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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2016

Page 30 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Caught the Vargarda replay just now. Definitely surprised at Fahlin winning a sprint in that group, even if the others were tired.

Does anyone know why Francesca Cauz has barely raced this season?
I keep hoping she'll do something remotely resembling her 2013 Giro form, but it's just not happening.
I'm less surprised by her beating Barnes, who is at the moment not especially durable so getting over a bumpy circuit in a small group may have taken more out of her than she'd hoped, and tactically she played it well to profit from Pieters' early move, but colour me surprised she held Lotta off, I would have thought this circuit and break composition was ideal for her much along the lines of the stage of the Tour of Britain she won.

As regards Fran, I did read something back at the end of June after she was a late scratch from the Trentino startlist that she had needed what translated rather poetically as a "pause for reflection". CQ suggests she's left Alé, but if so, somebody needs to tell both her and the team as neither have publicised anything to that effect. It makes me wonder if there's some non-injury problem, such as mono, or if there are motivational issues. Neither she nor the team have been acting as if there's any rift or anything in particular up, however. While she is very much a female Igor Antón in that her form is fragile and evanescent and her skillset is almost entirely in one area, with her being prone to crashes, illnesses and otherwise losing time in other places, this season is pretty extreme even given that we've grown used to her being flaky, inconsistent and frustrating to follow. As you can probably guess from her skillset, I like Fran, and though 2014 was a less than exciting follow-up to her 2013 breakout, last year was promising - there are very few races on the women's calendar for a one-dimensional pure climber (hence Abbott's very limited calendar as well) so it's only occasionally that we get the chance to actually see what her form is like. In the Giro she was aggressive in the Aprica stage, she just had too much of a deficit from earlier stages, so went too early and couldn't make it stick, disastrously missed the key move to Morbegno but was among the best to San Domenico. This year has been one for the 2010 Cobo file though, she's barely finished a race, withdrawn from her season's goal's main warmup race and skipped her season's goal, when you'd really have thought that a healthy and motivated Cauz just at last year's level could have been an enormous asset in the Olympic Road Race as well. I'm also thinking back to Eleonora Patuzzo, who I really had high hopes for, although her reasons for stepping away were educational.

Libertine Seguros said:
I'm less surprised by her beating Barnes, who is at the moment not especially durable so getting over a bumpy circuit in a small group may have taken more out of her than she'd hoped, and tactically she played it well to profit from Pieters' early move, but colour me surprised she held Lotta off, I would have thought this circuit and break composition was ideal for her much along the lines of the stage of the Tour of Britain she won.
Barnes was badly positioned coming into the final corner. She made it worse by going the wide/wrong way round the traffic island on that final corner.
In the Trophée d'Or, the toughest road stage split things apart and we ended up with the final selection being made with 28 riders coming to the line together. It seems most likely that we have a late attack or surprise move in the run-in because you wouldn't normally expect Alison Jackson and Élise Delzenne to 1-2 a sprint here, but the field they beat are mostly the more durable sprinters so it may have been a fairly technical run-in although all the toughest obstacles were mid-stage. After the second group, 2 minutes down, the rest of the field dropped 10 minutes, so that brings to an end the high GC positions for the young Japanese riders, none of whom made the front selection (unless you count Yonamine, who of course is racing for Futuroscope) although a couple were in the second group on the road. Pascale Jeuland and 2nd-on-GC Coralie Demay also missed the move and mean that the Futuroscope team is reliant on Duval for GC contention now; with de Vuyst and Lichtenberg both making the front group and nobody with time bonuses close enough it looks like she is the only obstacle to Lotto locking out the podium places. Jackson and Delzenne must have been away as they took intermediate time bonuses as well so Delzenne will extend her GC lead while Lippert moves into a surprising sixth place.

