• The Cycling News forum is looking to add some volunteer moderators with Red Rick's recent retirement. If you're interested in helping keep our discussions on track, send a direct message to @SHaines here on the forum, or use the Contact Us form to message the Community Team.

    In the meanwhile, please use the Report option if you see a post that doesn't fit within the forum rules.


The Women's Road Racing Thread 2017

Here are a couple of random - completely useless - musings:

1: Five-(wo)man rosters aren't completely unheard of, right? This means that Boels-Dolmans technically could start in a race with not two riders wearing the same kit. Of course I don't know if there four special-jersey ladies are ever gonna start the same race.

2: This has definitely being the year for old* American ladies when it comes to major ITT championships. Also, the ITT World Champion could be the mother of the RR World Champion. Of course, said RR champion is pretty young.

*For a professional athlete. I don't actually think 43 or 41 is that old.

RedheadDane said:
Here are a couple of random - completely useless - musings:

1: Five-(wo)man rosters aren't completely unheard of, right? This means that Boels-Dolmans technically could start in a race with not two riders wearing the same kit. Of course I don't know if there four special-jersey ladies are ever gonna start the same race.

2: This has definitely being the year for old* American ladies when it comes to major ITT championships. Also, the ITT World Champion could be the mother of the RR World Champion. Of course, said RR champion is pretty young.

*For a professional athlete. I don't actually think 43 or 41 is that old.

Last year in the Giro, Boels Dolmans had Lizzie Armitstead/Deignan in the World champs kit, Christine Majerus and Amalie Dideriksen in Luxembourgish and Danish national champs kit, Megan Guarnier and Evelyn Stevens in GC and Points leaders jerseys and Karol-ann Canuel the only one in team kit. (I think)
2017 and here we are again, wondering if the WWT will live up to the hype this year and perhaps naively hoping it will.

Generally there seems to be a feeling that there are more teams with a chance of winning this year, because of a lifting of standards in the bigger teams and, of course, the dispersal of Rabo talent. And I think that’s true: the number of teams with more than one potential race winner is bigger. But then you look at Boels-Dolmans and weep for the competition.

Anyway, I was prompted to post by the arrival of a provisional start list for Het Nieuwsblad, of which an extract is below. The complete list is at Cyclingfever, which I find is usually best for pre-race start lists. (http://www.cyclingfever.com/editie.html?detp=view&_ap=startlijst&editie_idd=MjgyMzA=)

I have left out Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx, Lensworld-Kuota, Lares-Waowdeals, Astana, BePink, Bizkaia-Durango, Colavita, Lointek, Veloconcept, German national and a handful of local non-UCI teams. This is mostly because I don’t have much to say about them – there are a few riders there who could feature.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – Saturday 25 February – Gent-Gent – 124km

I haven’t managed to find a suitable course map or profile, but the official Flanders Classics site has some info.

BLAAK Chantal
MAJERUS Christine

Look on my works ye cyclists and despair.

Boels have left out the previous two winners of this race (Lizzie and AvdB) and they still have at least five riders who could win, on paper. On the basis that it might be a bit soon for the full time ‘crossers (Harris and Majerus), Blaak and Pieters (another former winner) are probably the main chances, even though it seems faintly ridiculous to play down Guarnier and Dideriksen. What Boels do with the world champion will be interesting this season… so much competition in that squad.

DOM Annelies
DAAMS Jessie
BECKERS Isabelle

Lotto look a bit weaker this year and may rely on Kopecky continuing to improve. This seems a fair bet.

D'HOORE Jolien

Wiggle have lost a key classics rider in Chloe Hosking, but they have also strengthened. Fahlin is probably quite important in these races, a versatile all-rounder who could win from a small group, as she did in Vargada last year; Cordon is a similar key all-rounder. ELB can be devastating on the bergs, as she was to win in Flanders ’15, but I would pick Gent local Jolien D’Hoore as their main chance. 2016 was full of track but she’s all about the road this year, and Wiggle will be hoping for some wins from her this spring. Lucy Garner is probably her wingman for the final.

Not sure what to say about Claudia Lichtenberg in this context. She will be key later in the season in the proper hilly races, but is probably here just to help. That may be unfair but I suspect it’s more about getting used to the team in time for the Ardennes.

