The Women's Road Racing Thread 2020

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So in the end one of the main challengers had to climb off halfway through the stage. Piecing together from reports appear to suggest that Eider Merino abandoned from the front group - she crashed heavily yesterday and from the sounds of things may have overstretched herself trying to make the most of today's stage, her injuries worsened and she was forced to abandon. Mavi García took the win in a two up sprint against Anna Kiesenhofer at the summit after the two of them dropped Lauren Stephens on the final climb; the three of them rode away on the Col de la Machine after Merino, who had been a prime animator on the earlier climbs, was forced from the race. It seems the race will be settled between the three, as the next group on the road was over 4 minutes down, but does include a couple of French hopes, 24yo Victorie Guilman for FDJ, and 41-year-old domestic scene veteran Sandra Levenez, alongside Movistar's Colombian prospect Paula Andrea Patiño and ex-Waowdeals/CCC prospect Yara Kastelijn.
 
Excellent. A happy Cille is a glorious Cille.

I also note that RCS' understanding of the mountain classification has carried over to the Giro Rosa, some of the uncategorised ascents are going to cause carnage. Lots of nice stages, would have liked a proper MTF, but I guess they are a bit concerned that the last two years have petered out a bit with Annemiek opening up huge gaps on the climbs, despite van der Breggen and Moolman-Pasio both challenging her in the final mountain stage suggesting that recovery might be the only place where she has a bit of a blindspot right now. With all of these being sort of middle-sized climbs and the HTFs being short and explosive, I dare say Niewiadoma will be happy as this brings a lot of the key climbing into her range, plus the amount of uncategorised climbing is going to make this a much harder route than the last time they did a southern route, in 2017.

Elisa Longo Borghini will probably also be pretty happy as this will make it harder for her to have her usual punishing jour sans - her best GC was that 2017 route - as she has typically had one day that she's lost minutes upon minutes on.
 
Sadly it seems like Parkhotel's new-found prominence will only be a short one, what with already having lost Wiebes due to a greedy agent contractual disagreements (the disagreement was that Parkhotel thought that Wiebes signing a contract to ride with them meant she would ride with them, Wiebes' agent thought signing a contract to ride with them meant she was free to sign another contract for more money because who cares about the team that has supported and protected your rider to help her get those results, hey?); while they had been able to extend their other revelation, Demi Vollering, and re-arranged their priorities in favour of punchier races as a result, from next year they will be back to the development squad they have always been, as Demi is moving over to SD Worx (i.e. Boels-Dolmans) for the next 2 years.

Realistically this is just the status quo reasserting itself; Parkhotel have traditionally been a development squad and the most promising riders tend to move on from them as they start to emerge, and the fact that Wiebes was such an instant hit and came at the same time as Demi's breakout meant they were far more prominent than they'd ever been before at the front of races. People like Pauliena Rooijakkers came from Parkhotel, and Boels-Dolmans already have a couple of ex-PHV riders in Jip van den Bos and Eva Buurman, so realistically Demi will fit right in. With van der Breggen now confirmed to stick around another year to try to defend her Olympic title and Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak also already confirmed, plus now Vollering confirmed, fears that the team would drop away with the Boels sponsorship dropping would appear unfounded for the time being. Plus Demi makes a very useful succession plan for the hilly classics once Anna eventually does retire and somebody else will finally get the chance to win La Flèche Wallonne...
 
Lucy Van De Haar (nee Garner) has announced her retirement at the age of 25. She was, literally, a poster girl round here a few years ago. Featuring in promotional material in schools and nurseries, trying to inspire girls to take up cycling. Twice World Junior Champion, she never really carried that success through to the pro ranks unfortunately
 
Trophée des Grimpeuses today, and while it may not 'truly' be a grimpeuses race (more a puncheuses), it's still a pretty selective little parcours in southern Belgium, close to the area around Charleville-Mézières that used to hold the Critérium International.

Here's the parcours:



A few teams' second string on show with the Giro coterminous, but a few high profile names not at the Giro are likely to contend here - Lucinda Brand for Trek being the obvious big name. There are a few teams surprisingly banking on a sprint - Rally with Chloe Hosking (though Sara Poidevin is a very good climber), Valcar with Elisa Balsamo, and to a lesser extent Canyon with Alice Barnes although she's a bit more versatile than to be called a sprinter (Hosking and Balsamo are pretty durable but are both decidedly sprint-favouring). Chevalmeire (van Gogh, Ratto, Fournier) and Parkhotel Valkenburg (Koster, Nilsson, Swinkels but surprisingly no Vollering) appear to be covering all eventualities here. And it's always nice to catch sight of the brilliantly-named Loving Potatoes team.
 
