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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2017

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

Moderators: Irondan, Eshnar, Red Rick, Valv.Piti, Pricey_sky, Tonton, King Boonen

18 May 2017 22:08

Stage 2 now in the books, a 90km circuit around Markina-Xemein based on the awesome final stage from 2015, but with a flatter run-in unfortunately. However, it still did see some action which caused the GC to be shaken up ahead of the mountainous stages at the weekend, including some key names at the front of proceedings.

In the end, Amanda Spratt took the win for Orica, winning a two-up sprint against the home favourite Ane Santesteban, making a dramatic return after being left for dead in a hit-and-run earlier in the year. The duo opened up a gap of a little over 20 seconds which was enough to put them into the control of the GC, race leader Bastianelli then winning the sprint for 3rd ahead of Gracie Elvin and Eva Buurman. Potentially of some importance, however, was that there was a small split in the péloton that meant that there was a group at +26" and a group at +31" which could prove crucial in the long run as positioning is key - Moolman-Pasio, van Vleuten, Leleivyte, Solovey, Nosková and Garfoot were in front of the split, Gillow, Tuslaite, Paladin, Ludwig, Merino and García were caught behind. Lourdes Oyarbide followed up yesterday's finishing line crash with a final kilometre puncture; she was placed in the +31" group by the race directors, interestingly. Cauz lost another packet of time, but is still going better than Tuhai, who was in a group of four who were eliminated hors delais...
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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19 May 2017 19:37

The Bira's Stage 3 was around Antzuola, close to Bergara and Oñati, with a couple of obstacles in the middle of the stage, most notably the Alto de la Deskarga which links Markina-Xemein, host of yesterday's stage, to Durango. With a small ramp of a climb near Bergara but then an uphill false flat run-in it was perhaps the last chance for the sprinters, however hard racing on the Deskarga left us with a front group numbering just 23, and with the likes of Bastianelli, Archibald, Buurman and Elvin distanced. Also in the group of riders losing time, somewhat more surprisingly, was Rasa Leleivyte, on terrain which ought to have suited her, however with all of the other big teams present having representation in the front group, her Aromitalia-Vaiano team had little help in pursuing the leaders. Orica shifted the jersey within the team, as they moved defence into attack as groups attempted to get away, eventually succeeding in breaking the elastic with Katrin Garfoot going away solo. With Spratt and van Vleuten naturally not chasing, it was mainly down to Alé (two riders in the group) and Cervélo (three) to chase, but with some very experienced hands disrupting them. The Australian took the victory alone, with a time gap back to the bunch of just over 30" to take the leader's jersey from Spratt, Soraya Paladin winning the sprint for 2nd ahead of Annemiek, who stole a few bonus seconds away from Moolman-Pasio, who ordinarily would be thought of as the better sprinter of the two. Although a couple of riders were distanced from the chasing group towards the end, all of those you'd expect to be fighting out the GC over the weekend were present and correct - as well as the aforementioned Garfoot, Spratt, van Vleuten and Moolman-Pasio, the group contained Ludwig, Solovey, Merino, Santestebán, Gillow, Yonamine and Nosková, who is really looking assured among the big names and more than making up for the abject underperformance from Tuhai.

The GC leading into the San Miguel MTF therefore is as follows:
Garfoot
Spratt +12"
Santestebán +17"
Paladin +40"
Moolman-Pasio +44"
van Vleuten +44"
Nosková +47"
Solovey +48"
Ludwig +50"
Maes +53"

Also of those who may try something tomorrow, Gillow +53", Yonamine +53", Merino +53", Rooijakkers +1'00", Leleivyte +2'01", Tuslaite and García +2'08". Cauz is over 18 minutes back, so a million miles from her best, but at the same time, climbing is the one thing she can do, and having had such a disappointing time so far she may want to try to right some wrongs and at least show something this week.
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20 May 2017 10:03

kill this side of aralar with fire plz
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20 May 2017 20:38

As a result of it being the easier side, the time gaps weren't so herculean, although only 16 within a minute means you do have some decent gaps in the GC with Jaizkibel coming up tomorrow (from the Hondarribia side).

In the end the stage win went to Annemiek van Vleuten, winning the sprint at the summit of a group of 3 she'd been able to mark for Garfoot in the leader's jersey behind, which helped give her the strength in reserve to take it to the line. The other two in that group? Well, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, which is obviously little surprise seeing as she is the other world class elite climber in the field, and Nikola Nosková, the Czech teenager who has come from a CX background and literally only signed with BePink last week, but has looked a more than competent top level rider this week, attentive in splits, adept at placing herself and a very useful climber indeed, so she is a real prospect and may be one to watch at the Giro!