ENSING Janneke

A new, more international face for Ale-Cipollini? Chloe and Marta are apparently co-leaders this year, but for this one I think Hosking and Janneke Ensing are the dangers. Romy Kasper is also a card to play on this terrain.

RYAN Alexis

Canyon have not brought their shiny new PFP to the party, but this is a strong line-up. Brennauer, Cromwell, Worrack and Cecchini could all be in it. Alena’s had an injury and Alexis Ryan is still improving.

POHL Stephanie

It’s not the strongest line-up but Lepisto is properly fast and AMP is a quality rider (albeit probably still feeling her nasty collision with a race moto last October).

WILD Kirsten
KING Danielle
RATTO Rossella
JASINSKA Malgorzta

Kirsten Wild’s abilities are well known, but maybe she’ll miss her usual Qatar tune-up-slash-coronation. King and Ratto provide attacking options, although I would be surprised to see either on the podium.

DUYCK Ann Sophie
ZORZI Susanna Italy

Drops make the list because of my GB/NL bias, but they are starting to look like possible contenders. Zorzi and especially Duyck have won races, and Alice Barnes, though terribly young, has bags of talent and a turn of speed.

DUVAL Eugénie
BRAVARD Charlotte

After years as an immensely likeable Rabo domestique, can Roxane Knetemann be a leader? It may hinder her chances of getting another beer going up the Muur de Huy if so. Roxane Fournier would be the fast one in the line-up, certainly capable of placing well in a sprint.

Shara Gillow was the other Rabo recruit, but this feels more like a race for one of the Roxanes or possibly Aude Biannic in a solo or small group attack.

BECKER Charlotte

Now featuring Friesland’s hardest woman, Ilona Hoeksma, Hitec remain a likeable team with some very handy riders. No Kirsten Wild any more, but Bjornsrud and especially Kessler are quite fast and it would be unwise to ignore Lotte Becker if she attacks. She won in South Africa over winter, her first UCI win for quite a long time.

KOSTER Anouska Helena
MARKUS Riejanne

This is not the A team but still a capable bunch. Katie X will rule the world one day, but perhaps not in this kind of race. Personally I’m interested to see how Riejanne Markus goes this year.

ELVIN Gracie
ROY Sarah
ALLEN Jessica
CROOKS Jenelle

A pretty strong line up here. Elvin and AvV can certainly win a race like this – indeed, Annemiek seems to be able to do anything at the moment – and Spratt and Roy are pretty quick in the finish.

STOUGJE Chanella
VAN GOGH Natalie

Young gun Jip van den Bos has gone to Boels, and they will miss Janneke Ensing and Vera Koodoeder, especially on the cobbles and at home in NL. Demi de Jong is a talented replacement though, and they have some experience in the mix. Ex-Rabo Anna Knauer had some success in the 6 Days this winter.

BRAND Lucinda
MACKAIJ Floortje
SLIK Rozanne
SOEK Julia

Looking pretty good with the addition of absolute powerhouse Ellen van Dijk (Boels) and fast all-rounder Lucinda Brand (Rabo). Kirchmann is possibly a top-tier sprinter on her day. And of course they have Floortje, although it’s probably a bit soon for her after a fairly nasty injury last year.

For what it’s worth, I think the race will break up quite early and come down to having the right numbers in the right groups. That favours Boels and classics specialists. I’d love to see Wiggle win but I think the reality will be a podium of Boels (Blaak/Pieters), Canyon (Cormwell/Brennauer) and Orica (AvV, Elvin). Would not surprise me to see Sunweb, Wiggle or perhaps Ale in the mix.
The Women's Tour of Britain was revealed yesterday. It's mainly focused around the Midlands, with the final stage on the same circuit the men do on the final stage.


