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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2018

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

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

20 Apr 2018 18:02

Unfortunately, the UCI's seven minute summary is the most we're going to get of Flèche Wallonne, because ASO can go soak their collective heads. Janneke Ensing wins the "no subtlety" award of the day for announcing before the race that her intention is not to wait for the Mur de Huy because she prefers to attack earlier, and true to her word she did just that, although in all fairness she didn't exactly have a lot to lose by announcing that strategy because, you know, everybody would have been looking at Janneke at that point anyway since it's the kind of thing she does a lot, and when Pauline will have been looking around at who would prove willing collaborators when she launched her second attack I'd have thought Ensing would have been one of the first names she'd have solicited. I think you do need to watch both the summary and the video of the Mur de Huy though, as the summary doesn't really do justice to Anna's companions on the podium, both Ash for being the driving force of the attacks and having to be carefully marshaled by the Boels duo to prevent her breaking loose and set up Anna for the final 200m or so where she made the difference, and Megan for a great performance to hold on to the front from being in Pauline's lead quartet for so long before the Mur too, even if she wasn't contributing much and was helping to monitor the breakaway with van der Breggen being plan A for the marchers in orange. Unbelievably this is only Moolman-Pasio's second WT podium, which is partly attributable to the accumulated fatigue that comes from the team's small size I would anticipate; she probably has to expend more energy helping Lepistö than, say, Niewiadoma for Barnes or Klein, or Longo Borghini for Wild. Speaking of Kasia, the little UCI rider profiles have one on the new circumstances, as a team leader, for her. It's kinda funny. She points out that as a leader it's not supposed to be about attacking every 3km or so, or on every climb (this is of course worrying for many Kasia fans, after all, that never-say-die attitude and insatiable desire to attack on every climb is a large part of why we're fans in the first place!) and there being constant suggestions to wait, wait, wait and concentrate everything into one major, significant push. Pleasingly, however, she admits she's far too combative and impatient for that. And the two WWT races she's actually won, one was with a long range attack and the other was a solo finish too (not that many of her wins would come from a bunch finish of course)... back to Cervélo, and it's interesting that Ash found Amstel Gold a bit of a frustrating race - evidently chomping at the bit to get on the move, but with the team not willing to sacrifice the certainty of the result for Lotta given the run-in not being as well suited to Ash as Huy or Ans. At the same time it's a careful balancing act as she admits she was a bit panicked when they didn't get a rider in the key move but Cille did a great job of controlling the pace and placing her within the group; at the same time, Cille is probably the only teammate she could have placed in that group that would have then concerned the other major teams, with the likes of PFP and Guarnier in it.

Canyon are primed for revenge after being disappointed in FW, and Cervélo are happy with their climbing arm's form, so hopefully this augurs well for LBL on Sunday.
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22 Apr 2018 09:22

Liège today. We're all going to call it Liège-Bastogne-Liège despite the fact it's clearly only Bastogne-Liège.

Image

Still think it needs to be harder. Why they can't go across to Stavelot and do Rosier and Maquisard instead of Vecquée I don't know, Apart from that though, the run-in is the same as the men from La Redoute onwards - it's just that the riders will be much fresher when they get there.

Boels continue to rotate the team, bringing Chantal Blaak back into the fold as planned and putting Christine Majerus in for her first race of the Ardennes - I believe she will be wanting to peak for next week, for the GP Féminin Elsy Jacobs which is in her home country of Luxembourg and where she is the defending champion - in place of Schneider and Plichta who subbed in Flèche. Van den Bos remains the other flat rider of choice, with Canuel and the two riders from the podium on the Mur, van der Breggen and Guarnier, the leaders. For Sunweb, Coryn Rivera rests, after a quiet campaign where she's not been able to replicate last year's form, so I suspect she's going to be resting up for the North American jaunt on the World Tour where she'll want to show well, and Leah Kirchmann, who's plenty capable as a puncheuse herself, comes in for her. Some of the big teams are unchanged (Canyon, for example, and Mitchelton who are still down with just 5 starters), but even the small-sized Cervélo team has to make some changes, with 18-year-old Dane Emma Norsgaard stepping in to replace her compatriot Marie Vilmann; the latter has only just returned from the long-term injury list so this is probably planned or precautionary.

Waowdeals also make a couple of switches, with Marianne Vos returning to the lineup after resting on Wednesday, and also Dani Rowe coming in to bolster the rouleuse corps, in place of Anouska Koster who has had a very busy season - she crashed out of Flèche but this will be the first WWT race of the year she hasn't entered - and Rotem Gafinovitz who now heads to the Czech Republic to race Graciá-Orlová with the Israeli national team. Likewise Wiggle bring in Martina Ritter in place of Lisa Brennauer. Hitec and Astana are starting with just four riders apiece, the latter after Arlenis Sierra was a late withdrawal; they'll presumably be all in to protect Sofia Bertizzolo's now quite imposing lead in the youth classification. Movistar are for some reason keeping their best young climber, Eider Merino, out of these races and going with the older heads of Jasinska, García and Neylan to lead the team, presumably they are focusing on her being competitive in the Emakumeen Bira where she broke out last year.

