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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.

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Re:

24 Aug 2017 13:48

Libertine Seguros wrote:Transfer news now, and Sabrina Stultiens is going to jump back across the Netherlands to WM3 to fill part of the void left by the loss of Niewiadoma. Sabrina's both a strong cyclocross rider and a useful climber who has still plenty of potential; she moved across to Liv-Plantur (now Sunweb) after being lost in the shuffle at Rabobank with so many strong potential leaders in that 2014 team, but has lost over a season due to injuries, and now just as she's finding her feet again she finds herself lost in the shuffle at Sunweb, with the team strengthening with riders like Rivera emerging and last year's Rabobank auction and Boels' top-heaviness meaning strong and established riders like Brand and van Dijk were available in the market; the nature of the team's direction with those leaders is also a bit at odds with her skillset, whereas with WM3 she'll likely get a bit more freedom, especially if Vos starts to get back to her old level, where Sabrina will have the chance to score some victories in the way that Annemiek used to.


Stultiens is due a break. good luck to her.

There are whispers that Sunweb will make some more big signing this year, possibly elevating them to the Boelsosphere.

Also, the Italian junior track endurance squad is fearsome. :eek:
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Re: Re:

24 Aug 2017 17:16

Jonhard wrote:
Libertine Seguros wrote:Transfer news now, and Sabrina Stultiens is going to jump back across the Netherlands to WM3 to fill part of the void left by the loss of Niewiadoma. Sabrina's both a strong cyclocross rider and a useful climber who has still plenty of potential; she moved across to Liv-Plantur (now Sunweb) after being lost in the shuffle at Rabobank with so many strong potential leaders in that 2014 team, but has lost over a season due to injuries, and now just as she's finding her feet again she finds herself lost in the shuffle at Sunweb, with the team strengthening with riders like Rivera emerging and last year's Rabobank auction and Boels' top-heaviness meaning strong and established riders like Brand and van Dijk were available in the market; the nature of the team's direction with those leaders is also a bit at odds with her skillset, whereas with WM3 she'll likely get a bit more freedom, especially if Vos starts to get back to her old level, where Sabrina will have the chance to score some victories in the way that Annemiek used to.


Stultiens is due a break. good luck to her.

There are whispers that Sunweb will make some more big signing this year, possibly elevating them to the Boelsosphere.


Hopefully not a trillionth sprinter
A few weeks back there was an often repeated rumor that one of the main names at Boels wanted out. Wonder if it's true and if it's Guarnier.
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26 Aug 2017 13:21

Any live coverage of GP Plouay?
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Re:

26 Aug 2017 13:57

RedheadDane wrote:Any live coverage of GP Plouay?


Eurosport player plus a few channels in select countries

https://prowomenscycling.com/2017/08/24/2017-gp-de-plouay/
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26 Aug 2017 14:07

Oh, thanks. Checked on the Player but couldn't find it.
I've found it now.
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27 Aug 2017 21:05

Finally getting to catch up on Plouay now, which usually gives us some good racing. Obviously it's also something of an unusual one-dayer as the defending champion wasn't from one of the big teams but instead the relatively small BTC City-Ljubljana squad, after Eugenia Bujak's great sprint from the splintered group last year. There were a few big names missing from the startlist - most notably, while WWT leader Anna van der Breggen was in attendance, commanding the ever-overpowered Boels-Dolmans lineup, the second- and third-placed riders in the rankings, Annemiek van Vleuten and Kasia Niewiadoma, were both absent, and both have been key animators of the race on the Côte de Ty Marrec in recent times. In fact, WM3 were without either of their two leaders, as Vos also skipped the race, while Sunweb left Coryn Rivera in the team but couldn't call on the services of either Lucinda Brand or Ellen van Dijk, who are focusing on the upcoming Boels Rentals Ladies Tour in the southeastern Netherlands. Similarly, a lot of the superstar young prospects were absent - as far as I can tell U23 WWT winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig managed to pick up yet another maximum despite only finishing 39th on the day.

