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The Women's Road Racing Thread 2019

Page 21 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Stage 2 coverage

Sophie Wright, taking the mantle of inheriting Cille's jersey seriously, attacked and took the first GPM, but the bunch quickly reined that in, before the ever-combative Małgorzata Jasińska initiated a more serious move. While she was still away at the first time bonus sprint, Amanda Spratt continued her time-collecting strategy from yesterday, taking the 2" bonus ahead of Ane Santesteban, who also collected some bonus time yesterday. A fairly small group collected together as they pulled Gosia back, but the péloton wasn't happy to let them go; when they pulled them back Alena Amialiusik, fresh from an unfortunate time loss yesterday, decided to try to win some of that back, but while she made it through a meta volante, she didn't get far either, gaining around 30" max before Mitchelton-Scott decided to control things. Others tried some moves but without success, most notably Tayler Wiles, who is a pretty strong climber but who only just returned from California. She was pulled back before the second time bonus sprint which was - look, this is the Basque Country - on a short uphill; this time Spratt was not involved, so instead Mitchelton chose to pick up the time with Annemiek van Vleuten, who outsprinted Mavi García and Elisa Longo Borghini for the time.

This set us up for a dramatic punchy uphill finish, where we could see if Trek and Mitchelton-Scott could pull off the success that they'd been building towards. Obviously only one could, and it was - somewhat predictably given the rest of the two stages - Mitchelton-Scott who were right, although there was a bit of a disaster from a coverage point of view as the motos were pulled off the course meaning we missed most of the final kilometre and had to rely on static cameras which were waiting, seemingly interminably, for the riders to come by as Saul tried gamely to keep us up to date from race radio and apologised profusely and multilingually for the problems. We did get to see the final 250m, however, with Spratt emerging in front of Mavi García and Soraya Paladin, as the trio - along with Amy Pieters, for whom this climb is within her range, just about, emerged from the gloom. Pieters lost a couple of seconds at the line, which tells you that it was on the cusp of her range, because you'd usually back Amy in a sprint against all of these (and Soraya against Mavi, too). It was a real drag race, the camera didn't really convey the difficulty of the climb, but you could see from the pace they were going that this sprint was no fun - Spratt however put on a real show of strength, emerging already in the lead with a fairly narrow advantage with over 250m to go and sitting on the front grinding it out to the end of days.

However, it's also a potentially interesting dynamic going into Santa Teodosia, as Annemiek and Elisa Longo Borghini both lost a few seconds, with Neyland and Aalerud for Virtu just behind them and then a larger group containing Gillow and Merino at 17"; Santesteban lost all the seconds she gained in bonuses to come in at +20", Koppenburg at +22", Pintar, Bertizzolo, Kennedy and Guderzo at +26", Nilsson at +31", Wiles, Majerus and Amialiusik at +36", while Shapira's golden form came to an abrupt end as she dropped a minute and a half. The realistic GC is set up between around 30 riders now, as those below that cutoff lost around 4 minutes which they aren't going to win back in the two remaining stages from the kind of names they have ahead of them now.

The GC now has Spratt in the lead, as she tries to defend her crown, with a 12" advantage over Paladin, who is ahead of Mavi on countback. Pieters is 4th, at +21", on countback from van Vleuten, whose deficit in today's stage is negated by her time bonus acquisitions. Longo Borghini ist at +25", the Virtu duo at +28", and the Spanish collection, including Ane and Eider but also Sheyla Gutiérrez and - impressively - Cristina Martínez of Bizkaia-Durango, is at +35". It looks like we have a pretty good battle shaping up between Ane and Eider for the Euskaldunak jersey.
 
Stage 3

Disaster struck on day 3 as the live stream had to be delayed due to a chronic case of Basque Weather Syndrome, i.e. it was epically rainy and grim. We did get the full broadcast, but it was unable to be shown until after the race had finished, sadly. With the climbs of Opakua and the Mende-esque mountaintop finish at Santa Teodosia, this was expected to be the decisive stage, and so it proved to be. The key climbers were therefore expected to duel it out - bad news for Bigla's Nikola Nosková, who emerged at this race two years ago, and with Cille withdrawing harboured Bigla's hopes, but had a bad crash in stage 2 therefore meaning the team were unsure who to lead with. Mitchelton of course had a similar problem of being unsure who to lead with - Amanda Spratt is the seeming team leader and is on form, but Annemiek van Vleuten is a super climber in her own right as we know, and two years ago, failing to decide who to lead with between van Vleuten and Garfoot led to them not opening a sufficient time gap on Moolman-Pasio and throwing the race away from a position of dominance when Ash put everybody to the sword on Jaizkibel on the final day.

A large break formed early, but Mitchelton strangled it because of the early bonification sprint, where Spratt took a further 3 seconds to add to her lead, with Mavi García again contesting, collecting 2 seconds, and Sheyla Gutiérrez, also of Movistar, shepherding her to it, to safeguard against other rivals also taking time. Things then progressed in that typical women's cycling fashion, that is to say, lots of small groups of 5 or 6 making attacks, gaining a few seconds and then teams not represented or who didn't like their chances from that break upping the tempo and chasing it back. Eventually two Dutch riders, Nicole Steigenga and Roos Hoogeboom, managed to get over 30 seconds, and it seemed like this move might stick. So much so, that the perennially combative Małgorzata Jasińska launched a long and hard charge to join them, knowing she is likely a stronger climber than either - though by the time she reached the duo, she'd had to ride hard solo on the flat before the climb, which rather negated that advantage.

With much of the race on the higher plateau in which Vitória-Gasteiz sits, and then the race climbing into the Montes Vascos above that, the weather introduced a new problem - the one that was hurting the broadcast too - they were ascending into the clouds, meaning visibility was poor, rain was heavy and it was all epic Basqueness - mountains, fog, rain etc.. Opakua is 7,4km @ 5,7%, but the first 2,5% are only about 3%, after which it ramps up to 11% and then the last 5km average 7%; Tayler Wiles decided she didn't fancy her chances in the last 2km of 12%+ against the likes of van Vleuten, and remembered how strong her performance on similar characteristic climbs to Opakua have been in the past on hillier stages of Thüringen in long escapes (remember the stage she would've won but was sent the wrong way?) and to a lesser extent California last year, so she attacked and put in a serious effort to open up a time gap. Having finished 36" down on stage 2 and not picked up any bonus time at all, she was not an immediate threat to Spratt, and aided by the poor visibility, she quickly got out of sight-out of mind, gaining 25".

For the rest of the group, Opakua was a thinning-out procedure, with few attacking outright, and Longo Borghini was 2nd over the summit - a teammate of Wiles of course - to continue to collect GPM points, while Bigla's choice for the day may well have been made as Sophie Wright was third across the summit, ahead of the Mitchelton duo, as she continued the fight over the QOM classification with her more illustrious rival. Wiles brought her lead up to 40" by going hard on the descent and picking good lines on the up-and-down section between the two climbs, so that while Movistar worked hard to try to pull her back they could not make inroads in the American's advantage. Narrow roads and painful gradients disintegrated the group on the final climb, but Tayler kept on grinding away, not having to worry about picking lines with other riders grinding to a halt around her, picking her rhythm and riding a strong final climb, not worrying about accelerations, just riding her race, and the advantage which had seemed tenuous just continued to hold. Sadly, the poor weather and the narrow roads meant we didn't get to see too much of what happened up front, whether there were outright attacks to shatter the group or if the gradients just thinned everything out by themselves, but by the end only 10 riders were within a minute.