1 Alison Jackson (Twenty16 p/b Sho-air) CAN 2'39'55
2 Élise Delzenne (Lotto-Soudal) FRA +st
3 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +st
4 Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +st
5 Soraya Paladin (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ITA +st
6 Änna Zita Maria Stricker (INPA-Biachi) ITA +st
7 Kelly van den Steen (TopSport Vlaanderen-Etixx) BEL +st
8 Eugénie Duval (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
9 Kaat Hannes (Lensworld-Zannata) BEL +st
10 Anisha Vekemans (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +st

Which leaves the GC like this:
1 Élise Delzenne (Lotto-Soudal) FRA 5'14'04
2 Eugénie Duval (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) FRA +44"
3 Sofie de Vuyst (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +45"
4 Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal) GER +51"
5 Daiva Tušlaitė (INPA-Bianchi) LTU +53"
6 Liane Lippert (Team Stuttgart) GER +1'04"
7 Eri Yonamine (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) JPN +1'09"
8 Alison Jackson (Twenty16 p/b Sho-Air) CAN +1'10"
9 Soraya Paladin (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ITA +1'12"
10 Lara Vieceli (INPA-Bianchi) ITA +1'18"
That would make a lot more sense, since TWENTY16 haven't really raced in Europe this year and have more or less fulfilled their purpose now that Kristin Armstrong won the Olympic time trial.

Today's penultimate stage seems to have been a more benign affair, ending in a sprint and seeing many of those at the business end of the GC not contesting it or even being too fussed about being up near the front, with places unlikely to be threatened after the stronger sprinters lost time in yesterday's queen stage. Alé-Cipollini's strong week continues as Marta picks up her second stage win of the race, while Delzenne's GC lead remains comfortable-looking ahead of tomorrow's final stage, especially given the strong positions of support riders who can step in to take the potential GC win should the Frenchwoman falter - however she's looked on imperious form and racks up another top 10 today.

1 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA 2'34'24
2 Monique van de Ree (Lares-Waowdeals) NED +st
3 Pascale Jeuland (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) FRA +st
4 Rasa Leleivytė (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +st
5 Anisha Vekemans (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +st
6 Soraya Paladin (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ITA +st
7 Christina Perchtold (Vitalogic Astrokalb-Radunion NÖ) AUT +st
8 Élise Delzenne (Lotto-Soudal) FRA +st
9 Daiva Tušlaitė (INPA-Bianchi) LTU +st
10 Alessia Martini (Aromitalia-Vaiano) ITA +st

GC unaltered.

yaco said:
Apparently Van Vleuten is slated to ride GP De Plouay-Bretagne on Saturday - A quick recovery from her crash at the Olympics RR.

Really? I suspect that's a wonky startlist of some kind. Not wise to race so soon after that concussion... and she's on holiday in Italy according to her twitter.
I might have thought Orica had a provisional startlist from way back, or maybe had her down in case she was healthy just so they could put her in if she could ride as she's arguably their strongest rider for Plouay terrain (when fit to race, obviously, and Spratty has had a very good season of course) but I certainly wouldn't expect to see her back on the bike just yet. Likewise PFP has called her season to a halt, too many eggs in too many baskets has had its impact for her; racing at the elite level in road, 'cross and MTB means she gets precious few substantial breaks, and trying to get healthy for two Olympic races despite injuries has had a much more significant effect, even going as far as to say that she hates cycling at the moment, a very worrying state of play for somebody as immensely talented and successful as young as she is.

In happier news, though, the final stage of the Flèche d'Or was a comparatively flat stage with a couple of rolling hills on a final circuit, but nothing you'd class as a serious obstacle. We did get a late move including a couple of riders who weren't that far down the GC - Eri Yonamine of Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86, and Daiva Tušlaitė of INPA, both of whom were in the lower part of the top 10. They were joined by Minami Uwano of the Japanese national team, and then monitored for Lotto by climber par excellence Claudia Lichtenberg, who lay ahead of them on the GC and of course had Delzenne in the maillot jaune behind, so was content to mark them as her two GC-relevant break companions needed not just to gain an adequate amount of time on Delzenne but also drop Lichtenberg while they were at it. They tried their best late on, but in the end the quartet only just hung on from the péloton, and to add insult to injury, Claudia, having not had to do the work in the group, realized that for possibly the first time in her career she was in a group she could win a sprint from, and nipped out to take the stage win. Despite being one of the best of all the climbers in the women's péloton and finishing 4th in the Giro, this is Claudia's first win on the road in two years (the last one being the Route de France GC in 2014), which as a big fan of hers I can only be happy for. The time bonus was also enough to pull her up into 2nd on the GC for added joy for Lotto, who thereby took 1st and 2nd, though the time bonus for second place pulled Tušlaitė up past de Vuyst and Duval and into 3rd.

That's right, in August 2016, both Anna van der Breggen and Claudia Lichtenberg have won sprints. All we need is Mara to take one and we know the end is nigh.

