The Women's Road Racing Thread 2016

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Not the same, but I hope and believe that Emma will still be part of bike racing. Her 2017 contract was signed with both sides knowing she would be largely or completely off the bike.
 
I definitely will miss Johansson the most, no question.
Stevens was a presence in many races, and will be missed as well. Bronzini, even though she wasn't at the front as often recently, she was still there. It's still different without her.

As for Abbott....it's not really a Giro without her, for me.

It's just that most of them were the generation that got me into women's cycling and it's like they're being pulled behind the curtain all at the same time. It's hard to explain, it's an emotional thing more than a tactical one.

Imagine the men's peloton still existed but most of the riders were replaced with others who are just as good but you don't yet know for long enough to attach real meaning to their names. It's harder to watch a sport when you're not as familiar with the personalities, rivalries, achievements, or when the ones left are....well....boring. Riders like Van der Breggen, Vos or Guarnier are good riders but they just strike me as bland, uninteresting personalities.

It's like getting rid of all the good main characters in the middle of a book or film, leaving mostly the boring ones. It's going to take a while to adjust and it's possible I'm just an Audrey Cordon away from losing interest
 
I get what you mean, there are a few stories that have developed over several years that have meant you don't need to follow the sport fanatically to pick them up (edit as this didn't come across right: this is not intended to mean that you aren't a fan, more to say that having these narratives that are easy to pick up are good because they can give a first time viewer a reason to care and become invested in the races, increasing their attachment to competitors and likelihood of coming back to watch more, which is obviously a good thing for the sport) - there are ones like the Abbott/Pooley mountain duels which were never truly a rivalry because of different season's aims, but as the two truly elite climbers they always did battle in the most mountainous races, but the most compelling one that we now miss out on is Emma J's quest for the huge victory amid that flood of podiums that now looks like it will forever elude her. It's about as straightforward and sympathetic a story as you can get - the Poulidor-like battle to shake that reputation as the nearly-woman as she's unable to quite get one over when it counts on the all-conquering champions. It's also true that while there are some interesting backstories in the bunch to match Evie's, riders like Delzenne, while strong, are not at the same level of prominence that Stevens was at her best.

If anything the problem may be an unintended consequence of the improved coverage and move towards sustainability that that generation fought for - we can see more of the racing now, which is a great thing, but it does mean teams don't necessarily feel as much necessity for the 'inside the péloton' type stuff to get the characters known. The other issue is that while there are still some strong and compelling characters in women's cycling, they aren't necessarily the ones at the front of the péloton scoring the big wins, so the storyline may be more that you want to see them do well without it holding the same kind of emotional attachment as we feel as Johansson takes another punch to the gut at the finishing line.

It's certainly possible after Rio that Annemiek becomes one of those stories, with renewed interest in her travails following her dramatic exit from an almost certain gold medal position; and much as I dislike her (and in fact precisely because of it, not because of me individually but because of her PR in general) Armitstead's success might create a strong storyline as well - one of the problems with the top name riders you mention is that, simply speaking, Vos is just too nice to truly resent. She's no cannibal, she celebrates her teammates' wins, is happy to pass up wins to keep her riders onside with her and doesn't rub many people up the wrong way, so there's just far less of a compelling storyline in trying to beat her (although going forward, with the much weaker post-Rabo team, her quest to stay in her position at the forefront may be an interesting storyline in and of itself), whereas Lizzie is riding for the dominant team at the moment, when she's on form she's almost unstoppable, and she cuts quite an unlikable figure, which any combat sports promoter can tell you is a good way to rally support around the challengers.

I do see where you're coming from with Anna VDB and Megan not really having established the kind of character that fans can latch on to just yet, but in time they may. Although she's 31, Megan hasn't been at the absolute forefront of the sport until the last two or three years, and at Boels she's been second fiddle to Lizzie in PR much of the time anyhow; Anna being at Rabo is fairly similar because with Vos they have perhaps the most well-known name in the sport, and also PFP who is both a world class cyclist and a media darling, so despite her prominence within the sport we haven't really had the chance to get to know Anna to the same extent as had she been racing in a team where she was the biggest name. However there are still plenty of people to become characters. ELB I find sympathetic, I think she can be a good character for the sport, especially if the team is able to keep her and Audrey together as "the twins" have been quite a major part of Wiggle's behind the scenes reportage. Chloe Hosking is nicely outspoken as well. With so many riders moving on from Vos' squad Niewiadoma will likely be more prominent in it, she is likable as a personality and compelling as a rider given that she has both a lopsided skillset and never-say-die attitude. Marta Bastianelli has been rather quiet until the last 18 months or so, but her comeback story is a great compelling storyline and she's still yet to turn 30. She could potentially be a candidate for the win in Doha, and that would be one hell of a redemption story. Blaak is another likable rider, and then there's the riders I like who always seem to be foraging alone for comparatively small teams in the big stage races - Guderzo, Lichtenberg and Moolman-Pasio (who also has a good backstory).

Hopefully the new emerging storylines (there are already some ongoing or developing, such as a nascent rivalry between Armitstead and PFP following their war of words, to replace Armitstead's needling of Johansson) can be as compelling as the last ones, and some more can develop. Similarly there's always, just like with the men, the sense of enjoyment that comes from picking up on young prospects and following them through the ranks.

And of course, if the last few years are anything to go by, all may not be lost regards the retiring riders anyway. It will depend on what they choose to do; Bronzini and Johansson at least are not planning to leave the sport entirely, are far from over the hill and are still among the best riders in the world, who's to say that they won't feel the temptation to come back? After all, Amber Neben has retired and come back and is still going well at 41, Kristin Armstrong has retired twice and this year we even saw Nicole Brändli return after no fewer than seven years out! The big question mark will be Mara, I do think that after seeing her blog post after the Olympics she was quite broken, but she's left the sport (albeit on health grounds) before and she's only 30, what's to say that while the pressure of being a full time pro on a major European team (even one that affords her a lot of freedom to pick and choose her racing) is more than she's willing to take, she won't feel the itch to return and right those perceived wrongs a couple of years down the line? I mean, personally I see what you're saying regarding the Giro, but at the same time that extremely selective calendar is frustrating and I didn't find her particularly sympathetic even despite all of her well-documented problems, because she came across as very selfish (only races where she leads) and as she was hard to follow year round because of that I didn't get the same chance to develop an attachment to her as I did with others. Well, and she kept beating Emma Pooley, which made her hard to warm to for the simple fact that she stood between Emma and victory.