This did mean we got a strangely superpowered break quite early, with Elisa Longo Borghini getting up the road with her compatriot Rossella Ratto, who seems to be regaining some of her mojo (although I've got my hopes up about her returning to her best prematurely a few times now, so I'm a bit more circumspect about letting myself get excited now!), only to be joined by a further superpowered duo of Anna van der Breggen and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, with Änna Zita Maria Stricker managing to join them to give the defending champion's team a presence in the escape; Stricker is also a usefully fast finisher, which in a group with a couple of riders without a sprint didn't help with cohesion. With no bullets in their gun other than Rivera and Kirchmann, and no presence in that break, however, Sunweb were not keen to let such a high power group escape and eventually the move was neutralised. Canyon then sent Hannah Barnes up the road, which was strange with her being one of the best sprinters left in the rapidly-dwindling péloton, but with only Alé's Janneke Ensing being tempted to go off in pursuit - and Ensing has been very often tempted to initiate attacks or make pursuits of others' attacks this season, as she's had a great year - and the two working well together, with Ensing able to look after Barnes on the climbs but needing the Briton's help to build and maintain an advantage on the flat, it could have been a coup.

I then marked out like crazy, in the forlorn hope that Claudia Lichtenberg could make it when she attacked solo once the duo were caught; I so desperately want her to sign off on a high, but am also all too well aware that she is a completely mountain-biased rider whose sprint could kindly be described as "non-existent", so realistically with the likes of Pooley and Abbott now retired there aren't many - if any at all - groups from which I'd back her to the line. She hung out in front of the group, but never sustained an advantage that looked like a winning one.

The most important move - and perhaps the most important upshot of the race - came on the penultimate time on Ty Marrec, where Pauline Ferrand-Prévot did the job Niewiadoma did last year and Pooley used to do throughout the "GP de Pooley" era - getting to the front and lighting it up right at the bottom of Ty Marrec and shredding the field. First to the back wheel of the Rémoise all-rounder was Elisa Longo Borghini, with Lizzie Deignan - as the 2015 winner, Boels' chosen leader for the race - and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, before a gap started to emerge. Anna van der Breggen, poorly placed before the climb, found herself buried a bit as less climbing-adept all-rounders like Coryn Rivera struggled to keep to PFP's pace, and had to dig very deep indeed to wrestle her way across the rapidly-emerging gap to join the quartet at the front. Sunweb and Orica seemed keen to bring this back for a sprint, but with some of the missing star power sorely, well, missed in their attempts to manage the quintet's gap, a group of such established strength - let's face it, if I tried to recount the various accomplishments of each of the five, it would take all day - was always going to be hard to chase down. Doing so took almost all of the strength the chasers had in reserve, so when the re-formed group arrived at the final ascent of the climb, there were few legs that could respond when the pace was set.

Much had been made last year about the bubbling feud between PFP and Deignan, mainly due to the perceived preferential treatment given to the Briton in her whereabouts failures being kept secret until the ban was overturned, followed by some rather unnecessary personal dirty laundry airing by Lizzie's other half when PFP raised her head above the parapet by describing the decision to fast-track her successor as World Champion's appeal as "shameful" (interestingly Phil had nothing similar to say about Scandolara or Hosking, who both also posted critically of Lizzie's reprieve, which raised the personal stakes on this); however with the Frenchwoman suffering an injury-ridden 2016 and a reduced road calendar in 2017, and Deignan having had an unusually quiet Classics season until the Ardennes and only really hitting the level we know she's capable of later in the season (plus exceeding this at times, such as her incredible performance on the Izoard), this was one of the first times we've really had the chance to see the two rivals head to head in strong form; though it was Ferrand-Prévot who made the original selection, the last time up the climb it was the Boels rider who took the initiative, pre-empting her adversary from across La Manche, launching a characteristically blistering attack on this type of 1km ascent that she has made her own, and ridding herself of every tail... except for Pauline.