Orica's day was great for them too, as they also managed to keep Garfoot in the group of 5 that finished just 6 seconds behind the leaders, which means she defends the yellow jersey, although she was outsprinted by the others in the group - Parkhotel's Pauliena Rooijakkers outsprinting Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig from that group which also contained WNT's Hayley Simmonds - an excellent climbing performance from her - and home favourite Eider Merino who is locked in an intriguing battle with Ane Santesteban to be the best Basque rider here. Speaking of Ane, she was in the group of 6 that came in at +24", along with some of the others expected to be among the main contenders for the race - Gillow, Spratt, Solovey - along with Ann-Sophie Duyck, who is more known for her TT skills but put in an excellent showing in terrain she's not normally been prominent in today. Mavi García came in at +1'35", but Buurman and Bastianelli did pretty well time-wise to limit losses to under 2 minutes, coming in ahead of Leleivyte even.

The stage's results mean that Orica have now got an iron grip on the GC, and have in fact locked out the podium positions coming into the final stage as well as winning three stages; perhaps not as dominant as the 2014 Rabobank annihilation, with that stacked team with Vos, PFP, Anna VDB and Annemiek, but not too far off! Garfoot has a fairly commanding lead of 28" ahead of van Vleuten with Spratt a further two seconds behind; Ash Moolman is then at +34", with Nosková nudging ahead of Santesteban at +35" - so the podium is still more than open for all of those riders. Ludwig (+50), Merino (+53), Rooijakkers, Simmonds (both +1'00), Solovey (+1'06") Gillow and Duyck (both +1'11") may need a bit more time that will require something a bit more daring against a team that is likely to outpower them, but they still have the possibility if things fall into place for them.

Edit: apparently Nosková has to DNS tomorrow as she has an exam back in the Czech Republic on Monday and can't take a flight after the race.
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20 May 2017 23:28

Having looked everywhere for some good coverage of women's cycling, can I just say thank you!!! This is the best.
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21 May 2017 08:34

Apparently BePink have found a way to get Nosková home AFTER today's stage, so have bought new plane tickets for her and she WILL start.

The Basque regional TV producers, ETB have been producing nightly short summary videos, so there are highlights!
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4

Even better, stage 5, with the climb of Jaizkibel expected to be decisive, looks like it's going to be live like last year on ETB1!
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Re:

21 May 2017 10:00

Libertine Seguros wrote:may be one to watch at the Giro!


Is she on the startlist? I wonder about the wisdom of putting a teenager into the Giro. Could be a career killer.

Meanwhile, Solovey is back from the dead
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21 May 2017 22:16

At the last update to the Giro startlist for them Nosková hadn't been taken on by BePink so I don't know if they plan for it. The thing is, at the Giro you often have a fair few young riders on the smaller teams including teenagers and espoirs, especially on the small Italian teams, just riding for experience. Because of low budgets often some of those teams like Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo, Aromitalia-Vaiano and Servetto do end up taking quite inexperienced riders as Alé and other international teams are often able to bogart the top Italian riders. And this year's route is an abnormally easy Giro Rosa, so it mightn't be as brutal a baptism as 2013 with Monte Beigua and San Domenico di Varzo or 2016 with the Mortirolo and the hellish racing from distance in the Madonna della Guardia stage. At the same time, while it is a risk to take a teenager with so little experience on the road, if Tuhai's problems are serious, then other than Zabelinskaya, Nika might be the team's best shot at impacting the tougher stages (Sanguineti will be visible in the more rolling stages). There are a lot of young riders on BePink's team, and they may prefer to take a 19-year-old with great results in the mountains ahead of a 20- or a 21-year-old with less obvious upside. And certainly it worked out OK for Kasia Niewiadoma after her 2014 Giro showings, although in fairness her level was much more clear after a fair few races with Rabo, whereas this is just about Nosková's first major road race, and also even though Rabo taking a teenage neo-pro to the Giro was in and of itself a shock, that Rabo team was so stacked that there wasn't much pressure on her, whereas if BePink wind up leaning on Nosková for results in any way it could be disastrous.

Anyway, back at the race she's been in...

Stage 5 finale

Jaizkibel, as expected, sorted the women from the girls, breaking the race into a thousand pieces, and it was great to see (although the limited available cameras meaning focusing for an eternity on stragglers coming through the GPM at Jaizkibel seven or eight minutes behind the leaders and not having footage from the motos following the leaders did make it a bit tougher to follow!). Of course, coming into the stage Orica-AIS had won three of the four stages and held places 1, 2 and 3 in the GC, and it looked like it was going to take something pretty special to dethrone them. Well, we got something special to dethrone them. That came in the form it was most expected to come, in fairness - a veritable exhibition of climbing skills from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. The South African was one of the main favourites coming into the race, having finished on the podium in both of the last two seasons (2nd in 2015 and 3rd last year) and with none of the three riders who beat her out those years (Niewiadoma in 2015, Johansson and Guarnier in 2016) present, but she had a pretty significant deficit to make up to Katrin Garfoot, who we know is no slouch uphill and with a wealth of experience and the strongest team in the race, able to potentially call on Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten as superdomestiques. Ash prevented that arising as an issue by attacking early, wearing everybody down and dropping Garfoot, leaving Annemiek to defend Orica's GC position; however, van Vleuten's lead over Moolman-Pasio on the GC was a mere 6 seconds, as opposed to the 34 that Garfoot had in hand... and then Ash went alone.