Speaking of the Emakumeen Bira, they've released the stages of the 2018 race, which could be intriguing. I fear that the 26km ITT will be too long for a four stage race - it's sometimes longer than we get in the Giro Rosa, although this being the Basque Country, it's far from flat - though this is counterbalanced by the final stage, looping around the host town of Iurreta (a suburb of Durango nowadays, having been subsumed into the larger town), including the mighty cathedral of Basque cycling, the Urkiola. And this year they do it from the proper side - although at around 50km from the line, before looping around and then descending it into the finish - climbing the easy side after Duña or Krutzeta and then descending the legendary climb into the finish.

The first stage is around Legazpi, with a rolling first half before Aztiria at the start of a much hillier second half, which also includes two ascents of the Alto de Eizaga (the first half of this profile, as far as the sign for Legazpi but only categorizing the ramp into Zumarraga), the latter of which comes with only 5km from the line, and also an ascent of a new, steeper version of the Atagoiti climb from Legazpi itself rather than the well-known and well-trodden gradual ascent from neighbouring Telleriarte, which purports to average over 10% for a kilometre and is at 21km from the line, so may well turn out to be the more significant ascent.

The second stage is the fast, gradually downhill ITT from Agurain to Vitoria-Gasteiz, it has a couple of hills in the middle but nothing too steep.

The penultimate stage is around Aretxabaleta and includes a couple of circuits which I wish were flipped so the middle circuit was last and the last circuit was in the middle, but you can't have it all. Once more the first part of the stage is rolling (I hesitate to say 'flat', this is País Vasco after all), and then there's a difficult circuit around the valleys around Aramaio, including Etxaguen and the steeper, shorter side of Untzilla. Were this the final circuit, Etxaguen would be 15 and Untzilla 6km from the finish, but no such luck, instead there is a further 44km loop to be taken. The main climb of this circuit is early on, being the fairly straightforward Puerto de Arlabán, before this two-stepped side of the Puerto de Krutzeta, realistically consisting of two punchy ascents with around 5km flat between them, ending 17km from the finish and then seeing a frantic, technical descent.

The final - and queen - stage is around the race's home of Iurreta, with a couple of flattish circuits including first the Alto de Miota, little more than false flat, and then one that is flat save for the Cota de Urumin, introduced in last year's race and around 600m at 14%. There's then the Alto de Duña, basically the more gradual southern side of Monte Oiz (as opposed to the inconsistent one via Santa Katalina they've used before) as far as the Goiuria junction, before climbing the legendary Urkiola at 50km to the stripe. There's then a repeat of the previous day's two stepped ascent to Krutzeta before taking the road from Krutzeta to Urkiola familiar to almost all traceurs, cresting the easy side of Urkiola 12km from the line and then descending into Iurreta.
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22 Apr 2018 11:23

136 km... Half (approximately) of the men's distance. Why such an enormous difference? To ensure that they reach the finish at a suitable time without needing to wake up in the middle of the night? I get that they don't ride as fast so it could be 20-30% shorter but 50 seems like a stretch (it's also a bigger relative difference than sports such as biathlon and cross-country skiing (at least some disciplines in the latter, although the skiathlon and long distance races do have a similar difference)).

Longer races might also allow some breakaway action from rhe beginning which I understood was a problem generally in the women's races where not much happens until the favourites show their hands.
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22 Apr 2018 12:28

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Féminine is approximately 11000x the race we have had from the men in recent years here, it seems, with hell breaking loose on La Redoute and La Roche-aux-Faucons.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was the first major attack, on the Côte de la Redoute, and she built her lead to 40 seconds with 30 kilometres remaining. The race originally split at 60km from the line after a crash, with Jessica Allen of Mitchelton-Scott the worst affected, reducing them to just four riders. While PFP got a sizable lead, when they reached the RAF, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio hit out for home, carrying Guarnier and van der Breggen with her, and while the Flèche podium were able to reach the solo leader of the race, that was as far as it went because Boels having a numerical advantage and the race favourite meant that there was no collaboration from the two double-barrelled opponents. A secondary group then was built up including van Vleuten, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma and the other bigs, while a third group led by Dani Rowe and Janneke Ensing was trying to make contact with that group as they chased down the leading quartet. When the quartet was absorbed by the remaining elite group, again nobody was willing to work with Boels-Dolmans, and Amanda Spratt - who has been the most combative rider of the week, making the selection in Amstel Gold and being one of Ferrand-Prévot's cohorts in the late break in Flèche Wallonne - took her chances relying on the others marking Annemiek, and opened up a gap before Saint-Nicolas.

It was only once the Australian's lead reached the 30 second mark that the chase started to get organized. Longo Borghini has had to DNF, no word as to why, unfortunately, but that inevitably took the number of collaborating teams down as Wiggle would not be interested in collaborating with their main hope for victory dashed. At the same time Mavi García withdrew after a crash and an injured shoulder, however, so that may suggest an incident may be the culprit, but it's not clear. However, with so many climbing types wanting to preserve energy for Saint-Nicolas and few domestiques remaining, especially with Boels not wanting to spend either Meg or Anna and Alena Amialiusik being dropped for Canyon, Spratt was able to extend her lead coming into Saint-Nic, up to the kind of advantage that PFP had enjoyed earlier, which with 6km remaining seemed a pretty impregnable advantage, but we know what the punchy climbs of Liège are capable of doing.