More importantly, however, the first 21" of that were advantage that was still held by Tayler Wiles - as she took a spectacular solo victory, her first in almost two years (2017 Thüringen Rundfahrt the last time she took the line first), and moved herself right up the GC mix here; it was a 1-2 for Trek, in fact, as Longo Borghini took advantage of not having to work on Opakua with her teammate away up front, and opened up a few seconds' advantage over Annemiek van Vleuten, as Amanda Spratt floundered slightly and lost a few seconds to her teammate at the line - Annemiek tried but did not succeed, however, in robbing the final bonus seconds from the well-placed Soraya Paladin, who is on incredible form at the moment and who has a strong sprint weapon and likes racing in Spain (she's been conducting her interviews in pretty good Spanish this week too). The steepness of the summit and the horrible weather lent the finish line cam some real epic views as the riders emerged from the fog one by one, and climber upon climber emerged - Katrine Aalerud in 6th, Mavi García 7th, Elise Chabbey 8th, then the two Basques, Santesteban and Merino, still locked together in their battle over the best Basque jersey, with Ane's time bonuses still the deciding factor seeing as Eider appears to have a sprint weapon akin to that of Mara Abbott. Credit needs to be given to Amy Pieters, she was always likely to be Boels' best rider here as she can get over some obstacles - but not of this size. She did creditably here, losing just over a minute (how she deals with the 150km+ Oñati stage today will be interesting though), holding on to a GC top 10 as a result, and finishing ahead of people like Amialiusik, Nilsson and Pintar, all of whom are very creditable climbers indeed. Perhaps most disappointing was 2 minutes of time loss for Clara Koppenburg, on a climb which you might have thought suited her after her performances on Xorret del Catí and Mount Baldy, I'd say potentially the travel has impacted that but at the same time, Tayler Wiles raced California too...

It is, however, interesting that Spratt looked a bit vulnerable today on the steeper gradients; Soraya might be licking her lips at this, as with similar steep gradients in the second half of the last climb of today's stage, and knowing that she has the potential to pick up some time in a sprint especially if Spratt isn't contesting it with her, a 5" deficit can be overcome. The GC leading into the final stage is wide open, as Spratt has just five seconds over Paladin, and following today's stage, it's a bit harder for Mitchelton to do the 1-2 with Annemiek, as Elisa Longo Borghini and Tayler Wiles are at 12" and 16" respectively, with Annemiek at +18", so the Trek duo vs. the Mitchelton duo could be the battle to watch - and they could still lose out to Paladin who is foraging alone! Behind that, Movistar have Mavi in 6th, 32" down, Aalerud is at +43", and then at just over a minute you have Amy Pieters, then Santesteban and Merino at 1'05" with Santesteban ahead on countback even though Eider is ahead 'on the road' as she has 0" time bonus and Ane has taken a few.

Oh, and Parkhotel Valkenburg have now managed to lock down both of their starlets, Lorena Wiebes and Demi Vollering, until 2022, so this clearly means the team's new-found prominence is expected to continue!
 
Stage 4

The final stage of the Emakumeen Bira was a long, mountainous epic around the picture-perfect town of Oñati, one of the tourist highlights of the Basque Country (but a bit of a logistical nightmare if you don't have a car or bike - despite being in Gipuzkoa you can't get buses from San Sebastián, only Bilbao, and the town is on neither the Renfe north-south lines nor the Euskotren regional narrow-gauge line). Again due to the weather there was the possibility of time without signal, but after the previous day's issues, SportPublic TV had contingency plans and we got coverage as-it-happens punctuated with interviews and highlights from previous stages - it does, however, mean that you have to skip forward quite a bit to get to the actual coverage as they went live very early - therefore we only really pick up the action 45 mins into the video.

Anna Plichta and - who else? - Małgorzata Jasińska were among the first to escape and they did manage to hold on until the first cat.3 climb of Udana, but their advantage had been cut from a minute to just a few seconds on the bunch, with Longo Borghini taking the remaining point for her bid for the GPM. Canyon worked hard to lock out the first meta volante, so that Tanja Erath could sew up that jersey, as they've been diligently taking care of the non-time-bonus sprints all week. The two Poles persisted with their effort, however, and were rewarded with a pretty sizable advantage, helped a little by the bunch slowing somewhat after a significant crash. When their advantage built up back over a minute, a counterattacking trio of Omer Shapira (Canyon), Nikola Nosková (Bigla) and, monitoring them for her teammate up the road, Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar) set off in pursuit, eventually catching them; Plichta continued to collect GPMs to defend her teammate's lead, and Movistar picked up the Metas Volantes with Sheyla. The group was eventually pegged by the péloton with around 38km to go after Movistar committed harakiri with a two-woman move sending both Sheyla and Gosia on the attack on Untzilla, with predictable consequences, and being the weaker climber of the two, Sheyla was eventually dropped back toward the péloton, where she dangled out front a bit more trying to stay away and was joined by Audrey Cordon-Ragot, as Trek sought to keep Mitchelton-Scott busy pegging moves. The number of moves and counter-moves allayed with bad weather and signal made it difficult to truly ascertain what was going on and who was in the break, which eventually when coverage was picked up numbered nine riders: Cristina Martínez of Bizkaia-Durango, Tanja Erath and Ella Harris of Canyon, Christine Majerus, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Sheyla Gutiérrez (returning to the front once more), Lara Vieceli of WNT, Victorie Guilman of FDJ and the Korean national champion Ah Reum Na of Alé-Cipollini. The graphics failed to notice, however, that Lucy Kennedy had also infiltrated the move, monitoring for Mitchelton-Scott; Saul spotted her quickly and drew attention to her, however, and at +1'52 she was not the best placed rider in the GC (Cordon-Ragot and Majerus are ahead of her) but she is likely to be stronger over a long climb than either, so her being up there was forcing Alé-Cipollini to work behind for Soraya even though Na was in the break. However, the bonus seconds were swallowed up by this move, which meant that there was no chance for Spratt to extend her lead, as she's been doing a very good job of picking up that time this week - however simultaneously Paladin, closest on the GC and with a good sprint on her, couldn't just rely on the sprint because if she won with Spratt 2nd she would still need a time gap. But of course, several riders were close enough to be able to win if they got a few seconds.

At the base of the Puerto de Asentzio, the breakaway had a minute. As it went up on the false flats, Cordon-Ragot even became provisional leader, briefly, as she tried to set up her 'twin'. Kennedy and Na understandably started to refuse to collaborate, and as the pace started to ramp up in the bunch behind, it got busy. Kennedy was asked to drop back to pace the leaders, but frustratingly the coverage kept breaking up on the climb, a real shame for the organisers as it seems we were getting some good action, just that the Basque weather was being, well, Basque weather. Signal dropout meant we were reliant on a combination of the official race social media and Saul rapidly reinterpreting race radio - however an attack group of 7 formed from the main bunch, including Mavi García, Soraya Paladin and Elisa Longo Borghini, which Spratt naturally chased with all she was worth to join.

And when we got the footage from the top of the Asentzio, Longo Borghini was away solo - Trek's careful badgering of the bunch throughout the day had worked as Mitchelton had burnt off Roy, Elvin and Manly throughout the day; the number of climbs was too much, Kennedy had done her work and now it was down to Annemiek and Amanda themselves to chase attacks upon attack. GPS then went crazy, so figuring out who was where became nigh on impossible, but just like Jaizkibel two years ago, the bunch was broken up by the climb and ELB had an advantage which GPS said was approaching 40 seconds as the other groups of big contenders came together on the descent, but was more realistically only around 20 according to the race twitter. Spratt had been following at the summit, but had been dropped shortly before it, as ELB knew she needed a gap, but if she GOT a gap, she could really make hay - Spratt isn't a bad descender per se, but Elisa is one of the very best, and on a rainy descent on Basque roads with their inconsistencies, that could be worth several seconds. In fact, van Vleuten's horror crash in Rio was necessitated by her pushing the pace because she didn't want Elisa to pull the chasers back on with her descending skills. Annemiek had been second over the climb behind Elisa, with Spratt in her small chase group, along with Koppenburg, Paladin, Eider and - very impressively - a few of the hangers on from the breakaway. Most notably, Christine Majerus and Sheyla Gutiérrez managed to hold on among them, which was very impressive as they are more ones for the flat and rolling terrain. The rest of the key contenders - Wiles, Santesteban, Aalerud, García - were close at hand and the two chasing groups fused on the descent, giving us 14 riders in pursuit of the lone fugitive - but with only Spratt and van Vleuten working as the others tried to call Mitchelton's bluff.

