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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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15 Apr 2017 09:58

Amstel Gold coming up, with the first edition since early in the century. It's a 121km race with 17 climbs in all, unfortunately only a couple of the hardest ones from the men's race (though we do get Keutenberg), and three times around the finishing circuit with Geulhemmerweg and the useless waste of space that is Bemelerberg, the introduction of which following the 2012 Worlds has left us with a complete damp squib of a run-in.

Image

Obviously this is a nice new hilly race, although the new finishing circuit does render it more along the lines of Plouay in character, with the shallow climb then the short but jagged climb last up, although the run-in is shorter than in the GP de Pooley. The last time it was run, Nicole Cooke won in 2003 ahead of Olivia Gollan and Edita Pucinskaite, so that's how far back we're looking, and therefore it's more or less to be treated as a new race; perhaps a couple of the riders on the startlist such as Trixi Worrack and Amber Neben may remember the previous versions, but most had yet to turn pro and some of the contenders will just have been small children at the time.

Nevertheless, the riders do get to use the Limburg region sometimes in other races that can give us an indication of what to expect. Obviously this region was used in the 2012 World Championships, which give us our first indication. Marianne Vos won with a clear gap ahead of Rachel Neylan and Elisa Longo Borghini, while Neben was 4th and Anna van der Breggen had her first real breakout performance to come 5th after bossing smaller races that year and working like a beast for Vos, behind them an 18-year-old Rossella Ratto was 6th and the group was over 4 minutes back. All of those six are listed starters, though it is a long time ago now; Vos is still good but has only shown occasionally the dominant force she used to be since her return, Neylan is now 35 and her palmarès is inconsistent, and Neben has retired and come back a couple of time and is now 42. However, Elisa Longo Borghini is looking to regain the World Tour leader's jersey from Coryn Rivera, and Anna van der Breggen is the reigning winner of Flèche Wallonne and has plenty of aptitude for the hilly courses.

The next race we can point to is last year's Boels Rentals Ladies' Tour, which featured a stage over 119km around Valkenburg finishing just after the Cauberg in early September last year and can be seen as almost a dry run for this race. Kasia Niewiadoma won after an attack on the Cauberg, to finish ahead of Ellen van Dijk and Alena Amialiusik, with van der Breggen 4th, Amy Pieters 5th and Chantal Blaak 6th. All six start tomorrow's race, although the fact this was part of a stage race does affect how we can read it somewhat; for example, coming off the back of the Olympics, some riders weren't on form, and Lizzie Armitstead was one of these; she'd been an unstoppable force over similar terrain in the spring, but in September she was a shadow of the rider she'd been earlier in the season and was relegated to domestique duties, a rare sight outside the Giro since she tends to base her calendar around the races she would be leader at.

Then there's the Boels Rentals Hills Classic, which was between Sittard-Geleen and Berg en Teblijt in its most recent incarnation, which parcours-wise is to all intents and purposes the women's Amstel Gold in years gone by, having incorporated the same finishing circuit as tomorrow's race, so is the most direct comparison, although there was only a couple of circuits and the climbs earlier in the race didn't include the likes of Keutenberg. The problem is, it ran in late May, so form cycles were completely skewed out as opposed to tomorrow at the height of Classics season, and because of the US mini-season in May that affected the field too. Nevertheless, 2016's race saw Lizzie Armitstead win from a group of three alongside Annemiek van Vleuten and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, with Vos and van Dijk chasing 20" back. The previous year on the same course, Lizzie also won, with her, Emma Johansson, Kasia Niewiadoma, Sabrina Stultiens and Elisa Longo Borghini opening up a small gap on the Cauberg over a select chase group and holding on to the line.

Finally, there's the European Games RR at Plumelec which featured a similar climb in the Côte de Cadoudal then a short flattening out before the line, albeit not as long as the one here in Valkenburg. Anna van der Breggen won a sprint of 5 from Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Amialiusik with Rasa Leleivyte trailing a second behind; on a flatter run-in Rasa would have had to have been favourite given her sprint finish but with the finish too close to the climb for her to get on and recover sufficiently she didn't have the opportunity to make the most of it. Her team isn't at the Amstel Gold Race, but the other four back up previous results on this kind of terrain to show that they're the kind of riders who will be at the centre of this.