I'm personally cautiously optimistic, but then maybe that's because I've got used to some of the stories being over (Pooley retiring for example) and while a péloton without Evie or Emma J will be strange to me, I have a few storylines and characters I'm following quite intently that still have years left to run, and because, Doha aside, the season is all but over, feel that the off-season will sort a lot of this uncertainty about the future out as clearly there's much less of the transfer bedlam as in the men's péloton, likely as budgets and race calendars will be fixed much later. But with the introduction of some key sponsors (FDJ taking over the Futuroscope team) and the news that Rabo will continue in some form (albeit massively truncated; I'm kind of hoping they can get some transfers in to pad out the lineup though) as well as the strengthening of some of the second-tier teams like Liv-Plantur and Cervélo hopefully it won't be the same kind of bogarting of the top prizes by the same couple of teams that we've seen in recent years, although others' quest to derail the runaway Boels-Dolmans freight train may become the story in and of itself...
 
Sep 30, 2014
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GB selection for Doha:

Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Laura Massey
Annasley Park
Abby-Mae Parkinson
Eileen Roe

Lucy Garner’s disappointed, and understandably so given the course is one for sprinters. For me it’s odd to pick a junior climber like Abby-Mae Parkinson – really nothing against the charming AMP but she’s just started out and a flat windy race is not ideal for her. Lucy’s young and improving too, but has had some results this year… 3rd in the nationals, 2nd at Tour de Yorks behind Kirsten Wild. Bof.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
I get what you mean, there are a few stories that have developed over several years that have meant you don't need to follow the sport fanatically to pick them up (edit as this didn't come across right: this is not intended to mean that you aren't a fan, more to say that having these narratives that are easy to pick up are good because they can give a first time viewer a reason to care and become invested in the races, increasing their attachment to competitors and likelihood of coming back to watch more, which is obviously a good thing for the sport) - there are ones like the Abbott/Pooley mountain duels which were never truly a rivalry because of different season's aims, but as the two truly elite climbers they always did battle in the most mountainous races, but the most compelling one that we now miss out on is Emma J's quest for the huge victory amid that flood of podiums that now looks like it will forever elude her. It's about as straightforward and sympathetic a story as you can get - the Poulidor-like battle to shake that reputation as the nearly-woman as she's unable to quite get one over when it counts on the all-conquering champions. It's also true that while there are some interesting backstories in the bunch to match Evie's, riders like Delzenne, while strong, are not at the same level of prominence that Stevens was at her best.
I suppose it's mostly that, when summed up. But there's more detail to it that I'm having trouble putting in writing.

Libertine Seguros said:
If anything the problem may be an unintended consequence of the improved coverage and move towards sustainability that that generation fought for - we can see more of the racing now, which is a great thing, but it does mean teams don't necessarily feel as much necessity for the 'inside the péloton' type stuff to get the characters known. The other issue is that while there are still some strong and compelling characters in women's cycling, they aren't necessarily the ones at the front of the péloton scoring the big wins, so the storyline may be more that you want to see them do well without it holding the same kind of emotional attachment as we feel as Johansson takes another punch to the gut at the finishing line.
Well, I've never really been one to willingly seek out the 'behind the scenes' stuff in any sport.
It's usually just fluff, or it feels that way to me. As in, it feels like a produced act for the cameras, not something organic and natural.

Libertine Seguros said:
It's certainly possible after Rio that Annemiek becomes one of those stories, with renewed interest in her travails following her dramatic exit from an almost certain gold medal position; and much as I dislike her (and in fact precisely because of it, not because of me individually but because of her PR in general) Armitstead's success might create a strong storyline as well - one of the problems with the top name riders you mention is that, simply speaking, Vos is just too nice to truly resent. She's no cannibal, she celebrates her teammates' wins, is happy to pass up wins to keep her riders onside with her and doesn't rub many people up the wrong way, so there's just far less of a compelling storyline in trying to beat her (although going forward, with the much weaker post-Rabo team, her quest to stay in her position at the forefront may be an interesting storyline in and of itself), whereas Lizzie is riding for the dominant team at the moment, when she's on form she's almost unstoppable, and she cuts quite an unlikable figure, which any combat sports promoter can tell you is a good way to rally support around the challengers.
I'm not aiming to "resent" anyone, as you put it. For me personally that reduces my interest in races. When people like (retired examples from the men's peloton to distance as much as possible from the current women's) Cancellara or Bettini were racing, I was less inclined to take an interest as there was a chance the asshat might win and I don't want to see that. It's not about disliking someone.

And if I were the kind of person that seeks a villain, it wouldn't be hard to find a reason to dislike PFP, VDB and especially Vos. The 2014 Giro roadblock would be enough to dislike all three of them, the winner most especially. After all, that day they factually, undeniably, joined the group of people who have cheated to win a race. I'm not slamming them for it, they're just an example. Every human does things they later regret.

It's about the meaning they bring to the result. While Vos may have kicked bottles and thrown helmets when she lost back in the day, now that she's mellowed the only personality trait is shyness to the point of being robotic. VDB is a politically correct PR spokesperson's dream and PFP isn't even in the races these days.

Again, I'm not criticizing them or saying they should behave differently. We all are who we are and that's fine. But because the riders remaining in the sport are (almost) all like that, I fear the lack of variety might make things dull.

As Gazzetta used to say...nothing livens up the races like good polemiche.
I wouldn't go as far as to want bust-ups or anything of the sort, but without the power of meaning behind them the results are just.....numbers. A bit like having a w/kg competition on a stationary bike, in a way.