Elisa will be thanking her lucky stars, however, that while they did use the final Asentzio climb from the 2012 País Vasco stage to Oñati, they didn't include the uncategorized Garagaltza climb of 1km at 9% that was used on that day (this also had terrible weather of course). That was the day Robert Kišerlovski tried to win the race from 60km out despite being in the top 5 on GC, and Sky didn't bother to read the roadbook enough to know that the Garagaltza climb was there, and toasted all of their puncheurs trying to set up Appollonio to sprint, only to be obliterated by the puncheurs on the small riser and see Purito and Samu ride away from them all. Elisa was suffering by the end there, and we got a really tense chasedown - could she get there? And if she could, she couldn't pause to celebrate as she needed all the time she could get, bonuses and all! And, at the time, it was tough to know who was in the chase behind Elisa anyway. A fair few watching getting rather gutted the camera focused solely on Elisa's escape and didn't scan round to show us what the gap was to the chase or let us get an idea of the chase, as it was hard to tell what it really meant for the GC other than that Elisa would probably win it if she held her time gap.

15" with two kilometres to go made it seem like ELB had it sorted, she'd held 15-20" for several kilometres at that point, but the roads into Oñati from the west are all slightly uphill - Garagaltza would have killed the advantage as that time gap tantalisingly drifted downwards over the mystery chase, in a bizarre meeting of women's cycling's present (full coverage, knowledgable commentators) and past (groups of fans scraping twitter for morsels of information, sometimes contradictory and difficult to verify, supplemented with sleuth work based on bringing together this information and knowledge of tactics and rider strengths/weaknesses on a 'line of best fit' basis). And then, with the camera showing Elisa arriving at 500m from the finish... in the background we could see the sprint being led out behind her... and the gap was small! However, upon seeing who was in the group and who was contesting it, Elisa sat up and celebrated her win, knowing she was safe - with Christine Majerus in the group, Spratt had little chance of taking the remaining bonus seconds, and indeed the Luxembourger finished in 2nd. Even more impressively for Trek, after yesterday's solo, Tayler Wiles had enough in the tank to outsprint Gutiérrez (!) and Spratt to take those final bonus seconds too. Two impressive solo victories from distance for the American team, albeit Elisa's was on the main climb of the day to do so, whereas Tayler went from the penultimate one and took people a bit by surprise. Van Vleuten was, far from being the one to emerge from the fog and suddenly catch Longo Borghini on the line (a few people in the live chat joked about that following her famous victory in La Course of course), the one tailed off the group, having worked her behind off trying to pull Elisa back for her teammate. The next group, with Pieters and Amialiusik, was over a minute back, and then, save for another quartet with some remnants of the break, Amalie Dideriksen and Hanna Nilsson, everybody else was three and a half minutes down among finishers. The final GC was therefore settled from the front group, eventually looking like this:

1 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA 12'21'41
2 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +2"
3 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +7"
4 Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) USA +14"
5 Margarita Victoria García Cañellas (Movistar Team) ESP +34"
6 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +36"
7 Katrine Aalerud (Virtu Cycling) NOR +45"
8 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +1'07"
9 Eider Merino Cortazar (Movistar Team) ESP +1'07"
10 Cristina Martínez Bonafe (Bizkaia-Durango) ESP +1'30"

This is, surprisingly enough, Soraya Paladin's first ever WWT podium - all of her other ones have come in races like Toscana and Yorkshire. This is also the second time in three years that Mitchelton-Scott have led into the final stage with two riders in the GC driving seat and left without the win after losing out on the final climb - Moolman-Pasio on Jaizkibel in 2017 and now Longo Borghini on Asentzio in 2019 - although it must be said that the descent and flat played as much a part in Elisa's win as the climb, whereas Ash's advantage was pretty much all on the climb - that was the day that Eider Merino 'arrived' so to speak, but as ever descending proved the downfall of a little Basque climber because of course it did. Eider also won the battle of the Basques on the road, but lost out on countback to Ane because the latter collected some time bonuses in the first two stages - the benefits of being more of an all-rounder. Not that it's difficult to be more of an all-rounder than Eider, of course, since she is a true old school Spanish agitant in the mould going all the way back to Trueba - a featherweight who can climb with the best, but not do anything else. The GC top 10 for Bizkaia-Durango is great news for them - it's their first top 10 in their home race since Anna Sanchís back in 2012 (Eider rode for Lointek, the 'other' Basque team, based in Sopelana, whereas Bizkaia-Durango are based in Durango, which hosts the Emakumeen Saria, and Iurreta, the host of Emakumeen Bira, is now absorbed within that municipality) and especially now that this is a WWT race, this is great news for keeping the smaller Spanish teams afloat, as I had feared Movistar may be a marketplace killer. ELB also wins the mountains jersey, and takes the points jersey on the final day with the stage win too; Erath held onto the metas volantes, and Movistar took the team prize. Evita Muzic was the best young rider (which WAS u23), finishing 14th on the GC, just behind the best Boels riders, Majerus and Pieters, and Clara Koppenburg.

Great pictures of Elisa celebrating with Bronzini at the line, some decent crowds in Oñati, and four Spanish riders (two of which Basque) in the top 10, this is pretty promising for Spanish women's cycling. The Vuelta a Burgos is growing and building TV time, Emakumeen Bira is now WWT and Spanish women are starting to be genuinely competitive for the first time probably going back to Maribel Moreno's positive test in Beijing.

Good interview with a fairly philosophical Spratt at the end, who admitted she'd done everything she could but Elisa just pulled out a ride that she couldn't match. Poor Patiño was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights, but Mavi bailed everything out in the Movistar interviews. Patiño was just about the smallest rider in the Vuelta a Colombia Féminas last year, and is still taller than Merino. They were asking about Elisa celebrating and if she knew about the time gap etc., and Elisa (after checking she could answer in English as while she can understand Spanish, speaking it is a lot tougher for her) said she'd calculated the time gap she needed, but then at the end she just didn't care because although she won a stage of the .NE Giro della Marche and the Mediterranean Games RR last season, this is her first UCI win other than the nationals since Strade Bianche in 2017, which seems remarkable given how prominent a star she is (but then the problems Wiggle had been facing meaning she was somewhat isolated without a second weapon like they had had in previous years with the likes of Emma J factor into that), and a comical bit where she looks at the finish where she looks back, celebrates and doesn't realise how close the group is. As Saul says though - "nothing to worry about now," but Elisa is like, "oooh, yes, probably shouldn't have done that!" Really quite adorable interview. "We are like jam! You know, the cherry jam? It's sweet, and it's sticky! And we like winning!"

Edit: the Txirrindulariak channel has added a short summary of the final stage which includes some footage from static cameras on the final climb so we can see a bit more of what happened while there was the coverage dead zone on the stream - we saw Longo Borghini attacking with Paladin in her wheel and Mavi García chasing her, then Spratt riding through the remnants of the breakaway with Majerus, Na and Gutiérrez. Annemiek, Wiles, Martínez and the two Basques making up the following group, and some riders like Koppenburg and Muzic trying to ride back on.
 
From one historic stage race to another, as we now have the six-stage Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen beginning tomorrow. Having run since the 1980s, and continuously since 1992, after it was re-instigated following a couple of years out around the reunification of Germany, it is a long-running event with high prestige despite a lack of WWT status, and this is reflected in a stellar list of winners, from Petra Roßner back in the GDR days to Ilavská, Teutenberg, Cooke, Melchers-van Poppel, Pučinskaitė, Cooke, Stevens and more. Two riders have won the event three times, those being home heroine Judith Arndt, and Swedish superstar Emma Johansson, who remained loyal to the Thüringen Rundfahrt to the last, preferring it to the Giro Donne/Rosa throughout her career. Its historic calendar spot is July, but like Emakumeen Bira before it, it has had to move in the year to accommodate La Course because the UCI were happy to allow ASO to run roughshod over the historic calendar, which is now looking like folly with ASO throwing their toys out of the pram about actually providing the women with some coverage of their races.

Only two other riders hold multiple GC victories in Thüringen. Both are specialists against the clock; the first is Russian/Uzbek/Kazakh star, and former World and Olympic champion, Zoulfia Zabirova; the other is Lisa Brennauer, who lines up this year having won the last two editions and looking to join Johansson and Arndt in the record books. Thüringen is also one of the largest extant races to have never been won by Marianne Vos - in fact, somewhat strangely no Dutch woman has won the race since Vanessa van Dijk in 1989, and only two Italians - Alessandra Cappellotto in 1997 and Elena Cecchini in 2016 - have won it too, which makes it a bit of an odd oasis in a world scene that those two countries have historically set the pace in.