And they did what they were capable of doing, as the bunch behind fell to pieces in dramatic fashion. No Boels lockout this time, though, as when Moolman-Pasio attacked she only had one Boels rider with her this time as Guarnier couldn't follow. Anna quickly went up and over launching an attack of her own, however, and while at first she couldn't get rid of the South African grimpeuse, she eventually shook the Cervélo rider off her tail and ate up the time gap between her and the Australian tête de la course, leaving us with two competing duos - van der Breggen and Spratt at the head of the race, and van Vleuten and Moolman-Pasio chasing after Annemiek caught back up to Ash on the descent. Spratt, having been in all of those breaks all week and with a teammate chasing, provided minimal collaboration to van der Breggen, but we all know just how strong and mighty Anna is both on the flats and on these punchy climbs, and when they got to Ans, it was in fact just before the final ascent there that the decisive move was made; Anna led off from the front, pushed off from the front and took advantage of her fresher legs - not only has Spratty been on the attack in every race this week but with Mitchelton starting both Flèche and LBL with only 5 riders due to the injury to Lucy Kennedy, she's also had to do a lot more work in the péloton too; Anna van der Breggen continues her reign of terror in Ardennes week, making it 5 wins out of 6 since the full week was introduced (to go with two Flèche Wallonne victories carried over from the days before there was a full week of it) and Spratt gets her second podium of the week to reward her for her aggressive racing.

It was somewhat bittersweet for Moolman-Pasio though; having been the most aggressive rider from the bunch behind and being the best climber on the Mur (just that Boels did a great job of shepherding her with their numbers and preventing her taking advantage on the steeper sections where she held the cards, and enabling Anna to come back up and over on that final section - we all know how important timing is on the Mur de Huy and Anna is the best at that), the South African was pipped in the sprint for the final podium spot by Annemiek van Vleuten, leaving her empty-handed and in that most desolate of finishing positions. Ellen van Dijk came in for 5th, a very impressive showing for her over climbs that are a bit longer than she's typically preferred in the past, while Sabrina Stultiens signposts that she's back where she belongs after a long injury lay-off, and PFP shows that, to a great extent, so is she, being Canyon's best finisher in the sprint of the minor places (though to be fair, being a better sprinter than Niewiadoma is damning someone with faint praise). Guarnier held on to make it another top 10 and keep Boels' iron-fisted grip on the WWT team title strong, while Shara Gillow and, pleasingly, Rossella Ratto round out the top 10.

So yea... we may have got a predictable winner, but the women were making this tough from every climb they were given the chance to, and you had elite talents making solo breakaways with over a quarter of the race still to go, strong tactical games, three distinct super groups, the strongest climbers being the strongest climbers and attacking on every climb they could, and a finale with people solo and in small groups. And what coverage did we get? 300m of Anna van der Breggen coming in solo because all the racing was done. Having remembered the weekend and Bastille Day stages of this year's Tour de France, I've come to the inescapable conclusion that ASO, in fact, are very worried about the dangerous prospect of anybody tuning into one of their broadcasts and being accidentally entertained by the bike racing they see, as it may make people have some kind of expectations; and therefore their way of protecting the types of races they've allowed - even encouraged - the men's hilly classics to become is to prevent people from seeing the women's races which are raced much more like the Ardennes used to be raced.
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Re:

22 Apr 2018 12:35

tobydawq wrote:136 km... Half (approximately) of the men's distance. Why such an enormous difference? To ensure that they reach the finish at a suitable time without needing to wake up in the middle of the night? I get that they don't ride as fast so it could be 20-30% shorter but 50 seems like a stretch (it's also a bigger relative difference than sports such as biathlon and cross-country skiing (at least some disciplines in the latter, although the skiathlon and long distance races do have a similar difference)).

Longer races might also allow some breakaway action from rhe beginning which I understood was a problem generally in the women's races where not much happens until the favourites show their hands.

It's just different. In the men's races there's often a lot of 'artificial' action, whereby a non-threatening group is allowed to go up the road early, and everyone settles into a holding pattern for a long time. In the women's races, control is more difficult as there's smaller teams, and so you'll often get a pattern that works along the lines of "attack: catch. Attack: catch" where riders will try to soften up the bunch and unless the rider up front is truly not considered a threat they never get that far up the road to be considered a genuine break of the day. It's only when you get to events like the Giro Rosa and Thüringen (and in days gone by the Tour de l'Aude) where recovery becomes a factor and towards the end you'll get teams happy to take something of an off-day for much of the day in a flat stage, enabling a break of the day to form in the hope of being allowed to escape, and the Boels, Canyon, Wiggle type teams to leave the chasing duty to sprinters' teams like we would see in the men's races.

Similarly it has been said on many occasions in men's races that it would often be better to broadcast the first hour and last hour rather than the last two hours, because the chases and competition to be in the breakaway (when it isn't a pre-ordained one) is often more interesting than the lengthy period in a holding pattern while the break is slowly reeled in. The women's races, because of their shorter length, are more about that part of the race because once that part of the race is over, it's pretty much already almost time for endgame to begin, especially with smaller team sizes as if domestiques have spent the first hour and a half chasing constant small but inconsequential attacks, there's nobody but the big guns left to respond when the first significant move comes. And sometimes that portion of the race isn't so exciting as not too many people want to try their luck, and other times it's great fun.

Edit: Waowdeals report that both Jeanne Korevaar and Marianne Vos left the race due to a large crash so it seems there were quite a few names caught up in that.
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22 Apr 2018 16:02

I was him
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22 Apr 2018 18:47

In other news from the race, Ratto woke up from the dead and Vos broke a collarbone....again.
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23 Apr 2018 18:16

Marianne Vos collects broken collarbones the way other people collect baseball cards.