A big question will be, of course, following what we've seen at Cittiglio and Oudenaarde, can the grimpeuses prevent the likes of Rivera getting back to them in the 1,8km from the Cauberg to the line? Can Rivera chase on the climb herself, and will Sunweb then ride to try to protect Rivera's World Cup lead and give her the chance to sprint, or will somebody else lead, given Kirchmann has a good history on courses like Plouay recently and van Dijk was 2nd in the stage here in September - plus they've also got Sabrina Stultiens, who is a very good punchy climber who was 4th here in the Hills Classic in 2015 but who missed all of last season to injury. Boels have the risk of too many chiefs not enough indians; not sure what the reasoning behind Lizzie wearing dorsal #1 here is, as obviously it's a new race so can't be based on last year, she's not the WC anymore, it's not alphabetical since she's taken on her married name, Rivera's the WT leader, Guarnier's the defending WT champion, and Dideriksen isn't starting, but presumably it gives a hint to the team's intentions. This is more or less Boels' full climbing corps, with Guarnier, Deignan and van der Breggen, Pieters to marshal moves, Blaaki in case it's less broken up and because she went well here in September, and Canuel as climbing domestique du jour. Wiggle have gone with the "engines to back up Elisa and Claudia" approach, not sure it's an ideal course for e.g. Edmondson, but clearly similarities in characteristics to Plouay influence the selections of Cordon-Ragot and Fahlin who went well there last season. Then we're onto the teams who will be absent from the Giro and that ruins a lot of the fun. WM3 obviously have two key weapons - Vos who won the World Championships here in 2012, and Niewiadoma who won the Valkenburg stage in the Boels Rentals tour. The former may not be the same athlete she was then, but the latter is not going to die wondering, attacking more or less everytime the road goes uphill in the closing stages of the race so if she has even remotely good legs on the day then I'd expect to see her at the business end. Lauren Kitchen is probably the team's other candidate, she has a good sprint after obstacles, but realistically I think Kasia will be the one for them. Sunweb I've already mentioned, but Canyon are pretty stacked too. I think the run-in is too hilly for Brennauer but if they can't drop her she's a sprinting threat; she was on the podium in the 2015 stage of the Boels Rentals Tour here, but not against the same level of field as she will be here. Ferrand-Prévot is finding her feet, and Amialiusik was 2nd here in September as well as 4th in Plumelec in the European Championships, so is the logical leader. Cecchini, meanwhile, is the team's best placed rider in the World Tour and I don't think the course is beyond her given one of her Italian championships was won at Supergà.

Although Rachel Neylan won a silver medal here in the 2012 Worlds, I think for Orica, Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten are the more realistic threats; they have far more results in strong fields more recently, and this kind of terrain suits them. For Cervélo, it's going to be interesting, as obviously the logical leader is Ash Moolman-Pasio, who was on the podium of the Hills Classic last year and in the Tour of Britain on similar terrain, but is coming off injury; Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is a wildcard, with an impressive top 10 in Plumelec and as she gets stronger - she's 21 - she can challenge more. Lisa Klein had a great performance in the Healthy Ageing Tour, but I suspect this may be too hilly for her, while Lotta Lepistö is one of those like Rivera that can get over obstacles and will be making sure the puncheuses and grimpeuses make the race. For Alé, Janneke Ensing is having a good early season and has experience on this terrain - she used to ride for Parkhotel Valkenburg - while Bastianelli is another sprinter-you've-got-to-get-rid-of, and Cylance have Ratto who was great here in 2012 but who has really been in the doldrums the last 2 seasons. They do have Joëlle Numainville who podiumed Plouay last year, although the longer run-in did help that race come back together. Véloconcept's likely leader is Neben for her experience, but it's many years since she had the explosivity for this kind of finish, and she's relied more on diesel climbing and her TT skills in recent times. Bepink have Jackson and Sanguineti who like rolling to bumpy terrain, but they're more likely to enjoy Flèche and LBL with one-dimensional escaladora Kseniya Tuhai. Hitec's hopes are likely to revolve around Vita Heine's escapology and Susanne Andersen's prodigious young talent, while Lares are an interesting wildcard because Thalita de Jong likes this terrain - she won the Valkenburg stage in the Boels Rentals Tour in 2015 - and is coming back to some form, winning some domestic events recently, while Flavia Oliveira is as unpredictable as they come.