That Brennauer starts is not in question - but there remains some confusion about Janneke Ensing, who was slated to make her debut for WNT-Rotor here after parting company with Sunweb last month. She is listed in WNT's riders by CyclingFever, but they have 7 riders rather than 6 there; the race's official site lists her as starting, but on the Sunweb team, which seems unlikely. WNT's official page doesn't clarify as they are talking primarily about Ane Santesteban's successes in the Basque Country, so we shall have to find out - but if she IS starting, she'll be a crucial part of Brennauer's support, along with Kathrin Hammes who is having a good season too. Sunweb will be the strongest opposition, with a very powerful team including Lucinda Brand, Floortje Mackaij, Coryn Rivera, Pernille Mathiesen and Liane Lippert; Susanne Andersen is confirmed by the team themselves to be in the spot that the race site mistakenly attributes to Janneke. There are a lot of potential winners in that team. Arguably all of them could - depending on how it is raced, and who makes the right moves. Lippert is the youngest and arguably least experienced, but is also one of the stronger puncheuses on the team and on home roads; Floortje and Brand are the most likely I would wager, however. Canyon-SRAM also have a former winner in their ranks, Elena Cecchini's nose for the right move leading her to overall victory in 2016; she has company from Tiffany Cromwell along with a number of Canyon's younger riders, among whom Alice Barnes and Lisa Klein will be the ones to watch. Virtu are led by Marta Bastianelli and will target a number of stages with the rejuvenated former World Champion, but they have depth here, and Anouska Koster and Christina Siggaard are two riders I will pick out as potentially able to do something; Pawlowska has won a few races on this kind of terrain back in her Boels days too. The other one of the big WWT teams in attendance is CCC-Liv, although they have sent their GP Elsy Jacobs team here, mostly development riders led by Riejanne Markus. Riejanne rode well there, however, and Marta Lach won a stage, so these girls are plenty capable.

There are a few wildcards to throw out there too. Movistar's team is perhaps impacted by the proximity to Emakumeen Bira, which as the biggest Spanish women's race is obviously of major importance to them, but they've got their French duo, Biannic and Fournier, to try to contest sprints. TIBCO have sent a strong team to Europe for this leg of their season, and with Shannon Malseed, Alison Jackson and Brodie Chapman they have multiple potential threats, as well as Nina Kessler for sprints. BTC have British time triallist Hayley Simmonds, and Maaike Boogaard was top 10 of her last two stage races, the pan-flat Chongming Island and the hilly Vuelta a Burgos. Hitec have the ever-combative Vita Heine and the experienced Marta Tagliaferro, plus former double Junior World Champion Lucy Garner who has been rejuvenated somewhat of late.

And then there are the very wild cards, the three national teams of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, all of which include some very genuine threats to win the race. The Dutch team is mainly a development team with the likes of Parkhotel's young Sylvie Swinkels in it - but they are led by Ellen van Dijk, the Trek rider doing battle with her former Sunweb teammates. The Belgian team is also very strong, including Jolien d'Hoore, who will of course be one of the strongest sprinters in attendance, as well as TT specialist Ann-Sophie Duyck and CX superstar Sanne Cant. And the German national team is pretty all-out too, with Trixi Worrack nominal leader, but with future Sunweb prospect Franziska Koch, a towering rider who impressed in GP Elsy Jacobs in one of her first races against the main pro field, Alé-Cipollini's Romy Kasper, FDJ's Charlotte Becker, teenage prospect Franziska Brauße and IGOS' Lisa Küllmer.

The format of the Thüringen Rundfahrt has been the same since time immemorial - each stage starts and finishes in the same place. Sadly, only six days of racing this year, historically it has been 7 days, and either 7 or 8 stages. The first stage is a flat one around Gera, with two laps of a 51km circuit, which should go to the sprinters (likely in front of local hero Olaf Ludwig, who usually puts in an appearance at the race); the second stage is marketed as "around Schleiz" but is in fact an out-and-back with a huge loop mid-stage which brings us into typical Thüringen Rundfahrt terrain with a lot of up and down. The main obstacle is the Gahma climb, 37km from home, which is 6,5km @ 4,5%, before more undulating terrain and a final climb of the Plothenberg, 2,1km @ 6% and a max of 11%, which crests 16km from the finish. Sadly no room for a loop of the Schleizer Dreieck motor racing circuit which hosted the Friendship Games RR in 1984.

If that doesn't establish a GC order, stage 3 will; this traditional stage is around Dörtendorf and is 3 laps of a 33km circuit including one of the race's traditions, the Dörtendörfer Berg, affectionately dubbed the "Hankaberg" after German CX heroine and former Thüringen Rundfahrt winner Hanka Kupfernagel. For the most part the course is rolling to undulating with no real climbs but lots of short digs and bursts, but the finish being at the top of the Hankaberg means at least some level of timegap is likely. This climb is almost ramrod straight, and is one of the iconic sights of the race.



Stage 4, around Gotha, also features an iconic little cobbled ascent in the town, but the big climbs are in the first half of the stage sadly; two laps of a rolling circuit follow one large lap including some of the Thüringer Wald climbs. These are Neue Ausspanne (5,4km @ 5%), Wiebach (3,6km @ 6%) and the first 4,5km of Großer Inselsberg - it's nice that we're going into the Thüringer Wald, but I do really wish somewhere like Oberhof, Ilmenau, Suhl or Sonneberg would host instead. Meiningen, on stage 5, hosts the usually important ITT - this year's, however, is far from the power test we often see; instead, the riders start climbing straight off the bat with 150m vertical in the first 3,6km; there's then a very straight and fast descent, before the power test; this is more of an all-rounder's ITT than we sometimes see in the race, but nevertheless, the likes of Brennauer and van Dijk will be favoured here, and will also want to look out for the likes of Pernille Mathiesen and Lisa Klein. Finally, the last stage is a pretty flat affair, once more with a lot of small digs to incentivise attacks but none sustained.
 
Right... I actually have a bit of a question; something I've been wondering for a while.
In Women's Cycling teams are "from" the country the have the largest amount of riders from. For example; Bigla is Danish, despite having a Swiss sponsor - not necessarily equal to where a team is from, I know - and not really much of a Danish identity.
Now my question is; what would have happened if they'd signed another Swiss rider? Then there would have been three riders from both Denmark and Switzerland.
Arm-wrestling?
Simply telling the UCI what country they'd want to be registered in?
 
So, we're a few days into the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, the stylized name for the Thüringen Rundfahrt, in much the same way as the Vuelta al País Vasco has been branded "Itzulia Basque Country", which is a really stupid name I can only imagine is borne out of wanting to not use Castilian but also appreciating that "Euskal Herriko Itzulia" is going to be a bit confusing and not really clear to people who don't already know.

Anyway, somewhat unexpectedly, the first stage already exploded things and really limited our cast of contenders for the GC, as an attack group of four and a chase group of 5 united, leaving us with a nonet up front, and with Virtu, Sunweb, Canyon, Movistar and WNT all represented in it, the péloton initiated a soporific chase which resulted in the advantage ballooning to such a point where I cannot see anybody outside of that front 9 possibly winning this race; the possible exception is Rozemarijn Ammerlaan who is here for one of the smaller pro-am teams and spent the second half of stage 1 in a hopeless chasse-patate, eventually finishing in a lonely 10th place, 2 minutes behind the breakaway and 5 minutes ahead of the péloton. The nine in the break were: Barbara Guarischi (Virtu), Kathrin Hammes (WNT), Manon Lloyd (Drops), Pernille Mathiesen (Sunweb), Lourdes Oyarbide (Movistar), Marit Raaijmakkers (Netherlands), Christa Riffel (Canyon), Marieke van Witzenburg (Jos Feron Lady Force) and Beate Zanner (Maxx-Solar). This suggested that Guarischi would have the stage in the bag, having easily the best sprint of those 9, while Mathiesen is probably the GC favourite with the TT to come. Guarischi held up her end of the bargain, winning stage 1 comfortably, outsprinting Hammes, Riffel and Lloyd, with a 3 second gap opening to the others in the break, although her GC lead was only 2" over Hammes, who had collected more bonus time in sprints along the way.