Going solo, the Cervélo-Bigla rider opened up a significant gap, and showed that clearly she deserved the QOM jersey she was wearing, cresting with some 30" over the summit of the climb over the chasing duo of Annemiek van Vleuten and, excitingly, Eider Merino, the Lointek rider who is clearly peaking for her home race, but seems to be showing that it's not just Sheyla Gutiérrez that's ringing in this apparent mini-revival of Spanish women's cycling, which has been rather in the doldrums since Maribel Moreno's return from Beijing in disgrace. Eider has been in great form, as I mentioned before winning the Vuelta a Burgos, but she was 6th on Mont Ventoux in the Tour de l'Ardêche last year and she's only 22, so while this is obviously her on best form, she has room for improvement so could be an interesting climbing prospect. Garfoot was a few seconds behind the duo, while best young rider Nikola Nosková led a chasing group that came in a little over a minute back from Moolman-Pasio.

On the descent, Annemiek showed that her terrifying experience at the Olympics hasn't fazed her one bit, flying down the mountainside in the bid to save Orica from losing the GC from such a strong position; this created a tough quandary for the Australian team, as Garfoot was losing time on the descent; do they hope Annemiek's descending and TT skills can bring her back to Moolman-Pasio, or sacrifice allowing Ash the guaranteed 10" bonus for winning but have Annemiek drop back and pull the race leader along? While they were deciding, Merino was being a good Basque climber, and therefore having a terrible time on the descent, with van Vleuten absolutely schooling the young Lointek rider, who was then caught and dropped by Garfoot on the run-in into Errenteria. Orica decided that Garfoot's time loss was too great and put their eggs in the Dutch basket, but unfortunately for them, while Annemiek is the stronger time triallist of the two, Moolman-Pasio is absolutely no mug against the clock and with the GC on the line, she put her head down and went for it all-out; the chasedown got quite tense but the South African had enough in reserve to take the stage win, finishing 13" ahead of van Vleuten; the next question was, how close was the race leader? With 4" bonus at the line and a lead of 32" (Ash had picked up 2" in bonuses earlier in the stage) she needed to be inside 26" to defend... she couldn't do it. Merino trailed in behind them, but with her stunning climbing performance vaulted all the way up to 4th in the GC, the first Spanish top 10 in the race since Anna Sanchis in 2012, and the highest-placed home finish since Joane Somarriba won the race all the way back in 2004. Ann-Sophie Duyck gained a bit of time on the run-in that helped elevate her on the GC, with the remainder of the chasing group coming in at 1'32" and including Nosková and Ludwig, duelling over the best young rider jersey, Spratt and Gillow, with Rooijakkers and Simmonds, and the young Russian Polina Kirillova, trailing in a few seconds off. Solovey came in with Ane Santesteban in the next group on the road, two and a half minutes back, with the latter dropping to 12th on the final GC as a result.

Final stage results:
1 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA 2'32'33"
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS) NED +13"
3 Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) AUS +38"
4 Eider Merino Cortazar (Lointek) ESP +50"
5 Ann-Sophie Duyck (Drops) BEL +1'21"
6 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla) DEN +1'32"
7 Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) AUS +1'32"
8 Nikola Nosková (BePink-Cogeas) CZE +1'32"
9 Shara Gillow (FDJ-Futuroscope) AUS +1'32"
10 Pauliena Rooijakkers (Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental) NED +1'41"

Final GC:
1 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA 10'10'54"
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS) NED +10"
3 Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) AUS +12"
4 Eider Merino Cortazar (Lointek) ESP +1'21"
5 Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) AUS +1'40"
6 Nikola Nosková (BePink-Cogeas) CZE +1'43"
7 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla) DEN +2'00"
8 Ann-Sophie Duyck (Drops) BEL +2'10"
9 Hayley Simmonds (Team WNT) GBR +2'19"
10 Pauliena Rooijakkers (Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental) NED +2'19"

Meanwhile elsewhere this weekend, there was more joy for Orica and Cervélo in Switzerland, as at the mostly flat SwissEver GP Cham, the two teams took the top two spots on the podium as well, although this time it was the Australian team's turn to shine, with the race finishing as expected in a sprint which was won by Sarah Roy, with the German Stephanie Pohl finishing 2nd for the home team (Cervélo-Bigla are registered in Switzerland and bearing in mind Bigla emerged ultimately out of the team built around Nicole Brändli many many years ago, they've always been thought of as the home team there), with Astana's young prospect Arianna Fidanza rounding out the podium. This follows the previous day's (non-UCI) Berner Rundfahrt, where Pohl had won solo ahead of another Orica rider, Jess Allen, with Roy then rounding out the podium from the ensuing sprint from the péloton.