If their previous history with one another made them wary of working together, it didn't show, the two successfully establishing their advantage, until they were within touching distance of the finish. At this point, Lizzie stopped collaborating and used her usual tactic of allowing others' gains to encourage them into doing work for her - Canyon's chances from the sprint were limited with both Brennauer and Barnes having been dropped, not to mention that the WWT podium would be Pauline's best road result since 3rd at the same race two years ago, while her last road win was 2015's Giro MTF at Aprica, and her chances of outsprinting Lizzie even if they shared the workload until the last 150m were going to be limited anyhow; Lizzie sitting up and letting the risk of the group behind catching them push her breakmate into working just served to make PFP's limited chances even slimmer, and so when the sprint was eventually opened up the inevitable victory for Deignan became the reality we all knew it would, while Orica's hard work in the chase was rewarded after Sarah Roy won the sprint for 3rd from the depleted remains of the péloton, just beating Bujak, who put up a spirited defence of her biggest career win, and Elena Cecchini, putting two Canyon-SRAM riders into the top 5. Impressively, two of the smaller teams, TIBCO and BTC, were able to put two riders in the top 10 which could be vital points for them towards next year's race invites system.

The post-race interview saw Deignan in characteristically "magnanimous" mood, praising herself for how well she performs under pressure and explain how this has made her a great world champion (presumably some fighting talk ahead of Bergen), while her vanquished opponents were thankful for their teammates for helping them work to the position they achieved. I know I bag on Lizzie's attitude and sense of entitlement a lot, but the juxtaposition of her self-aggrandizing words with Pauline and Sarah's only served to really underline that on this occasion.
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28 Aug 2017 12:20

More transfer news:

- Line Marie Gulliksen to Hitec Products with immediate effect; the 27-year-old has had a decent season on the Belgian and Norwegian domestic calendars.
- Astana bolster their Latin American quotient, bringing in another Cuban, bringing in 19-year-old Jeydy Pradera to keep Arlenis Sierra company, along with the Colombian escaladora Blanca Liliana Moreno, who was 2nd in the Vuelta a Costa Rica, just 9" off Sierra, after winning the MTT at Carrizal.
- Ana Cristina Sanabria from Servetto-Giusta, who scored a top 10 in the Col d'Izoard hillclimb at La Course, was also rumoured to the Kazakh-Italian squad but will stay with her current team.
- 18-year-old Lorena Wiebes, Junior European Road Race Champion from Herning and a very strong sprinting prospect, had offers from multiple WWT teams but has elected to go with Team Sunweb as her first pro team, joining the rest of their very strong youth corps, as although Floortje is no longer U23-eligible next season, Lippert, Labous and Wiebes all will be.
- Lauren Kitchen joins her fellow Australian ex-of Vos' team, Shara Gillow, at FDJ. She's not been able to have the season she's capable of at WM3 and has mostly had to expend her energy as a helper for the team's two leaders, whereas with FDJ she will likely have a freer hand. Losing Lauren and missing out on Wiebes as well is a bit of a double-blow for WM3 as they seek to recover from the loss of Niewiadoma next season, which looks like an increasingly shrewd move for Canyon with PFP (who was Kasia's roommate at Rabo and has good rapport with the Pole) appearing to be rediscovering her road legs.
- FDJ continue to strengthen as well, signing Dutch youngster Rozanne Slik from Sunweb's corps, she has good recovery and has gone well in breaks in the Giro as well as being a good Classics helper, but with Sunweb building up a core of young prospects alongside their strengthened 2017 core she was going to start to be crowded out.
- Véloconcept have signed both Emilie Moberg and Katrine Aalerud from Hitec, which will be something of a blow for the Norwegian team, which is now being rather swamped compared to the days when they were an important building block in the careers of Longo Borghini, Moolman-Pasio and Ratto. Moberg has been a vital source of points for them thanks to her sprint acumen, and unless Susanne Andersen can develop quickly they may be overly reliant on the veteran Charlotte Becker and the sprinting skills of Nina Kessler.


This week, though, the WWT continues with one of the more familiar short Tours, the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour of Holland. Running over six stages (a prologue, four road stages and an ITT, an improvement over previous editions' inclusion of a TTT which overbalanced the parcours in favour of those teams who were already liable to crowd the upper echelons of the GC anyway), it boosts, for the most part, an all-star lineup with the vast majority of major names wanting to compete and put a marker down for the Worlds.