Stage 2, the Rund um Schleiz, was very selective and saw a bunch of the riders from day 1 losing time, as only 31 riders finished with the bunch (with a small thimbleful dropped off the back of it) - with a number of them spread through the various groups behind. The stage was won in a two up sprint by Marta Bastianelli, to make it two for two for Virtu (and showcase more of her racing outside of the whole being-a-sprinter thing, similar to her win in Gracia-Orlová and de Ronde), besting Pauliena Rooijakkers of the CCC team, who had been the one major team not to have representation in the stage 1 breakaway, and who are therefore trying to atone for that error, however trying to beat Marta in a two-up is a thankless task for almost anybody in women's cycling, let alone somebody who is more of a climbing specialist as Rooijakkers is. They held off the main bunch by just 8", and this trimmed the protagonists for the GC down further - Mathiesen, Hammes, Zanner and Oyarbide made the selection (meaning Hammes takes the yellow jersey), while Riffel came in at +1'46", and the other four lost over four minutes.

Stage 3 was the traditional Rund um Dörtendorf, featuring the climb of the Hankaberg which as ever brings puncheuses to the fore. The majority of the péloton therefore took on the climb together, resulting in the usual small time gaps that you might expect from a short sharp HTF. Norwegian (ex-Latvian) veteran Vita Heine proved the strongest, pipping 21-year-old home favourite Liane Lippert on the line. Marta "so much more than just a sprinter" Bastianelli was 3rd, 4 seconds back, while there were some very impressive rides by young prospects here - other than Lippert obviously since we already know all about her. For reference, Elena Cecchini was 6th, Lucinda Brand was 8th and Ellen van Dijk 14th, but up there in the top 10 we saw Movistar's tiny Colombian escaladora Paula Andrea Patiño, 21yo Drops rider Elizabeth Holden, and then the GC battle at the bottom of the top 10, with Mathiesen, Oyarbide and Hammes all arriving together at +9", with Zanner losing another 10". I think Manon Lloyd may have had a crash or something as she was last finisher of all, 20 minutes down, and is capable enough to at least try to defend her unexpected strong GC position. Interestingly, a few of the potential contestants for the upcoming ITT stage are eliminated - Ann-Sophie Duyck DNF, while Hayley Simmonds was eliminated hors delais in a group with Monique van de Ree and Christina Siggaard.

Hammes therefore leads by 12" from Mathiesen, 13" from Oyarbide and 18" from Zanner. It seems more than likely that the GC winner will come from those four. Zanner is the least likely as she lost time on the Hankaberg and Maxx-Solar are much less likely to be able to control the pace at the front than Sunweb, WNT or Movistar should they need to control a combative final day. Pernille beat Hammes by 23" in last year's Thüringen Rundfahrt ITT, and I would say that was one of Hammes' best TTs too, so you'd say the ball is in Pernille's court. There aren't too many representative TTs to judge Lourdes against her, especially as being a former Spanish national champion in the discipline doesn't really mean a great deal, as Spanish women's cycling is a) only just emerging from a period in the doldrums, and b) mostly producing climbers. She did lose over two minutes to Pernille at the Glasgow European Championships last year though, so you'd say she has to count as the outsider here - though she is in very good form and won a stage at Burgos with a long and measured solo.
 
Lisa Klein won the hilly stage 4 around Gotha, with a time gap over Marta Lach of CCC and Anna Christian of Drops. The trio stayed away a few seconds ahead of the bunch, led home with a few time gaps in it by Marta Bastianelli. She, Brennauer, Cecchini, Rivera and Biannic took a few seconds themselves in the sprint, ahead of the rest. Mathiesen, Hammes and Oyarbide continued to mark one another, Zanner lost 5 more seconds at the line. There was a nasty crash at one point - Kasia Pawlowska is out of the race now as a result, and though she remounted and finished the stage, Vita Heine will DNS today's ITT with a broken hand.

Meanwhile, in France we have had the Classique Morbihan and the GP Plumelec, the Bréton weekend.

Double defending champion Ash Moolman-Pasio was not on hand, as CCC skipped the races, so Christine Majerus, 2016 winner, was the one all eyes were on in Morbihan. A couple of dirt roads around Plumelec make this one interesting, with a double ascent of a gradual climb with some ribin the main obstacle. The race was delayed for over half an hour due to an accident, but eventually we got plenty of action. Most of the lightweight climbers and their ilk were dropped and the race was settled from a 20-strong group at the front, which then split into two itself. I say "most of" the lightweight climbers because some of them made the selection - Nikola Nosková was a notable exception, but then she does have plenty of cyclo-cross experience, but also Eider Merino of all people, this time racing for the Spanish national team. In the end the group splintered down on the run-in and Majerus - herself a star in cyclo-cross of course - won the sprint ahead of Sofie de Vuyst (wow, Parkhotel are really having an incredible season) and Tatiana Guderzo. Gracie Elvin surprisingly missed the podium, I'd have had her down as 2nd best sprinter of the group - and Lizzie Banks (herself having a great late blooming season with Bigla) and Nosková trailing. Juliette Labous, riding in her national colours, was the best home rider, in 7th place.

Following this, this morning we had the GP Plumelec, which is the hillier race circumnavigating the famous Côte de Cadoudal which has made it into one of the best small races on both the men's and women's calendar. Not much detail on it yet, but it looks like whatever number of riders were remaining took the final sprint up the Côte de Cadoudal, and microphones at the ready, because the winner was Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who took the line ahead of the Spanish duo of Mavi García and Sheyla Gutiérrez. This Movistar project seems to be reaping some rewards, at least in the .1 type races as Mavi's podium at Yorkshire, Oyarbide's performances at Thüringen and now this, it really seems that Spanish women's cycling is arriving. With the Vuelta a Burgos having plenty of ambition to build itself up, and Bira now WWT, I'm actually fairly optimistic for its prospects. Maybe the Valladolid World Cup race can come back if they drop the Madrid Challenge because ASO are ASO?
 
Big day for Spain all told, in fact, as Ane Santesteban was 4th, so Cille ahead of a Spanish trifecta. Stine Borgli was 5th, she has apparently been attracting some interest from WT teams and rightly so, she's having a great season, 15th in the Omloop and Hageland, top 10 of the GP Elsy Jacobs and winning the Vuelta a Burgos. Disappointing from Leleivyte, she's got good memories of Plumelec - 2nd in the GP Morbihan last year, and 5th in the European Championships on the Plumelec Côte de Cadoudal circuit back in 2016. Coincidentally, that was one of the breakout performances for Cecilie, back when she was riding for BMS-BIRN.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
Following this, this morning we had the GP Plumelec, which is the hillier race circumnavigating the famous Côte de Cadoudal which has made it into one of the best small races on both the men's and women's calendar. Not much detail on it yet, but it looks like whatever number of riders were remaining took the final sprint up the Côte de Cadoudal, and microphones at the ready, because the winner was Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who took the line ahead of the Spanish duo of Mavi García and Sheyla Gutiérrez. This Movistar project seems to be reaping some rewards, at least in the .1 type races as Mavi's podium at Yorkshire, Oyarbide's performances at Thüringen and now this, it really seems that Spanish women's cycling is arriving. With the Vuelta a Burgos having plenty of ambition to build itself up, and Bira now WWT, I'm actually fairly optimistic for its prospects. Maybe the Valladolid World Cup race can come back if they drop the Madrid Challenge because ASO are ASO?
:lol:

Looking forward to the interview :)
 
Haven't been able to find an interview (yet). Best I can manage is this fan coverage from a few spots in the race.