Stage one: Daventry to Kettering (148km)
Stage two: Stoke-on-Trent to Stoke-on-Trent
Stage three: Atherstone to Royal Leamingston Spa (151km)
Stage four: Chesterfield to Chesterfield (133km)
Stage five: Central London (88.2km)

It looks less tough than last year but the Stoke stage hasn't been revealed yet and that was always a tough one when it featured in the men's edition.
The Chesterfield stage has plenty of opportunity to be tricky too, though it looks more like they'll be arriving from the more rolling east than the bumpier west. Approaching from the southwest you could put some nasty climbs around Matlock close to the finish. I suspect they don't want to overbalance it in favour of the climbers as there's no TT mileage and the fact they've gone with the flat London city centre circuit (because you know, the women don't get to do enough flat city centre circuits) means some of the challenge of the flatter stages and technical run-ins they've had in the previous years is lost. Also of course, they don't want to provide a race where all the home interest struggles and run the risk of the intense support that has helped the race take off being muted, and with Pooley retiring, that means sticking to the kind of punchy climbing terrain that is in Lizzie's remit.

Lotte Kopecky's Olympic Plan

The harvest was good on the malt-coloured planks of the Ghent velodrome. Lotte Kopecky got back home from the Nats with three Gold medals around the neck but the cyclist would rather recall the times set
I'm most of all happy with the evolution I've made in one year. I've bested my personal pursuit record by 3 seconds
She declared to Directvélo.

The Antwerper didn't just shine on the track. She also made a convincing first season on the road in the red jersey of the Lotto Soudal Ladies team. She won the Maarten Wynants Trophy and made some notable performances like a 2nd place at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik or a 4th place at the Tour of Belgium.
I thought I would have crossed a course with my new team but it proved even better than expected.

This former football player ascribed her success on her winter build-up.
I did it all for my sport. I had a very good winter in order to start competition with an ideal condition. I approached last season with more professionalism. That's probably the secret behind my success.

From this rich season Lotte Kopecky above all remembers her Gold medal at the European Madison Championships. The ambitious 21-year-old rider will keep on combining track and road for the next seasons with a long-term objective: the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
I'm following Jolien D'Hoore's footsteps. My choices will revolve around the track in which I'm ambitioning Olympic Gold in the omnium but this won't stop my progress on the road in 2017. I'll race the Flandrian classics like the Circuit Het Nieuwsblad in which I want to show up. I recall having a good feel on the Tour of Flanders. My aim on the road will be winning my first "1-class" which is the logical step in my progress. Then there's the Track Worlds mid-April

There's still work to do.

Today's Laatste Nieuws. I'm leaving the picture as links because of the pixel limits. ;)

Want to Stand All Spring Long

After a year in which Jolien D’Hoore successfully worked for Rio she gets back on the road this year.

Finally! I needed it. My build-up went perfectly according to plan. I start this season in good condition. The Omloop is the first value test. I’m ready for it physically as much as mentally. I hope I can contend for victory several times. The Omloop and Flanders but also Dwars door België Vlaanderen and Ghent-Wevelgem are on my bucket list.

D’Hoore wants to perform all season long.

Who are her main opponents according to herself?

Ellen Van Dijk

Former ice skater has already got 5 rainbow jersey in her cupboard: one on the track, one in the ITT, 3 in TTT’s [hmm TTT offers no rainbow, thank God ??] of which the last one in Qatar last year. We mainly know Ellen as a ITT specialist but she can also handle in-line races like in 2014 when she won the Tour of Flanders after a long solo at the end of which she pushed her opponents 1’ behind her. In 2015 she got outsprinted by Anna Van der Breggen. She’s left topteam Boels-Dolmans for Sunweb this year where she can rely on the support of Dutch [prodigy] Fleur Makaaij and the Canadian [Leah?] Kirchmann.

Elizabeth [Armitstead]

Perhaps the top favourite for the main event in the spring season. At the Omloop she still won’t be but mark her name for the other main events. The rainbow jersey at Richmond 2015 gave her wings: last year she won the Omloop, the Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders. Problem : Clinic related, cannot be discussed here.

Amy Pieters

Amy Pieters won the Omloop in 2014 ahead of now retired Emma Johansson and Ellizabeth Armitstead. She’s a successful trackie who since 2014 is very strong on the road too. Despite Van Dijk’s move to Sunweb and Armitstead’s absence, Boels-Dolmans (Women’s equivalent to Quickstep) is still the team to beat at the Omloop. They have Chantal Blaak, Amalie Diederiksen, Amy Pieters and Megan Guarnier in their ranks. All of them top guns who can win.