I am trying to not get overexcited about Ratto performing well because I really want the Rossella of 2013-14 back but because there have been so many false dawns I'm keeping my expectations as low as I can to avoid disappointment when she inevitably then has a really bad race in Britain or Bira or wherever she lines up next.

As for Edwige, her quest for the podium came up short, as ever in the US stage races Katie Hall stomped everybody in the climbs, and I really wish she'd come to Europe. She's another of that classic late-blooming late-starting American niche rider, perhaps the best comparison is that she's a less dynamic Evie Stevie (I miss Evie Stevie). She seems to have this great strength for the American stage races but aside from San Luís, the only real success she's had outside of home roads has been a stage in the Thüringen Rundfahrt three years ago. She's a strong climber though, and I would like to be able to see her take on Europe's best more often, since obviously the Tour of California is one of the few WWT races she does and quite often the position in the calendar, after the long Classics season, and with budget restrictions precluding a few teams from making the journey, means the field there isn't quite optimal and it's not that easy to gauge where her level truly is as against the main WWT péloton. She's just won the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Tour of the Gila back to back thanks to beating the domestic péloton to smithereens in the mountains, so while perhaps it's not as comprehensive as it used to be when Mara was riding for Wiggle and staying in exile as a guest rider in the US for most of the season then swanning in to take team leadership in the Giro, it would still be interesting to see her in this year's far more mountainous Giro.
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23 Apr 2018 18:32

Meanwhile, the reborn Route de France...is dead again.

Apparently one of the organizing towns pulled out. What on earth? How can you just pull out, isn't there a signed contract?
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23 Apr 2018 23:09

To be honest I wasn't convinced it would go ahead, I don't really know about the contract side of things but it wouldn't be the first time we've seen things like that, like the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon falling apart mid-race. Still a shame but hope they can cobble something together to bring the race back next year. Perhaps the new calendar slot is suboptimal, in terms of attraction of names, but I've always maintained it would have been best had ASO shored up the Route and turned it into a week-race that started with the Champs Elysées stage, or maybe a prologue or TTT on the Champs course before the Tour final day parade, then seven days through the week either heading east for the Vosges as in recent years or south for the Massif Central.
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26 Apr 2018 06:54

Former(?) pro Jacquelin Crowell passes away from brain tumor.
Aka The Ginger One.
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26 Apr 2018 18:22

Very sad, may she rest in peace. She had retired as far as I know, she raced a couple of years around the time of London with Kristin Armstrong's Exergy team but mostly raced domestically in the US so I'm not as familiar with her as I am with the European péloton I'm afraid, but 30 is no age at all.

This is a very busy weekend coming up for women's cycling with the péloton splitting up multiple ways. The WWT is headed to China for the Tour of Chongming Island, a pan-flat charge around highways on an otherwise featureless rectangular fluvial island in the Shanghai region. As ever, sprints are anticipated to be the order of the day across the board, so the bonus seconds are likely to prove the most important factor for the GC. Meanwhile in Europe, Graciá-Orlová, an interesting race with an intermediate parcours, is taking place in the Czech Republic, and also perhaps most prestigiously from a tradition point of view, in Luxembourg the GP Féminin Elsy Jacobs is taking place, a long established stage race with a time trial, a flattish stage and a hilly stage and a strong list of past winners.

Let's deal with Chongming first; it is the strongest in terms of its status with the UCI. The most striking thing about the startlist is that three of the top 5 ranked teams in the world - Boels, Canyon and Sunweb - do not line up for the race; their position at the upper end of the rankings is pretty secure, and with a lot of options back in Europe and often not a bonanza powerhouse sprinter, they are happy to skip it. Mitchelton-Scott are present, mainly as they have the defending champion, Jolien d'Hoore, but with Spratt not present this means Jolien is the highest ranked rider in the WWT competing in China, from 7th place. With the likes of Roy and Elvin backing her up, this 5-man team is strong enough but not unbeatable. Wiggle, by contrast, are a way below where they would ordinarily want to be at this point in the season, down in 8th in the rankings, so this is a good chance for them to make hay while the sun shines, so they've sent a Kirsten Wild-led team (Wild has won the race in 2014 and 2015) and also another former winner in Annette Edmondson. The other major team in the rankings to be competing is Alé-Cipollini, led by 2009 and 2016 Tour of Chongming Island winner Chloe Hosking, but also like Mitchelton only entering five riders.

Other significant threats are likely to come from Cylance, led by two-time former world champion Giorgia Bronzini and Sheyla Gutiérrez, Hitec Products with useful sprinter Nina Kessler, Virtu with Norwegian sprinter Emilie Moberg and former Giro stage winner Barbara Guarischi, and Doltcini with Kelly Druyts. FDJ have some decent sprint strength but only four riders in China, while BTC rest Bujak, their best points-scorer, and placing their hopes for a race like this in the likes of Iakovenko seems an uncertain goal. Also Dukla Praha are racing amid the Asian wildcard teams, which seems strange with Graciá-Orlová going on at home.

Speaking of Graciá-Orlová, the clashes with other major races have hurt it somewhat and the field is made up in large part of national teams, though there are some decent names competing in these - former WWT race winner Emilia Fahlin, Yevgenia Vysotska, Sari Saareläinen, Saartje Vandenbroucke, Kaat Hannes, Olga Shekel, Martina Ritter and Doris Schweizer all line up for national squads, while the biggest name in the trade teams is Cogeas' multiple Olympic medal-winner Olga Zabelinskaya.