In Thüringen, Ellen van Dijk took the ITT win ahead of the German duo of Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Brennauer II (Lisa Klein). The important part, however, was the GC battle behind, from those remaining of the stage 1 breakaway who were fighting out the podium. The first question was going to be over the third place - would Lourdes Oyarbide be able to defend against Beate Zanner, who had been losing a bit of time in the splits in the péloton in the last two stages? Well... yes. And easily. The Basque managed not only to comfortably beat the German veteran against the clock, but in fact caught her, no mean feat given it was only an 18 kilometre TT, and Zanner started two minutes ahead of her. The 36-year-old had an absolute Rasmussen '05 day, however, setting the 76th best time (out of 83 finishers - 6 riders were eliminated hors delais, mostly young prospects and those who'd crashed) and in fact losing 4th place to Canyon's Christa Riffel, who had lost just under 2 minutes on the other front runners in stage 2.

The next question was whether Kathrin Hammes could defend her GC lead over Pernille Mathiesen, the latter being a vaunted TT prospect. It was incredibly close, with a 12 second lead for the German going into the stage. Pernille set a good time - good enough for 4th on the day, just beating early leader Alice Barnes, who set a very competitive time which, at the time she set it, put nearly two minutes on everybody - but Hammes had the splits fed back to her, the benefit of being the leader, and worked as hard as she possibly could to defend, which she successfully managed, coming in just four seconds behind the former European U23 champion. Now, of course, she has one more stage - with cobbled hills in it - to try to defend that lead, but she's come through what was always going to be the hardest test. It's a two-horse race now; Oyarbide is a minute and 19 seconds back in 3rd, but that also looks pretty safe with Riffel and Zanner over three and a half minutes down. Van Dijk is the best of those to miss the stage 1 move, at +6'19 in 6th, ahead of Klein and Klein Sr (Brennauer).
 
Looks like some decent action on the final day in Thüringen, with a nine-woman breakaway settling the win in Altenburg, with Elena Cecchini besting Coryn Rivera and Jolien d'Hoore on the line. I know the finish in Altenburg is slightly uphill and cobbled, which may explain it, but there's also the possibility that Cecchini made a late move that was caught enough to not leave a time gap but not enough to overhaul the Italian, as usually you would anticipate Rivera and d'Hoore to beat her in a sprint. Marta Lach continues her strong form with a 4th place, and the group also included some young prospects including Liane Lippert, who we know all about, and Movistar's 21-year-old Colombian Paula Andrea Patiño, who has had a good few weeks too. Kathrin Hammes successfully defended her lead by monitoring the group and coming 2nd in the sprint of the rest of the group to take a few seconds at the line after her WNT troops led by Lisa Brennauer made sure to keep Lourdes Oyarbide and Pernille Mathiesen, the only realistic threats, neutralized.

As a result, that stage 1 breakaway does settle the GC; Kathrin Hammes thereby achieves what is by FAR the greatest result of her career; the 29-year-old won a stage of the Tour de l'Ardêche and the Universiade Road Race back in 2014, and was 4th in the same Tour de l'Ardêche a year later during her period racing for TIBCO, but in terms of wins, this is by far her greatest achievement. WNT are having a lot of fun this year with .1 and .2 stage races, with Brennauer winning the GP Elsy Jacobs, Clara Koppenburg winning the Setmana Valenciana, plus of course Kirsten Wild has given them some WWT one day wins. Holding off the hotly-tipped Mathiesen is a pretty good accompaniment, especially as there was a very strong Sunweb team in attendance. Movistar are also going through a hot phase at the moment, obviously the fact that their home WWT race, Emakumeen Bira, took place recently means there will have been some peaking going on, but with Mavi podiuming Yorkshire and Burgos back to back then being 5th at Bira, Sheyla learning the puncheuse ropes (although hers and Mavi's results at Plumelec are in national colours), Eider also being top 10 at Bira, and now Oyarbide scoring a stage win at Burgos and a GC podium here, they are looking a very competitive team just from the home riders, before you add Biannic and Fournier in the sprints and Jasinska being combative everywhere.

As a result, it was a bit of a damp squib of a GC in some respects whilst also being really intriguing in others, because the GC was being fought out by people who wouldn't have been expecting to fight it out. WNT would have expected to be racing for Brennauer, Movistar probably didn't expect to be fighting the GC here at all, and Sunweb - Brand probably, maybe Lippert on home roads? Ellen van Dijk won the race-within-a-race GC for those missing the stage 1 escape, ahead of Klein and Cecchini. And a top 10 GC for Jos Feron Lady Force - I certainly wouldn't have predicted that.

Final GC:
1 Kathrin Hammes (WNT-Rotor) GER 13'47'57
2 Pernille Mathiesen (Sunweb) DEN +11"
3 Lourdes Oyarbide Jiménez (Movistar) ESP +1'22"
4 Christa Riffel (Canyon-SRAM) GER +3'38"
5 Beate Zanner (Maxx Solar-Lindig) GER +3'55"
6 Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands National) NED +6'22"
7 Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) GER +6'42"
8 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +6'43"
9 Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor) GER +6'46"
10 Marieke van Witzenburg (Jos Feron Lady Force) NED +7'07"

Meanwhile, back in the Netherlands, Janneke Ensing made her debut for WNT, which had been scheduled to be at the Thüringen Rundfahrt. No timing sadly, for the very short .NE event which is the Ronde van Lekkerkerk, which I'm assuming is probably a crit or short circuit race given the location is the outskirts of Rotterdam. And she won, I'm assuming solo or possibly from a group of maximum 3 because although this is a .NE event it's got a pretty useful startlist - the podium went to Janneke, Nathalie van Gogh and 20-year-old prospect Claudia Jongerius, but then the field behind that includes Lorena Wiebes, who has been outsprinting much more adept sprinters than the likes of Ensing and van Gogh (I know nothing about Jongerius' sprinting skills, but looking at past results it seems much more likely that she was the weakest sprinter at the head of the field than that she suddenly defeated Wiebes in a kick to the line), Amalie Dideriksen, Amy Pieters, Marjolein van 't Geloof, Eva Buurman, Karlijn Swinkels, Kirsten Wild, Riejanne Markus and a now-rare road outing for former Giro stage winner and CX specialist Thalita de Jong.
 
Given this is a landmark post I kind of wanted to make sure it was either in the Women’s Cycling thread or the Race Design thread. I did have a look back at some old posts, because it feels like there’s been a huge drop-off, and indeed I was right - it took two and a half years to reach 10.000 but it’s taken six and a half years to double that. Probably not much difference in the number of words posted, as Race Design Thread posts have swelled to enormous size, and these summaries have swelled hugely in number since forum users came up with the idea of a dedicated Women’s Cycling mega thread, rather than the disorganised patchwork of threads where the subject was discussed previously.

It’s kind of strange to look back on some of that, and consider just how far women’s cycling has come both in general, and specifically on this board. From the savage written beatdowns I got about being “unevolved” for not recognising a thread titled “best rider of the year” was only about men, to the stories about how a guy who doesn’t cycle once kept pace with pre-fame Annemiek van Vleuten on an evening show ride, therefore all women riders are terrible, to the… interesting responses to Giorgia Bronzini’s World Championships win in Geelong, for a long time women’s cycling was almost a no-go zone on the board - not worth the arguments that mentioning it would generate.

And of course, stuff just wasn’t available to prove any points then. Nowadays, there’s far from parity, and coverage of women’s cycling still isn’t extensive, but there’s plenty to see. A decade ago, you almost had to be a sleuth to find out who was who, what races were what and actually become interested in it. Anybody who’s followed women’s cycling for several years will know the sources you needed. From people providing the race updates from within the race to keep fans aware of the goings-on (Anton Vos and Hitec Products boss Karl Lima, for example) to the fans-with-typewriters who collated much of this as a labour of love, often comments, tweets, snippets of film or photographs would appear from races and until reports came out later - if they did - fans would be left to piece together the narrative from the information they had. Thank heavens for the likes of Sarah Connolly, then, who would entirely as a labour of love collate all of this information and spend hours sifting through the annals of the internet to find interviews, blogs, videos and so forth from inside the women’s péloton that made her blog an indispensable resource even for those that didn’t always agree with her - and if you didn’t have the patience for that or you missed stuff you couldn’t catch up on, there was always the Unofficial Unsanctioned Women’s Cycling Podcast that she and Dan Wright hosted for several years, which may have lacked in technical knowledge given both are layman fans, but more than made up for it in gusto, and, in the form of Dan’s annual rants about ASO’s TV coverage at Flèche Wallonne, righteous indignation.