Final stage:
1 Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal) GER 2'41'02
2 Daiva Tušlaitė (INPA-Bianchi) LTU +st
3 Minami Uwano (Japan National) JPN +st
4 Eri Yonamine (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) JPN +2"
5 Alison Jackson (BePink) CAN +7"
6 Kaat Hannes (Lensworld-Zannata) BEL +7"
7 Rasa Leleivytė (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +7"
8 Pascale Jeuland (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) FRA +7"
9 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +7"
10 Lara Vieceli (INPA-Bianchi) ITA +7"

Final GC:
1 Élise Delzenne (Lotto-Soudal) FRA 10'29'40
2 Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal) GER +31"
3 Daiva Tušlaitė (INPA-Bianchi) LTU +37"
4 Eugénie Duval (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) FRA +40"
5 Sofie de Vuyst (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +41"
6 Liane Lippert (Team Stuttgart) GER +1'01"
7 Eri Yonamine (Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86) JPN +1'01"
8 Alison Jackson (BePink) CAN +1'07"
9 Soraya Paladin (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ITA +1'09"
10 Lara Vieceli (INPA-Bianchi) ITA +1'15"
Feb 20, 2016
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Yes, I didn't mean it like "cause she's a woman" - compared to Cancellaras crash it sure looked really much worse.

Then again, there are so many tiny variables going on in a crash - a seemingly small accident can ve life threatening.

But like you say, riders are tough individuals, which is why I like cycling in the first place!
It's time for the GP Ouest-France Plouay, the last 'real' race of the World Tour (in that it is a traditional Women's World Cup race, as the Madrid Challenge is another of the pseudo-crits that have started to proliferate, with a decent prize pot but nothing interesting in the parcours to let us see what the women can actually do racing-wise, that hopefully will either develop into some better races or are used to get the WWT established whereupon some more interesting races will supplant them). Similar to the men's race, it's a good race for the puncheuse, with the Côte de Ty Marrec likely to be the difference maker. There are three riders who've won the race twice, with Noemi Cantele winning in 2005 and 2007, Emma Pooley winning back to back in 2009 and 2010 (both being long solos where she took the field apart and won by minutes, leading the race to be dubbed among fans as the 'GP Pooley' rather than Plouay) and Marianne Vos (who else?) in 2012 and 2013. As the level of the race has improved the sizes of the groups contesting the victory has increased meaning the type of riders who are in contention are such that there will be a lot of competition for the key moves, but it's still a selective race - the last two years have seen groups of around 10 contesting it, with Lucinda Brand escaping solo in 2014 in front of the remainder of that group, and Lizzie Armitstead winning in a late show of strength last year to defeat the late attack of Anna van der Breggen and take the World Cup overall. The race lies somewhere on the spectrum between undulating and saw-toothed; it's not as climber-friendly as the Trofeo Binda owing to the comparatively short length of the hills, but the constant nature of them spread throughout the course makes it perhaps most comparable to Philadelphia in the World Tour for profile, but racing on narrow Bréton roads is a different beast to the wide open streets in the US as well.

Armitstead will of course be back to defend her title, although she is also now something of a more controversial figure. The Boels juggernaut has run roughshod over the season to an extent of domination that may even eclipse Rabo's 2014 season; they have three of the Women's WorldTour top 4 ranked riders, and all three line up here, with Megan Guarnier in the World Tour leader's jersey, and Evelyn Stevens a third option. The other half of the team is their trusted domestique corps, with Karol-Ann Canuel who has had an excellent season in hilly races, Armitstead's trusted compatriot Nikki Harris, and the experienced Kasia Pawlowska. As ever when we get to this part of the season a lot will come down to who has form left over, especially in an Olympic year; the two Americans were great at the Giro and Guarnier has had a phenomenal season all-round, but she looked tired at the Olympics and was unable to compete in Rio in a course that really should have suited her. Has she got over that blip? And back in a less awkward environment than the British road team at Rio, will Lizzie be back to her best?

With van Vleuten understandably not starting, Orica have gone with Tayler Wiles as their only extranjero, and a mixed team. Garfoot and Neylan seem much better shouts for this, although Garfoot's disappointing Olympics will be something she would want to forget quickly. Amanda Spratt is their best contender for this course, her strong performances on similar terrain in Thüringen and the hilly stages of the Aviva Women's Tour would suggest, but it's been a long season for her, ever since the TDU in January.