Lensworld, rather like BePink, probably have better chances in the other races this week, as their main contenders, Riabchenko and Guderzo, need a more drawn-out climb, while for FDJ don't count Knetemann out, she's been combative throughout the season so far and she was 4th in the Hills Classic back in 2014. BTC are probably less likely to contend, but they won Plouay last year with Eugenia Bujak and are likely hoping for a similar surprise here. For Lotto, Jessie Daams has made the selection at the Hills Classic before, while Kiesenhofer is a bit of a wildcard. The other teams are mostly likely to contribute break riders, although Parkhotel will obviously want to be visible and Pauliena Rooijakkers is not a bad climber.
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15 Apr 2017 10:00

Live coverage?
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Re:

15 Apr 2017 10:03

RedheadDane wrote:Live coverage?

Sarah Connolly is here for you.

NOS, France 3, Eurosport Player (and Eurosport direct in Australia), last 45 minutes or so.
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15 Apr 2017 10:09

Perfect! :D
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16 Apr 2017 16:40

Final half hour here courtesy of France 3.

The women produced a pretty good race, although results-wise this was a bit more like what we expected pre-season, with the Boels 1-2 returning us back twelve months. Much like the men's race, the decisive splits were made from a way out, shattering the péloton and leaving us with a situation where a leading trio of Kasia Niewiadoma, most aggressive on the hills, Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan were away with a small gap over a chasing group of 15. Alarmingly for Niewiadoma, none of her WM3 teammates had made the selection so she was foraging alone, while the chase included four Boels riders - van der Breggen, Pieters, Canuel and Blaak - and one Wiggle rider - Cordon. The only Boels rider missing the selection was Guarnier, who is still on the comeback trail. Most of the pacing was being done by Sunweb, as Coryn Rivera had made the 15 and so Ellen van Dijk (who else?) was burying herself as she did at de Ronde to bring the trio back and give Coryn the chance to defend her World Tour lead. A lot of big names were foraging alone as well, PFP was having a strong day for Canyon, but Cecchini, Brennauer and Amialiusik had all been eliminated from contention early; likewise van Vleuten had been left alone up there and, for the first time this season, Cervélo found themselves lacking numbers, with Moolman-Pasio alone among the top contenders.

Approaching the Bemelerberg it was clear that Longo Borghini was the weakest of the three leaders; throughout the first part of the video you can see that Kasia and Lizzie are taking the longest turns; Lizzie is of course the best sprinter of the three (not difficult when Kasia and Elisa are renowned as two of the worst sprinters in the whole péloton admittedly) and had a large number of teammates behind so had been able to play that card too. As van Dijk pulled them within 10" on the climb, Annemiek van Vleuten attacked, marked by van der Breggen and Rivera tacking on too, giving us a leading sextet of top class riders, with Boels the only team with multiple representatives. In the classic move, van der Breggen then attacked, and with van Vleuten having just done the work to close the gap, Rivera clearly paying for her efforts on the climb (she's really adapted well in the season so far as she proves she's far more than "just" a sprinter, but she has been dropped and chased back on many times in the races she's won too) and Deignan obviously declining to chase her own teammate, it fell to Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma to chase... and the elastic quickly snapped. In the chase they took some time to start working together, with the spent ELB missing some turns, and Rivera also unable to contribute too much, and with Kasia becoming visibly less happy with the amount of work she was being forced to do (she has in the past been rather too willing to take on the lion's share of the chase for a group she inevitably loses out in the sprint from) and Deignan being uncooperative and disrupting the chase (as was absolutely right), and Anna had 30" by the Cauberg.

On the final climb, Rivera was swiftly distanced, followed by Annemiek. The unknown one tried a couple of times to rid herself of the riders she'd spent most of the day with, but Lizzie was too strong; she may only once have been a major player on the Mur de Huy as her punch is more about shorter stuff and the really steep stuff has never been her strongest point, but the Cauberg was absolutely in her remit and she looked untroubled. As they came over the summit Annemiek was able to rejoin them in the run-in and the cat and mouse began, stretching van der Breggen's lead to almost a minute. Once the victory was clearly gone, the lesser sprinters tried to make Lizzie lead out, but even that was hopeless; she first slowed the pace of the group to an absolute crawl, so that Coryn almost caught back up to them, but then once Annemiek opened up the sprint, Lizzie kicked and showed the others who of the quartet was the boss in a sprint. But behind her, we got a very, very rare thing: a shared podium! Annemiek seemed to sit up slightly once she realised Lizzie was home and dry, then realised Kasia wasn't as far back as she thought, and the two threw their bikes... in the initial results the podium was awarded to the Polka, but upon further review, the photo finish rendered it literally impossible to separate who had crossed the line first, and as a result, both riders were awarded the prize pot, the prestige and the World Tour points of 3rd place.

