost a rider...)

So, now it's up to you people to figure out how such a stage would be designed.

:lol:
User avatar Gigs_98
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01 May 2018 22:23

Stage 4: Castelfranco Emilia - Madonna di Puianello (Santuario della Beata Vergine), 117km

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GPM:
Valico di Verica (cat.2) 10,4km @ 5,2%
Madonna di Puianello (cat.3) 1,8km @ 8,2%

The fourth stage of the race sees us move southwards into Emilia-Romagna and take on what is the southernmost stage of the race, dipping into the Apennine climbs most often seen in the Settimana Coppi e Bartali men's race. While the women's Giro often heads into the Apennines, it has been a long time since it has been this part of the range that has provided the headlines - usually preferring to stay around Liguria and Tuscany, with Monte Serra of course having its Giro Rosa legend status well established, plus recent excursions including the Monte Beigua stage of 2013, the Naso di Gatto stage in 2015 won by Lucinda Brand, and the 2016 queen stage to Madonna della Guardia, which provided one of the best days of racing in recent memory. I think we're going all the way back to 2012's fairly entertaining Castiglione dei Pepoli stage, won solo by Evelyn Stevens en route to her first podium in the race, to find a GC-significant stage in Emilia-Romagna. But I'm providing that here.

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Firstly, though, the stage town. Castelfranco Emilia is a small city halfway between Modena and Bologna, and represents an hour or so's drive from Mantova to Modena down the A22 Autostrada for the teams, from a logistics point of view, as I would expect most to stay in Modena for this. It has a population of just over 30.000, and a culinary history as the (disputed) home of tortellini, a form of curled, filled pasta dumplings that have become a convenience food all over Europe and elsewhere with large Italian ex-pat communities, such as the USA and Argentina. But the real reason for selecting this town over other Po floodplain towns in Emilia-Romagna is because of its' women's cycling heritage. There is no specific race to the town at the professional level, nor any rider whose Giro Donne exploits need heralding. Oh no. It's a lot more legendary than that.

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Castelfranco Emilia is also the hometown of the only woman to ever enter a men's Grand Tour, Alfonsina Strada. Born Alfonsina Morini, her story is part of Cycling 101 in terms of the 'stories you need to know' about the distant past. It's one of the earliest pieces of Giro lore that has that universal currency prior to the Coppi-Bartali years - we all know the names and achievements of the campionissimi beforehand, but the most famous story of the Giro itself in those times, other than Alfonsina, is Binda being paid not to enter. History and legacy has led to much growing in the re-telling, and so separating myth from fact in the Alfonsina Strada story is difficult, but enough is clear that we can tell that she was born into poverty (tales of which have varied). The story is that her father paid for her to have a bike using chickens as a currency, and that the first race she won was Tro Bro Léon, or wasn't but at least paid her the prize of a pig. She set a disputed hour record and entered the Giro di Lombardia twice.

But the Giro eluded her until 1924, when a dispute between the organizers and the top riders over pay and living arrangements led to the Giro becoming open to all. She entered, ambiguously omitting the gender-marking final vowel from her forename, and was assumed to be a man, with it only being discovered too late that this was not the case. Strada started the race credibly enough, not exactly threatening any of the big names of the day, but not being ridiculously outclassed either, until crashing heavily and damaging her bike in the Foggia-L'Aquila 7th stage, where she finished outside the time limit. However, with the Giro having been devised as a newspaper sales ploy, disqualifying her left the organisers in a quandary - by this stage, curiosity value had piqued the interest of the public, and crowds were gathering to see Strada arrive at the finishes, and providing interest for newspaper readers. In the end, she was allowed to continue, but would no longer be counted in the general classification nor eligible for any secondary classifications. While she never got to ride the Giro again, she continued to compete and even set a long-standing, not disputed hour record at the age of 47, 14 years after her legendary exploits in the corsa rosa. After her first husband died, she remarried and opened a bike shop. Cycling was her life and was in her blood; being without it killed her, literally - the motorbike that she purchased when no longer physically able to cycle was the cause of her death.

Away from such morbid things, however, none of the women in this Giro Rosa ought to have that as a concern, as obviously all of them are fit and healthy and able to deal with the challenges thrown at them by modern cycling course design. The first 35km are simply flat rising, as we head out of the Po floodbasin and up one of the many valleys that characterise the lower Apennines. After this, we have a lengthy but mostly fairly manageable climb on the Valico di Verica. This climb was to the best of my knowledge most notably seen recently as a descent, in the 2016 Settimana Coppi e Bartali stage to Pavullo nel Frignano, which was won by now-disgraced breakaway superman Stefano Pirazzi; previous stages of similar style had been won by Michele Scarponi, Cadel Evans, Przemysław Niemiec and Diego Ulissi. It's just over 10km in length, and the harder ramps are at the bottom, but the overall average is fairly meagre so it's the length that will cause difficulty for riders rather than the outright gradients, and given we're still in the first half of the stage I would anticipate this will serve more to burn off the domestiques and leave us some tactical racing in the valley rather than as a fulcrum from which a big name will attack.

