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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2017

Page 5 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Amstel Gold coming up, with the first edition since early in the century. It's a 121km race with 17 climbs in all, unfortunately only a couple of the hardest ones from the men's race (though we do get Keutenberg), and three times around the finishing circuit with Geulhemmerweg and the useless waste of space that is Bemelerberg, the introduction of which following the 2012 Worlds has left us with a complete damp squib of a run-in.

screen-shot-2017-04-14-at-22-04-38.png


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lensworld, rather like BePink, probably have better chances in the other races this week, as their main contenders, Riabchenko and Guderzo, need a more drawn-out climb, while for FDJ don't count Knetemann out, she's been combative throughout the season so far and she was 4th in the Hills Classic back in 2014. BTC are probably less likely to contend, but they won Plouay last year with Eugenia Bujak and are likely hoping for a similar surprise here. For Lotto, Jessie Daams has made the selection at the Hills Classic before, while Kiesenhofer is a bit of a wildcard. The other teams are mostly likely to contribute break riders, although Parkhotel will obviously want to be visible and Pauliena Rooijakkers is not a bad climber.
 
Final half hour here courtesy of France 3.

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

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

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

Behind, in the splintered remainder of the chase group, Amy Pieters was able to take the sprint, with her, Blaaki and Canuel having had a cushy ride on the back of their leaders up the road, outsprinting the resurgent Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who seems to be finding her feet with her new teammates and starting to look like the rider we remember - also bear in mind, it was her arrival in the top 10 of Binda and La Flèche Wallonne as a 19yo without a pro team, riding for the French national squad that brought a lot of the hype onto her shoulders in the first place. Moolman-Pasio and Ellen van Dijk, shorn of the chasing responsibility in the run-in with Rivera up the road, rounded out the top 10. The main body of the péloton was led home by young Cervélo rider Lisa Klein and Eva Buurman, another ex-speed skater on the local Parkhotel Valkenburg team, rounding out the top 20 to secure some World Tour points.
 
1
Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
3:15:57
 
2
Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
0:00:55
 
3
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling
 
 
3
Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She got her own podium ceremony at that point
C9iM97gXYAA5uin.jpg


Nothing photoshop can't fix
C9mg7J2WAAAaMFq.jpg
 
Ah, okay. Also thanks for explaining why it was only Niewiadoma on the podium.
There's something quite amazing about ties, though. Nowadays they've got equipment that can basically measure down to milimetres/tiny fractions of a second, and there are still situations where the system basically goes:

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

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

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


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

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

An aside. I've seen a few ties in my time and for some reason they're always for bronze. Weird.
 
There's probably a fair few ties further down the field in several group finishes between riders for whom separating the position is likely irrelevant (not in GC mix so countback not relevant, far from stage win). It's not like the shared silver medals at Vancouver or the shared win in Antholz in the biathlon.

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

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

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

Deignan is clearly on good form, but has only been among the best here once in the past (2014). Guarnier was on the podium last year but is coming off injury so isn't at her best yet. Cecchini is at best her team's third option, but her knack of knowing the right moves, plus the fact the women's race is likely to break up more than the men's and she won one of her national titles at Supergà means she's always worth considering as an outsider. PFP looked much more like the rider we know at the weekend, but Amialiusik has the recent results here. Lichtenberg is a great climber but not all that explosive and her form is a question mark, while Moolman-Pasio's ability to sprint at the summit may be a key factor for her. She and Niewiadoma also have the factor of being their teams' only realistic option for the victory, which may be a benefit in terms of protection against teams with several chiefs and few Indians, but may be a hindrance if the race becomes broken up early.
 
Imagine telling people a couple of years ago that Rivera would be defending her lead as top rider in the world in late April. I admire her step forward even more because in her transition from sprinter to classics rider she gets dropped and fights her way back quite often. She may be a sprinter but she has had to earn her chances to sprint the hard way.

For tomorrow though I'm team Niewiadoma all the way.
 
Team Kasia unite!

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

And of course, unlike the men, you have to say Flèche is the most prestigious of the hilly classics for women due to its longevity.
 