Lucy Van De Haar (nee Garner) has announced her retirement at the age of 25. She was, literally, a poster girl round here a few years ago. Featuring in promotional material in schools and nurseries, trying to inspire girls to take up cycling. Twice World Junior Champion, she never really carried that success through to the pro ranks unfortunately
That's a shame, but if I remember she'd had a couple of injuries? She seemed to have found a bit of a niche over at Hitec but I guess this season with everything as it is might have forced a bit of a reappraisal and if she felt she wasn't going to get to the next level and the new generation were going to mean that she missed her time to make that step up, it's fair. A shame though.
 
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Do you know if that's acquiring some of the old Virtu apparatus, or if it signals the death knell for Hitec? Or are they going to acquire Hitec? It'd really suck to lose them but the team has been pulled from pillar to post to stay alive in recent years and obviously their main source of UCI points lately was Lucy Garner-van der Haar who's just retired.

Trophée des Grimpeuses was settled from a 10-woman group. The Belgian Ciclismo Mundial team did a number on the break after placing three riders in it; Rally were the only other team with more than one representative. Ciclismo Mundial is largely a team of cyclocrossers, and it was one of that number that took the win, as Inge van der Heijden, acquired from CCC during their cost-cutting mid-season, won ahead of teammate Yara Kastelijn, and Rally's Kristabel Doebel-Hickok. It's another win for youth - van der Heijden just turned 21 last month and Kastelijn turned 23 a couple of weeks earlier - 7 of the top 10 are 24 or younger, with Doebel-Hickok the oldest. Kata Blanka Vas in 5th, 19 earlier this month, is the youngest of them.
 
Do you know if that's acquiring some of the old Virtu apparatus, or if it signals the death knell for Hitec? Or are they going to acquire Hitec? It'd really suck to lose them but the team has been pulled from pillar to post to stay alive in recent years and obviously their main source of UCI points lately was Lucy Garner-van der Haar who's just retired.
Hard to say, it's still very early days.
However, I'd say there's nothing left of the old Virtu apparatus (on the women's side, at least). Maybe they'll buy some surplus team vehicles from what's left, but that's about it.

As for Hitec, team manager Karl Lima commented on the news with: "This is pleasing"
View: https://twitter.com/Karl_Lima_Hitec/status/1306928141600985093

Whether that means that he's happy there'll be another WWT team with a solid foundation, or that Hitec will merge into this new team, is anyone's guess.
 
I anticipate this will be a lot like the usual situation with teams not being approved for WT/ProConti status due to bank guarantees and then making it, Covid-19 will take the blame for the organisational shortcomings of the Giro and by the time the race begins next year it'll all be resolved, but if other race organisers have raised complaints (as presumably they have had to make some serious concessions to try to secure that coverage, or in some cases have not been able to run races because they couldn't meet that requirement in the current climate) then it is good to see the UCI actually commit to its promises. There is some merit to the argument that the position as the only Grand Tour of the women's calendar means the race has been somewhat complacent because its prestige is inherent. This also augurs well for the expected fight with ASO (I know they committed to broadcasting their races, but my feeling was very much "I'll believe it when I see it" for the Ardennes events). This is also a shot across the bow for people like ASO, to warn them they are going to have to stand by the promises they will have had to make to retain their calendar role.
 
Only two UCI races are confirmed for The UK so far next year.

RideLondon Classique on May 30th

Women's Tour 7-12 June

Interestingly, the former is going ahead, while the men's race has been cancelled.

Both the men and women's Tour De Yorkshire are awaiting confirmation, due to problems with the organising body and sponsorhip.

The Tour of Scotland has been cancelled :(
 
Interestingly, the former is going ahead, while the men's race has been cancelled.
I actually like this sort of development. Where, if an organiser runs both a mens' and a womens' edition of a race, but find themselves in a situation where they can only hold one; they choose to keep the womens' race. The same thing with Colorado (except they had to completely cancel it this year.)
 