Libertine Seguros said:
I do see where you're coming from with Anna VDB and Megan not really having established the kind of character that fans can latch on to just yet, but in time they may. Although she's 31, Megan hasn't been at the absolute forefront of the sport until the last two or three years, and at Boels she's been second fiddle to Lizzie in PR much of the time anyhow; Anna being at Rabo is fairly similar because with Vos they have perhaps the most well-known name in the sport, and also PFP who is both a world class cyclist and a media darling, so despite her prominence within the sport we haven't really had the chance to get to know Anna to the same extent as had she been racing in a team where she was the biggest name. However there are still plenty of people to become characters.
As you say, the personalities will eventually fill the void, but for now the void is there.
Sport is human emotion and I see precious little of it staying after this year's retirements.


Libertine Seguros said:
ELB I find sympathetic, I think she can be a good character for the sport, especially if the team is able to keep her and Audrey together as "the twins" have been quite a major part of Wiggle's behind the scenes reportage. Chloe Hosking is nicely outspoken as well. With so many riders moving on from Vos' squad Niewiadoma will likely be more prominent in it, she is likable as a personality and compelling as a rider given that she has both a lopsided skillset and never-say-die attitude. Marta Bastianelli has been rather quiet until the last 18 months or so, but her comeback story is a great compelling storyline and she's still yet to turn 30. She could potentially be a candidate for the win in Doha, and that would be one hell of a redemption story. Blaak is another likable rider, and then there's the riders I like who always seem to be foraging alone for comparatively small teams in the big stage races - Guderzo, Lichtenberg and Moolman-Pasio (who also has a good backstory).
On the opposite side, if my motivation was about finding sympathetic riders, ELB would be the poster child. She's hard for anyone to dislike.
But then, if being a likeable person was the criteria to generate a fanbase, the entire planet would be members of the Claudia Lichtenberg fanclub ;)

Now Bastianelli, there's an interesting rider that may make some races exciting in the near future.


Libertine Seguros said:
And of course, if the last few years are anything to go by, all may not be lost regards the retiring riders anyway. It will depend on what they choose to do; Bronzini and Johansson at least are not planning to leave the sport entirely, are far from over the hill and are still among the best riders in the world, who's to say that they won't feel the temptation to come back? After all, Amber Neben has retired and come back and is still going well at 41, Kristin Armstrong has retired twice and this year we even saw Nicole Brändli return after no fewer than seven years out!
Absolutely. I've had the experience myself that when you're competing at a sport for the sport itself and not for financial gain, repeated retirements and returns are extremely common, as for most humans motivation fluctuates wildly.

That said, Brandli might have beaten some kind of record

Libertine Seguros said:
The big question mark will be Mara, I do think that after seeing her blog post after the Olympics she was quite broken, but she's left the sport (albeit on health grounds) before and she's only 30, what's to say that while the pressure of being a full time pro on a major European team (even one that affords her a lot of freedom to pick and choose her racing) is more than she's willing to take, she won't feel the itch to return and right those perceived wrongs a couple of years down the line? I mean, personally I see what you're saying regarding the Giro, but at the same time that extremely selective calendar is frustrating and I didn't find her particularly sympathetic even despite all of her well-documented problems, because she came across as very selfish (only races where she leads) and as she was hard to follow year round because of that I didn't get the same chance to develop an attachment to her as I did with others. Well, and she kept beating Emma Pooley, which made her hard to warm to for the simple fact that she stood between Emma and victory.
Oh, it's not like I support or like Abbott in any way (well...not any more than the average rider). She simply made the climbing races exciting.
She was so different to the others that most years at the Giro she kind of functioned as a sort of yardstick. "you must be this allround to finish ahead of her on GC time". At least when the Giro has a mountain in it, which unfortunately isn't always the case (2012...2014...etc but that's a different conversation). In Women's cycling that is - unfortunately - a rarity so it made things interesting.

Libertine Seguros said:
I'm personally cautiously optimistic, but then maybe that's because I've got used to some of the stories being over (Pooley retiring for example) and while a péloton without Evie or Emma J will be strange to me, I have a few storylines and characters I'm following quite intently that still have years left to run, and because, Doha aside, the season is all but over, feel that the off-season will sort a lot of this uncertainty about the future out as clearly there's much less of the transfer bedlam as in the men's péloton, likely as budgets and race calendars will be fixed much later. But with the introduction of some key sponsors (FDJ taking over the Futuroscope team) and the news that Rabo will continue in some form (albeit massively truncated; I'm kind of hoping they can get some transfers in to pad out the lineup though) as well as the strengthening of some of the second-tier teams like Liv-Plantur and Cervélo hopefully it won't be the same kind of bogarting of the top prizes by the same couple of teams that we've seen in recent years, although others' quest to derail the runaway Boels-Dolmans freight train may become the story in and of itself...
The talent seems to be spreading out a bit more, especially from those that are leaving Wiggle and Rabo to various teams.
That's something that should make most races more interesting, at least.

I have zero qualms about the talent on offer, only about the possibility that we may have a peloton of Menchovs. Talent of a racer, personality of a brick.
It's exacerbated by the women's peloton finding itself in the same situation now as the men's peloton a few decades ago where the lower level of professionalism means less specialization and as a result the same few are at the front of every race. That gets stale after a while, but should mend soon.


Or who knows, maybe I'm just bored of the cycling season and after a break will be looking forward to it in February. It's also a possibility.
 