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One interesting factor, however, is that with Pavullo nel Frignano sitting on top of the plateau here, so there's almost no descent before it, means that this could be a very interesting - and important - bonus sprint as the seconds here could well go to genuine GC contenders rather than points-jersey hunters, with those who can unleash a strong sprint after a long climb being favoured - here I'm thinking Megan Guarnier most of all, but Ash Moolman-Pasio and Annemiek van Vleuten can also be considered. Marianne Vos or Coryn Rivera may survive the climb, too, if they're on the right form and on a good day, but the Jolien d'Hoores and Marta Bastianellis likely won't.

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From here we have a long, gradual, two-stepped descent which is mostly very straight and fast, but has a few technical corners towards the end, until we get back to Osteria Vecchia, whereupon we retrace our steps from earlier as far as the town of Vignola.

This signals the entry to a 20km flat circuit around Vignola and Spilamberto. In a men's race I would suspect that moving the larger obstacle - the Valico di Verica - further away from the finish would be a negative move, ensuring no aggression on the climb and everybody saving energy for the final climb. Among the women it's kind of different. For one thing, there are smaller teams, and for another, the gulf between the strongest and weakest rider in the Giro Rosa is larger than in the Giro d'Italia, meaning that the chance that team leaders and superdomestiques have to expend more energy in these flat sections, and simultaneously the likelihood that most of the bonanza leaders will be reluctant to expend that energy on the flat sections means that quite a few riders who can get over a decent-sized mountain (or at least catch back up to the best on the descent) but aren't likely to be overall GC candidates may well see this as a good opportunity to catch the other teams napping and make an escape before the final climb, especially if you have a rider with strong rouleur skills who is able to power their way over the kind of scale of obstacle we're talking.

Lucinda Brand, Ellen van Dijk, I'm looking in your direction here.

This happens surprisingly often in women's cycling. Lucinda Brand's lengthy solo chasedown of Tetyana Riabchenko in last year's Giro's queen stage, for an example, but also in one-day races - Anna van der Breggen's win in La Flèche Wallonne last year was built on an attack on the flat between the last two climbs, because she couldn't be certain she had Kasia Niewiadoma's card marked on a steep climb, but she knows full well she's a stronger rouleuse than the Pole and she had a teammate in the group, creating hesitation. There's a lot to be said for making the climbers do the rouleur work before a final climb, because:
1) they don't like doing it as much because they don't want to expend energy they might need for the finale
2) if they are happy to do it, they're not as good at it because their speciality is climbing and they're usually built accordingly

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The last 15km of the course is rolling before we get to the final climb. Starting from the village of Levizzano, known for its spectacular castle shown above, the climb to the Santuario della Beata Vergine della Salute di Puianello is a bit overexaggerated by Cronoescalada but still plenty enough to open up gaps. Not Madonna di San Luca or Mur de Huy tough, but 1800m at 8,2% is plenty tough enough, especially as the profile shows gradients in excess of 15% early on. Especially if riders have had to expend more energy than they would have liked over flat terrain, that could really have an impact. This is the more inconsistent side via the Via Buricchi, rather than the more well known climb which is exclusively on the SP18, although we do join that road partway up. I see this finish as being similar to the Montenars finish from the 2016 Giro Rosa, won by Evelyn Stevens ahead of three of the worst sprinters in the péloton, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma and Abbott. This is that early punchy finish that will let the grimpeuses get a first brief look at each other's form. They'll have more chance to make time and lose it later, but this will be a fine opening gambit.

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If anything the finish is a little easier than Montenars, but then that was earlier on than this and we've already also had the Montello stage; we also have a much harder mid-stage climb than on that day, with the Valico di Verica, whereas in 2016 they climbed to Montenars, but not quite all the way, before a second ascent where they went to the summit - rather like the Vuelta stages to Cumbre del Sol or the Vuelta a Burgos with Lagunas de Neila. Nevertheless, with hopefully a reduced péloton from Pavullo onwards - the intermediate sprint ensuring there's no let-up immediately after the climb - and some attacks to marshal on the flat (look, even in the Olympics you had PFP and Vos attacking on the flat between the Grumari circuit and the Vista Chinesa climb), there should hopefully be enough fatigue developed to mean that that final climb can open up some nice gaps.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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02 May 2018 21:46

Stage 5: Correggio - Correggio, 24,4km (ITT)

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As we head to the halfway stage of the Giro Rosa, we have the long test against the clock - somewhat earlier than it ordinarily comes in the real race, where a full length TT either comes well into the second half of the race or is simply absent (like in 2012 or 2014 where the prologue was the only chrono). However, there have been exceptions, such as in 2009 when the longer TT (15km) was on stage 3 and indeed last year, when the 12,7km Porto Sant'Elpidio time trial came, as this one does, on stage 5.