The race opens with a 4,3km technical prologue through the streets of Wageningen. Wageningen is, of course, the hometown of Annemiek The Prologue Queen, so the choice of town would not seem to be coincidental. The first road stage is into Arnhem, and includes the small Monnikensteeg climb within the city on the final circuit, although not using all of the potential of the region. This is followed by an 18km ITT in Roosendaal, which alternates expansive long straights with sequences of difficult corners. There's then a pan-flat stage from Gennep to Weert before the final two stages in the Limburger Heuvelland, with the traditional Valkenburg/Cauberg stage having been eschewed now that its route has been almost exactly co-opted for the women's Amstel Gold Race. The first stage heads into the region via well known climbs like the Slingerberg before a final circuit around Vaals including Pas van de Wolfhaag (1,9km @ 5,1%, max 11%), Lange Bosweg (officially 2,4km @ 4,1% but half of this is false flat and the steepest 300m is at almost 12%) and the second half of Camerig West (from 1,4km to 2,5km on this profile). Finally, like in the Binck-Bank-Tour, we get a Sittard-Geleen circuit which consists of three circuits and is of a marathon 160km in length. There are too many climbs to mention although the Raarberg, Biesberg, Slingerberg, Sweikhuizerberg and the Schelberg - the latter of which comes for the final time just 6km from the line - are all included.

Vos is the biggest name absent; otherwise the top WWT names are present and correct. Boels have van der Breggen in bib #1 although Blaak is the defending champion I think; Chantal is here though, alongside a characteristically super-strong lineup with Deignan, Dideriksen, Pieters and Majerus. Longo Borghini leads Wiggle, with Lichtenberg, Cordon, Edmondson, Fahlin and Cure backing her. WM3 as mentioned are without Merckx, but Niewiadoma won two stages here last year and is present and correct. Coryn Rivera skips the race for Sunweb but otherwise all their big hitters are out in force, with Brand, van Dijk, Mackaij and Stultiens backed up by Slik and Soek. Despite her renaissance at Plouay, PFP is also missing, but Canyon still have Cecchini, Brennauer and Barnes on hand, while Alexis Ryan's had a strong breakout season to offer another option too. Orica's GC threat will undoubtedly crystallise around Annemiek van Vleuten, but Amanda Spratt gives able help and apart from the Vaals stage, Sarah Roy should be able to handle all of the road stages too. Alé have Bastianelli and Hosking for the sprints, fresh from the latter's success at the Tour of Norway, and Janneke Ensing on home roads for the GC. Cervélo are the big absentees, but with AMP looking to build for the Worlds elsewhere, their position in the top positions of the WWT under no threat at all and Cille's U23 jersey completely sewn up, they have elected not to contest the race.
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29 Aug 2017 22:34

...and as sure as the night is long...

Image

Yea, this won't get confusing at all, the race leader being given an orange jersey with the Boels logo on the front. Anyway, in perhaps the least surprising result of the year, a technical prologue through the hometown of Annemiek van Vleuten was won by... Annemiek van Vleuten.

Seeing as she is Annemiek The Prologue Queen, the race was rather there for the winning for the veteran Dutchwoman, being as it was on home roads quite literally. It was a veritable parade of the top time triallists in the world too, with Ellen van Dijk 5" back in 2nd place, Lisa Brennauer 3rd with an 11" deficit and Anna van der Breggen leading the charge for the sponsor's own team at 15". The usual TT mayflies from the Worlds were absent so it was down to the all-year-round top names to make the running. There was also a bias towards the home roads, with 6 Dutch riders (van Vleuten, van Dijk, van der Breggen, Pieters, Blaak and Brand) in the top 10, along with three Germans (Brennauer, Worrack and Kröger) and the only interloper, Lizzie Deignan, meaning Boels successfully placed four riders in the top 10 after the prologue, which will make Orica's job controlling the front of the race very difficult (Majerus was also 12th, for good measure).