Rabo are weakened by the announcement from PFP that her season is over despite home roads here in Plouay where she's been on the podium the last two seasons, and also Anna VDB has earned a rest (as well as that she's moving to Boels of course so that may factor into points considerations). Nevertheless they are the only team on the startline that can boast two former winners of the race, in Marianne Vos and Lucinda Brand. They also have another strong rider for this terrain in the World Tour's best young rider leader, Kasia Niewiadoma, who has now got an unassailable lead in the classification even if she doesn't score any points today (which she likely will if she doesn't crash anyhow) thanks to Floortje Mackaij's injury in the Route de France as Jip van den Bos, third in the classification, couldn't match Kasia's total even if she won both remaining races. Niewiadoma's total has come from achieving the maximum score in each of the five WWT races she's entered - Strade Bianche, Trofeo Binda, de Ronde, Flèche and the Giro - the only other one she's started was La Course! The rest of the team consists of trusted and experienced helpers Gillow and Knetemann, and the young prospect Jeanne Korevaar.

Alé-Cipollini are on the crest of a wave after a very successful week, what with Fahlin's surprising home triumph in Vårgårda and Bastianelli taking two stages in the Flèche d'Or. Both line up here to give them two very different options, although if the racing on the hills is particularly aggressive Marta will probably not be in contention here. Emilia might, she's had a good season in the hills, but their strongest rider for this kind of terrain is Małgorzata Jasińska normally. Muccioli is a climber but her season has been inconsistent and she's not often been at the very front when it counts.

Canyon-SRAM start with just five riders, but it's a very strong team, with perhaps only Hannah Barnes who you'd expect to not stand a chance on this parcours unless the racing is quite tame. It's possibly a bit soon for Ryan who's still developing, but it's not dissimilar in characteristics to the Baku Road Race that Alena Amialiusik won, nor the old Muri Fermani races she used to boss in her BePink days. Tiffany Cromwell has a point to prove, having been the best Aussie at each of the last three World Championships but left off the Olympic team, seemingly for the heinous crime of not riding for Orica, and has made a living out of always being there or thereabouts in races with profiles like this, and she made the final group last time she entered, which was 2014. And Elena Cecchini won Thüringen overall and has shown a real knack of knowing the right moves to make and follow and is a superb rider for terrain like this, and may be their best option of all.

Cervélo-Bigla will pretty much have all of their eggs are in the Moolman-Pasio basket. Ash has had a fairly quiet time of late, disappointingly so after her success in the Women's Tour, but the team skipping the Giro and the small team size at the Olympics hurt her visibility. She was a key component in their surprise TTT podium last week, however, and the team have shown that while results-wise it may look that way, there's a lot more to the team than just Ash and Lotta; Nicole Hänselmann is in good form having won a stage of the Tour of Norway. Lotta is here, and is very durable as sprinters go, but I think this is probably going to be too hard-fought for the Finn to make it to the end to contest the win. She could however manage a decent placement which may be the team's thinking.

Cylance are perhaps the most frustrating team around, because they have had to base a season around riders whose form is evanescent and inconsistent. Their nominal leader here is Rossella Ratto, but her form tends to fluctuate quite wildly. She's been top 10 here twice (10th in 2013 and 4th in 2014) but since the Estado de México finance disaster she's stagnated horribly, only occasionally showing glimpses of the greatness she showed, such as in one stage of the Emakumeen Bira (which helpfully had a not dissimilar profile to Plouay) and in the North American mini-season in May including a victory in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. Their other threat comes from Carmen Small, who was aggressive in her time with Cervélo and a bit more controlled since switching to Cylance. Only four starters, however, will limit the freshness the riders can have at the end.

Lensworld have the promising Italian durable sprinter Maria Giulia Confalonieri, as well as Belgian champion Kaat Hannes, though today's race probably would need to be raced fairly conservatively to enable them to impact it at the business end. They have lost out greatly from the dispute with Flavia Oliveira as it was her Giro performances that brought them up to this level, but it has robbed them of their chances of having a strong presence in the hillier races.