Women's races tend to feature fewer long ITTs, and even in the Giro this is fairly restricted; my Giro Rosa has 31,9km of individual time trial, which is the most since the days of the race lasting over two weeks. That said, until last year's shorter stage, the TTs had settled on the lower 20s in terms of kilometres covered, however I have a much longer prologue than is typical (2-3km seeming to be the main ballpark). The upper 20s to 30km seems to be the kind of distance chosen for time trials at major championships, and so I am of the opinion that a not unreasonable distance to cover for a Grand Tour ITT would be around 75-80% of that. The other difference between my time trial and the typical ones of the Giro Rosa in recent years is that while mine is absolutely pan flat, thanks to that infamous floodplain that covers so much of northern Italy, the real race has tended towards hilly tests, such as the Varazze route in 2016 or Nebbiuno in 2015.

However, with the ITT here coming before the biggest mountain tests, we want to not tilt the scales too far in favour of the escaladoras, otherwise they will have no incentive to attack when the mountains come. What reason would a Mara Abbott or an Emma Pooley have had to attack those mountains if they already had the lead? I mean, other than the fact that if the climb was long enough and she stuck it in the right gear, Mara could drop everybody anyway, and that Emma was possessed by a deep and dark desire to attack all people at all times when the road went uphill? The other thing that this pacing will do is help increase the uncertainty in the latter half of yesterday's stage, as riders with no domestiques will be wary of expending too much energy with a 25km chrono to come the next day, meaning they may lose out if others are willing to gamble - or if they're forced to chase, they may pay for that today.

The other thing is... long chronos are something of a rarity on the women's World Tour. Of course the Giro tends to have one, and the Boels Rentals Ladies' Tour has a decent length one. This year the Emakumeen Bira has a pretty long ITT - longer than last year's World Championships, leading to potentially strange GC results for what has traditionally been a climber's race. Outside of the World Tour, Thüringen has one, and sometimes the Healthy Ageing Tour has a decent ITT in place of the usual TTT. But all too often time trial mileage is minimised, and that has led to a strange phenomenon in women's cycling that would never be possible in men's cycling - the TT mayfly. There are a few standalone time trials on the calendar, but the most famous one in Europe - the Borsele ITT - has no UCI categorization at all. The majority of these standalone events are in North America, and this has developed a situation where riders with either no team or moonlighting in a team just for enough rides to keep at the top level target a major championship TT, having spent most of the season staying fresh while the élite péloton has been contesting every race, before building up to a one-race peak at the targeted Championships. It has fostered some resentment, and indeed the combination of these mayflies and the lack of long ITTs on the European calendar has meant that we often go a few years without really seeing those rainbows against the clock; Kristin Armstrong retired after winning them in 2009, before her two comebacks to teams which were specifically aimed around getting enough invites to prepare her for the Olympics even if she wasn't actively racing, Judith Arndt retired as champion in 2012, Linda Villumsen won the World Championships TT in 2015 after doing two races outside the USA all season (one of which was in January), and after Armstrong had her second Olympic win in Rio, Amber Neben won TT gold in 2016, then signed for a smaller team, and barely raced all year. With riders who win TTs all year round like Anna van der Breggen and Ellen van Dijk losing out, you can see how this could ruffle a few feathers. Notwithstanding the 'other' element to it - I know of one fairly high profile within women's cycling who congratulated Anna van der Breggen on winning two gold medals in Rio, reflecting greatly on the perception of Armstrong's gold and Zabelinskaya's silver following very controversial buildups to the Games for both, for a variety of reasons.

None of which should really be a problem here, though. The mayflies won't be at the Giro, as for the most part the type of rider who hides away in smaller scenes but emerges for the Giro is more likely to be somebody like Evgeniya Vysotska or Mara Abbott, the latter of whom was always most comfortable riding within the NRC where she was in her element (and also a big fish in a smaller pond than the elite European péloton where some of her weaknesses were more glaring) outside of major targeted stage races, and indeed the two years she won the Giro were years she raced for an ersatz national team rather than a trade team. In the current world, perhaps Katherine Hall is the best example of somebody who may be a Giro superpeaker as far as the WWT calendar is concerned, since she's clearly a cut above most of her competitors on the NRC in the USA in the climbs, but UHC don't do too many WWT races outside of the North American rounds.

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That cobbled road above is the finish of today's 24km test against the clock, in the city of Correggio. The city has a population of 25.000 and is a bit of an annoyance to search for, thanks to the city's most famous son, Antonio Allegri, known as Antonio Allegri da Correggio or even just Il Correggio, a famous renaissance painter whose hometown became the name that he was known by, in similar vein I guess to Domenikos Theotokopoulos, who most know as El Greco. It has a bit of cycling history, but more to do with the Giro Donne than the Giro d'Italia; it's been passed through twice in recent times by the men but never as a stage host (in flat stages in 2001 and 2006), though it did host a short-lived one-day race in the early 2000s which was won by Fabiano Fontanelli, Fabian Wegmann and Przemysław Niemiec in its three editions. It has, however, hosted the Giro Donne twice, first in 1999 when it hosted a semitappe won by Anna Wilson and a short time trial (just under half the length of this one) won by 40-year-old Canadian Linda Jackson, one of her last road achievements, while in 2007 the city hosted a sprint won by Marianne Vos, 20 years old and in the rainbow jersey.