Behind, in the splintered remainder of the chase group, Amy Pieters was able to take the sprint, with her, Blaaki and Canuel having had a cushy ride on the back of their leaders up the road, outsprinting the resurgent Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who seems to be finding her feet with her new teammates and starting to look like the rider we remember - also bear in mind, it was her arrival in the top 10 of Binda and La Flèche Wallonne as a 19yo without a pro team, riding for the French national squad that brought a lot of the hype onto her shoulders in the first place. Moolman-Pasio and Ellen van Dijk, shorn of the chasing responsibility in the run-in with Rivera up the road, rounded out the top 10. The main body of the péloton was led home by young Cervélo rider Lisa Klein and Eva Buurman, another ex-speed skater on the local Parkhotel Valkenburg team, rounding out the top 20 to secure some World Tour points.
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16 Apr 2017 20:34

I do love the Comic:
Lizzie Deignan takes second as teammate Anna van der Breggen solos to Amstel Gold Race victory
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17 Apr 2017 20:41

1
Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
3:15:57
 
2
Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
0:00:55
 
3
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling
 
 
3
Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women

---
Why are both Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten third? Literally so close that photo finish couldn't even figure it out?
 
 
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Re:

17 Apr 2017 20:47

RedheadDane wrote:1
Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
3:15:57
 
2
Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
0:00:55
 
3
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling
 
 
3
Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women

---
Why are both Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten third? Literally so close that photo finish couldn't even figure it out?
 
 


Yep.
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17 Apr 2017 22:27

Yup, that's exactly it. Kasia was originally credited with third, in fact they'd undergone all the podium presentations already with Anna, Lizzie and Kasia, but the jury was still reviewing because Annemiek was so close. In the end, on the frame-by-frame, they both hit the line in the exact same frame with neither being demonstrably ahead, so both were credited with the podium. She was already back at the bus with the podium ceremonies being over and done with by the time they told her, whereupon she was quite excited.
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Re:

18 Apr 2017 07:22

Libertine Seguros wrote:Yup, that's exactly it.


Yeah, she stops sprinting and restarts
https://twitter.com/kapelmuur29/status/853641546159325189

Libertine Seguros wrote: Kasia was originally credited with third, in fact they'd undergone all the podium presentations already with Anna, Lizzie and Kasia, but the jury was still reviewing because Annemiek was so close. In the end, on the frame-by-frame, they both hit the line in the exact same frame with neither being demonstrably ahead, so both were credited with the podium. She was already back at the bus with the podium ceremonies being over and done with by the time they told her, whereupon she was quite excited.


She got her own podium ceremony at that point
Image

Nothing photoshop can't fix
Image
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18 Apr 2017 08:56

Ah, okay. Also thanks for explaining why it was only Niewiadoma on the podium.
There's something quite amazing about ties, though. Nowadays they've got equipment that can basically measure down to milimetres/tiny fractions of a second, and there are still situations where the system basically goes:

"Well, ****... I dunno..."
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18 Apr 2017 09:17

Well, when riders overtake each other, they will have the exact same position for a very small amount of time, and that could just as well happen on the finish line (however, if you ask a probability theorist, he would say that the likelihood of that happening is equal to zero - but with equipment having to be able to distinguish between positions of riders, that likelihood increases slightly).
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Re:

18 Apr 2017 09:51

RedheadDane wrote:Ah, okay. Also thanks for explaining why it was only Niewiadoma on the podium.
There's something quite amazing about ties, though. Nowadays they've got equipment that can basically measure down to milimetres/tiny fractions of a second, and there are still situations where the system basically goes:

"Well, ****... I dunno..."



The problem is you can't use the transponders because they're not mounted on the front edge of the front wheel (which is not fixed in any case) and so they don't tell you who hit the line first.