In the Netherlands, the Omloop van de IJsseldelta took place, an absolutely pan-flat race which is usually broken up by the wind and often sees small escapes survive. This year was no different, only the experience levels were different, as while last year superstar Anna van der Breggen defeated experienced veteran Vera Koedooder, this year saw a two up sprint being won by 19yo Nina Buysman of Parkhotel Valkenburg, ahead of 20yo Loes Adegeest of NWVG-Uplus; the two only just saw off (by ten seconds) a strong péloton which was led home by Lucy Garner, the Wiggle rider outsprinting a field including the likes of Nina Kessler, Floortje Mackaij, Jip van den Bos and some pretty useful teams.

Meanwhile in North America, the Gatineau weekend took place, with the Chrono Gatineau, a regular 21km course, followed by an undulating road race around the Quebecois town. This is one of the few real decent length TTs that happens outside of major championships, but unfortunately as many strong TTers are also all-rounders based in Europe, the field is generally restricted to the North American péloton. Nevertheless, there are of course many very strong contre le montre riders in that North American péloton, with riders either from, or plying their trade in, North America having been at the business end of most of the recent international championships in this format. The winner in the Chrono was Lauren Stephens, the Tibco rider jumping up from 4th in last year's event to claim the crown this year, just 3 seconds ahead of local favourite Karol-Ann Canuel, who normally plies her trade with Boels-Dolmans of course, but likes to test herself on the closest thing she gets to home roads in the season; this is her third straight podium after being 2nd in 2015 and 3rd last year. World ITT champion Amber Neben was only able to make 3rd, 11 seconds behind Stephens' mark, pushing Pan-American silver medallist Tayler Wiles down to 4th.

The ensuing road race ended in a reduced sprint, with some 47 riders left in the group at the end. And it was the all-star Canadian national team that took the victory, which came through Sunweb's Leah Kirchmann, ahead of her temporary teammate Kirsti Lay (normally of Rally) and with the podium rounded out by Tibco's Kendall Ryan, normally best suited to the US crit circuit.
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24 May 2017 20:00

Somehow it escaped my attention in the Bira hype, but the Giro list of teams has been updated and looks now a lot more like we would expect (and want) it to - meaning we ought to get more or less a full strength stage racing field.

Full list of invitees:
Team Veloconcept, Team Sunweb, BePink-Cogeas, Servetto-Giusta, Hitec Products, WM3, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ-Futuroscope, Alé-Cipollini, Astana, BTC City-Ljubljana, Cervélo-Bigla, Cylance, Conceria Zabri-Fanini, Boels-Dolmans, SC Michela Fanini-Rox, Giusfredi-Bianchi, Lares-Waowdeals, Lensworld-Kuota, Orica-Scott, Aromitalia-Vaiano, Valcar-BPM, Wiggle-High 5

By my reckoning, therefore, the highest ranked team not in attendance is Drops, but UHC might have passed them after the Tour of California. A shame to have no Spanish team after Merino's great showing at the Emakumeen Bira, but realistically all of the teams you would want to see there are there, and with the need to shore up home interests as well it's hard to complain about the list. 24 teams of 7 means a péloton of 168 though, which is remarkably high in women's cycling. But most teams' projected lineups are at as close to full strength as they can get; Boels haven't finalized yet but the projected lineup includes Deignan, Dideriksen, Canuel and Blaak backing a two-part GC onslaught of van der Breggen and Guarnier, so the two most recent winners of the race; likewise Wiggle are going with a two-headed assault on the GC with Lichtenberg and Longo Borghini, as well as strong sprint options with Bronzini; Orica have all of their GC women from the Bira, with Annemiek the most likely leader but both Spratt and Garfoot capable too; BePink haven't risked Nosková, but do still have two prongs in their attack with Zabelinskaya and Tuhai, though the latter will need to show some kind of form to suggest she can replicate last year's top 10 soon after a difficult start to the season. The biggest omissions from the current projected lineup are Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot; both of their teams have more than capable GC leaders in their absence (Niewiadoma and Amialiusik respectively), but they will be more likely to be outnumbered in the most selective stages. Other teams have capable leaders too - Moolman-Pasio for Cervélo most obviously, having just won the Emakumeen Bira in style and ably assisted by Ludwig as ever, but there's also Tatiana Guderzo for Lensworld, Thalita de Jong - who won an intermediate stage in last year's race that looks to be similar in difficulty to anything they'll see in this year's tamer route - for Lares who also have wildcard Flavia Oliveira, plus there are always some surprises. Sunweb are projected to take 18-year-old Juliette Labous which seems like a risk when experienced hands like Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk aren't included at the moment, though they will likely have a two-directional attack, with Stultiens looking to build on climbing promise and Coryn Rivera looking for stages and given the more favourable route, then come what may in respect of the overall classification. She will also want to mix it in the sprints in the bid for the WWT overall, with stage points available, where she will likely be battling with Alé's powerful sprint duo of Hosking and Bastianelli, Lotta Lepistö, Jolien d'Hoore, Sarah Roy, the talented young Cuban Arlenis Sierra, whoever Boels frees to sprint (Dideriksen or Blaak most likely?), Eugenia Bujak, Hannah Barnes and Barbara Guarischi for Canyon and Maria Giulia Confalonieri.
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27 May 2017 22:05