In fact, some relatively serious contenders are already some way down; Longo Borghini already has a deficit of 27", which will be especially troublesome for her given her lack of opportunity to mitigate her losses through intermediate sprint bonus seconds, and the same deficit is faced by Niewiadoma, who won the two toughest stages last year but without enough of a time gap to overcome time lost in bonuses and the TTT so may face the same issue here although Anouska Koster put in a strong TT to at least make WM3 a bit more hydra-headed than they often have been this season. Janneke Ensing, the ever-ebullient Alé rider who has made something of a habit of time-gaining attacks and counter-attacks this year, has a similar deficit and just earnt her first trip to the Worlds so will likely see fit to celebrate by making sure that that day-glo jersey is even more visible than usual.
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30 Aug 2017 07:49

And apparently (Cycling Podcast) Movistar is starting a women's team.
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Re:

30 Aug 2017 07:55

janraaskalt wrote:And apparently (Cycling Podcast) Movistar is starting a women's team.


Interesting. And good. Spanish women's cycling has been in the doldrums since....well, forever.
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Re: The Women's Road Racing Thread 2017

30 Aug 2017 13:45

Annemiek turned up to the prologue on her 20kg orange Gazelle :cool:

I don’t know much about Spanish cycling beyond Sheyla Gutierrez and Ane Santesteban. You’d think Movistar equals reasonable budget and higher ambitions than Lointek or Bizkaia Durango.
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30 Aug 2017 15:31

Nice to see PFP back at Plouay though I wanted her to beat Deignan.
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30 Aug 2017 20:00

Movistar should hopefully be a decent budget, but the question will be if they would be a division killer in Spain, or also if they are buying up an existing team or starting a new one since all the Spanish teams are based around the Basque Country and similar. Beyond Sheyla and Ane Santestebán, there's Eider Merino, who climbed very well in and around her home race earlier in the season and was very promising, and Mavi García who has shown some good capabilities but only took up the sport very late so is already in her 30s. They may well also hire in some South Americans, I wouldn't be surprised to see.

First road stage of the Boels Tour, and it ended in the not unexpected sprint, won by superstar veteran sprint engine Kirsten Wild, the 34-year-old taking advantage of a run-in that wasn't too favourable for some outright fast-women by outpacing Maria Giulia Confalonieri and Lisa Brennauer. It seems there was some chaos in the run-in including a crash, which took out Thalita de Jong, Eva Buurman and, perhaps most notably for the stage result if not the GC, Hitec's sprinter Nina Kessler, among others. There were also a number of time gaps opened up in the aftermath in and around the sprint, which may be reversed if they are adjudged to be the result of the climb, but if not, then they could have some potentially important GC effects.

Only 22 riders (plus those who crashed) were credited with the same time as Wild, although race leader Annemiek van Vleuten was safely among them, along with Brand, van Dijk, Pieters and obviously Brennauer (who also took some bonus seconds), Worrack, Mackaij and Longo Borghini the others who placed themselves well. Behind them a large group was credited with a time loss of 6", and this group included van der Breggen, Koster, Gillow, Cecchini, Niewiadoma, Dideriksen and the defending champion Chantal Blaak. Even heavier time losses were applied for Deignan, Majerus and Kröger, the trio among those losing 22" and dropping out of the top few GC positions that they had occupied.
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31 Aug 2017 09:22

Well... Deignan is out of the race. She had her appendix removed last night... but appears to be okay.

(Haven't been able to find any links. Boels* simply posted a photo on FB)









*The team, that is. Not the race.
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31 Aug 2017 17:12

And AVV winst the stage 3 ITT by 4 seconds from Van Dijk - I understand that Holland's women's team is by far the strongest in the world, but it was strange AVV didn't get a ride in the European Championship.
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Re:

31 Aug 2017 18:42

yaco wrote:And AVV winst the stage 3 ITT by 4 seconds from Van Dijk - I understand that Holland's women's team is by far the strongest in the world, but it was strange AVV didn't get a ride in the European Championship.

That was her choice, she preferred a trainingcamp and focus on worlds.
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Re: Re:

31 Aug 2017 19:43

eric_vv wrote:
yaco wrote:And AVV winst the stage 3 ITT by 4 seconds from Van Dijk - I understand that Holland's women's team is by far the strongest in the world, but it was strange AVV didn't get a ride in the European Championship.

That was her choice, she preferred a trainingcamp and focus on worlds.