As ever, the biggest problem that women's cycling faces is that when they put the show on, the cameras don't roll. The women may have a full Ardennes week now, but as I said on the last page, La Flèche Wallonne is the most important of them, being a well-established race and the top puncheur's event of the whole year in terms of prestige, at least in years when we don't have a World Championships in that vein. It's pretty disappointing, no, actually, it's really, really disappointing that when you compare to how Flanders Classics have gone about making their races work, covering de Ronde, developing races like Gent-Wevelgem from the ground up and so on, the same organization responsible for the biggest bike race in the world are completely incapable of doing something as simple as using the fixed cameras they already have on the Mur de Huy to let us see something of what's going on, I mean it's not like the men were going hell for leather at one another making decisive moves when the women were circling Huy, now, is it? My mind is cast back to July last year, when we got absolute insanity over four mountain passes in the Giro Rosa, with the best young rider going solo from 70km out, the race leader and 2nd place in a breakaway two climbs from home, a rider in the top 5 collapsing completely to lose 17 minutes, and a heroic rescue ride from the eventual winner after being dropped on the final climb, summed up in a 15 minute highlight package, while we got uninterrupted coverage of over 3 hours of a Tour stage in which the break was pegged at around four minutes, and nothing of note happened until the last 1500m. It's hard for people to discover how exciting women's cycling can be when they don't get to see the exciting races.

Anyway, La Flèche Wallonne. You'd be forgiven for getting déjà vu looking at the podium, for, of course, at least in the initial podium ceremonies at the weekend, the exact same three riders, in the same positions, lined up. But this wasn't a formulaic sprint up the Mur like the men's race, however. This was something far more befitting of the race's elevated prestige within the women's calendar compared to the men's where it is more or less accepted as an annual Subida a Huy hillclimb at this point (although Tim Wellens may try to disagree, I think he's the only one since Wegmann to try and make something else of it). Ardennes week has rather seen the Boels-Dolmans team look more like the juggernaut that it was last season, being so strong that they could even afford to carry Megan Guarnier as almost a passenger as she rides herself back into form after injury. The increased professionalism in the bunch is starting to create familiar race formats (for example, over the last couple of years there have been more stages seeing early day-long breakaways controlled by the bunch, and fewer of those common women's cycling formats where the bunch rides together at a fast pace, constantly pulling back attacks until one dangerous enough and with enough numbers to go breaks the group) but there's still enough disparity - and the reduced team sizes obviously helps - to enable races like today to work on a parcours that, in men's cycling, is pretty much a guaranteed final kilometre sprint.

Just like last year, it was not actually the Mur de Huy that was decisive for the women, but the preceding Côte de Cherave. Last year the group broke down to three or four bunches, this year there was just one group formed at the head of the field, but the group was about as elite as it comes - the big uphill attack that broke the elastic was by (who else?) Kasia Niewiadoma, who was marked by two-time defending champion Anna van der Breggen who had been testing the legs of the group before that, and Anna's teammate Lizzie Deignan, fresh from the podium of Amstel Gold and clearly showing the best climbing legs we've seen from her in three years. For those counting, then, that's the Olympic champion and defending champion, a former World champion, and a 2x European U23 champion. With Boels then having two against one, they were able to do the traditional number on Kasia and took the one-two in absolutely the way they should have, since they had the benefit of both numbers and experience on their adversary, even if Niewiadoma is objectively one of the best grimpeuses in the péloton; first Deignan pushed away from the Pole and made her chase on the downhill and the first part of the flat, with descending being one of the Briton's strongest suits (after all, it's how she won the Trofeo Binda last year, escaping from people who are absolutely no mugs downhill and not allowing Neff, a world class mountain biker, any leeway ahead); after that, van der Breggen repeated the same trick that worked so well at the weekend, escaping on the flat and taking advantage of the numbers game to arrive at the base of the final climb alone; an advantage she held all the way to the line. Even more so, with Deignan rightly not chasing her teammate, Niewiadoma's best chance for the podium was to push on alone on the Mur and hope she could drop Lizzie, after all the former World Champion has only once made the podium here, with her climbing remit having normally been best suited to shorter climbs when this steep; however, having had a quiet Northern Classics season, clearly she's on the best form for the hills we've seen her in in some time (maybe she fancies a tilt at the Giro with the underwhelming route this year?) and, not having had to take the wind beforehand either, she was able to stick like glue to the Polish champion's back wheel before dropping her just like Strade Bianche 2016 near the summit to secure the 1-2. Niewiadoma did get third place for her efforts, and even better she doesn't have to share the podium this time, having a clear advantage over van Vleuten of eighteen seconds rather than millionths of a second like at the Cauberg. With Vos still only showing in fits and bursts and not looking like the machine she did a few years ago, Kasia seems to be fighting alone a lot of the time; it's not like the WM3 roster is weak, but compared to the all-star juggernaut of Boels she is being isolated quite often - similar to in de Ronde where others could pull up with riders in the chasing group.