Finally, not starting until tomorrow, the Festival Luxembourgeoise de Cyclisme Elsy Jacobs has a very, very good lineup. The defending champion is the local heroine Christine Majerus, who leads a five-woman Boels Dolmans assault, with Amy Pieters returning after resting through the hilliest WWT events, and Jip van den Bos continuing her apprenticeship in the same role as Thalita de Jong fulfilled at Rabo and Amalie Dideriksen did before her; Skylar Schneider and Anna Plichta complete the lineup. Canyon have rested their two leaders for such races, Niewiadoma (who won this race a couple of years ago) and PFP, but Amialiusik is here to lead with an all killer-no filler lineup with Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein, Alexis Ryan, Hannah Barnes and Elena Cecchini, so they have options for all eventualities. Cervélo have their two strongest riders for this terrain, Ash Moolman-Pasio and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, together as always, but only a four-woman lineup due to their small roster. Lotta is here to try to contend a sprint, though, so it's a truncated but full-strength lineup. Waowdeals, like Canyon, are resting their strongest rider (i.e. Vos, obviously) but are otherwise as full-strength as possible with Koster, Rooijakkers and the rejuvenated Stultiens. Even BTC have their strongest riders, with Bujak and Batagelj both here, while Astana keep the heat on the in-form Sofia Bertizzolo who has been wearing that WWT U23 jersey with pride, as well as promoting 18-year-old Letizia Paternoster after her impressive victory, besting established names like Rasa Leleivyte and Maria Giulia Confalonieri, in the GP Liberazione PINK in the week. Confalonieri is herself here, after revenge, for Valcar-PBM. Others to look out for include local stars Chantal Hoffmann for Lotto and Elise Maes for WNT, the latter of whom was climbing very well this time last year, promising climber Nikola Nosková for BePink, the controversial Hanna Solovey for Parkhotel, veteran Rachel Neylan for Movistar, Wiggle's Eri Yonamine subbing in the Maaslander Continental team, and young prospects Pernille Mathiesen and Susanne Andersen in the Danish and Norwegian national teams respectively.
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26 Apr 2018 23:00

First stage in Chongming was, as could be predicted, one where the whole péloton arrived in the final kilometre together. However, when it came to the finish, there were only a select few riders remaining, thanks to a colossal and pretty scary-looking crash which took out a number of major contenders, including Kirsten Wild, Jolien d'Hoore, Emilie Moberg, Sarah Roy and Chloe Hosking. The finish can be seen on Wiggle-High 5's summary video; Nettie Edmondson narrates the way the fight for position was on one second, she nipped through a gap that was closing with Wild on her wheel, but there wasn't quite enough space for Wild to squeeze through behind her and chaos ensued.

As a result, the sprint was more between those who were left vertical than those who made up the best sprinters in the field; but there was one big name still in the mix, and she was the one that took the win - Giorgia Bronzini is now very much a veteran, at 34 years of age she's seen this all a million times before, and there's probably no sprinter in the péloton better at the whole "staying out of trouble" thing than her - she may not have the burst of acceleration she did at her best, but she's very good at being the one that doesn't get caught up in incidents to profit like this. The former double World Champion outsprinted Kelly Druyts and Valcar's 20-year-old prospect Silvia Persico to take the stage, piloted through the final kilometre by Sheyla Gutiérrez. With bonus seconds likely to be vital in settling the GC, this could be crucial for Valcar and Doltcini in building up World Cup points, while it's a major opportunity that potentially goes begging for Wiggle as they would presumably have banked on a high GC finish for Kirsten here.

By way of contrast, Graciá-Orlová started with a stage with a punchy uphill finish in Štramberk, splitting the riders up somewhat and preventing the kind of nervy sprint that we saw in Chongming. As one of the most established riders in the race it is perhaps not surprising to see Emilia Fahlin nose ahead of everybody and win the stage with a few seconds' advantage, but second place going to 18-year-old Russian Maria Novolodskaya, outperforming her more illustrious teammate Zabelinskaya, was something of a surprise although she did come 2nd in a similar field back in February in a race in Turkey. The 20-year-old Swiss Sina Frei was next on the day, ahead of Christofourou, Vysotska, Zabelinskaya and Hannes, who are much more established names.
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27 Apr 2018 20:33

Stage 1 and Stage 2 highlights from Chongming from the official channels. Somehow, rather like that anomalous year when Tetyana Riabchenko won, the Tour of Chongming Island has broken from tradition, and it seems bonus seconds will not set the GC alone. Perhaps that stage 1 crash taking out three of the GC favourites in the strongest teams has affected that as, with their GC ambitions halted, d'Hoore, Wild and Hosking had less interest in making their team work, leaving Bronzini's Cylance charges to it, though they did try to abrogate that responsibility by putting Sheyla Gutiérrez in an early attack. After that failed, Tibco's Shannon Malseed, the Aussie national champion, got away and dragged a few others with her, including some of the most combative riders from the previous day's racing, Dalia Muccioli and Anastasiya Iakovenko, both ordinarily preferring much hillier terrain. In fact, all four of Malseed's cohorts had been in attacks on day 1, the others being Charlotte Becker, the veteran German for Hitec Products, and Coralie Démay for FDJ.