Another long gone source of info on women’s cycling, predating that even, looking back at those old threads, was the poster Skip Madness. I had a fair few correspondences with Skip; their main interests in the sport were parcours design and women’s cycling, so it was probably inevitable. Skip was an Italophile, at least from a cycling perspective, and it was from them that I got the Eleonora Patuzzo hype. Pretty much everything I know about the Giro Donne/Giro Rosa prior to about 2002 came from that correspondence. But mid-2012, they disappear without trace. Skip used to post at PRC too, and we had a few discussions about mountain stage routes, and they disappear from there simultaneously. I never knew what happened. It would be sad if somebody like that, who had been prepared to do the hard yards to follow women’s cycling while it was nigh on impossible to follow, just fell out of love with the sport when it was on the cusp of making major strides toward greater recognition, but I know a lot of people did fall out of love with cycling at that time, led in great numbers by the combination of some very dull men’s races and the Reasoned Decision, although Skip’s disappearance seems to predate the 2012 Tour and fallout, which I associate as being the main leading factor. I’d love to know what they make, or would have made, of the current calendar and péloton.

But at the same time, talk of the old Grande Boucle Féminine back when it was a legit mountainous race, and the old two week Giri, leave me with a great sense of ambivalence; coverage was even less back then, but you had a greater number of true Grand Tour type races (there was also the Tour de l’Aude of course) and some genuine hard mountain stages. The 2003 Grande Boucle included back to back MTFs at Valberg, Puy-St-Vincent and Vaujany - by the time the race went under it was three stages with no mountains. Admittedly there were some follies there - 2000 when the mountains were all in the first three days, then Joane Somarriba defended comfortably for almost two weeks, and 2002 with Corsica, and then a huge transfer to the Alps, which had to be delayed due to a storm so the boat set off five hours late, the riders only did an abridged version of the stage and weren’t finishing until 8pm, in the dark and in the storm itself - and the number of riders was paltry by that stage as a combination of a lack of depth in the women’s péloton and a lack of funds available for prizes (many of which were not paid) showed that races of that scale and scope at the time were simply not viable. But wouldn’t we have loved to have seen races of that kind with today’s deeper, stronger péloton? If ASO hadn’t inadvertently (but remorselessly) killed the Route de France for their one day race that they’ll probably drop after this year because of having to provide coverage of the Ardennes, and instead used their leverage to lead into it and either resurrect the Boucle or prop up the Route (OK, so the inability of the two race organisers to collaborate was a large part of the problem too, but that’s not unique in women’s cycling either, recalling the acrimonious break-up of Selle Italia), we could have a second GT, at late July/early August. Maybe merging Trophée d’Or with La Route to make a 10 day race.

Maybe one day we’ll get there. After all, when I started out following women’s cycling, or at least trying to, the situation that we currently have, of a World Tour which is actively standing up to the ASO because of broadcast demands, and where almost every major race has at least some TV coverage - even if relatively small scale, such as the SportPublic TV guys and MotoMedia - and some people like Saul Miguel are getting airtime specifically because of their knowledge of the women’s bunch, where races like the Women’s Tour draw huge roadside crowds and where the women riding over the Romme and Colombière get a better response from the crowds than the men a couple of hours later… that situation would have been downright unthinkable. Sarah Connolly “retired” from her unpaid work last year because there was no longer such a need for the role that she had played. A lot has gone wrong in the last 10 years - loss of l’Aude, shrinking of Giro highlights, Copenhagen, allowing ASO to run roughshod over the calendar and kill off the Route de France and threaten Thüringen and Bira, Skyter Shipping, young super talents leaving the sport incredibly prematurely (Eleonora Patuzzo, I’m looking in your direction here) - but when I look at how discussion of women’s cycling went when I was first posting here, sure this thread can become an echo chamber of only a few voices sometimes, but a lot has definitely gone right.

The Women’s Tour is coming up soon. It has a hilltop finish and is actively trying to be more challenging, after some pretty tame early editions. With the kind of support it gets, if the parcours can match the support so that it allows for top level racing on a varied parcours (it’s already adding a day) rather than the bonus seconds fiesta of the first few years, maybe this can be part of the answer…
 
For me it's also the other way around; I don't see why all women-related stuff has to be pidgeon-holed into one thread.
So if there's transfer talks; I'll post it in that thread.
If a team posts the national championship kit of one of their riders - or new kit in general; it goes to one of those threads.
For talk about the young up-and-coming (and one could argue, already arrived) Danish riders; we even have a thread for that.

And sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed by your posts. Like; "Whelp! I can't possible equal that!"
 
Re:

RedheadDane said:
For me it's also the other way around; I don't see why all women-related stuff has to be pidgeon-holed into one thread.
So if there's transfer talks; I'll post it in that thread.
If a team posts the national championship kit of one of their riders - or new kit in general; it goes to one of those threads.
For talk about the young up-and-coming (and one could argue, already arrived) Danish riders; we even have a thread for that.

And sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed by your posts. Like; "Whelp! I can't possible equal that!"
You are quite right to post about the women’s half of the sport in other threads too. These threads were never intended as a kind of mandatory ghetto. The idea was just to enable an ongoing conversation about women’s cycling. Beforehand comments tended to get lost in the sea of posts about the men. By and large I think these threads have helped in that regard, and as a bonus they’ve been home to a lot of excellent detailed posts from LS about major races.
 
Re:

RedheadDane said:
For me it's also the other way around; I don't see why all women-related stuff has to be pidgeon-holed into one thread.
So if there's transfer talks; I'll post it in that thread.
If a team posts the national championship kit of one of their riders - or new kit in general; it goes to one of those threads.
For talk about the young up-and-coming (and one could argue, already arrived) Danish riders; we even have a thread for that.

And sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed by your posts. Like; "Whelp! I can't possible equal that!"
I do fear that sometimes my written equivalents of verbal diarrhoea put people off participation. I'm sure between railxmig and me, we've limited people's contributions in the Race Design Thread over the years.

But as Zinoviev points out, it's not so much that the Women's Racing thread is meant to be a ghetto for it, but that it gives both a focal point to have a discussion (rather than disjointed periodic threads) and also means that the discussion of women's cycling has been, in the large part, free of the kind of combative rhetoric that plagued discussion of women's cycling on the board for some time. Just look at the responses surrounding Giorgia Bronzini's first World Championship, or the "women are right!" or "Pat McQuaid is a dxxk" articles. There were plenty of posters around back then (I named a couple above) who aren't around now, who would discuss women's cycling, but who would give up trying, and who would have probably had a lot more to say had they been around now, or had we had a focused thread or group of threads in which to discuss women's cycling back then. I'm sure if I was starting up race thread after race thread about each WWT race, posting the kind of long summaries that I have been doing in the focused threads, and getting one or two replies each time, I would have long since given up on them.

The other thing is that while we did have a fair few threads where discussion of women's races would go, setting up a dedicated thread for it was a good call in that it helps people on the forum who don't really know about women's cycling but who might be interested get to learn more about it, without having to struggle through several pages to find individual race or rider threads and not necessarily knowing what you're looking for. The board seems a lot more receptive to discussion of women's cycling now than it was and back in those days, a new thread might spark a discussion, then be buried for some time before the next conversation began, and often the same arguments about the level of the races would be regurgitated anew. I know I am hardly one to talk about repetition, but nevertheless...

Would a subforum for women's racing instead of a thread work? Possibly, possibly not. That would prevent it from seeming like a ghettoized single thread for the entire women's calendar; but simultaneously it would then preclude the crossover that you talk about above, where women's new kit designs, transfer talk etc. can be included in the general threads on those subjects, and of course with several teams now having both men's and women's versions (Lotto, Sunweb, Movistar, Mitchelton-Scott, Trek, FDJ, Astana (although the apparata are not actually connected in that case), and now CCC) team news can often be intertwined.
 
LS; you do so much for the women's side of the sport: kudos to you.

By the way, who is your profile photo of? Is this the first person that got you into women's cycling?

How about you create a thread for this years Giro Rosa? Might be a good time to test the waters regards emerging forum interest.