Fair enough - Not that Holland needed AVV - They have so many cards to play at the World's.
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31 Aug 2017 21:56

Well, in fairness, after last year's Olympics Annemiek has really been on the rampage to try to make up for that loss and get the really big win that she could - nay, would - have had. I don't think many could begrudge her some rainbows, and given just how many cards the Dutch have to play... it would certainly be a popular win, too. Hoping that Deignan is ok, too, obviously that's pretty sudden to have gone from racing in the daytime to having the appendix removed that evening, so hopefully the onset of appendicitis or whatever it was wasn't too severe as to have been too dangerous for her.

Ellen will probably have to seek some bonus seconds in the next couple of days as she will certainly have a disadvantage in relation to Annemiek in the weekend stages in the Limburg hills (although she did get to wear the QOM jersey here last year, laughing at how her in such a jersey could only happen in the Netherlands), but she seems the most obvious threat here, being just 9" behind. Brennauer's at +40" but like van Dijk needs to make use of the flatter stages, van der Breggen at +47" is the most obvious threat, but with Deignan out and Dideriksen and Majerus losing time, she has fewer weapons at her disposal to outnumber van Vleuten; Blaak is the most handy weapon, at just +1'01", but this year's penultimate stage is noticeably harder than last year's Sittard-Geleen stage, while the final stage is similar, so we'll see how she can interject herself. Not sure how Villumsen will go as it's a while since we saw much of her in European stage racing, but she'll be targeting the Worlds TT so should be improving form here; I'd expect Kröger and Duyck to lose time on the final weekend, though. Longo Borghini (+1'24"), Cecchini, Brand (+1'33"), Niewiadoma (+1'49"), Gillow (+2'09") and de Jong (+2'21") are perhaps the most likely to be active on those final two days to get into the GC mix, but given she's just got her maiden World Championships selection we will surely see plenty of Janneke Ensing (+2'36") too.
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03 Sep 2017 10:06

So the fourth stage of the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour went to the expected sprint, although a few sprint candidates were out of position/place - most notably Hannah Barnes who was one of only a handful of riders not to finish with the péloton, so may have had an ill-timed mechanical or crash. Or even served as leadout, since it was her Canyon-SRAM teammate Lisa Brennauer who beat the more pure sprinters in a drag race to the line, the German TT queen coming in ahead of Chloe Hosking, Roxane Fournier and Kirsten Wild, with the time bonuses being particularly valuable for the Swabian following her strong TT performance and with her least favourite discipline, climbing, on the menu for the weekend. It was also valuable because there was a split in the péloton that meant several potentially significant riders for the GC lost eight seconds on the line as well as those bonuses - among them Ensing, Longo Borghini, Gillow, Duyck, Brand, Ratto and Kröger - but crucially, Annemiek got in front of the split, as did van der Breggen, van Dijk and Niewiadoma. Trixi Worrack was quietly becoming a threat in the race, having been the right side of every split and with 5th and 11th in the two TTs.

This set us up for the 'queen stage' in the Limburg hills, into Vaals featuring a number of climbs. Here, some serious selection was made, and there was a bit of a reverse game from the Giro Rosa going on, as this time it was Anna van der Breggen (in the World Tour leader's jersey, which she wasn't back then, but it was the race she took it in) having to attack Annemiek van Vleuten in the hills with the latter leading the GC; no matter what the Olympic Champion threw at her more experienced compatriot (who would have been the Olympic Champion but for her spectacular horror crash, of course), the Orica rider stood firm. Elisa Longo Borghini wasn't able to make it a true Giro re-run by being there, her form is clearly not at 100%, but she was ably kept in the chase by the work of super-domestique Claudia Lichtenberg, in what may be her final World Tour race, and domestique supreme Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