Apologies, I wasn't trying to project onto you but more take the concerns that you raise in a more general sense and refer back to them. I'm absolutely with you on the way an absolute resentment of a participant takes away from the races. I personally have watched two race days that Peter Sagan has participated in in 2016: Paris-Roubaix and stage 8 of the Tour. It's not even that I'm jaded by the sport, it's simply that I don't want to get into the same arguments I've had several times over because apparently disliking him is a heinous crime. To take the combat sports analogy I made earlier a step further, a champion who turns the audience away is a disaster. The promoter wants a champion who is strong but beatable. The promoter needs challengers the audience wants to win, but he needs challengers the audience can buy as a winner. Emma J fits that mould perfectly; she could be a contender at almost any race and she won enough that fans believed she could do it, so that it was more important when she didn't. I was sure the Rio RR was hers - how could she not beat those three in a sprint, I told myself? Simple: she'd had to go so unbearably deep to earn the chance to sprint for gold that she could only get silver; if she'd not gone so deep she'd have beaten Anna in the sprint but it would have been for silver as Mara wouldn't have been caught.

I do get your point about Mara as a yardstick in the Giro, I hadn't really looked at it that way and the analogy works, although I think you're very harsh on the 2014 route, that was fine mountain-wise. You had La Crosetta in the San Fior stage, way harder than the 2015 and 16 stages to that town (the stage where Niewiadoma 'arrived' as she was the last to be dropped by Pooley on a climb that would be a genuine cat.1 in the men's race before an exciting chasedown of the poor descender much like with Abbott in the Mortirolo stage this year), then the San Domenico MTF (the only time Mara hasn't won it) and then Madonna del Ghisallo which, though not exactly a big mountain like you'd see in the men's Giro, is still fairly large by the standards we often see in women's cycling. The issue was far fewer climbs leading into them so we didn't get anything like this year's (awesome) Madonna della Guardia stage. 2015 was more disappointing mountain-wise I think, with a one-climb stage to Aprica as one of the mountains...


...and if I had my way, we'd all be paid-up members of the Claudia Lichtenberg fan club already ;)
 
Giro dell'Emilia at the weekend, one of the last races for any non-sprinter left in 2016. However, it is worth noting that if the race is anything like the last two editions (the first two editions), it is essentially a flat race which finishes with the classic San Luca climb. It's of course a tough climb, somewhere between the Mur de Huy and the Côte de la Croix-Neuve in style, and should give us a nice battle in the closing kilometres, although the fear of such a tough finale may temper racing before that. Also, this is a bit of a World Tour preview as the race will be incorporated into that competition from 2018, to help redress the balance between flatter and hillier races and give more opportunities for the more mountain-friendly riders to gain points.

That said, we do have a very strong field, stronger than we've seen in the last two editions, as we see a number of riders contending to either preserve Italian honour or fight to be the first extranjera to win the race, with the inaugural edition having been won by Rossella Ratto and then Elisa Longo Borghini taking the victory last year, both winning with a few seconds' margin. In 2014 the field was fairly restricted and mostly domestic, and Giorgia Bronzini in fact managed a surprise podium, which has had the benefit of meaning quite a few durable sprinters have shown up to mix up the startlist as well - Giorgia in fact held off some notable names there including Alena Amialiusik. Last year's race was a stronger startlist and the top names were more as you'd expect from a hilltop finish in a one-day race - behind Longo Borghini, one of the strongest all-rounders in women's cycling, came Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Amber Neben. The fact that there are only a handful of women's races between now and the Worlds means some sprinters lining up this year than you might otherwise expect for a race that finishes on a 10% garage ramp.

There are 22 teams taking the start in Bologna, and while some of them may be quite small, there are a lot of names to draw attention to - although the absence of the Boels-Dolmans team does leave a gap, most of the other all-star squads have at least some presence.

Although ELB won the race for a national selection last season, this year Wiggle are here in and of themselves; Elisa's bid to defend the race also sees the team with Johansson as a second bullet and Bronzini hoping to duplicate her 2014 performance. Christian will domestique and Hosking is a bit of a left-field choice. They will face stiff opposition from Rabo who have the top two riders from the uphill finish at the European Championships last week in van der Breggen and Niewiadoma, along with capable helpers like Koster and Knetemann. The fourth rider from Plumelec, Alena Amialiusik, also lines up; she was top 10 of this race in 2014 and also on her Canyon-SRAM team there is Italian champion Elena Cecchini, who won her first title at Supergà so is capable here, the ever-aggressive Trixi Worrack, and also the consistent contender that is Tiffany Cromwell. Barnes and Kröger will likely serve as helpers given the nature of the finish. The next major challenger to mention is probably Ash Moolman-Pasio, whose Cervélo team is small but who was on the podium last year so both knows and likes this finish. It's almost certainly too tough for Lepistö, but the small squad brings their sprint queen anyhow. Alé-Cipollini also have some contenders in the form of Małgorzata Jasińska who was 4th last year, and Emilia Fahlin whose climbing legs might be ok for this given the flat run-in and who's been having an excellent late summer. Marta is always available to contest the win if the real mountain goats don't burn people off though. Similarly on Aromitalia there's Rasa Leleivytė whose pre-ban career was more as a sprinter but has been going well in punchy stages this year; however these have typically been more for the Cauberg type climbs; this one is probably a bit drawn out for her just as in Plumelec last week, on a climb that ought to suit her with the flatter finish, she wasn't quite able to get close enough to pose a threat in the finale against four riders who she'd ordinarily beat in a sprint head to head. The other trade team to keep an eye out for is INPA-Bianchi; Tetyana Riabchenko was top 10 here last year, and both her and Daiva Tušlaitė have shown decent performances on this kind of terrain this year. Will they win? If I'm honest against this field probably not, but they could get a decent placement. BePink also have Silvia Valsecchi, Ilaria Sanguineti and, to me at least most interestingly, the young climber Kseniya Tuhai, though without Olga Z or Amber Neben their options for the actual victory are slim, while BTC may try to be aggressive with the likes of Plichta, and two years ago Špela Kern was good here and last year Polona Bagatelj too, so they have a few riders who can be involved.