Parkhotel Valkenburg have been one of the successes of the season I think, their mostly developmental team has benefited from the increased invites and been bullish and aggressive throughout in order to make themselves visible in racing that would otherwise not be suited to them or where they would be swamped by the stronger teams. That said, they have been better equipped for the flatter types of races and so this may not be ideal for the Jips of this world; however they do have the controversial Ukrainian Hanna Solovey who was good at some climbing races earlier in the season (but less so lately) and Pauliena Rooijakkers has had some decent outings in hillier races this year too.

Poitou Charentes-Futuroscope '86 are the nearest thing to a local team I guess; with some useful form guides at the Flèche d'Or, Rivat and Duval are both in good shape, but their recent import, Japanese champion Eri Yonamine, is perhaps their most durable rider on a course that goes up and down all day.

Lotto-Soudal are another team in very strong form, given that Élise Delzenne won the Flèche d'Or during the week. The typically combative former French champion is one strong option for them with the other being the grimpeuse Claudia Lichtenberg who recently ended a two year victory drought. Their biggest problem has been that in the hillier races Claudia has been isolated late on, but in the flatter races she's not a great help owing to her lopsided skillset, so this should strike a happy medium where both she and Élise (and possibly the in-form de Vuyst) can give them multiple options. However, only five starters, so this could play a role as well.

BePink could be an interesting feature as none of their riders went to Rio, and instead they ran roughshod over the Route de France. The problem is that the team is not really set up for one-day racing; Neben is a late scratch from the startlist and is a stage racer almost exclusively anyway. Kseniya Tuhai showed incredible promise as a climber in the Giro but has barely even dipped her toes into one-day races, while their likely biggest threat comes from Ilaria Sanguineti, whose season has been a bit quieter than anticipated after her 2015 breakout. That said. Ilaria clearly likes racing in Brittany - she won the Tour de Brétagne outright last year and won a stage over similar terrain to this in the same race this year, in addition to this it was in the late season last year that she had her biggest impact, so perhaps stranger things have happened.

BTC City-Ljubljana have been another success story of the WWT, gaining invites to races they otherwise wouldn't and regularly being very active, as well as picking up some non-WT victories courtesy of Pavlukhina. Their strongest riders here are the two Poles, you would expect, Bujak and Plichta, with the former having gone well in the Route de France (albeit falling away in the tougher stages) and the latter having been aggressive in the Olympic Road Race.

Weber-Shimano's South American odds-and-ends squad is unfortunately one I know little about, but I anticipate as they rode the Flèche d'Or fairly anonymously their presence is intended to be developmental.

Liv-Plantur are an interesting one as they are a team which is clearly building itself up, having signed Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand for next season. They also have, in the here and now, Leah Kirchmann sitting 2nd in the World Tour official rankings, not bad considering she's only podiumed the Tour of Chongming Island and the RideLondon Crit (I refuse to call it the RideLondon Classic until they do the proper course) - however Leah has been there or thereabouts in practically every race she's done, from the top 10 of the Giro GC to the top 10 of pan flat sprinters' races. While being a jack of all trades and a master of none may limit her chances for victory (she only has two this season, the Drentse 8 and the Giro prologue), she's emerged as one of women's cycling's real elites this season so that, once the reinforcements come, and they have Stultiens and Floortje healthy again, this team could be a real threat next year. In the here and now, they ought to place well, but given the injuries mentioned before to their two best young riders, unless Slik or maybe Taylor can find the right move I think Leah's their only clear candidate for the podium.

TopGirls will hope that one of the Paladin sisters can show the form they did in Trentino. Soraya seems the more talented of the two, but she might need to figure out how she wants to specialize as a rider before she can achieve at the level she's capable of.

The Bizkaia-Durango team have never really recovered from losing Anna Sanchis to Wiggle, but they continue to develop riders and get invites. In Spanish champion Mavi García they have somebody who is promising in this kind of terrain - she went well in the Emakumeen Bira and beat some much more illustrious riders like Sanchis and Ane Santesteban in the nationals, but she is a late convert to the road and already 32, so the time she has to develop is limited. Lointek, the other Basque team here, likewise; they're both established long-running teams but they do struggle to provide more than a straightforward developmental stepping stone; for them it was the loss of Sheyla Gutiérrez to Cylance that hurt, as her sprint placements provided a steady stream of results.

Drops are another developmental team on the startlist, who probably won't gain anything substantial out of the race, but certainly won't be the most invisible either. Alice Barnes' results in the Tour Féminin in the Czech Republic and in the Thüringen Rundfahrt suggest she might have some capabilities for hillier terrain going forward, but the WT level races at present are likely a bridge too far.