Chantal Blaak

Blaak has been racing at a high level for years but since 2015 she’s started to perform in high regarded races. That’s how she won the Samyn and finished 4th at the Omloop. Last year Blaak broke through completely with wins in Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Drenthe, both WT races. Also in the Samyn Memorial she was the strongest again. In the Omloop she was 2nd and 3rd at the Tour of Flanders.

Gracie Elvin

Perhaps the most unexpected name on Jolien’s list of favourites . The dual Australian champion is not really well known for the greater audience but she is a very consistent rider winning Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik back to back. She will start the Omloop with the better build-up of all because many of them miss race rhythm due to the cancellation of the Tour of Qatar. Orica has already raced the Ocean Race and the Australian nats which can be an advantage.

Also the four riders below should be watched out for

Lotte Kopecky

A little bit of chauvinism does no harm though there are more reason to include the bitter young Lotte Kopecky in the list. She’s a top talent who feels better and better among the top of Women’s Cycling. Last year she made huge progress, rewarded with 2nd place at the nats to Kaat Hannes but ahead of D’Hoore. Also on the track she belongs to the Worlds top and won last Saturday a World Cup event in Cali, Columbia.

Marianne Vos

Of course Marianne Vos belongs in this list of favourite. She’s had a hard period in recent years but she still has her undisputable talent. Last year she got back to top level and even last winter she proved in cyclocross that she gradually got back to her best level. She soon will manage to contend for classic wins. Be careful: don’t look for her at the Omloop because after her heavy winter season she’s postponed her return on the road to the Strade Bianche (4 March).

Chloe Hosking

Chloe Hosking was till last year Jolien’s teammate and at the same time her regular leadout woman in the sprints, which led to several success [Madrid?]. This year she races for Alé […]. As pure sprinter she probably comes short for win at the Tour of Flanders but at the Omloop she might score. Like Elvin she has already raced in her home country, that’s how she won a stage and the point classification of the Santos Women’s Tour.

Amalie Dideriksen

The Dane is still very young but she outsprinted a whole bunch at the Worlds and that was no surprise win since she had already got two titles among the juniors. Big handicap: she has only raced a certain amount of Flemish races in 2015. A lack of route knowledge can impair her performances.


Liege-Bastogne-Liege Now Also for Women

ASO announced that the Oldest will have a Women’s edition for the first time this year. They will have a 135km route on Sunday 23 April between Bastogne and Liège while the men will race 258km on the same day.

Rest of the article is about the roadwork on the Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée tryptich, known stuff.

By the way, is ASO really the main organiser of Liège-Bastogne-Liège? I thought the Pesant Club Liégeois still owned the label and ASO were just partners?
Amalie Dideriksen

The Dane is still very young but she outsprinted a whole bunch at the Worlds and that was no surprise win since she had already got two titles among the juniors. Big handicap: she has only raced a certain amount of Flemish races in 2015. A lack of route knowledge can impair her performances.

I'd still say it was a surprise. Sure, it might have been reasonable to think she could win it later on, but now?
In fact she was pretty surprised by it herself.

RedheadDane said:
Amalie Dideriksen

The Dane is still very young but she outsprinted a whole bunch at the Worlds and that was no surprise win since she had already got two titles among the juniors. Big handicap: she has only raced a certain amount of Flemish races in 2015. A lack of route knowledge can impair her performances.

I'd still say it was a surprise. Sure, it might have been reasonable to think she could win it later on, but now?
In fact she was pretty surprised by it herself.

No doubt... I don't recall anyone tipping Denmark, it was all about Wild, Hosking, D'Hoore.

And junior titles don't always translate. Lucy Garner has won two junior worlds and didn't even make the GB team for the Worlds - British Cycling being as inexplicable as usual.

A few minor changes to the Nieuwsblad start list. Boels have replaced Brammier with Karol-Ann Canuel, and Carmen Small (veloconcept) and Aude Biannic (FDJ) are not riding.

No live stream as far as I know, but perhaps some highlights during the coverage of the men's race.
In fairness the phrase by the journalist from Het Laatste Nieuws was:

"dat was geen toevalstreffer". So more like "That was no accidental hit" or something like that. A bit different than "surprise". Sorry if I mistranslated. ;)
Echoes said:
In fairness the phrase by the journalist from Het Laatste Nieuws was:

"dat was geen toevalstreffer". So more like "That was no accidental hit" or something like that. A bit different than "surprise". Sorry if I mistranslated. ;)

:) Not complaining! I like getting the Belgian stories about Jolien, don't see them anywhere else.