As mentioned, Annemiek van Vleuten kept up the déjà vu by winning the climb from the splintered group behind, ahead of Shara Gillow, which is an excellent performance and the best result for the FDJ team this season (one place better than she managed at Strade Bianche) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. Particularly interesting is Coryn Rivera's 7th-place finish on a summit you would think highly unfriendly for her. I mean, yes, she's small and was very much a sprinter in the 'pocket rocket' sense than the 'André Greipel-esque tank' sense in her days on the US domestic calendar, but she's mostly this season been earning her chances to sprint by chasing on after staying close at hand when dropped on the big climbs - just as happened on the Cauberg. It was obvious she would fight hard to get some points here to protect her lead in the WWT, but I didn't expect her to go as well as she did. The rest of the top 10 was made up of experienced riders with good hilly credentials - Ensing is 30 while both Garfoot and Oliveira are 36 and with a wealth of experience in dealing with the Mur. Canyon had a very disappointing day - their two hopes for victory, PFP and Amialiusik, finishing 28th and 29th their best finishers, while the much smaller BTC City-Ljubljana team managed 3 in the top 20 for example - and Wiggle mightn't have expected Audrey Cordon to be their best finisher, ahead of Claudia Lichtenberg, though both managed to get into the top 15.
 
I think it's a nice idea, executed abysmally.

Firstly, I have plenty of problems with the original La Course, the 66km summit finish one-day race that somehow necessitates trying to kill Thüringen, one of the most prestigious and traditional week races on the calendar.

Then, I have a problem with the logistics. They are only "inviting" the top 20 finishers from Izoard, but from Briançon to Marseille isn't a short distance, and for some teams to potentially be doing that for one rider to do a 22km course is potentially detrimental.

Furthermore, they didn't announce it until now, so it's not on the WWT calendar. Should teams really be putting themselves that far out of the way etc. for a race that doesn't pay any points? It essentially then becomes a game of 'not annoying ASO'. And the fact they didn't announce it until now means that there's a good chance that, knowing the Tour was coming to town for several months, getting hotels and the like sorted in the area could be a real hassle. And riders who want to target late season stage races - such as Thüringen for example - may have already arranged their season's plans so not have the scope to take in the pursuit event because of the late announcement, given the move of La Course to a weekday frees up a weekend for racing on the calendar - what does ASO do if this includes the winner on Izoard?

Setting the pursuit as a standalone event also simply won't do. It either needs to be part of a stage race, or the points are only given after the pursuit. It's always been a point of contention even in the sports where the pursuit is a long-ingrained part of the scenery - in biathlon, for example, there's always some consternation about the fact the sprint pays World and Olympic medals, then also sets the grid for the pursuit, giving an automatic chance to double up on the medal count - but here it's almost ridiculous, because the late notification of the event means they can't really shoe-horn it into the WWT, and that only the top 20 get to go means there isn't the scope for the 'charge from deep in the field' type of race that is the precise raison d'être of this event in XC/biathlon/Nordic Combined, so essentially it's just an exhibition race, and no different to the post-Tour crits except for the format, and that's a sad misuse of what could be a really good addition to the sport.

Another issue is that I saw the comment on Twitter that this was intended as a response to the Hammer Series garbage - if so, then it's effectively treating the women - who ASO already give a raw deal by prioritising their crappy crit race over letting them have proper races, and doing such a terrible job of providing coverage for by not switching the cameras on for Flèche Wallonne (seriously, the timing of the announcement couldn't have been worse, given a lot of women's cycling aficionados are presently quite frustrated with ASO for this very reason) - as lab rats, testing out a new format for use with the more lucrative men's races in effect. The problem is, ASO's treatment of the women right now is pretty shoddy even by the standards we're used to (compare them to, say, RCS or Flanders Classics), but because of their importance within the sport, the UCI will usually have to bend over backwards to accommodate their whims, even when those whims are detrimental to the established women's calendar and much more supportive events, and then try to sell it as progress, so that ASO can pat itself on the back for giving the women a chance to showcase their sport in an exciting new format. It's good PR with the casual fan, perhaps, but it's very bad PR for that section of the fanbase that already follows women's cycling.

Do I think it's an interesting format? Sure - I've included two or three of these in my Race Design Thread parcours, for example. I've thought it was something cycling could have made use of for some time and in all honesty I'm interested to see how it pans out. However, given the way this has been put together and announced, do I think they've done a very good job in how they've gone about using it? Absolutely not. If they are using this as a precursor, however, to expanding La Course properly, then this could be a good thing - I just think we need some reassurance on that front. If it becomes, say, a four day race aping the final stages of the Tour, with a mountain stage, a transitional stage, a pursuit race on the TT course (regardless of length - I think a longer TT would yield a better pursuit race, especially as the women don't often get to race TTs longer than 20-25k anyway) and then the Champs Elysées, but most crucially announcing this before the teams have set their calendars, it could work.