It says something for the lack of cohesion in the chase behind that another group got away from them for a while, and indeed this seemed more like a men's race for a while, a flat stage where a group has 2 minutes up the road - the difference is, in women's cycling with the smaller teams, unless multiple teams commit to that chase, 5 is a dangerous break size to have away there, and given they only escaped with 62km remaining, brutal fatigue was always going to be less likely to be a factor. Cylance kept looking for collaborators in the chase, but found few willing workers among other teams; meanwhile the breakaway were all happy to collaborate to the end, even those without sprint capabilities, for this would be inevitably a great opportunity for a GC position that would have been otherwise unexpected, and with many of their teams in need of strong WWT points to protect their positions, all were instructed to collaborate to the last and not risk ruining the harmony in the group and letting it be caught; in the end they all rolled through right to the very end when Charlotte Becker took the sprint ahead of Shannon Malseed, with Iakovenko, fresh from a surprising top 10 in Flèche, managing 3rd and now on course for a very unusual combo of Flèche Wallonne and Chongming Island top 10s - a great result for BTC in the making of course, but what about Hitec Products? It's the first WWT win for them since Kirsten Wild won the London crit two years ago, and the team is not as big as in its heyday a few years ago now, being rather left behind funding-wise and no longer the team of Emma Johansson, Ash Moolman-Pasio and Rossella Ratto as it once was. There's also now a good chance that all five teams of those will be happy with the status quo, so will be happy to control attacks tomorrow and let the likes of Wiggle and Mitchelton try to make lemonade out of what they probably thought was a great opportunity for some cheap WWT points but have turned out rather to be lemons. Malseed in her post-race interview was amazed enough that the attack succeeded, noting how infrequent such things are in Chongming Island thanks to a parcours that is typically like the Tour of Qatar without wind.

Thanks to bonus seconds, Becker's lead is 5" over Malseed, 8" over Iakovenko, 13" over Muccioli and 16" over Démay, while Bronzini is the best from the bunch at +1'13".

Over in the Czech Republic, Emilia Fahlin was continuing to have her fun, doubling up with a win in Lichnov from a group of 19 which escaped and put a number of minutes on the field. The Swede successfully bested Linda Indergand of the Swiss national team and, once again, 18-year-old Russian prospect Maria Novolodskaya (intriguingly she is a full 27 years younger than the eldest rider in the group, Jutta Stienen of Re/MAX, who will turn 46 a week after Novolodskaya's 19th birthday). Most of the riders in the group were also in the top 20 yesterday - Olga Zabelinskaya, Yevgenia Vysotska, Kelly van den Steen, Alice Maria Arzuffi, Cristina Martínez (not the singer), Sina Frei, Polina Kirillova, Githa Michiels, Galina Chernyshova...

In the GP Féminin Elsy Jacobs, the prologue was a short and frantic affair which sees Canyon-SRAM's German prospect Lisa Klein take the leader's jersey, ahead of Amy Pieters by mere fractions of a second, also nudging her former Cervélo-Bigla teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig down to third, 1" back. Excitingly, Letizia Paternoster was then 4th, a further second back, so it will be interesting to see how the young Italian phenom does in the road stages to come, especially the hilly stage around Garnich, among such illustrious competition as this. Anouska Koster rounds out the top 5, nudging local heroine and defending champion Christine Majerus down to 6th, but at just 3" back she's obviously still dangerous as dangerous can be given that these are local roads to her and she'll be as motivated as possible especially as in a team as stacked as Boels this is one of the few chances she gets to be leader.

The team also has Jip van den Bos at just +6" but obviously a prologue is a prologue, so most riders are still close enough that they need monitoring; it'll be more about the teams with multiple riders up there that concern is caused. Canyon obviously will be tasked with controlling the bunch since they have Klein leading the race, but Amialiusik and Ryan are both competitive. Cervélo's big three are living up to their billing as well, as in addition to Cille, Moolman-Pasio and Lepistö are both within 6" and capable of taking the lead in bonuses. This is a strong field though, so we'll learn more about who has the form tomorrow...
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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28 Apr 2018 09:29

The final stage in Chongming was more the familiar territory that we're used to from the Chinese short stage race, as everybody managed to stay intact and the stage ended in a sprint. With teams such as Tibco, Hitec and BTC all now changing from being the combative ones in the race to the ones who most wanted to preserve the status quo thanks to their unexpected WT points windfall in yesterday's stage, and teams who would have been expecting strong points-scoring performances such as Mitchelton-Scott and Wiggle-High 5 but whose ambitions were ruined in that day one pile-up also looking to salvage something from their long distance trip out to China, there were just too many teams who were intent on the stage being a sprint for breakaway groups to stand a chance.

In the end we got a clean sprint, and so for the first time in the race the people duking out the win were the ones we would ordinarily have expected, with Kirsten Wild sneaking across the line ahead of Jolien d'Hoore. Giorgia Bronzini protected her GC position with some more bonus seconds, picking up third place, ahead of Kelly Druyts, Barbara Guarischi and a surprisingly pedestrian Chloe Hosking. All five of yesterday's breakaway contestants were safely ensconced within the peloton, and so the upper end of the GC is unaltered, but the bonus seconds fights further down do have some effects, bringing the expected superstar sprinting corps into the top 10 thanks to time bonuses at intermediates and at the line, since the crash meant they were all on péloton time until today. It did have a bit of an air of the 2010 Tour of Qatar though, where essentially a half-hearted battle for lesser points was had between the people who would have ordinarily expected to be winning this race. However, that's to take nothing away from yesterday's breakaway, after all this is a race where attacking is often a thankless task so they deserve to take the plaudits for making that gamble, and everybody working together in mutual interests managed to pull the same kind of unexpected number on the bunch that we saw at last year's Women's Tour or this year's Amstel Gold Race where the bunch just could not get themselves organized to chase a group up the road, for a variety of reasons.