The 1999 stage being in Correggio - and being a time trial - was no accident, though. There was a reason for Correggio stumping up for a test of woman vs. clock - the town was the home of then-reigning Italian Time Trial champion, Gabriella Pregnolato.

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Over her career, Pregnolato would win four national titles in the contre le montre, first in 1996 and 1997, then after losing her crown to Imelda Chiappa for a year, regaining it for 1999 and 2000, and in 2000 she also added the road race jersey as well. Something of a late bloomer, she broke out with a win aged 20 in the GP Liberazione in 1991, but it was five years before she hit her stride and started winning again on the road - though she did have some moderate success as a pursuit rider on the boards. Although she was a dominant force in the national scene, however, she was unable to translate that time trial success to the World Championships, as the Italians went 13 years without a medal, from Cappellotto in 1996 to Cantele in 2009, in the format. Pregnolato actually won two stages of that 1999 Giro - neatly bookending the race with wins in the first and last stages - although the former was actually stricken from the record as it was adjudged she had got too close to a team car and so she was penalized for drafting without being ejected, a source of controversy and denying her her only career chance to pull on the maglia rosa. However, it must be clear that Pregnolato's career ended almost as suddenly as it began, as she was just 30 when she retired and indeed the season that she quit, though she hadn't been the same force as in previous seasons, she had still won a stage of the Grande Boucle. She has worked mainly within the amateur scene since, although she has had two brief stints as a DS for major teams, first with Safi-Pasta Zara in 2008, and then with Astana in 2016.

There isn't a great deal to say about this course other than that it is completely pan flat; as such, recent Giro TTs aren't really what we should be looking at as a comparison for the kind of time gaps to expect. Instead, we should look at races like Borsele, Boels Rentals and flat World and European Championships races like Herning and Doha. I expect the likes of van Dijk to storm this one, but van Vleuten and van der Breggen can likely make some significant gains on the less adept rouleuses among the main GC candidates. Now that the likes of Abbott and Lichtenberg are retired, and Cauz and Tuhai do not look like regaining their best in the immediate future, the number of grimpeuses who are super vulnerable against the clock is limited, though the jury is out on some like Nosková and Nilsson (and Neff if she returns to the road) for whom we don't have a broad enough spectrum of comparisons owing to a paucity of relevant results. The likes of Moolman-Pasio, Niewiadoma, Ludwig, Spratt and Guarnier are all going to be likely giving up time to Anna VDB, Annemiek and ELB in a 25km pan flat ITT, but they aren't scrubs against the clock so they'll be having to give their all - which could be a problem after yesterday's stage, and could also play a significant role in the days to come.

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The ITT starts in the car park on the top left and moves its way around the villages surrounding the city before returning to finish on the cobbled central thoroughfare.

There's a long transfer following this stage, so the riders will be keen to get through it as fast as possible even if not contesting the GC. Especially as July in this part of the world can top 40º.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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05 May 2018 11:16

Stage 6: Monza - Valcava, 112km

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GPM:
Colle Brianza (cat.3) 6,5km @ 4,5%
Valico di Valcava (cat.1) 10,1km @ 8,7%

It's a long transfer that takes us from the north of Emilia-Romagna for the ITT of stage 5 up to the foothills of Lombardia for stage 6, the first real mountain stage of the Giro Rosa. It should hopefully, however, not be as painful as some transfers of comparable length, seeing as most of it is along the A1 Autostrada, bypassing Parma, Piacenza and taking us up to the outskirts of Milan, before turning north towards the city of Monza.

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The name 'Monza' is synonymous of course with motorsport; the Autodromo Nazionale Monza is one of THE venues in motorsport, synonymous with super-fast racing (it is the fastest course remaining on the Formula 1 calendar), its iconic Parabolica curve at the end of the lap, and the legions of tifosi baying for the success of their de facto national team, the bright red Ferraris that are so tied to the history and legacy of the sport. The Giro Rosa has indeed used the racing circuit as a starting point before, a sprint stage which looped around the city of Monza from the autodrome to the city centre in the final stage of the 2010 edition.