There are isolated names in some of the smaller teams who could produce a strong showing; Edwige Pitel was 2nd here two years ago, for example, while the Paladin sisters for Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo have been taking it in turns to have reasonable showings in hilly races. Aside from that, there's also a parade of national teams as we head towards the Worlds, and some of these include some very strong contenders. The Australian team includes a couple of sprinters ahead of the Worlds, but Gracie Elvin can get over some obstacles (this one might be a bit much for her at the head of the field though), Garfoot is a decent climber when on form but is more likely to be focusing on the TT, and so Lauren Kitchen is probably their biggest contender. The Dutch team is only four riders strong, but one of those riders is Annemiek van Vleuten. Another is Kirsten Wild, but sorry Kirsten, however I'm afraid I can't really see you contesting this one. Likewise the relatively strong Belgian team, which is full of rouleurs and durable sprinters - six pretty strong riders but none suited to this finish. Luxembourg also, albeit with somewhat less depth. The Polish sextet led by Kasia Pawlowska is potentially interesting, although obviously with the country having five real world class riders and four of them being on other teams that limits the team's viability as a contender. Finally the Italian national squad - this looks pretty strong with durable sprint types like Confalonieri and promising young all-terrain riders like Arzuffi backing up former World Champion Tatiana Guderzo (who of course won her title on one of the toughest courses in living memory, although it's a long time ago now). Tatiana was strong in the Giro on some tough finishes and showed that the Guderzo of old isn't gone just yet, so she'll be motivated to show well.
 
Looks like the extranjeras will have to wait another year, for Elisa Longo Borghini is the queen of San Luca! The fact that the women's race is flat until the final climb did, as expected, have an effect, with a couple of riders who are strong in a more technical sprint and/or are able to produce a sprint after a more difficult run-in making the top 10 above riders who would typically be stronger climbers than them. The 1-2 from last year was in fact repeated exactly, as once more it was Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio that came in behind the Italian home winner, 4 seconds back this time, with the two putting some clear daylight between them and third place, Alena Amialiusik capitalizing on her form from the European Championships last week given that she's unlikely to play a significant role in the World Championships. In a repeat of last week's showing in Plumelec, the Belarusian managed to thwart the sprinting prowess of Rasa Leleivytė who had to work hard to get that far forward to the line, but was able to outsprint the chasing group which included the anticipated major names of the race such as van der Breggen and Niewiadoma alongside the evergreen Edwige Pitel and an impressive performance from Christine Majerus. It seems like it was mostly quite tamely-raced thanks to the Unipuerto parcours - none of the climbers had any chance to attack other than the final climb, none of the fastest finishers would want to attack other than on the final climb, and the strongest teams had enough firepower to keep any threatening moves from gaining any significant time prior to that, with Rabo and Canyon doing a lot of the work to control it, especially the huge engine of German champion Mieke Kröger for the latter. It was also interesting to see Bastianelli doing a lot of the grunt work for Alé as well, given the Worlds that she won and where riders of similar sprint preferences such as Majerus ended up.

22 minutes' highlights here thanks to RAI along with the usual twitter sources.

Anna VDB has a new European champions' jersey, but it's different to Kasia's old one - white with the blue bands with yellow stars in the middle rather than the all blue one from the U23 days. It's also the first time I've properly got to see Pitel's French champion's kit since she didn't ride Ardêche with her trade team so it wasn't her normal kit. Not too sure about the amount of white on the bibs, but the jersey is all class. We also saw Canyon's full rainbow of national kits, all of which are classy.

Of that Canyon rainbow, Cecchini was the first to attack on San Luca, but the effort was short lived; we had to wait a little longer for the pace to really be upped, with the riders at the front being Moolman-Pasio, Niewiadoma and Amialiusik, with van der Breggen and Longo Borghini being best placed behind them as they spewed riders out the back and brought it down to a group of 15 or so. Pitel was next to try to make a move, but Elisa was quickly onto it, and it came to little. Worrack made another of her trademark speculative darts, but again Elisa shut it down, with Ash and Kasia close at hand, and the rhythm went back to normal. Pitel tried again, but she was on the wrong side of the road and got pinched in when the road went around another corner, at which point Moolman-Pasio attacked. Longo Borghini was first to head after her, opening up a couple of bike lengths on Niewiadoma who was towing the splintered remains of the field. Before long, the Pole had been passed by Amialiusik, but while she was able to distance the remainder she didn't have the strength to pull across to the front two; on the steepest section, ELB could keep the South African race leader from opening up any further distance, and she did a better job of maintaining her rhythm as the gradient eased, slowly reeling Moolman in in a higher gear where the gradient suited her powerful style better than Ash's. Across the flatter section the two duelled side by side, the differing cadences highlighting their contrasting climbing styles. As it ramped up again close to the line, however, ELB opened up the taps and Moolman-Pasio was forced to relinquish the victory.

1 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) ITA 2'20'59
2 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA +3"
3 Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) BLR +13"
4 Rasa Leleivytė (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +18"
5 Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) NED +18"
6 Katrin Garfoot (Australia National) AUS +25"
7 Edwige Pitel (SC Michela Fanini-Rox) FRA +25"
8 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) POL +39"
9 Christine Majerus (Luxembourg National) LUX +43"
10 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy National) ITA +43"
 
Following on from Emilia, a very similar field took on the inaugural women's GP Bruno Beghelli, taking on 6 laps of the course over an 80km distance so a pretty short race. The short distance helped stronger sprinters hold on to the pace and meant that it didn't become as selective as we may have thought; the fact the race had the chance to end with a reduced sprint did make it somewhat more useful as a form guide for riders aiming for the Worlds than the hilltop finish at San Luca yesterday as well.

Piecing together what I can from limited information it appears that there were a few attacks on the hill, including two separate moves involving Annemiek van Vleuten, but the only one to get any significant distance was a small group including Jasinska and Lotta Lepistö, the latter somewhat surprisingly - perhaps overestimating the selectivity of the circuit and anticipating the other sprinters would be dropped? Either way, it was a good weekend for Wiggle as, following ELB's win in Emilia, Chloe Hosking laid another marker down in stating why she should be Australia's #1 bullet in the gun for Doha, sprinting to victory ahead of Vos and Barbara Guarischi. There are some unexpected names up there in the sprint - Fahlin for example, even despite her win at Vårgårda, would not normally be Alé's #1 option for a sprint, and also, riding for the Veneto Selection team (as opposed to her regular gig with Astana) the 21yo prospect Arianna Fidanza outsprinted some pretty significant names.