Final GC Tour of Chongming Island:
1 Charlotte Becker (Hitec Products) GER 8'45'55
2 Shannon Malseed (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) AUS +5"
3 Anastasiya Iakovenko (BTC City-Ljubljana) RUS +8"
4 Dalia Muccioli (Valcar-PBM) ITA +13"
5 Coralie Démay (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) FRA +16"
6 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +1'04"
7 Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High 5) NED +1'12"
8 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL +1'13"
9 Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) AUS +1'18"
10 Kelly Druyts (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) BEL +1'19"
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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28 Apr 2018 22:48

Chongming Island stage 3 highlights

Back in Europe, The GP Féminin Elsy Jacobs had the Steinfort stage, which is a typically technical sprinters' stage. The narrow roads and technical run-in has always meant it's not quite a bunch free-for-all like the Chongming Island circuit race, and so it proved today, with crashes in the last 3km but in the end a comprehensive win for the lady who has made this kind of sprint her own (as those quality purveyors of extremely technical run-ins and slightly uphill drags with seven turns in the last kilometre, the Women's Tour, can attest), and also for bonus points who is the defending champion and a local girl, Christine Majerus. In the super-strong Boels team, Majerus often doesn't get too many chances, at least on the road, to lead, so it's nice for her to get the chance and take the bull by the horns. The technical nature of the sprint also affected those who were in the mix for it, with Alexis Ryan coming in 2nd, and Eugenia Bujak, who has quietly become a really strong rider in the last couple of years, third. Superstar Letizia Paternoster managed a second straight 4th ahead of Lisa Klein in the leader's jersey, which she now has to hand over to the defending champion. Some 60-something riders are still on their prologue time ahead of tomorrow's hilly finale, so there's still plenty of work for Boels to do if Majerus wants to double up.

Meanwhile in Graciá-Orlová, they had split stages, so in the morning's 12,7km ITT, Olga Zabelinskaya, storied veteran with Olympic silver and bronze against the clock in her résumé, took the win and with it the race lead, demoting Fahlin who lost 40 seconds to the Russian. Martina Ritter, the Wiggle rider guesting for the Austrian national team, came in 2nd ahead of Maria Novolodskaya who continues her eye-catching performances here, ahead of little-heralded Polish teenager Marta Jaskulska (born in 2000!), Olga Shekel and the previous race leader Fahlin. The Swede did elect to begin her comeback in the afternoon's semitappe with it including a slight uphill finish once more, taking her third victory of the race; however, Emilia couldn't quite get the necessary time gap on Zabelinskaya, so the Russian retains the lead going in to tomorrow's final stage after finishing 2nd in the stage. Apart from Lotto's Kelly van den Steen, in the Belgian national team, everybody else was at something between 17" and 32" from Fahlin's time so realistically we have to consider that the race tomorrow is all about whether Fahlin can get the time she needs from Zabelinskaya.
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Re:

28 Apr 2018 23:54

Libertine Seguros wrote:The final stage in Chongming was more the familiar territory that we're used to from the Chinese short stage race, as everybody managed to stay intact and the stage ended in a sprint. With teams such as Tibco, Hitec and BTC all now changing from being the combative ones in the race to the ones who most wanted to preserve the status quo thanks to their unexpected WT points windfall in yesterday's stage, and teams who would have been expecting strong points-scoring performances such as Mitchelton-Scott and Wiggle-High 5 but whose ambitions were ruined in that day one pile-up also looking to salvage something from their long distance trip out to China, there were just too many teams who were intent on the stage being a sprint for breakaway groups to stand a chance.

In the end we got a clean sprint, and so for the first time in the race the people duking out the win were the ones we would ordinarily have expected, with Kirsten Wild sneaking across the line ahead of Jolien d'Hoore. Giorgia Bronzini protected her GC position with some more bonus seconds, picking up third place, ahead of Kelly Druyts, Barbara Guarischi and a surprisingly pedestrian Chloe Hosking. All five of yesterday's breakaway contestants were safely ensconced within the peloton, and so the upper end of the GC is unaltered, but the bonus seconds fights further down do have some effects, bringing the expected superstar sprinting corps into the top 10 thanks to time bonuses at intermediates and at the line, since the crash meant they were all on péloton time until today. It did have a bit of an air of the 2010 Tour of Qatar though, where essentially a half-hearted battle for lesser points was had between the people who would have ordinarily expected to be winning this race. However, that's to take nothing away from yesterday's breakaway, after all this is a race where attacking is often a thankless task so they deserve to take the plaudits for making that gamble, and everybody working together in mutual interests managed to pull the same kind of unexpected number on the bunch that we saw at last year's Women's Tour or this year's Amstel Gold Race where the bunch just could not get themselves organized to chase a group up the road, for a variety of reasons.