Finally, we have the weirdest Wiggle-High 5 team possibly ever to take the startlist. They have just four riders lining up in Plouay, with the nominal leader being local girl Audrey Cordon. While I wish Audrey all the success in the world, she's a very entertaining rider to follow and words are not minced (after a crash in the penultimate stage in the Giro, she commented that "maybe on Monday some of the girls, instead of buying nail polish, should go and buy a brain"), she is predominantly a helper (which she cheerfully accepts, saying she'd rather be a great helper than a bad leader) and with only three teammates it's not clear what the plan would be. Two of those teammates are fresh off the plane from Brazil though - Road Race bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini, who ought to be considered one of the favourites if she has any form because this kind of terrain is absolutely her thing, and two-time former World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, who is supposedly retiring after the season finishes, has worked on her durability and climbing to get into the Rio squad, and now will switch her mind back into sprint mode ahead of Doha. Finally, Anna Christian, one of the team's youngest and least experienced riders, whose only previous WWT race this year was the Tour of Chongming Island, although this was her only World Cup race last year so she's familiar with it.
Yes, but a very unusual group to contest the sprint leading to an unexpected winner - the post Olympics races have seen some great results for teams outside of the big superteams, and while Bujak has been in good form, I kind of thought of her as a good shot for a placement behind a small elite escape, or an outside shot for a podium, winning was surprising even within the group she was in!
I see Roxane Kneteman is going to Poitou Charentes Futuro, not necessarily what you'd expect, but I guess a sign of FDJ money broadening the team's ambition. Back to Liv or across to Wiggle would have surprised me less.

I'm a bit surprised that Wiggle haven't announced any additions, with Emma J, Dani King and Bronzini leaving. Arguably they don't need to replace Gio with three/four other sprinters on the roster - Hosking and D'hoore are two of the fastest. But they will miss Emma's constant accumulation of results. The rumoured signing of PFP would do it, if PFP regains her mojo, but that situation looks complicated. Maybe Amy Pieters is the answer to some of that.

Plouay was odd. Four riders, one of them a neo, from a squad of 14? What have they done with Anna Sanchis?!
I wonder if FDJ have a planned leader, or if they're going to continue to look for the reduced sprints with Duval, Jeuland and Fournier but with Knetemann as lead pilotfish, or maybe Rox will get some chances to race for her own goals given that she's spent so much of her time as a domestique owing to the stacked Rabo lineup? It's going to be quite concerning given this season if Wiggle and Rabo are seemingly downsizing (Rabo losing a few of their most established names, with Anna VDB, Brand and Knetemann already gone and rumours about the others bar Vos and de Jong; Wiggle will have a huge gap in their results caused by losing Bronzini and Emma J, Johansson in particular as she is so good at picking moves she gets herself placements in races she has no business being up there in sometimes) and Boels are, if anything, strengthening (to date they've effectively traded van Dijk for van der Breggen, though they do lose Stevens). Liv seem to be strengthening the best, Kirchmann's had a great season, Brand and van Dijk will really strengthen their rouleur corps as well. If Sabrina is at her pre-injury level and can develop then that's another bonus, plus the rumour of Niewiadoma would shore them up with a big threat in the hillier races too. At the same time, I'm a mark for Rabo-Liv and each member leaving the band is another blow, while I wonder what is likely to happen if Wiggle decides that actually, they need Mara to do more European races for the WT points, rather than let her guest in North American races and basically stay at home except for Trofeo Binda and the Giro.