The city has plenty of ties with women's cycling, too. The BePink team, set up in 2011 around established star Noemi Cantele and rising Belarusian Alena Amialiusik, counts the city as its base; in 2014 the team was bought out and became Astana-BePink, inheriting a number of Kazakh prospects and other interesting youngsters, such as surprise Italian champion Dalia Muccioli and waifish Belarusian climber Kseniya Tuhai, only to then lose a number of key talents as the two arms of the team did not get along and split into today's separate Astana and BePink teams as of 2015 (no surprise to some of those who set up the team, who has been part of the rift that ended the Selle Italia-Ghezzi team back in 2009). Veteran American Amber Neben came in to shore up the team, as well as the return from suspension of Ilaria Sanguinetti. 2016 saw the introduction of a Russian element, led by veteran Olga Zabelinskaya, and she and Neben continued to produce most of the team's strongest results, although an impressive Giro top 10 from Tuhai followed up by two further stage racing top 10s pointed to the future. Cogeas came aboard as secondary sponsor thanks to that Russian element in 2017, though with Neben gone and Tuhai's form going awol, the team were heavily reliant on Olga Z and teenage Czech climber Nikola Nosková, weren't as strong as in previous years, and then history repeated itself as Cogeas then divorced itself from the BePink apparatus, setting up a separate team and taking all of the Russians and Belarusians with them. Now a much smaller apparatus, the team is still scoring decent results on the Italian calendar and elsewhere, but is a far cry from the nascent superteam it had been set up to become.

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Another reason to select Monza as a stage host is that - no joke - it is the headquarters of the organization responsible for the Giro Rosa. Much as the Vuelta will regularly pop back to San Sebastián de los Reyes for the start of its final parade stage, Monza being on the route therefore has that element to it as well.

This is the first real mountain stage, and as a result, in the tradition of a lot of such stages in women's cycling, it's more or less Unipuerto - after all, there was a long ITT yesterday, a long transfer, and while things like the transfer from Tirano to Andora in 2016 between the Mortirolo and the queen stage are more preposterous, it makes sense to take this into account and not obliterate the riders with a 150km five-mountain odyssey on this day! Instead, we ease into the stage with a rolling introduction, before three laps of a circuit around the small city of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII - like Riese Pio X, it's a city of one name, then honouring its most famous descendant, Pope John XXIII.

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Well, from an overall global profile perspective at least. From a sporting perspective, something strange got into the water in 1966, because that year Sotto il Monte, with its population of 3.500, produced two of Italy's biggest women's cycling stars of the 90s. In May that year, the Chiappa family had a daughter, and she was named Imelda. She was a quick adaptor to cycling, and won a stage of the inaugural Tour de l'Aude back in 1985, although it wasn't quite the big race that it would become at that point. She won her first Giro stage in 1989, but it was in the mid 90s that she had her greatest successes, taking two national championships in the road race and three in the time trial, as well as winning two further Giro stages in 1994 and three in 1996. She was the first winner of the Giro della Toscana-Memorial Michela Fanini after the latter's tragic early death, and won the event once more also. She was top 10 in the World Championships road race twice, in Utsonomiya in 1990 and in Agrigento in 1994, but perhaps most notably she won silver in the Olympic Road Race in Atlanta in 1996 - unfortunately the only video I can find barely shows her at the end in the background, as the whole focus is on Longo-Ciprelli's victory.

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A few months after Chiappa, Roberta Bonanomi was born, also in Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII. Despite being five months younger than her neighbour, however, Bonanomi was a hit as a cyclist much sooner, hitting the ground running and even getting invited to the Los Angeles Olympics to compete in the road race at just 17; at 18 she finished 5th in the Tour de France Féminin and 7th in the home World Championships in Giavera di Montello. She replicated this latter result the following year on the difficult Colorado Springs course, but though she was part of the victorious gold-medal winning TTT outfit in 1988, she was always more of a stage racer owing to her climbing nous - indeed the only other top 10s she managed in the World Championships road race were in Chambéry in 1989 and Duitama in 1995, two of the most notorious difficult courses in the history of the event.

By this point she had established herself as a bona fide GC contender for the toughest races though. She repeated her top 5 in the Tour in 1987, and then came 4th in the inaugural Giro Donne in 1988. The following year, the race wound its way from north to south, starting in Venice and ending in Agrigento, and Bonanomi was left with a deficit to Petra Rossner early on, with the German also picking up bonuses in sprints. Bonanomi hunted her prey through the race, taking time where she could, and eventually, even though without winning a stage, was able to take the time she needed on the final stage, with the uphill finish replicated as part of the 1994 World Championships course. It was to be her only victory in the race, though she did accumulate four further top 10s including one more podium, and two podiums in the Grande Boucle Féminine while it was in the Tour de la CEE days. Roberta did win a few smaller stage races, but she was always a specialist in the long-form racing; as a result, her palmarès doesn't really show the list of wins you might expect. She won one national title, the 1991 ITT championship, and four stages of the women's Tour in its various guises, but remarkably her first Giro stage win was in 2000, a full eleven years after her overall victory, and long after her peak, with her retirement following shortly afterward, notwithstanding one final tilt at the Tour, finishing 10th in 2001.

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Bonanomi would probably have liked this stage, but only once it left her hometown, intermediate sprint be damned. It's only after the feedzone that this turns into the kind of stage she would have liked: a climber's one.