This weekend saw the Doublette de Morbihan, two one-day races around that part of Brittany, with the first (the Classique Morbihan) being a rolling course finishing with the Côte de Cadoudal, and the second (the GP Plumelec) being the same as the men's race, on the tricky circuit around Plumelec including the famous small climb. It's also the same circuit that was used in last year's European Championships road race, which added some interest to proceedings.

The Classique Morbihan was previously part of the Coupe de France but admitted international teams owing to its proximity to the GP Plumelec; now it's increased in status and lengthened by 10km. It eventually came down to a battle on the final climb. Canyon-SRAM's Alena Amialiusik had to be considered among the favourites; she was 4th last year in the European Championships road race finishing on this climb, but with all three who finished above her - van der Breggen, Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini - not present. However, she was beaten down into 2nd by a rider who wasn't there in September because she couldn't be (owing to not being European) but who is in stunning form in the climbs at the moment, that being Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. The South African has been a pre-eminent puncheuse/grimpeuse for a few years now, but has a very strong sprint at the top of the hill which puts her in prime position for a race like this. Her teammate, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, completed the podium; she was 9th in the European Championships last season and has been one of the season's biggest emerging talents with a podium at Binda, two other WT top 10s, and a GC win in Valencia and top 10 in Bira. They beat out a couple of riders maintaining strong form from the Emakumeen Bira - Ane Santesteban in the ersatz Spanish national team and Pauliena Rooijakkers for Parkhotel Valkenburg - and local favourite Audrey Cordon-Ragot. Others who were strong at the Bira also made the top 10 - versatile sprinter Eva Buurman and grimpeuse Eider Merino, for example - while some other big names returning from rest periods were some way from where you'd expect them to be, such as Amialiusik's teammates Elena Cecchini and Lisa Brennauer.

The ensuing circuit race, which even more resembled the European Championships road race, is a bit older than the Classique, and has a winner's list including Audrey Cordon (twice), Sheyla Gutiérrez and the defending champions Rachel Neylan, though the veteran Aussie was nowhere to be seen, having done precious little racing outside of Chongming Island this year. In lieu of her, therefore, it fell to another Australian to try to interrupt the parade of those who'd been at the fore in the Classique; the selectivity of the course told, and therefore there would be no sprint up the Côte de Cadoudal; instead, Moolman-Pasio and Amialiusik made their moves earlier, and were joined by the local knowledge and experience of success in this race of Audrey Cordon, and FDJ-Futuroscope's Shara Gillow, who had not been racing at the Classique. In the end though, the result was by and large the same when the quartet made it to the final climb together; Ash was still the strongest, but only just, from Amialiusik; Gillow trailed in third with Cordon a few seconds back, unable to cope with the accelerations of the more natural climbers and with nothing left for the sprint after working to stay with them. Ludwig pipped Buurman in the race for the minor places, ahead of Eva's teammate Rooijakkers and Ann-Sophie Duyck, who's showing possibly her best ever climbing legs after her performances at the Bira and then just missing and just scraping the top 10 here. Similarly, Juliette Labous has just scraped into the top 10 in both races - not bad for an 18-year-old in this field, even if her signing with Sunweb clearly earmarks her as an obvious future star.
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28 May 2017 19:36

A few races on today, but the only UCI-categorized racing was in Belgium, where the women were taking on Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, a Lotto Cycling Cup event which is for the tough classics types, featuring as it does a flat first section until Geraardsbergen, then a tough second half beginning with the time-honoured combination of the Kapelmuur and the Bosberg, before twice up the Congoberg and then three and a half loops of a circuit around Gooik including the short climb of Bergstraat near the village of Oetingen.