1 Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-High 5) AUS 1'59'38
2 Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) NED +st
3 Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +st
4 Arianna Fidanza (Sel. Veneto) ITA +st
5 Emilia Fahlin (Alé-Cipollini) SWE +st
6 Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +st
7 Joëlle Numainville (Cervélo-Bigla) CAN +st
8 Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland National) POL +st
9 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Italy National) ITA +st
10 Lotte Kopecky (Belgium National) BEL +st
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
Following on from Emilia, a very similar field took on the inaugural women's GP Bruno Beghelli, taking on 6 laps of the course over an 80km distance so a pretty short race. The short distance helped stronger sprinters hold on to the pace and meant that it didn't become as selective as we may have thought; the fact the race had the chance to end with a reduced sprint did make it somewhat more useful as a form guide for riders aiming for the Worlds than the hilltop finish at San Luca yesterday as well.

Piecing together what I can from limited information it appears that there were a few attacks on the hill, including two separate moves involving Annemiek van Vleuten, but the only one to get any significant distance was a small group including Jasinska and Lotta Lepistö, the latter somewhat surprisingly - perhaps overestimating the selectivity of the circuit and anticipating the other sprinters would be dropped? Either way, it was a good weekend for Wiggle as, following ELB's win in Emilia, Chloe Hosking laid another marker down in stating why she should be Australia's #1 bullet in the gun for Doha, sprinting to victory ahead of Vos and Barbara Guarischi. There are some unexpected names up there in the sprint - Fahlin for example, even despite her win at Vårgårda, would not normally be Alé's #1 option for a sprint, and also, riding for the Veneto Selection team (as opposed to her regular gig with Astana) the 21yo prospect Arianna Fidanza outsprinted some pretty significant names.

1 Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-High 5) AUS 1'59'38
2 Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) NED +st
3 Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +st
4 Arianna Fidanza (Sel. Veneto) ITA +st
5 Emilia Fahlin (Alé-Cipollini) SWE +st
6 Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia-Vaiano) LTU +st
7 Joëlle Numainville (Cervélo-Bigla) CAN +st
8 Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland National) POL +st
9 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Italy National) ITA +st
10 Lotte Kopecky (Belgium National) BEL +st
Hosking has been excellent this week. If she can hold her form it's hard to see anyone beating her in Doha.
 
Sep 30, 2014
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To be fair Chloe was supposed to be leading her out in Madrid, despite the commentary, and she did so until Jolien lost the wheel just near the end and sprinted on her own. But, while Chloe is ace and has gone better than ever this year, I would expect Jolien to beat her seven times of ten, that’s why Chloe has been leading her out for Wiggle for the last two seasons.

The Dutch should have easily the strongest team and Kirsten Wild reigns in Qatar… if it’s windy their depth could tell although Wild/Vos are dangerous in any weather. They could try to keep the race together but they have so many options that they might not want to – if Blaak or Pieters are in a small group, say, those odds are good.

The Italians will have sprint options too but not sure how many would beat Jolien, Kirsten or Chloe head-to-head. Bronzini maybe, with the right timing. Other than that, maybe Kirchmann, maybe Lepisto, conceivably Rivera…

But it may well not be a bunch sprint.


Edit:

Anna Christian from Wiggle to Drops. Fair enough really, but that's half the squad gone. Six riders plus Emma J under contract for '17; uncertainty over Cordon, Pieters and Roberts. Surely Rochelle Gilmore has got something up her sleeve... some Aussies maybe.
 
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Jip van den Bos to Boels-Dolmans for 2017.

That could work… she deserves a move after going well at Parkhotel and Boels must be an attractive team for a young Dutch rider now. They don’t actually have many young riders and they can’t sign Floortje…
 
Of course Boels is an attractive team at the age Jip is, where she's still developing and there are plenty of top quality star riders she can learn from. Any concerns are less about where she is now and more about in a couple of years' time if she outgrows the kind of roles she gets in such a strong squad, just as we've seen with Thalita de Jong at Rabo who felt increasingly like her wings were clipped by being strong in the same kind of terrain as the superstars of the squad. With a good sprint finish it's probably easier for Jip to get opportunities than some, but given how stacked the squad is, it's going to be a learning process low on the team's food chain for a year or two I'd expect, unless she really breaks out, just like is happening with Dideriksen. In one way I'm disappointed as I've really enjoyed the Valkenburg youngsters this year, and it's a young Dutch talent who could shore up depth at the Vos team, which is looking more and more like 2017's version of this year's Cervélo as the latter has strengthened very impressively in the off-season - small team with two very reliable high profile points-scorers and some decent prospects, but the calendar being restricted by the number of riders, whereas she'll be well down the food chain at a team as strong as Boels. At the same time, it looks like Demi de Jong is leaving Boels and they don't have much in the way of young Dutch riders, even if with Anna VDB and Blaaki the team's identity is hardly under threat. In the short term it may be a restrictive move as she goes from relative freedom at a small team to a likely bit-part role in a big team, but in the long term it could be a great move for her.
 
Re:

Jonhard said:
Anna Christian from Wiggle to Drops. Fair enough really, but that's half the squad gone. Six riders plus Emma J under contract for '17; uncertainty over Cordon, Pieters and Roberts. Surely Rochelle Gilmore has got something up her sleeve... some Aussies maybe.

Insert awful pun about not having "wiggle room"

Anyway, the team formerly known as Rabo didn't find a new sponsor but will continue as "Fortitude".
Interestingly, they added Kitchen and Scandolara
 
Horrible name, but nice to see them adding some depth as well, as it had been looking like a bare bones squad, although I have a lot of time for Anouska Koster. Lauren Kitchen is a good all rounder with some decent climbing capabilities, while if their tactical sense stays anything like it was this last two years, Valentina "I never met a péloton I liked" Scandolara will fit in perfectly.