The pace of chasing such an elite duo did trim the chase rather significantly, and only 20 riders were able to come home within two and a half minutes of the lead duo; Anna took the stage in front of Annemiek, but with her lead significant in the GC and only the one stage to go, the latter was happy enough with the outcome. Amy Pieters won the sprint for 3rd place, benefiting from the fact that Boels had no reason to chase the group ahead with Anna up the road, and isolated riders' reluctance to spend their forces with Wiggle having 3 riders in the group and FDJ having 2. This denied bonus seconds to Janneke Ensing, who made it an all-Dutch top 4 before one of the season's surprise revelations, Ruth Winder on the US national team. Most of her results have been on the US domestic circuit, but a very successful tour of Europe with United Healthcare in July merited a win in the Tour de Féminin Krásná Lipá and a top 10 in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, so she's definitely one to watch. Most of the key players were also in the group - in addition to the Wiggle trio and Janneke, there was Gillow, Guderzo (finally showing some form this year), Blaak, Brennauer, Villumsen, Cecchini, van Dijk and Niewiadoma, plus also some pleasing signs of life from Rossella Ratto as the season wears on - if Elisa can sort her form out the Italians may be a bigger threat than we think at the Worlds. Hannah Barnes was part of the group but dropped off it. Worrack was in the next group back, just shy of 3 minutes down, while Dideriksen and Majerus led home a group including Lucinda Brand and Pernille Mathiesen at four and a half minutes. Three riders missed the time cut, while Floortje Mackaij and Lauren Kitchen were among those unable to finish the stage.

Coming into the final stage, around Sittard-Geleen with about a thousand mini-hellingen, Annemiek has stretched her lead from a slender 9" over van Dijk to a rather more commanding 43", although having Boels as your nearest rivals in a race where they have all the stops to pull out and it is a home race for them, sponsored by their team sponsor, is in and of itself a burden, and 43" over Anna van der Breggen is never truly enough to feel safe given her prowess on both the climbs and the time trial mileage - even if Annemiek herself has shown herself to be absolutely one of the best all year in these disciplines. Van Dijk is now at 1'03" with Brennauer 4th (+1'24") and Villumsen 5th (+1'49"). Aside from Anna, Annemiek can probably feel her advantage is pretty secure over those she can fear in the hills - Longo Borghini is at +2'27 and Niewiadoma at +2'43. It should be enough, but we've seen some unusual things happen over the years in this terrain and in women's cycling in general.
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03 Sep 2017 15:13

Final day drama in the epic length (over 150k) stage to Sittard-Geleen, finishing with a 10% ramp in the Tom Dumoulin bike park (no, really).

The action began with the formation of a 13-woman attack group which pulled a lead out of over a minute, and including some very strong names from every top team bar Orica who obviously were protecting Annemiek's GC lead. Boels had Christine Majerus in the group, Wiggle had Amy Cure, Canyon had Alexis Ryan, plus from other teams you had Marta Tagliaferro, Winanda Spoor, Nathalie van Gogh and Roxane Knetemann. Perhaps most intriguingly, three major teams had two riders in the bunch, each having a rider well placed on GC. WM3 had the best GC position, with Kasia Niewiadoma just outside the top 10 and joined by Jeanne Korevaar, but Sunweb had Lucinda Brand accompanied by Rozanne Slik, and Alé had the best sprinter in the group with Chloe Hosking as well as the ever-combative Janneke Ensing. Given the 10% ramps at the line, once intermediates were dispensed with Hosking's value was primarily as a domestique, and with Ensing the second-best-placed rider in the group, it was therefore the Australian speedster along with Korevaar who did most of the pacing duties. The group was formed by an 8-woman breakaway that went 3km into the stage being bridged to by a three-woman counterattack. With Brand then up there, Kasia and Janneke went together with just over 50km to go and bridged the gap to the break quickly over the favourably hilly terrain. With 35km remaining, Korevaar's work for the day was done and she swung off, at which point Niewiadoma attacked, because the road went uphill so of course she did. Ensing countered in chase of the Pole, and quickly made mincemeat of most of the break, with only Majerus and Brand going with her to bridge the gap giving us a leading quartet with a few seconds' advantage as the rest of the break tried to consolidate. The lead quartet wasn't working well though, as Brand and Majerus had their teammates van Dijk and van der Breggen and their podium GC positions to think about, so weren't going to co-operate with the threatening duo that rode across to them earlier. The quartet was then being chased by a second quartet, of Knetemann, Cure, Ryan and Slik but then, conscious of giving Sunweb an advantage of numbers, Niewiadoma attacked again shortly after the junction was made, realising that in addition to Slik and Brand having the advantage for the stage win, their gap to the péloton was being affected by the games being played and she could ill afford to continue to haemorrhage time, as not only would losing their advantage neutralise her GC gains but her lack of a sprint would limit her stage winning options. So, when the road went uphill again, for the fifth QOM points of the day, Katie Unknown said goodbye to the bunch for good, and hit for home.