The race was settled from an escape of four including the strongest representatives of some of the strongest teams in the race; with Anouska Koster being active behind to try to bridge the gap, Vos tried to work the quartet to give her teammate the chance to join them, but her bluff was called by Elisa Longo Borghini who had the strongest sprinter in the chasing group, Jolien d'Hoore, breathing down the escape's neck, and so the quartet were forced to take it to the final kilometre together, aided by having the strongest TT engine in the entire race, Ellen van Dijk, in their midst. In the end, the on-paper weakest member of the break, Maria Giulia Confalonieri of Lensworld, was also possibly the biggest sprint threat and was forced to do a lot of the work, and so could only manage third when the final sprint took place; however, while she may have taken a back seat when it comes to the major WWT races, in the Benelux scene Merckx has been back to her cannibalistic methods, and she took it ahead of van Dijk and Confalonieri; as was of course inevitable, Elisa Longo Borghini was the one to miss out in the sprint, which is hardly made up for by teammate d'Hoore winning the sprint for 5th from a 20-strong group ahead of Lucinda Brand and Monique van de Ree. Boels were uncharacteristically quiet even missing many of their key names; only Christine Majerus and Jip van den Bos made the selection.
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29 May 2017 17:07

The sprint was uphill so unless I'm much mistaken Confalonieri wasn't going to have a big chance.

Niewiadoma was slated to ride. Hope she's not injured this close to the Giro.
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07 Jun 2017 18:33

Kasia apparently had a minor knee complaint so they decided not to risk it, since the team is heavily reliant on her in the major WWT races.

Speaking of which...

The OVO Women's Tour, previously Aviva Women's Tour, began today. Ostensibly, of course, it's the Women's Tour of Britain, as we all know, and it's one of the best-supported races of the season in terms of crowds and promotion. Also, after the first couple of editions were criticized for being rather too flat, they've looked to make the race progressively tougher. This year's race includes a couple of legitimately hilly stages, but a rather tame ending with a circuit race in London along similar lines to the country's other WWT race, the execrable RideLondon crit.

Stage 1 is along familiar terrain to the women, through Northamptonshire. Stage finish host Kettering has a slightly technical uphill run-in which has been seen in the last two editions of the race, with Christine Majerus making a small gap on the field in 2014, and then on the final day last year the large escape settling the stage victory battle with Lotta Lepistö victorious. Stage 2 is around popular men's Tour of Britain host Stoke-on-Trent, and apes a similar structure, with the shortish but steep Gun Hill climb before the run-in. Marianne Vos won the stage into Stoke last year, but it was selective, bringing an elite group of 20 in over two minutes ahead of the péloton. Stage 3 is into Royal Leamington Spa, and promises to be a tougher version of last year's second stage. It's also the second - after stage 1 - stage of around 150km in length, which is a pretty significant distance in women's cycling; multiple stages of this kind of length will likely have an effect also. Stage 4 is around Derbyshire, but starting and finishing in Chesterfield, which hosted the finish of the most decisive stage last year, when Armitstead (now Deignan of course) won from a group of four of the strongest riders in the race, with the other trio being Elisa Longo Borghini, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Amanda Spratt, so a quartet exuding class. Rather disappointingly the race tends to stick to the rolling and undulating terrain to the south and east of Chesterfield rather than the more challenging, craggy fare in the Peak District to the north and west, but this is likely to be the last chance to make a difference GC-wise for anybody other than the strong sprinters, because stage 5 is an utterly flat circuit race in London (although the circuit is at least challengingly technical) over a short distance, which will obviously only be of significance if the GC is settled by mere seconds, which I wouldn't rule out, but you never know. The jerseys have been rebranded following the change of sponsorship, so now they no longer reflect the traditional Tour de France-cloning format, but instead have their own, somewhat idiosyncratic colour scheme (of course, it helped that Aviva's branding is yellow to begin with) - the leader's jersey is now green, points are a confusing white with black sleeves, the QOM will be clad in black, and red represents the metas volantes.

The field is, as ever, extremely strong for this well-supported race, with many of those teams who elected to skip the flyaway races in Asia and North America ready to go, and those teams who did the trips having reason to put forward strong teams. All three former champions are present, Vos, Brennauer and of course Deignan, who is defending her crown on home roads. Boels are, as ever, stacked to the rafters with talent, with van der Breggen and Amy Pieters taking on the positions that Ellen van Dijk and Amalie Dideriksen (for whom the race was something of a breakout) had last year - some replacements! Blaaki and Majerus give them powerful helpers who can also stagehunt and sprint for their own goals too, while Nikki Brammeier is a loyal helper for Lizzie who also has the benefit of home roads and crowd. Vos is part of a two-leader setup with WM3, with Niewiadoma having been their main WWT points-getter, but the course being perhaps more suited to Merckx; their other big results-getter, Riejanne Markus, isn't here, but Plichta, Koster and Kitchen are proven and Korevaar is promising. Lisa Brennauer may not be Canyon's best GC bid after her defence came unstuck last year, however Alena Amialiusik is a strong climber for whom these climbs should be no trouble, Hannah Barnes is their sprinter, Cecchini is smart and knows the right moves to make and follow, and Cromwell and Worrack are likely to be visible too.