They've also strengthened with a couple of other signings, an intriguing mix.
First up is Roten Gafinovitz, 24yo Israeli from Jos Feron Lady Force semi-pro team, who had a surprisingly competitive run at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik and the Pajot Hills Classic. Probably to be used as a Classics domestique.

Then there's Riejanne Markus, brought over from Liv-Plantur (interesting with a couple of riders going the other way). She's a good young Dutch rider (turned 22 earlier this month) so exactly the kind of rider they want, and she has good recovery (after a quiet Giro was very active in the last couple of stages including being 2nd to de Jong in the final stage over a decent sized mountain) and is reasonably good in the hills and mountains (top 10 of Giro del Trentino despite a poor TTT) as well as pretty solid in the flats (top 5 of BeNe Tour).

Finally, in what I thought might happen for some time, at least once it became that the team around Vos was losing a lot of its established hands but Katie Unknown was staying, the team has brought Anna Plichta over from BTC City-Ljubljana. The 24yo Pole is a close personal friend of Kasia Niewiadoma and has had a good season, both scoring some useful results in her own right (most notably 2nd in the Tour de Féminin Krasná Lipa), as well as being an important and helpful cog in the Polish tactics for Rio and Plumelec. She's at her best in the toughest of the punchy climbs, as the top 20s in Flèche Wallonne and the Giro dell'Emilia show, but tends to fall away on the longer climbs (not able to impose herself on the Tour de l'Ardèche GC).
 
Obviously the big bonanza news of the day is that Wiggle missed out on their rumoured bonanza signing; instead supertalent Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is going to what was probably the only other team with the room both inside the salary threshold and on the roster to sign her, Canyon-SRAM. The longer it was drawn out the less likely a Wiggle signing seemed as the rumour was now some time ago, and with the moves they've made in the transfer season there was little chance Boels would have the scope to take on as big a name as PFP and still have room to keep everybody happy with their roles. It's an interesting move, especially as it appears to all intents and purposes to be Canyon's very first move of the transfer season; they've been very tight-lipped and seemingly no rumours of riders moving in OR out. If this remains the case, PFP will surely slot in as their primary leader for hilly to mountainous stage races and one day races, with Amialiusik as the main backup. It will also give Elena Cecchini a lot more freedom as she's a very smart tactical head and offering her the card of a rider of Pauline's talent back in the pack or chasing groups will allow Cecchini plenty of choice in how she plays races. Pauline's goals are not so likely to impinge on Brennauer or Guarischi, while Tiffany Cromwell is an excellent hand to play over most terrain who may well profit from bunches being thinned out chasing the likes of Ferrand-Prévot and Cecchini... oh and Worrack, who will inevitably have many times when other teams have to chase her attacks down because Trixi is as Trixi does. Canyon are, however, relatively small in terms of numbers, almost as much as 2016 Cervélo, so if Pauline wants to continue regular moonlighting in CX and MTB that may well affect their calendar. How she and Deignan/Armitstead interact next season could be entertaining to watch as well, or they could mark each other out of wins.

So where now for Wiggle? They've kept a lot of their numbers, but several that they've lost have been high profile; while King going to Cylance is a solid move for Dani's career as she'll likely have more freedom and Christian dropping down (ahem) to Drops is unsurprising as it seemed she needed a bit more development time as the team didn't take her to most of the tougher races on the calendar, they have also lost some of their racewinners - Hosking going to Alé is particularly notable as I thought they'd probably come to rely on her a fair bit with the number of riders retiring. In one fell swoop they've lost their best rider and their Giro leader, however interestingly there is now a rumour that in fact Giorgia Bronzini has rethought her retirement plan, and if so the team will obviously welcome it (they were otherwise going to be fairly reliant on ELB and d'Hoore) and many fans will as well, given that it does seem the former double world champion still has at least another year or two in the legs.

Hosking going to Alé-Cipollini has been followed by Marta renewing; the team has also recently picked up Romy Kasper, a bit left out in the Boels-Dolmans shuffle. It's interesting in that, in losing van Dijk and Kasper Boels have lost a couple of extremely strong rouleurs for controlling races, and also that Alé seem to be setting their stall out as a sprint team, especially noteworthy as they've now lost Jasinska to Cylance, and Emilia Fahlin will also leave the team, though her destination is not yet known; the two have been among their most aggressive and visible riders. It also raises a question as to whether the team will have a place for the inconsistent grimpeuse Fran Cauz if and when she returns from her sabbatical for personal reasons.

There's also apparently one team fewer in the Italian péloton to consider as it looks like INPA will cease operations. Lara Vieceli has signed with Astana but there are a few solid names now in the market. I would anticipate Tetyana Riabchenko and Daiva Tušlaitė will have little trouble finding a new ride, also Änna Zita Maria Stricker, while Michela Pavin and Ana Maria Covrig likely have been visible enough to merit a ride somewhere as long as they wish to continue.

Finally, while they may have lost two of their most visible riders in Kirsten Wild and Lauren Kitchen, Hitec Products do still have Tatiana Guderzo and have got first dibs on teenage phenom Susanne Andersen; they've also strengthened by bringing in sprinter Nina Kessler, and also strengthening their Dutch presence by bringing in the single toughest woman in the péloton, a rider TOUGHER THAN YOU, Ilona Hoeksma, whose 2016 season was ended when she collapsed a lung, broke three ribs, three vertebrae, a shoulderblade, a shoulder and a collarbone in a horrific crash, and she got up and rode to the line.
 
A couple of 2017 rosters released today.