And it's fair enough to remind people that Dideriksen was not a totally unknown quantity.

RedheadDane said:
Of course she isn't. As an article I read a while back pointed out: "When the top-level team signs you at the age of 18, you know you've got a pretty big future ahead of you."

That said, she (Amelie D) had not done much winning at senior level, and one of the questions for 2017 is how many chances she will get with Boels-Dolmans. Some could fall her way in the unpredictable classics, but she seems more interested in being the sprint option from what I’ve read. Understandable if you’ve just nipped past Kirsten Wild.

While we’re here, a mention that the Omloop van het Hageland is on Sunday, part of the Lotto Cup series of Belgian one day races. Most teams are tweaking their Nieuwsblad lineups a little, but plenty of riders are doing both.

Startlist here: http://www.cyclingfever.com/editie.html?&detp=view&_ap=startlijst&editie_idd=MjgyMzE=&taal_id=23

It’s apparently going to be streamed here: https://livestream.com/accounts/3108428/SparOmloopvanhethageland2017

You know that nine times of out ten it will be a better race than KBK.
Dideriksen hadn't really done any winning at the top level for a similar reason to Thalita de Jong - she was often strong enough to merit the selection, but racing for a team so heavily stacked with winning talent that she was often relegated to domestique duties due to her inexperience. She was brilliant working for Armitstead in the Tour of Britain last year, for example, and showed a decent turn of pace when given the chance to sprint for herself in the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour. Sure, winning the Worlds was a surprise, especially as, while they were absolutely tearing it up on classics and punchy terrain which makes up so much of the women's calendar there was no real frontline flat stage sprinter on the squad last year, so they'd hired Amy Pieters and Jip van den Bos to shore up their options in flat races, and presumably for Jip to take on the role that Amalie previously had now that, as the reigning World Champion, she has the right to expect a bit more opportunity to race for herself - in the previous thread I think Jonhard described it as "the one Indian left just became a chief" - keeping everybody happy within the team will be potentially difficult.

Anyhow, for Omloop, even without Lizzie as defending champion they're unsurprisingly stacked. Blaak and Pieters are probably the strongest option for the race, as it mightn't be hilly enough for Guarnier even though she does have a good finishing line kick which has enabled her to maximise placements and score wins regularly to settle her WWT victory last season - a few times she could sit on groups with Lizzie or Blaaki up the road and then beat the opposition in the sprint for the line (not that she'd have trouble dispatching the likes of Lichtenberg, van der Breggen or Niewiadoma in a sprint regardless). Canuel and Majerus will probably be leant on as helpers a lot this season, since Amalie is unlikely to be spending the day pacing the péloton as often anymore.

My expectation of all four major Belgian teams (Lotto, Lensworld, Lares, Topsport) is that they'll be looking for a reduced sprint from their lineups; Lensworld have the most varied lineup and have strengthened well in the offseason, however not really in this direction as I don't really see Omloop suiting Tatiana Guderzo and even less the Ukrainian grimpeuse Tetyana Riabchenko. Lares don't have their marquee signing Thalita de Jong as she's still recovering from a CX injury.

Wiggle's lineup is interesting, as they're well prepared for multiple scenarios. Now with d'Hoore concentrating on the road again, she will be a major weapon as she is a bit more versatile than your out-and-out sprinter, but if the race is made really hard to drop her they've got former Ronde winner Elisa Longo Borghini who can compete on any terrain. They have some great engines to assist, however really Elisa needs the race to be really broken up to win, because she'd ideally need to be able to get away solo as she probably has the second worst sprint of anyone in the race - behind teammate Claudia Lichtenberg, whose skillset isn't really suited to flat races but who is durable enough to have had some decent results at Classics like the Ronde before.