It's tough without direct television viewing. In Australia this year we did not even have the men's Giro, and despite my love for it I only bothered to watch a few stages on a live internet stream. But perhaps I will do that for the first time this year when the women hit the high mountains.

https://www.cyclingstage.com/giro-rosa-2019/

Has it been confirmed that they will climb the Gavia?

You must be thrilled about stage 1!!
 
LS, You're posts are long, but well thought out. A person can learn a lot by reading them. I'm glad the UCI is trying to get at least some TV coverage for the women's races. Unfortunately being in the US we can barely get TV coverage for the men's races.
 
Re:

gregrowlerson said:
LS; you do so much for the women's side of the sport: kudos to you.

By the way, who is your profile photo of? Is this the first person that got you into women's cycling?

How about you create a thread for this years Giro Rosa? Might be a good time to test the waters regards emerging forum interest.

It's tough without direct television viewing. In Australia this year we did not even have the men's Giro, and despite my love for it I only bothered to watch a few stages on a live internet stream. But perhaps I will do that for the first time this year when the women hit the high mountains.

https://www.cyclingstage.com/giro-rosa-2019/

Has it been confirmed that they will climb the Gavia?

You must be thrilled about stage 1!!
I wouldn't say that I do that much, to be honest. I'm not presenting people with new information, more collating what I have been able to find into reports and posts. Certainly compared to people like Saul Miguel, Yolanda Álvarez, Sarah Connolly or Peter van den Veen, who go (or went) above and beyond the call of duty on a continuous basis to provide fans with information that was not available elsewhere.

My avatar picture is Kasia Niewiadoma, so no, I had already been into women's cycling for several years by the time Kasia came along. I had had an Emma Pooley avatar for a couple of years before this one. Emma more fits the bill for riders who first got me into women's cycling. The 2009 Giro Donne is probably the point I can give you at which I started to follow the women more than just the Olympic or World road races (as at that point I hadn't really got into 'cross, and I'm not that big on track), and the young climbing one-two punch of Pooley and Häusler were something to behold. I try to be relatively objective when I'm talking factually about what happened at a race, but I do also post entirely as a fan, and so my likes and dislikes regularly shine through my posts. Combative climbers, because a) there aren't enough climbing races on the women's calendar these days and b) that's the kind of rider I like most in men's racing too; and engaging personalities, which are perhaps more important in women's cycling because of the comparative lack of coverage - personalities can give people a reason to tune in, and a rider to support, that mean they might follow more than they ordinarily would do.

I might give a dedicated Giro Rosa thread a go, the problem is that while it's the race most likely to generate more discussion (especially now coverage has jumped back up), it's also at the same time as the Tour de France, which makes it more likely to be buried under an avalanche of Tour posts. It is, however, very much true that they are climbing the Gavia. Yes, I'm not a fan of the TTT, especially in the most important stage race in the calendar, but it's also quite a tough one with a lot of up and down. Not quite like 2004, with a 25km mountain TTT to Leukerbad (no, seriously). But still: more TTT than ITT is just as much a sin here as it is in men's cycling.

Stage 2 is quite odd, a circular course around Viù, climbing the Colle del Lis from the easier side to start the stage (I believe this was the side climbed in the Froome stage in the 2018 Giro), then descending the steep side, a long flat loop around northern Piemonte before gradual ascending up towards the finish - probably not one for the pure sprinters, but probably not tough enough to be truly selective either. This profile shows you both the start (only significant climb of the stage) and the run-in (Viù is at the 15,5km mark, so the final 15km are the start of the stage, and the first 13km are the run-in - so the finish is after 2km at around 3,8%):


Stage 3 is essentially completely flat in the Po Floodplain before slowly ascending toward the climbs in the area of Oropa. The finish is at Piedicavallo, which is a valley town between Bielmonte and Oropa, where the plateau gradually turns uphill; there's around 600m altitude gain in the last 18km or so, with the last 2,2km at just over 5%, so this could open up some gaps just from the length, or if we're lucky give us something like Montenars from a few years ago. Stage 4 around Carate Brianza is lumpy on the profile but not too challenging, it's a traditional women's cycling rolling kind of stage. Potential banana skin, but unlikely to end in anything but a sprint or an unthreatening group bearing in mind the following days. And that there is one of those traditional Giro Rosa stupid length transfers following the stage.

Stage 5 is the Gavia MTF. Although don't underestimate the first climb, which is to Carona, a little-known side route to Aprica from Valtellina which really ought to get a bit of a run-out for men's cycling as it can lead in to Santa Cristina, to Valico di Trivigno and to other climbs (how's about Carona, then descending to Tirano rather than continuing to Aprica as the women do here, Santa Cristina, Monte Padrio, Mortirolo, Aprica? Or, perhaps even better, Mortirolo, Monte Padrio, Valico di Trivigno, then climbing to Aprica via this double climb?) - it's tough enough on its own:


It's been a tradition of the Giro Rosa in most of the last few years to have one stage taking in an icon of Italian cycling, which has been good for prestige and also for eyes (hey, Annemiek's time on Zoncolan would have placed her in the top 40 of the stage Froome won earlier in the year) on the race. 2010 was the Stelvio, 2011 and 2016 were the Mortirolo, 2014 was Madonna del Ghisallo, 2015 was Aprica. This one is all about the Gavia.

Well, and then the uphill ITT the following day, though Teglio is difficult to argue whether it should be considered an MTT or not. Certainly it's easier than last year's TT!


Stage 7 should be really good. It has a lot of small hills, but with a lot of tired legs from Gavia and Teglio, could be very fun as controlling it should be hard. It also uses one of my tricks from the Race Design Thread, as it passes through Sarcedo - home of the Cappellotto sisters, Alessandra (who was Italy's first female world champion) and Valeria (who won the Trofeo Binda and podiumed the Giro in the 90s but died of a tumour aged just 45) and Marostica - home of Tatiana Guderzo. The finish is uphill, but should be closely matched between versatile sprinter/rouleuses and puncheuses. Also liable to go to the breakaway.

Stage 8 is transitional - a couple of tough climbs in Forcella di Pala Barzana and Clauzetto (profile only as far as signpost for Pielungo) but over 30k to go from the summit, so shouldn't be totally decisive. Leave that for stage 9's Unipuerto summit finish at Altopiano di Montasio.


The final stage is better suited to the sprinters than previous years, but then they've been thrown almost no bones in the whole race this season. And there's still a small climb 15km from home in case somebody is close enough to the GC to make a desperation bid.
 
Meanwhile, the Tour de Brétagne Féminin got underway today, it's a 2.2 race of five days. Mixed startlist; a few teams of the French and Spanish national calendars, supplemented by strong teams from WNT (Vieceli, Koppenburg, Wild) and Bigla (Nosková, Uttrup Ludwig) while FDJ, BePink and Aromitalia have decent strength lineups too. There's also some useful national teams - Norway's includes Stine Borgli and Emilie Moberg, Britain's has Jessica Roberts and Nikki Juniper, and the home lineup is strong on paper with Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Juliette Labous.

The race includes a mid-race ITT, a hilly stage on stage 4 and some ribin on stage 5, which finishes in Lannilis, deep in Tro Bro Léon territory, so it should be pretty good.

Stage 1, however, was pretty flat, with a rolling final circuit. It seems like the sprint was slightly unconventional from the people in it - though Kirsten Wild may have won it, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig managed 3rd, not something you'd expect from her ordinarily as sprinting is not her forte - I'm suspecting this may be a bit like that Volta ao Algarve stage that Greipel won ahead of Roelandts and Samu back in around 2010 kind of time therefore - not a true sprint, but the uphill of it was something that Wild could power over rather than one that truly favoured the puncheuse.

Wild outsprinted the young Briton, 19-year-old Anna Henderson who has been making waves on Britain's domestic crit circuit, winning and podiuming race after race last season, but this is one of her first international events. She looks to be more the light, acceleration based sprinter than a powerhouse, though, so a completely different type to Wild. She did some small races in Cyprus early season, and Brabantse Pijl with the national team, so this is a learning experience for her. She, Wild, Cille and Cordon-Ragot took a couple of seconds on the rest of the bunch. Sophie Wright continued her fixation with competing for the mountains jersey in every race she enters, too.

Short clip.
 

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