Final GC Tour of Chongming Island:
1 Charlotte Becker (Hitec Products) GER 8'45'55
2 Shannon Malseed (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) AUS +5"
3 Anastasiya Iakovenko (BTC City-Ljubljana) RUS +8"
4 Dalia Muccioli (Valcar-PBM) ITA +13"
5 Coralie Démay (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) FRA +16"
6 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA +1'04"
7 Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High 5) NED +1'12"
8 Jolien d'Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) BEL +1'13"
9 Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini) AUS +1'18"
10 Kelly Druyts (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) BEL +1'19"

Really good to see Shannon Malseed mixing it up with the big names. Malseed came to cycling relatively late and made a big impression on the domestic scene quickly.
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29 Apr 2018 20:56

Final days of the other stage races this week:

Graciá-Orlová's final stage, a lumpy trek around Orlová itself, split the bunch all over the road with moves left right and centre, and the Cogeas team of leader Olga Zabelinskaya struggled to control it. A 10-woman breakaway eventually settled the stage but only after splitting into pieces themselves. Cogeas' main concern was preventing Emilia Fahlin from getting the few seconds she needed to pass the veteran Russian, and given that the Swede had been killing everybody in the slight uphill finishes here, they knew that preventing her having bonus seconds by letting the break go would be a useful weapon for that. From the break, Kaat Hannes outsprinted Martina Ritter and Katarzyna Wilkos from the remainder of it, to pick up her first win of the race, but further down the order, Cogeas' plan just didn't work, as Fahlin sprinted away from Zabelinskaya to take a full six seconds at the line; they may have been able to compensate with the other two podium positions but let's be honest, Emilia Fahlin has been the best rider of the week, winning 3 stages and being the best from the bunch in a 4th, and she deserves the win as a result.

Final GC:
1 Emilia Fahlin (Sweden) SWE 10'29'29
2 Olga Zabelinskaya (Cogeas) RUS +6"
3 Maria Novolodskaya (Cogeas) RUS +59"
4 Yevgenia Vysotska (Ukraine) UKR +1'15"
5 Linda Indergand (Switzerland) SUI +1'28"
6 Alice Maria Arzuffi (Bizkaia Durango-Euskadi Murias) ITA +1'38"
7 Omer Shapiro (Israel) ISR +1'39"
8 Githa Michiels (Belgium) BEL +1'43"
9 Kelly van den Steen (Belgium) BEL +1'50"
10 Lena Gérault (France) FRA +2'11"

The final hilly stage of the GP Elsy Jacobs set the final GC to a great extent, and in dramatic style as the bunch was trimmed down through attacks, with only 30 or so contesting the final stages. Boels did have some comfort in that the challenge of Cervélo was limited somewhat with Cille pulling out due to illness, leaving them too heavily reliant on Ash escaping in the climbs, and when that did not succeed, Lotta Lepistö in the sprint. But also from a sprint, banking on Majerus was a bit of a gamble as while she's very good at that, she's not a specialist either; not that the eventual winner is (yet) anyway: step forward Letizia Paternoster, seemingly a coming sensation from Italy. The 18-year-old outsprinted Lepistö (!) to take maximum bonus seconds from a surprisingly large group for the race, enabling her to also snatch the GC thanks to her impressive showings of 4th, 4th and 1st across the three stages, as with Balsamo and also Alexis Ryan besting Majerus in the sprint so that the Luxembourger did not pick up any bonuses, that 10 second stage win bonus moved Paternoster into the overall lead by a mere second, while Alexis Ryan continues her promising year with a climb into 3rd. The race seemed a little less selective than usual timegaps-wise but it's still an impressive and unexpected triumph for the Astana rider.

1 Letizia Paternoster (Astana) ITA 5'26'03
2 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +1"
3 Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) USA +6"
4 Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) FIN +8"
5 Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) GER +8"
6 Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-PBM) ITA +8"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) POL +12"
8 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA +13"
9 Jeanne Korevaar (Waowdeals) NED +13"
10 Belle de Gast (Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental) NED +14"
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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30 Apr 2018 20:15

Letizia also won the final stage! I don't follow women's cycling very much, was this an important race? It seems to me an amazing result for an eighteen year old, is it?
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01 May 2018 19:35

It is a pretty great result for an 18-year-old indeed. It's not a super-important race, but it's a well established and pretty prestigious event. It's been hurt a little by the extension of the Ardennes from one race to a full Ardennes week, but still draws a very strong field, albeit missing a few of the top top names (for example Canyon entering but led by Ryan and Amialiusik, with PFP and Niewiadoma rested, Waowdeals not entering Vos but having otherwise a full strength team, and Boels using it to continue to blood some of the youngsters, resting van der Breggen and letting Majerus lead on home roads - but literally any configuration of a Boels team is strong enough to be in contention). It's got a good niche between the hilly classics and the onset of stage race season (Emakumeen Bira, women's País Vasco, and Tour of California shortly). I'd say it's like winning a good 2.HC race for the men - like a Quatre Jours de Dunkerque, Vuelta a Burgos kind of level. The best analogue would have been the Critérium International, with which it has many similarities in format. She's clearly got a good sprint on her - maybe she and Balsamo will be duking out Italian sprints for years to come - and can TT decently, she can get over a few obstacles as otherwise she wouldn't have been there on that Garnich stage.

That said, I don't know if it was raced tamer than in previous years if, perhaps, Majerus wasn't feeling great and nobody was able to get away from Boels, as that same course led to climbing carnage two years ago when ten riders put 2 minutes on the field, and Niewiadoma a further minute on that, although last year's was a group of 30 similar to this. If you look at the winners of this race GC since 2010 though, it reads Pooley, Vos, Vos, Vos, van der Breggen, van der Breggen, Niewiadoma, Majerus, Paternoster, so she certainly is in some exalted company there.
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