As has been pointed out before, Alé's lineup is a lot more international this year despite the loss of their only World Tour race winner, Emilia Fahlin. That said, here I'd expect plan A to be the same as last year - Marta Bastianelli. If the race is fairly cagey Chloe Hosking could make the final group in which case she'd have to be one of the favourites from the sprint. The other Italian team at the start, Bepink, have just four starters it seems, though the race doesn't suit most of their best-known names. The Spanish/Basque teams are just developmental, and the smaller Belgian teams and the German national selection are likely to be likewise.

The German professional teams are a different proposition, however, as both have the chance to do something. Canyon are absolutely stacked for a race like this, since with there likely to be some level of selection Lisa Brennauer is tough, strong on the flats (former World TT champ of course) and has a strong finishing kick; Amialiusik is good on the hills with a decent sprint too, Cromwell is a reliable source of results as she's versatile and has a good sprint, although she doesn't get too many wins she's always seemingly up there in the results sheets, Cecchini has a magnificent racing brain and this terrain is good for her, Ryan is promising and Trixi is as Trixi does, which means she will be attacking to force selections left right and centre. Cervélo are less stacked, and their biggest name is Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio who prefers a hillier race and has been injured, but last season Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig really broke out - though again she may prefer a hillier race than this - and Lotta Lepistö is a threat in any sprint.

The Dutch squads offer us some other super-strong teams that will contend for the win. Other than obviously Boels, Sunweb are the most obvious, in a change from recent tradition. This is as the downsizing of the Rabo team has left them with some of the key players, and this terrain is almost perfect for Lucinda Brand. They've also picked up Ellen van Dijk, one of the toughest riders around, who was being squeezed out by the top-heavy nature of Boels-Dolmans, and superglued them atop their already promising Classics lineup including the consistent Leah Kirchmann and the young superstar-in-the-making Floortje Mackaij. Meanwhile WM3, the former Rabo team, aren't really at full strength here, as Merckx is missing. This means their next biggest star, Kasia Niewiadoma, starts, and while she's improving at them, this type of classic with a sizable flat run-in isn't her thing. Koster and Kitchen may therefore be the more viable threats, though I'd still anticipate that Kasia can make any selection on the bergs, just not be a player in a final sprint... Parkhotel are the other Dutch team, they will animate the race but although they've brought in the promising Demi de Jong, the loss of their most reliable player in these races in Ensing, and their most promising young sprinter in Jip, they'll need to reconfigure.

The other big player team is Orica. We all love Annemiek, right? Well, she'll be going for glory on their behalf, but also they have Gracie Elvin, who was going with Armitstead last year before being inexplicably called back to work behind, a decision which she showed no little dissatisfaction with (and rightly so). Amanda Spratt had an awesome season last year and goes from strength to strength in her late 20s, while Sarah Roy is a decent sprinter if it comes down to it. FDJ-Futuroscope will be an interesting watch as Roxane Knetemann becomes a team leader after many years as the tough worker ant in the Haarlem Globetrotters of Rabo-Liv. And as Jonhard points out her namesake, Fournier, can make a selective sprint too. Kirsten Wild leads Cylance, and Jasinska will be aggressive for them if she has any form, but the rest is a game of chance, as Ratto is potentially brilliant but form is evanescent, King and Numaïnville are strong domestiques in a new environment and Sheyla Gutiérrez is a decent sprinter but inexperienced. The strengthened Drops team could be interesting and improve their standing this season as Duyck is tough and will give them some TT results too, and as Barnes continues to improve they may struggle to keep hold of her if they don't develop the team structure with her. Colavita are a typical US team with some decent names but it's probably a bit early in the season for them to make an impact, while the Hitec team, gutted by the loss of Wild, is only four women strong, but they do have the toughest woman in the entire péloton, Ilona Hoeksma, and in Nina Kessler a more than capable sprinter. Finally, Bjarne Riis' Veloconcept team is still developmental, and has lost a couple of the key players from BMS-BIRN, but has kept hold of Camilla Møllebro Pedersen and Christina Siggaard as well as bringing in some experience from elsewhere so their progress will be interesting to watch this season.
A classic situation for the, er, classics set out in the last km at Omloop. Lucinda Brand picked her time well and it worked perfectly, because the group had two Sunweb riders in it so they were expecting an attack, but with van Dijk a former Ronde winner and the more feared TT rider it was expected to be her that went first. Once Brand was gone you had a great dynamic, because van Dijk obviously wasn't going to contribute, but then you had Annemiek and Elisa Longo Borghini trying to persuade Chantal Blaak to do the lion's share of the chasing, on the basis that Blaaki is both the weakest TTer of the group (Elisa is a good TTer, Annemiek especially in shorter efforts is one of the very best) and easily the best sprinter, so they wanted her as tired as possible to give them the chance to either get away from her or to compete with her in the sprint. Spratt is having a good early season again but was clearly the least suited of the group to the run-in. Interestingly no Boels riders in the second group on the road after their "have several in all key moves in all major races" shotgun strategy from the off last year it seems they're building up more slowly this season. Canyon missed the key move but had 3 in the chase group (using Brennauer and Amialiusik as pacers with Cecchini leading it seems), while WM3 only had Kasia, then Lauren Kitchen in the next group on the road, although Koster seems to have been in this until fairly late, caught in no woman's land between that group and the large péloton at 7 minutes. Also strange from the Danes that Siggaard and Ludwig made the 2'37 group while Dideriksen was in the bunch when the race more suits the World champ than any of the others.