Once more, the same trio chased the WM3 rider, Ensing, Brand and Majerus. Again Janneke was doing almost all the work, and pegged Kasia's lead at around 15" with the bunch's disadvantage restored to 1'45". With Brand and Majerus not contributing, Alexis Ryan was able to pull her way across to the Ensing trio, but Niewiadoma's lead was increasing, reaching 25" on the final points-paying climb of the day before stretching out to its maximum of 45". The time gaps were becoming a real cat and mouse game; the péloton were starting to creep back towards the leader while the chasers drifted back, with the second chasing group getting closer and closer. And then, in a cruel echo of the Tour of Norway, the péloton was stopped at a crossing for a train. It wasn't a long stop, but the fact that Niewiadoma and the chasing quartet got through but the péloton didn't really changed the dynamic of the stage as the catch became increasingly unlikely, and instilled fresh hope into the chasers that the stage win was on. Part of the risk of having a course more complex than the Amstel Gold Race and repeatedly crossing the same train line at different points on the route. Sensing that Kasia was tiring, Janneke went again and shook Ryan and Majerus off her wheel for good, but couldn't get rid of Lucinda Brand. And she's a terrifying rider to have on your wheel like that, with all-terrain capability and great tactical nous. Janneke gives no damns whatsoever though, and the two kept plugging away, whittling down the Unknown one's advantage as time ticked away. 8km, 8". 5km, 6". Could she hang on? She was right in the eyeline of the chasing duo now. At 3km remaining, Brand put in a herculean turn, knowing she would be at the disadvantage on the final ramps and not wanting to leave anything to chance. But no sooner had she pulled Kasia back than Ensing went again and this time brought herself daylight against an exhausted Niewiadoma and a Brand who'd just put in a max effort turn.

Yea, I know, this stage was the Kasia & Janneke show. Ensing has been so aggressive and added a lot to races all year since breaking through to the top level, but apart from obviously the Worlds selection has disappointingly little to show for it compared to what she deserves for the job she's done animating the events. With the péloton fast approaching she knew it was now or never and made a gap of 10-15 seconds on the chasing duo; Brand and Niewiadoma collaborated at first but once the bunch got inside a minute and it seemed Ensing was away, Brand stopped working, noting that she was now not going to win the stage, so continued collaboration with Kasia would jeopardise van Dijk's podium. A frustrated Niewiadoma trid to drop the Sunweb rider, but her former teammate was too strong and rode back to the exhausted Pole's wheel, before dropping her in the last few metres, taking advantage of not having had to ride in the chase until there was only her and Ensing left. But having rode across to the break with Niewiadoma and then taken charge of every counter attack until there was nobody left to counter, then attacking herself, Ensing took what as far as I'm aware is her first ever professional win, certainly her first win above the national calendar level.

In the end, Ensing's margin of victory over her completely empty adversaries was 30", with Brand making it at that point and Kasia at 35". The bunch was led home by Marta Bastianelli and Roxane Fournier at +1'10" so overall the GC gains made by the main players didn't impact the top places on the GC, unfortunately, but it gave us some great drama while it lasted, and a very good subplot about the stage win with three of the most aggressive riders in the péloton filling the first three places on the stage. For their efforts, Niewiadoma and Ensing moved into the overall GC top 10.

Final GC:
1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS) NED
2 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +43"
3 Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) NED +1'03"
4 Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) GER +1'24"
5 Linda Villumsen (Team Véloconcept Women) NZL +1'49"
6 Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) NED +1'55"
7 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie) POL +2'04"
8 Janneke Ensing (Alé-Cipollini) NED +2'18"
9 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +2'19"
10 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +2'27"
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