The full coverage of Plouay is now online - 1h50 and, as it's on a closed circuit, the coverage is just as good as you get from the men's races, as often is the case at Plouay. Interviews with various riders in-set (I keep forgetting Canuel is Quebecois because at Boels she's usually speaking English in interviews and team footage cos of Lizzie and the North American arm), Jalabert yelling from the motorbike, you know the drill. And really, it kind of encapsulates why I so love Rabo-Liv as for the last 50k, basically every time the road goes uphill Kasia is attacking (seriously, it got to be like "here is the Côte de Ty Marrec, and here is your regularly-scheduled upping of the pace, oh look Niewiadoma has attacked"), Lucinda Brand tries a long solo from a descent, Vos attacks pulling Guarnier and ELB with her to spit Armitstead out the back (Lizzie dropping so far from the finish was a real shock to me regardless of how hard she'd been working) with Kasia then countering as soon as it became clear Lizzie was gone, and so on. They've gone from being in 2014 the team that crushed every race to being the team that makes the race more often than not. Also seeing Boels implode save for Guarnier is a bit of a collector's item in 2016, though they did get forced to do a lot of work. Also worth noting the canny racing from the surprise winner - each time the camera goes to the back of the group, spot Bujak in the black and magenta, usually about three riders from the back, but every time it gets carved down, it's riders behind her who are going and she's still in the same spot. While after such an aggressively-raced course it's sometimes frustrating to see the reduced sprint at the end, the fact remains that Eugenia and co. earned the right to contest the sprint by surviving the attacks. This was some real racing - she was dropped on the final climb by the tandem attacks of Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Amialiusik so getting back on to give herself the chance to fight for that sprint win is enough to say she deserved it. It was also weird to see Leah Kirchmann trying to solo away when she'd be one of the favourites from a sprint from that group too. I think Guarnier getting back on doomed the lead 5's chances of making it to the end, once Megan was back on, she couldn't pull as she'd had to put in a huge effort to rejoin the group and there wasn't enough time left to recover then start joining the turns, but the others were all afraid of her in the sprint and all cohesion went out of the group (which was further hurt by the fact three of them had teammates in the chasing group behind as well).

I have to say though, it's fantastic to see a couple of the smaller teams (relatively speaking) winning some WT races. So much of the time the teams end up in quite clear "tiers" (the three super-teams at the top, Canyon and Orica the next level, then the likes of Alé and Liv, Lotto and Cervélo with a couple of star riders but not the same depth as the biggest teams) and BTC are one of the teams that got far more invites than they would have expected due to just making the WWT criteria and are mainly developmental, lacking a lot of the bigger teams' firepower, so picking up a win at this level (even if Bujak had shown over the last few weeks to be on great form anyhow) is a great string to their bow, and the more teams can feel in with a shout at this level the better it is for the sport.

GuyIncognito said:
Rabo are continuing? I thought they were flat out ending.
I was fully expecting Liv to gobble up a few of their riders.
They reported a while back that a sponsor had been found, but the team would have to downsize. However, the reports have gone very quiet on that since the Giro which has led to fearing the worst. The fact we haven't had much in the way of news re Vos, de Jong or Koster and their potential destinations however makes me continue to keep some faith; you would have thought all three are quite attractive to big teams, and if this possible Rabo successor team was able to survive and could keep hold of them, they could still be pretty competitive. I'd be very surprised if Gillow couldn't find a team too, and I'm sure the young riders can at least get a domestic ride if they want one. Obviously Brand, Knetemann and van der Breggen have already moved on, and there are extant rumours about PFP and Katie Unknown. The issue is that Liv would already be fairly full, I can't see them absorbing all of the key names, having already picked up Brand and van Dijk along with resigning Kirchmann, Stultiens and Floortje.
No rest for the women though, as we now have the Boels Rentals Ladies' Tour, in the southeastern Netherlands. It's effectively the old Tour of the Netherlands with the sponsorship from, of course, one of women's cycling's keenest money-spenders. It's everything you'd expect of racing late in the season on this kind of terrain - a very good form guide for the Worlds with some interesting racing between rouleuses and puncheuses to come.

30/8 stage 1: Tiel - Tiel (103,1km) - pan-flat, very technical run-in to the line
31/8 stage 2: Gennep - Gennep (26,4km, CRE) - out-and-back TTT, good preparation for Worlds
01/9 stage 3: Sittard-Geleen - Sittard-Geleen (122,6km) - long circuit inc. Snijdersberg then loops of a short circuit inc. Schatsberg 12km from the finish and an uphill ramp to the line
02/9 stage 4: 's-Hertogenborsch - 's-Hertogenbosch (110,8km) - pan-flat, Vos' hometown. Tight turns 1km from the line then an easier run-in
03/9 stage 5: Tiel - Arnhem - Tiel (115,8km) - looks to be flat again (not going north of the Nederrijn) with just one hill sprint far from the line
04/9 stage 6: Bunde - Valkenburg (114,9km) - a traditional "mini-Amstel Gold" finishing with 2 laps of the closing circuit from Amstel Gold (including Geulhemmerweg, so not the 2012 Worlds course)