At Hageland it seems that the bunch is starting to get used to the course and so after those years when it was broken up racing and you often saw groups stay away, this is the third straight year of a bunch gallop after coming back together again late on, although a local star in Jolien d'Hoore winning ahead of the Aussie army can send the crowd home happy.
Yeah happy with the result but not with the style of course. Hope Jolien can also win in style. :)

Shame that the Hageland doesn't use the cobbles and the dirt roads that the men's event used last summer. However Tielt-Winge is not really the same area as Diest & Beauvechain...
Wiggle's Hageland tactic was very similar to Flanders 15, except in that case ELB stayed away. She looks very strong right now and I can only hope she is not consistently outnumbered in breakaways as she was both days of the opening weekend.

Not a bad weekend for me personally... Oranje podium sweep on Saturday and black and orange win on Sunday.

Who doesn't love the spring?!
Okay, now I'm embarrased...

I've frequently seen Orica-Scott make references to their rider Alex Manly, and assuming it was a guy. This made me a tad confused when "he" didn't appear on any of the team's roster lists despite riding for the team. Of course - as you probably all know, because you're smarter than I am - Alex is short for Alexandra... :eek:

This probably stems - in part - from the fact that Orica-Scott has just one FB page, on which they post stuff about both the men's and the women's team. As opposed to a team like Lotto-Soudal, which has both the "main page" and a Lotto-Soudal ladies page, which is sometimes linked by the main page. Personally, I like the first way of doing things better, since it indicates that the two teams (men's and women's) are in fact organisationally one team, just with two "batches" of riders who - obviously - aren't ever gonna compete in the same races. Though Lotto-Soudal did have a shared team presentation...
I also quite like the fact that more-and-more (men's) WT teams have a women's team as well.
I think it does make sense for teams (and races) to have a men’s and women’s variety… Sunweb and Parkhotel Valkenburg are two others that spring to mind.

But it’s not so good if suddenly we have BMC, Sky and Movistar women’s teams taking all the publicity and squeezing out the existing supporters of women’s cycling. A similar situation to the new races squeezing out Bira and Thuringen maybe.

Anyway, it’s the Samyn des Dames tomorrow, more Belgian classic stuff. Chantal Blaak won last year, and in 2015. You feel Boels will be up for this, maybe feeling the pressure a little after having such a good start in 2016.

Latest startlist: http://www.cyclingfever.com/editie.html?detp=view&_ap=startlijst&editie_idd=MjgyMzI=

The forecast for Quaregnon is wet and fairly windy and apparently some of the cobbled sections are looking rough as hell. :D

Edit: it seems the Route de France has been cancelled, which is a bad business. My french isn't brilliant but it's UCI/WWT related and, I think, to do with failure to obtain WWT status, for reasons the organisers consider essentially bollocks.

It's on their facebook page.
This is why I'm against foisting women's teams on all mens' teams. Because some simply don't care, and I'd rather bespoke, separate women's teams that run independently than satellites of men's teams where the women are an afterthought, only included because they have to be and where their talents are allowed to stagnate, and then leave the combined team efforts to the teams like Sunweb, TopSport, Parkhotel, Lotto and Orica for whom the women do have a key role to play in the team's brand. I don't know what the best approach is regards integration - this will depend on the individual teams' positions I guess.