The first test is the Colle Brianza. While in general cycling parlance, road cycling at least, this typically refers to the climb from Dolzago, to the west of the village, as this is the side that has periodically been part of the Giro di Lombardia, it is much more famous to mountain bikers from the south as there is a difficult trail that leads up the mountainside from here. We're taking the main road from the south, a fairly tame ascent with just one short section of around 300m averaging nearly 10% in the middle, which was used in the Giro di Lombardia when Lecco was the finish, placing it between the Valcava and the iconic climbs of the peninsular outcrop, Sormano and Ghisallo. For the most part, the gradients are achievable and we will be able to use this as an opportunity to see the women tune up the climbing engines - or, if Emma Pooley can somehow be coaxed out of retirement, as an attacking platform since everybody will be waiting for her to attack on the mountaintop finish. Did I ever mention that Emma Pooley is awesome?

From here it's a descent via Villa Vergano into Lecco, so we meet up with the top of the climb that was the decisive one in the Giro di Lombardia from 2011 to 2013, won first by Oliver Zaugg and then back to back by Joaquím Rodríguez, all by escaping on the Villa Vergano climb. Lecco is of course a major resort town and a beautiful Italian lake-coastal city which has hosted the Giro di Lombardia multiple times; as a result it's a handy site for the second intermediate sprint and can hopefully attract a decent crowd.

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After a brief flat respite along the shores of the Lago di Garlate, however, it's time for the first mountaintop finish of the Giro Rosa, and as I mentioned, we need to include some famous spots from the world of cycling for the women to sink their teeth into. So here we are, climbing the classic Valico di Valcava.

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Now, admittedly, we are stopping at the sign there reading "Bivio per Valcava" as we are finishing in the village itself (using the camper area as the location for the trappings of the race etc.) rather than at the col, but this is still an iconic ascent and we're keeping all the important parts. First introduced to the Giro di Lombardia in 1986, it has become a serious challenge and has taken on additional importance in recent routes which have finished in Bergamo, owing to its position as perhaps the toughest ascent linking the essential Lombardia climbs like Sormano and Ghisallo with the chain of climbs leading eastwards. It has been the death knell for the race for some legends - Fignon being perhaps its first true 'victim', and the stated climbing record was achieved by Ivan Gotti. As you can see, that 3km stretch at 11,6% is the biggest killer; it wouldn't really work as an MTF in men's cycling for that reason, most likely, but given the women are already likely to be fairly spread out with their smaller teams and the paucity of true climber's races, this could make for a dramatic finish. It mimics the section from Gebbo in that iconic women's cycling climb, San Domenico di Varzo, only there are fewer ramps of 10%+ in the section before it, and the toughest section of Valcava is markedly tougher than its equivalent on San Domenico. Video of the climb.

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This will be where the mountains make their presence felt. This is where the time trial deficits need to be recouped. People who are behind on time following 32km of ITT need to make this hard, because the likes of van der Breggen, van Vleuten and Longo Borghini are not slouches when it comes to climbing, so hopefully we'll see the escaladoras try to break this one up from early on.

Although there are still chances to come.
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07 May 2018 22:45

Stage 7: Como - Verbania, 137km

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GPM:
Mottarone (cat.1) 15,1km @ 6,9%
Valico di Bieno (cat.3) 2,4km @ 6,0%
Bèe (cat.2) 4,2km @ 8,2%

The seventh stage of the Giro Rosa is the second longest, and by that arguably the queen stage given its difficult nature also. This one ought to keep everybody guessing and ought to be a tough battle as we travel between two supportive cycling regions, linking two of Italy's finest natural beauty spots, and taking iconic climbs into account on the way. We start in one of the most iconic cycling cities, in fact, in Como, the city alongside the lake of the same name, and capital of the administrative district that is also of the same name. It has a long history - the original settlement in the hills was relocated by command of Julius Caesar, and the legendary authors, philosophers, and thinkers Pliny the Elder and his nephew Pliny the Younger. Losing a lengthy battle for Lombardian supremacy with Milan, it has been part of Lombardy ever since, despite a recent and somewhat odd proposal from the Swiss People's Party for the Como province to secede from Italy and accede to Switzerland (which has some backing from the LL, local branch of the Lega Nord, whose flags are the biggest downside to the Giro di Lombardia). As well as being one of the most regular hosts of the race of the falling leaves (and generally the host of the best editions) it has hosted six stages of the Giro d'Italia, with riders to win in the city including Fausto Coppi and Rik van Steenbergen, and it has also been home to a number of celebrities, owing to its glamorous location, with the likes of Madonna and George Clooney purchasing lakeside territory in and around the city.