Among those vying for a first win, perhaps chief among them will be Elisa Longo Borghini, after her near miss last year; that lack of a sprint is a problem for her, but she doesn't have to share leadership with Emma Johansson this time around; rather the next strongest Wiggle rider is Claudia Lichtenberg, who is one of the few riders out there Elisa can outsprint. With the veteran Bronzini and the super-fast Jolien d'Hoore they'll be killer in the sprints, while Fahlin and Cordon-Ragot give much needed horsepower to the chase. Ash Moolman-Pasio was on the podium last year too, she was the strongest climber in last year's edition but the strength of Boels and the inability to sufficiently distance Armitstead to make it stick was the hammer blow last year; this year, however, her Cervélo-Bigla team is much strengthened, with Cécilie Uttrup Ludwig perhaps her most likely right hand woman, the young Dane is having an excellent season. However, no Lepistö this year, so the team is going to be less obvious in the sprints. Sunweb are the other big team to keep your eye on; the season's most improved team have been at the forefront of proceedings all year, with Coryn Rivera obviously having an incredible year thus far, and I don't think much of this race can possibly be considered outside her remit. Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk are super hard workers who are versatile enough to deal with most of what the Women's Tour will throw at them, while Floortje Mackaij and Sabrina Stultiens give them excellent backup options in rolling and hilly terrain respectively.

Orica, by contrast, are likely to be less visible than last year; after their disappointment at the Emakumeen Bira, there's a surprising break for both Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt, so instead they will be reliant on the sprint skills of Sarah Roy and the durable Gracie Elvin for their results. Alé are probably a team without GC ambitions here, although Ensing has had a solid season; they will however be absolutely at the forefront of the sprint stages with both Chloe Hosking and Marta Bastianelli on board. Home team Drops will also want to make their presence felt; the extremely versatile talent of Alice Barnes is the obvious way they can impact the race. WNT are the other UK team not mentioned thus far too; Katie Archibald is their leader, nominally, although not sure how her climbing is, while Elise Maes was good at the Emakumeen Bira recently, but is more likely to get lost in the bunch in the more rolling races whereas Archibald's mass start track and circuit racing background on the domestic circuit will serve her well. Cylance have some interesting names in Ratto and Gutiérrez (the latter of which is going really well on this kind of terrain this year, the former of which hasn't been going great for a while now but has the ability in abundance if she can harness it); Lensworld have former World Champion Tatiana Guderzo as she builds up for the Giro and Maria Giulia Confalonieri who is both combative and sprint-capable; FDJ are full strength with both Knetemann and Gillow alongside Yonamine and their strongest French sprinters, though BePink and Hitec are both shorn of a couple of their strongest riders.

Frustratingly, the clash with Roland Garros has affected both coverage sources, so we will have to wait until later to see it, but traditionally the hour-long highlights packages here have been excellent.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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07 Jun 2017 18:55

50 km solo break win, very impressive.
1:46 advantage after first stage, what does it mean in Women racing? Could it be crucial for GC?
Last edited by klintE on 07 Jun 2017 18:57, edited 1 time in total.
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07 Jun 2017 18:56

Anyhow, stage 1 is already in the books. The flattest stage but for the final circuit race, there was a group sprint to be expected, with the only climbing obstacles a long way from the line although the technical run-in (which is a very typical trait of the Women's Tour, remember the huge pile-up with three corners and narrow streets in the last 250m in Norwich last year? However, with the péloton having seen it twice before, the Kettering finish shouldn't hold any surprises) with some uphill ramps meant it wasn't your typical sprinters' fare. With the group patrolling well and marshalling moves, it looked early on like we'd be getting the kind of stage you might expect from that terrain, and that the Women's Tour has served up in the past. But while it may have looked like that, it didn't pan out like that.