Put simply, I'm happy to see more Cervélo Test Teams around when it comes to the women's péloton, but we don't need more Garmins. Sky have already shown that the only value women's cycling has to them is as something to take credit for, and something to steal funds from when you need an extra pair of hands without increasing the trade team budget.

Shoe-horning a bunch of brand new races to make the World Tour work is one thing, but if it's really meant to be a sustainable thing, then running the risk of killing off races that have proven their sustainability on much lower budgets is not the way to go about it. I think the Women's World Tour is a great idea that has been handled really badly. Peter van den Veen posted a long thing about how he actually thinks the women's Amstel Gold is a very dangerous thing, as he's concerned that when Boels decide to pull the sponsorship plug, a race which has a profitable men's equivalent will not have the same commitment to retaining the women's race, so these brand new high profile races may not prove so sustainable as the races that they replace. Furthermore, an unintended consequence of finding a one-day race for every weekend in the calendar is that the non-WT stage races struggle for viability because the women's péloton is not yet deep enough to run several strong races concurrently. So if those new races kill off established stage races like the Emakumeen Bira, the Route de France and the Thüringen Rundfahrt, how does one learn the stage racing ropes?

The other thing that van den Veen railed against, which is absolutely fair, is the using of the Women's World Tour not to validate the most prestigious women's races (otherwise many of the races mentioned before would be integral parts of it, not being squeezed out) but to artificially inflate the status of a series of races, especially those produced by ASO, which are theoretically women's versions of major men's races, but could also be seen as patronizing facsimiles thereof, where the women ride ahead of the men's bunch to warm up the crowd rather than as an attraction in their own right. At least they could turn the cameras on (listen to Dan Wright and Sarah Connolly's podcast on La Flèche Wallonne and the endless frustration at the lack of coverage compared to the much slicker and better job done by Flanders Classics). But you know, at least at Amstel, Flèche, Liège, de Ronde, Gent-Wevelgem and so on the women get a proper course. The women's courses at London, Paris and Madrid are just a flat crit that they can televise and then wonder why there's no action. Maybe because you served up a pan-flat crit which isn't conducive to attacking riding!

I always thought that rather than slapping themselves on the back about what great exposure they were giving women's cycling by allowing the women to roll up and down the Champs for an hour or two, ASO should have thrown their money the direction of the Route de France. Instead they decided that they wanted to kill off the Thüringen Rundfahrt so that they could give the women great exposure by letting them ride up part of (not even all of) an anæmic Tour de France mountain stage (not even stage race), and if they can kill off TWO major stage races with one stone, that's perfect. Luckily the Thüringen Rundfahrt organizers are made of sterner stuff than that, but still.

The other thing of course is that the women have precious few decent length stage races and precious few mountainous stage races. The Route de France is not the most mountainous race of all but it's plenty enough - we've had Planche des Belles Filles MTFs in recent years for example - while another race that has been kicked and spat on by the UCI is the Emakumeen Bira, a long-running Basque stage race which, well, you know, it's in the Basque country. It just feels like they're tilting a calendar that was already biased in favour of flatter and rouleur/puncheur one-day races, and getting rid of the stage races, which actually cuts the amount of race days. But hey, the TV cameras can watch them roll up and down the Champs Elysées, so the UCI is doing its job.

Like I say, I'm all in favour of the Women's World Tour. But I think it should reflect not an anorexic facsimile of the men's World Tour but actually reflect the prestige of the races on the women's international racing calendar. And that means long-standing free-standing women's races not just should, but must be integral to it.
I was actually about to suggest that sponsoring a Women's team should be a requirement for all WT teams, then I realised, no. Sponsoring a women's team (just like sponsoring a men's team) should be something sponsors do because they want to, not because they have to.
Besides, as you sorta touch upon, what would happen if a team like Sky were to use their superior budget to sign some of the biggest stars, but then basically ignore the women while focusing on the men?

Loved your comment about a Basque stage race being in the Basque region. :p Yeah, think most people would've been able to figure that.

Right, Samyn des Dames! Where can I watch it? Is it even watchable?