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Alongside these celebrities, many famous Italians have been born over the years. From a cycling perspective two stand out - Fabio Casartelli, the final Olympic gold medallist before professional riders were allowed into the road race, before his career - and indeed his life - were tragically cut short following an accident on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the 1995 Tour de France, after his head struck a concrete block; the young Italian passed away at just 24 years of age, with the péloton honouring him the following day in the same fashion as followed in 2011 after Wouter Weylandt's death, with the péloton organizing a go-slow with the Motorola team allowed to cross the line first in unison; unlike Leopard in 2011, however, Motorola continued the Tour, with Lance Armstrong winning a subsequent stage from the breakaway in memorable style, pointing to the sky at the line in honour of his fallen comrade. Which brings us on to the other standout name, for it is difficult to mention the name Lance Armstrong without the connotations of doping, for the other cycling-related Comasco is very much from the 'other' side of the sport - Professor Francesco Conconi. Conconi was a revolutionary doctor, who counts other notorious names such as Luigi Cecchini and Michele Ferrari as his disciples; he is believed to have been one of the main pioneers of blood doping, and also alleged to be at least one of those who introduced EPO to the sport (among other sports, as alongside the cyclists he also had athletes and skiers among his confirmed clients). Although Lance himself was not directly a Conconi man, that is perhaps only as he was a generation behind that, as obviously his ties to Ferrari are well known. Conconi counts the likes of Moser, Bugno, Chiapucci, Gotti, Berzin, Ugrumov, Stephen Roche and Marco Pantani among those who've come through his door over the years.

So rather than dwell on that, let's dwell on a somewhat better representative of Como - Giorgio Perlasca, a reformed fascist who became disillusioned by the movement in the late 1930s, and used his Safe Conduct authority for Spanish embassies, granted by Franco due to his serving in the Spanish Civil War, to escape from imprisonment after siding with the king against Mussolini following Italy's surrender. He then used a close relationship with the charge d'affaires to smuggle Jews out of Nazi-occupied territories under protection cards of neutral states, and once the Spanish charge d'Affaires was removed from his post and moved to Switzerland, Perlasca brazenly lied to the Hungarian authorities, pretending that it was a short leave of absence and that the charge d'Affaires would shortly be returning, and that he as deputy would be assuming that position as temporary cover. The official number of Jews saved from deportation to concentration camps by Giorgio Perlasca is a remarkable 5218. Like the war hero best known to cycling fans, Gino Bartali, Perlasca did not talk about his heroism after returning to Italy, and it was only when a group of Hungarian Jews who had been searching for him for over 40 years tracked him down to thank him in person that his case came to wider attention, and two years later he was recognized by the state of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations.

In comparison, the sufferings of 120 or so cyclists along 140km of mountainous tarmac really pale into insignificance, but nevertheless this post is intended to describe the bike race I've designed, so here goes.

The first half of the stage is fairly quiet, heading across the Varese province towards the foot of Lago Maggiore, the other of the two scenic lakes that we are linking together in this stage. After Lake Garda, it is the largest lake in Italy, and is also the largest lake of Ticino. At over 60km in length it is the longest Italian lake, though we aren't traversing its full length, since instead we will be making use of the climbs of the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola region of northern Piemonte, and providing a stern test to the women over them.

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The towns along Lake Maggiore have been a mainstay of the Giro Rosa in recent years, partly associated with the development of a mythos for the San Domenico di Varzo mountaintop finish, with this being introduced in 2013, and subsequent stages from Verbania in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, the final stage was in the city, looping around and finishing with a descent from the Bèe climb, a station on the way to Monte Ologno, which was also seen in the men's Giro in 2015. 2017 did not see the Giro step into this area, though in 2018 two stages will be in the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola region, firstly the race-commencing team time trial, the only flat time trial mileage of the race (the other time trial is an MTT), in Verbania, and then stage 5 into Omegna, a hilly stage. A large part of the reason for the fixation of the region on the Giro Rosa in recent years is the local star, Elisa Longo Borghini, born in nearby Ornavasso. ELB's professed hatred for the San Domenico climb may have been an influence on the replacement of this with a nice downhill finish, since Elisa likes descending.

Which is good, because there's a very big one in this stage, seeing as we're going to, after a rolling phase from the western coast of Lake Maggiore to the eastern coast of Lago d'Orta, climb the biggest, baddest mountain in the region: the mighty Mottarone.