So you have to rely on a photofinish. In cases like this one, in the first frame that shows riders hitting the line, that is the one frame where you can't separate them.

An aside. I've seen a few ties in my time and for some reason they're always for bronze. Weird.
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18 Apr 2017 18:36

There's probably a fair few ties further down the field in several group finishes between riders for whom separating the position is likely irrelevant (not in GC mix so countback not relevant, far from stage win). It's not like the shared silver medals at Vancouver or the shared win in Antholz in the biathlon.

Anyway, La Flèche Wallonne coming up tomorrow, and the best thing that can be said about the coverage is that we'll get a good rant on the Unsanctioned Unofficial Women's Cycling Podcast. I mean, in fairness, it's not like the organizers have much experience putting on major level bike races, and there are very few cameras available for a race like this; after all the riders are going far too fast in the finale to give us an idea of what's going on. And it's very complicated, operating an on/off switch on a camera, it often takes half an afternoon or until the men show up to do it...

The main difference in the startlist is the absence of Elisa Longo Borghini, who is sick. She did explain she felt bad during Amstel Gold, and this perhaps accounts for her strength relative to Kasia and Lizzie in the breakaway. As a result, Wiggle are less likely to be at the forefront of the race, as unless Claudia was sandbagging after being left behind in Amstel Gold to save energy her form is not ideal, and she's by a factor of many the best climber on the team with Elisa out. Sunweb have listed Sabrina Stultiens as their leader, recognizing that the steep finale here is likely not one for Coryn; she was strong on the shallower slopes of the Bemelerberg, but struggled against the elites on the Cauberg and fought her way back on the flat; Huy is steeper, longer and doesn't offer that flat, however she has a World Tour lead to protect so she'll want to showcase what she can do. Olga Z is back for BePink as well, although I would have thought Amstel Gold was better for her than Flèche.

Guesswork:
***: van der Breggen, Niewiadoma, Moolman-Pasio
**: Deignan, Ferrand-Prévot, Amialiusik, van Vleuten
*: Garfoot, Stultiens, Kirchmann, Lichtenberg, Guarnier, Cecchini

Deignan is clearly on good form, but has only been among the best here once in the past (2014). Guarnier was on the podium last year but is coming off injury so isn't at her best yet. Cecchini is at best her team's third option, but her knack of knowing the right moves, plus the fact the women's race is likely to break up more than the men's and she won one of her national titles at Supergà means she's always worth considering as an outsider. PFP looked much more like the rider we know at the weekend, but Amialiusik has the recent results here. Lichtenberg is a great climber but not all that explosive and her form is a question mark, while Moolman-Pasio's ability to sprint at the summit may be a key factor for her. She and Niewiadoma also have the factor of being their teams' only realistic option for the victory, which may be a benefit in terms of protection against teams with several chiefs and few Indians, but may be a hindrance if the race becomes broken up early.
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18 Apr 2017 19:24

Kasia 4 ever.
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18 Apr 2017 19:31

Feel a bit sorry for Anna Kiesenhofer...

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18 Apr 2017 22:21

Imagine telling people a couple of years ago that Rivera would be defending her lead as top rider in the world in late April. I admire her step forward even more because in her transition from sprinter to classics rider she gets dropped and fights her way back quite often. She may be a sprinter but she has had to earn her chances to sprint the hard way.

For tomorrow though I'm team Niewiadoma all the way.
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18 Apr 2017 23:28

Team Kasia unite!

Realistically, a full Ardennes week ought to be great for her given her skillset, and Flèche is probably the best one for her out of the three in the current field, in that the race is much more likely to come to a sprint of the elites on the Mur, so it's not as easy for the numbers game to catch up with her against the might of the likes of Boels. We know she'll attack, especially uphill, because she's Kasia Niewiadoma and that's what she does because she's awesome, but all too often to date, and especially this season, she's been having to do too much work from the group she's in because of being isolated and others having either teammates pulling for them or not pulling because they have teammates behind.

And of course, unlike the men, you have to say Flèche is the most prestigious of the hilly classics for women due to its longevity.
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19 Apr 2017 09:56

Any live feed by the way?
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19 Apr 2017 11:01

Can say that LS is right with her rankings of riders for Fleche.
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