First up, our friends Parkhotel Valkenburg, who've entertained us with their breakaway antics for much of the year with their young Dutch team. They've lost two of their most recognizable riders in Jip and Ilona Hoeksma, Lady of Steel, and it's also unclear on whether Janneke Ensing returns or retires, but they have retained much of the team's core, keeping their young guns like Eva Buurman, Pauliena Rooijakkers, Jermaine Post and Chanella Stougje as well as more experienced hands like the veteran Nathalie van Gogh (continuing into her 40s) and the controversial Hanna Solovey, as well as having a prominent CX presence through Sophie de Boer. They've also brought Kyara Stijns across from Liv, and Esther van Veen from Swabo Ladies (the 26-year-old has seemingly been racing part time but good showings have got her a contract with a stronger team) as well as two 18-year-olds in Nina Buysman and Aafke Soet. The latter in particular is a good pickup as she's hotly tipped.

The other team to issue their roster is United Healthcare, who've made some large-scale changes to their roster. In addition to losing Iris Slappendel to retirement they've also cut seven other riders (!) and hired in six more. The highest profile signing is probably Tayler Wiles from Orica, elsewhere they're a mixture of the interesting and confusing. Lauretta Hanson is a nice signing especially in the US circuit; she's been very strong in the crit circuit both in Europe and America, was top 10 of both the TDU and Qatar and is 21 years old, and in Janelle Cole there's also another promising young rider. The selections of Lauren Tucker Hall (37) and Kate Sherwin (43) are a bit harder to fathom, however, when you consider that among those riders they haven't kept on are Coryn Rivera and Linda Villumsen. Rivera is great on the US scene and is a versatile sprinter, while Villumsen is the reigning time trial world champion; they're about UHC's best known riders in fact, so I can't see them not having something lined up. Given her tendency to focus on a small number of events around her TT speciality I can see Villumsen going to the low-contact national contract type scheme, but for Coryn that would be preposterous; I'm sure there's a WT ride about to be announced for her. The only question is where; Fortitude don't have a true sprinter, but they have Vos. Wiggle have huge roster gaps, but they already have a lead sprinter.
 
Rivera leaving is surprising. Zero chance she's taking a lower level ride. It's either world tour or she's decided to take a break for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, the strong rumours of the past week about women's Amstel and LBL for 2017 are 50% confirmed. Amstel is official.
Now let's just wait and see if LBL's happening.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
A couple of 2017 rosters released today.

First up, our friends Parkhotel Valkenburg, who've entertained us with their breakaway antics for much of the year with their young Dutch team. They've lost two of their most recognizable riders in Jip and Ilona Hoeksma, Lady of Steel, and it's also unclear on whether Janneke Ensing returns or retires, but they have retained much of the team's core, keeping their young guns like Eva Buurman, Pauliena Rooijakkers, Jermaine Post and Chanella Stougje as well as more experienced hands like the veteran Nathalie van Gogh (continuing into her 40s) and the controversial Hanna Solovey, as well as having a prominent CX presence through Sophie de Boer. They've also brought Kyara Stijns across from Liv, and Esther van Veen from Swabo Ladies (the 26-year-old has seemingly been racing part time but good showings have got her a contract with a stronger team) as well as two 18-year-olds in Nina Buysman and Aafke Soet. The latter in particular is a good pickup as she's hotly tipped.

The other team to issue their roster is United Healthcare, who've made some large-scale changes to their roster. In addition to losing Iris Slappendel to retirement they've also cut seven other riders (!) and hired in six more. The highest profile signing is probably Tayler Wiles from Orica, elsewhere they're a mixture of the interesting and confusing. Lauretta Hanson is a nice signing especially in the US circuit; she's been very strong in the crit circuit both in Europe and America, was top 10 of both the TDU and Qatar and is 21 years old, and in Janelle Cole there's also another promising young rider. The selections of Lauren Tucker Hall (37) and Kate Sherwin (43) are a bit harder to fathom, however, when you consider that among those riders they haven't kept on are Coryn Rivera and Linda Villumsen. Rivera is great on the US scene and is a versatile sprinter, while Villumsen is the reigning time trial world champion; they're about UHC's best known riders in fact, so I can't see them not having something lined up. Given her tendency to focus on a small number of events around her TT speciality I can see Villumsen going to the low-contact national contract type scheme, but for Coryn that would be preposterous; I'm sure there's a WT ride about to be announced for her. The only question is where; Fortitude don't have a true sprinter, but they have Vos. Wiggle have huge roster gaps, but they already have a lead sprinter.
Rivera has apparently signed for one of the bigger European teams.

It's an interesting shift in emphasis for UHC, with Katie Hall and Taylor Wiles as their main leaders. ie their shift in emphasis away from US crits and towards European road racing continues. Although presumably Hanson's signing means that they will still be looking to win some domestic crits.
 
Interesting to see where Coryn goes, Fortitude have space but I don't know how much money; Wiggle have a lot of space but sprinting is one area they're still fairly strong, Canyon have potentially some room I guess? Liv have got quite a full roster now, Alé just signed Chloe Hosking, Cylance just signed Kirsten Wild (and are US based), Hitec have signed Kessler to be their sprinter (and aren't really 'one of the big teams'), Cervélo are growing but she'll play more or less the same role Lepistö already does, and Boels are absolutely stacked.

The important transfer news of the day is two renewals (Orica keeping Elvin and Spratt) and, more significantly, Amy Pieters being the next to cross over to the orange juggernaut that is Boels-Dolmans. To be perfectly honest, I'm becoming a bit concerned. In a post-Olympic year we're going to see a lot of teams scale back or at least not step up commitments, as a lot of funding cycles are related to the Olympics in niche sports and that's pretty universal, but with Wiggle and the former Rabo squad both scaling back massively, after a year where Boels were already extremely dominant and with them making such a series of strong moves to improve their horsepower at the front of the race, I fear we're going to be in for a year that could be even more one-sided than Rabo's 2014, where they locked out the podium of several major stage races, only Boels' strength to date has been all around the WWT. The only thing they lack is a dominant sprinter, but with a domestique corps so strong, it could strangle a lot of races except for the absolute most mountainous of them where some specialists may be able to prise Guarnier and van der Breggen away from the domestiques...
 

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