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Standing tall and proud over the lakes, this multi-sided climb has become something of a minor Giro legend, rarely used but dramatic. It has never hosted a finish, because really, when you have a multi-sided climb like this, why would you waste it on an MTF? Instead it has been part of a number of intriguing stages. First introduced in the 1966 Giro, in a dramatic 267km stage from Parma to Arona, it was the scene of a great climbing exhibition from El Relojero, Julio Jiménez, with Franco Bitossi in tow, dropping race leader Vittorio Adorni and eventual race winner Gianni Motta. Jiménez may have climbed like a great traditional Spanish flyweight (remember, this was before the introduction of the Colombians to the European pro péloton, in those days, when you thought about inconsistent, unpredictable featherweight climbers you thought of Spain) but unfortunately he also descended like one too, so Bitossi was able to make this a stage win solo, with Jiménez being caught by the chasing pack as Adorni defended his jersey. It was unused for 31 years, but in 1997 it was back, 55km from the line in a transitional stage won by Alessandro Baronti, which took place the day after Ivan Gotti's race-winning exhibition on Saint-Panthaléon and Cervinia. It wasn't like the mighty 2001 stage to Arona, which came on the penultimate day of racing, climbed the mythical beast twice, and was won in the maglia rosa by Gilberto Simoni, over two minutes ahead of his nearest rival, to put the final stamp of authority on his victory. The last time the climb has been used was mid-stage in the 2011 Macugnaga stage, a fairly nondescript, unnecessary additional mountaintop finish in a race awash with them - but worth it for career domestique Paolo Tiralongo, who had never scored a victory in a 12-year career, being close to being caught at the line, only for race leader Alberto Contador, a former teammate of his, to spring from the bunch and drag the Italians tired legs kicking and screaming to the line.

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As you can see: it's a very tough climb, a legitimate HC most likely, but there is no HC here, so it has to make do with cat.1 status. I expect that even though at that point there will be 55km remaining, that ramp of 11% will be where the race really blows up - there will be a lot of riders who have to collaborate and work hard to cut gaps down when we get to the summit, so there will be some frantic descending also. We don't quite do all of that profile - all but the last 1100m - but there's plenty of chances for the specialist climbers to make a difference here. Certainly in days of yore we'd expect to see Mara Abbott and Emma Pooley well up on the field, hoping desperately that their multiple minutes' advantage wouldn't be wiped out by their lack of descending nous, but there aren't too many riders whose climbing skills are as immediately standout - nor that are so one-dimensional as at least Mara was (Emma could time trial of course, which meant she was a much bigger threat in hilly races as she was much harder to catch on the flat), in today's péloton. Nevertheless, we've seen the kind of gaps created by the Mortirolo, this isn't quite as tough as that, but it's not a one-climb stage either, so we'll see the impact that going hard on the Mottarone has later on. The descent starts off pretty tough too. I've also placed an intermediate sprint right at the bottom of the descent, thus incentivizing a hard chase on the downhill with the bonus seconds available, and also as a tasty carrot for any budding Jiménez type riders in the women's bunch. It's a very long descent too, seeing as the crest of the climb is at 47km remaining and the intermediate sprint is at just 29, so we're rumbling towards a hectic conclusion.

Coming with just over 20km remaining, the cat.3 climb of Bieno should hurt. It wasn't categorized in the 2015 men's Giro, but then we know what the Giro is like for GPM classification. And then, it was off a cold open, whereupon 2,4km @ 6% isn't too challenging. Coming immediately and with little respite after a 15km @ 7% behemoth - especially for the women's péloton which doesn't handle as many climbs of that magnitude - this should create the suffering in the same time-honoured manner as any "oh God, we're going uphill AGAIN" follow-up climb, which can often prove more decisive time-wise than they would ordinarily have any right to be; Aprica, Briançon and, in old fashioned stages like back in 2003, Gouveia fall into this category. But here it's not the only part of it, however, as before we can head to the finish, we have a return to the climb of Bèe, a hillside frazione above Verbania.

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Bèe was the final climb of the 2016 Giro Rosa, a second category climb in the final day stage around Verbania. While we've cloned the run-in to an extent, however, we haven't quite cloned the climb. Then, they climbed the first 5,1km of this profile before taking the more gradual main road down towards Intra and then finishing on the seafront. That stage was won by Thalita de Jong to salvage something for the Rabobank team from the race, from the breakaway, while most of the big GC names came in in a group just under 2 minutes down - Guarnier, Stevens, van der Breggen, Niewiadoma, Lichtenberg, Guderzo - accompanied by Canuel and Longo Borghini, who had pushed on on the descent thanks to local knowledge but only succeeded in dropping her own better-placed teammate Mara Abbott. You can see those highlights here. However, we're not quite going that way, because we're bringing the Bieno climb closer to our final climb, by taking the less consistent route commencing in Trobaso and climbing via Vignole - beginning with a not inconsiderable 500m at 15% and a maximum of 20% before settling down! The first kilometre is really brutal, but once we leave the frazione of Motte it becomes a bit more manageable, while the final kilometre of the climb is on the main road, at just 4% - however being hit by a wall like that after 120+km of battling in this kind of terrain ought to be a big challenge. We then descend the final kilometre or so of the climb from the 2016 race before rejoining the main road that was descended, to take to the finish. This means that the summit of the Bèe climb is 12km from the line, and there's just a sweeping couple of corners along the lakeshore to test once we're back in the town. This should be small groups at most among the big guns here and the riders may well have earned a finale like they had in 2016 when, given the unbearable heat of some of the July days that year, several of the teams leapt straight into the lake upon finishing the race for some well-earned respite.

Here, there's still some suffering to come, however.

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