The final stage will obviously be where the most interest lies, because it's a "dry-run" for the 2017 Women's Amstel Gold, which is expected to, like the men's race, start in Maastricht and be similar to but slightly longer than this but have the same closing stages. The race hasn't run since Leontien van Moorsel's day, so hopefully this test goes well. The hills are in this order: Slingerberg, Cauberg, Geulhemmerweg, Bemelerberg, Cadier-en-Keer, Loorberg, Gulperberg, Kruisberg, Eyserbosweg, Fromberg, Keutenberg, Cauberg, Geulhemmerweg, Bemelerberg, Cauberg, Geulhemmerweg, Bemelerberg, Cauberg. A very similar stage last year was won by Thalita de Jong ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini and race leader (and eventual winner) Lisa Brennauer.

If I'm honest, I'm concerned about the TTT's effect on the GC, with last year having had an 11km ITT which I think a much better mix. Nevertheless, this race has been a bit more varied in recent years after a period of pure Vos domination. Last few winners:

2006 - Susanne Ljungskog
2007 - Kristin Armstrong
2008 - Charlotte Becker
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 - Marianne Vos
2013 - Ellen van Dijk
2014 - Evelyn Stevens
2015 - Lisa Brennauer

Last year's final GC:
1 Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) GER
2 Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) NED +13"
3 Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) NED +20"
4 Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv) NED +23"
5 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-Honda) ITA +40"
6 Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) USA +49"
7 Amy Pieters (Team Liv-Plantur) NED +52"
8 Roxane Knetemann (Rabo-Liv) NED +1'10"
9 Trixi Worrack (Velocio-SRAM) GER +1'27"
10 Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) NED +1'36"

The startlist is strong, as you might expect, especially with so many major teams either being based in the Netherlands or having a strong Benelux presence. Defending champion Brennauer is here in a stacked Canyon lineup (Brennauer, Worrack, Amialiusik, Guarischi, Cecchini, Kröger) which looks mighty strong for the TTT as well as having options for the hilly stage and in the sprint. After the odd Plouay entry, Wiggle look more like we'd expect here although they seem very keen on sprints with up to four different options for that outcome (Pieters, Christian, d'Hoore, Hosking, Cordon, Johansson), while Rabo strangely seem to have their two strongest riders from last year marked as reserves, though they do have an Olympic champion returning to competition and look like they're banking on making things interesting in the two hilly stages (van der Breggen, Gillow, Knetemann, Koster, Korevaar, Niewiadoma). Boels rest their North American contingent and rest up their domestique contingent from Saturday, but give Lizzie some more time to ride into form ahead of her defence of the rainbows after a disappointing race at Plouay as well as having strong hopes for contention after their TTT win in Vårgårda with Blaak the arguable leader in that case (Armitstead, Blaak, van Dijk, Canuel, Majerus, Dideriksen). Orica bring Elvin back into the fold after her Rio odyssey and have Roy to contend the sprints (if she starts, she was a late scratch at Plouay)(Spratt, Elvin, Allen, Rowney, Roy, Wiles). Hitec are without Wild, their sprint queen, so this will probably be about Lauren Kitchen (the race doesn't seem hard enough for Tatiana imo, though she'll be a help in the TTT)(Thorsen, Frapporti, Guderzo, Moberg, Kitchen, Hatteland-Lima).

I'm not convinced that I believe Liv's starting lineup which is apparently current as of yesterday, but includes Floortje Mackaij who I'm pretty sure broke her collarbone only a couple of weeks ago. This means one of the reserves is likely to come in, I'm hoping for Sabrina as she's been out for months, but Weaver is probably most likely. Nevertheless, from the lineup given they've got options and should be reasonable in the TTT too (Kirchmann, Mackaij, Mustonen, Slik, Soek, Stijns). Lotto rest their two strongest riders which is weird after they did so well in the Flèche d'Or last week. Kopecky will hope to mix it up in sprints for them, however. Parkhotel go for one of their most experienced possible lineups with van Gogh and Ensing, resting the likes of Buurman and van den Bos but probably strengthening their TT as a result. Lensworld could surprise people here, Hannes is on form, Arzuffi initially made the important selection at Plouay though dropped away, Confalonieri has had a good season and Kessler has been winning national stuff recently as well. After that we're onto the domestic teams, and the one foreign guest team, a Norwegian national selection which includes Tour of Norway revelation Susanne Andersen.