Instead, we got something far more unexpected, as with just under 50km to the line, vaunted climber Kasia Niewiadoma decided to test her legs with a strong attack. After all, Kasia is the one who is quoted as saying "it can never happen that I will win from a group, the way to win is always by attacking", and she showed the same never-say-die attitude today; as the péloton dithered over the chase, the Polish escaladora committed all out to the move. While she's not renowned for racing on the flat, she isn't a Mara Abbott and has won relatively flat races before, such as the Ronde van Gelderland and the U23 European Championships in Tartu (ok, those are the only two, but bear with me), and with hesitation in the group (plus of course, chasing Kasia down would only give a free ride to a certain Eddy Merckx) suddenly that gap stretched to a minute, two minutes, three minutes and more! Lots of recriminations abounded in the péloton about who was supposed to chase; indications are that many of the other top teams wanted Boels-Dolmans to take the main responsibility, what with the favourite and defending champion in their ranks, but the combined GC and sprint aims of several teams did affect them. There was also the potential GC gain that would come from allowing Niewiadoma - one of the best climbers in the race - to tire herself out in a breakaway in a flat stage, which teams had to consider... but that would only work, of course, if they caught the Polka. And they didn't: by the time the chase got organized, they'd given way, way too much rope to a girl like Kasia, and finally, finally, she got her first World Tour victory.

It's also WM3's first World Tour win; for too much of the spring Kasia has been isolated against two, three or even four from teams like Boels, and that has meant she's been unable to capitalize on her form; ironically here, where coming off the back of a minor niggle she was unsure of her form, she's finally taken it to the house. Not only that, but having had a free ride for the whole of the run-in with her teammate up the road, Vos won the sprint for 2nd, pipping Christine Majerus on the finish she won in 2015, Giorgia Bronzini and Tiffany Cromwell. The run-in was surprisingly selective, in fact, and some small but potentially key time gaps were opened up. Obviously nothing on the scale of the 1'42" between Niewiadoma and the rest of the field, but still - in addition to those mentioned above, Moolman-Pasio, Ludwig, both Barnes sisters, Confalonieri, van Dijk and Kirchmann came in on the same time as Vos; many others lost a few seconds, with Longo Borghini, Pieters, Deignan, Blaak, Cecchini, van der Breggen, Amialiusik, Gillow, Brand and Brennauer among those at 1'50" (losing 8" on many other contenders), while Guderzo was at +1'59", Lichtenberg at +2'21", Stultiens and Neylan at +2'23".

It will be interesting to now see the balance of the race. How tiring is a 50km solo on terrain not suited to her going to be for Kasia in the days to come, and will WM3 be able to effectively marshal teams as strong as Boels and Wiggle here? Or, given her excellent climbing skills, has the péloton just dropped the ball and given us a damp squib of a GC race by giving one of the strongest climbers in the women's péloton a headstart of nearly 2 minutes before they even see a hill?
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07 Jun 2017 18:58

I find myself reading those wall of texts for some unknown reason...
"This is the Tour that will determine If I can drink espresso at the Garda lake the rest of my life"
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Re:

07 Jun 2017 19:01

klintE wrote:50 km solo break win, very impressive.
1:42 advantage after first stage, what does it mean in Women racing? Could it be crucial for GC?

The key factor will be the smaller teams. WM3, though they share the lineage, are not as strong as the old Rabo team, and so a lot will come down to how the other teams play it against them. Teams like Boels especially are stacked with talent so the péloton will have to be very active to make riders like Plichta and Korevaar chase a lot early on, to try to burn off all but Vos as domestiques for Kasia. For the whole spring season, teams with multiple riders in the front groups have been able to do a number on her, and they're going to need to race it hard early to get rid of domestiques and let themselves have the chance to do that going forward. Climbing is Kasia's strength, and in a head to head starting equally on the climbs in this race she'd be top 5 at the very least so I doubt teams can overhaul the lead they've given her based on the obstacles on the race route alone.
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07 Jun 2017 19:09

Very tangled. :)
Cant she just sit on the Deignan's wheel?
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Re:

07 Jun 2017 19:41

klintE wrote:Very tangled. :)
Cant she just sit on the Deignan's wheel?

From Boels she's also got to mark van der Breggen, and Anna's a monster TT engine on the flat as well, so she can't give her much rope. Lizzie's actually having her best year in the hills that I can remember following her Ardennes campaign (she'd only ever podiumed Flèche once before, in 2014), but there's no guarantee that Lizzie's wheel is the right one to follow on Gun Hill either, especially if Ash goes all out like she did on Jaizkibel, although I don't think the climb is long enough to make anything like the gap to overhaul Kasia's GC lead. However, if - as they should - anybody in the group with her elects to make Kasia do all the work to defend her jersey, she could pay for it later.

This is new ground for the women's Tour, after the first two editions were settled with bonus seconds and the fastest women on the road (Rossella Ratto and Christine Majerus respectively) not winning, last year's was all about building up to the mid-race tougher stages. Here, the fact one contender has a significant advantage from the word go unexpectedly will result in a lot of hastily re-written tactical plans.
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07 Jun 2017 20:33

Thanks. Now I understand women more ;)
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