I actually like this sort of development. Where, if an organiser runs both a mens' and a womens' edition of a race, but find themselves in a situation where they can only hold one; they choose to keep the womens' race. The same thing with Colorado (except they had to completely cancel it this year.)
Yea but the problem with that is that this is also the event where the men got a proper Olympic legacy race, the women got a city centre hour-long crit to give Joe Public the chance to ride the real course. I'd assume that the sportive is the main money spinner for them, so if they could only get road closures agreed for one day instead of two, they'd prefer to go with the sportive and the women's race over the men's because of that. So it's a mixed blessing really, the women's race got to survive because the women weren't given a proper race in the first place.
 
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They could, indeed. It would end up a bit like when the Vasaloppet was in the XC World Cup, especially if it was an actually contested Gran Fondo rather than just a sportive ride. The FIS rules wouldn't allow the women to do the full 90km Vasaloppet, whereas the men could. However Vasaloppet has its own specialised endurance discipline and is a prestigious event in its own right, so the World Cup men wound up having to compete against the long distance specialists, while much of the women's field simply didn't enter the World Cup event because it wasn't the 'true' Vasaloppet (which has both men and women as part of the same event with staggered starts, like a marathon) and instead entered the proper event. The World Cup never went back.
 
Hmmm... that makes me think; who's to say "Jane Public" can't ride the sportive? Just imagine if a whole bunch of female riders - and I guess there'd not really be anything stopping the pros from riding - signed up for the sportive.
For any pro to ride it, you'd need them to actually live there in the first place and not have something else they're already doing. You aren't going to get riders from outside of London showing up for it if they aren't racing. The women who are there to race wouldn't be riding it due to their own race that same day and likely an overlapping time as well.
 
For any pro to ride it, you'd need them to actually live there in the first place and not have something else they're already doing. You aren't going to get riders from outside of London showing up for it if they aren't racing. The women who are there to race wouldn't be riding it due to their own race that same day and likely an overlapping time as well.
Oh, I thought it was on different days! Bummer... because if it had been the "official" Ride LondonClasique one day, and then the sportive the next, it could have been rather cool if - perhaps not all, but several of - the pros just rolled up to the start like; "Hey guys. Nice warm-up race yesterday; time to ride."
 
Oh, I thought it was on different days! Bummer... because if it had been the "official" Ride LondonClasique one day, and then the sportive the next, it could have been rather cool if - perhaps not all, but several of - the pros just rolled up to the start like; "Hey guys. Nice warm-up race yesterday; time to ride."
If they'd do it the next day then maybe you would get a few of the women to stick around and ride it. That would be really cool.
 
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The problem is, if they were doing it on consecutive days, they would run the men's race. That's how it's usually been.

Saturday: women ride a short course in central London while members of the public ride the sportive
Sunday: the men ride the London Surrey Hills Classic.

The pro women therefore could only ride the proper course if they forgo the Classique, much like the skiers I referred to eschewing the FIS' World Cup pseudo-Vasaloppet in favour of the real one.

The fact of the matter is, the sportive is what brings the money in for the organisers, because shutting down part of central London isn't cheap. So every year it raises great frustration that the women are palmed off with their pan-flat sprint stage (doubly so because of the typical problem that we get good coverage of pan-flat circuit races and not good coverage of the interesting courses) while the men get to do a proper course with decisive hills. If they alternated year by year, so, say, 2021 the women do the crit and the men do the classic, and then 2022 the women do the classic and the men do the crit, that would be much more readily accepted I feel, because there does remain the need for the sportive in order to keep the event profitable, however in conjunction with things like Innsbruck (where the elite women weren't allowed to race the Gramartboden climb because there was a sportive on it to take advantage of the world championships DURING THE WOMEN'S RACE - both removing an obstacle from the women's race AND lowering its potential audience), Bergen (where Mount Fløyen was not included in the women's ITT), Doha (where the women weren't allowed to race in the desert and just had a pan-flat circuit race in front of no fans), and Tokyo (more problems than I care to mention right now) it becomes more of a frustration that the women are not given a fair chance to show what they can do in racing.

So the main reason the Classique survives is because it can be satisfactorily run alongside the sportive without further disruption, essentially. For better or for worse, because ultimately, you know, it has survived.

The Tour of Scotland is a shame because it was perhaps doomed from the start with some terrible weather on day 1 of its first edition annulling it, as a result it hasn't had the chance to establish itself so it's an easier race to sacrifice. I hope it comes back in some incarnation or another. Especially if Anna Shackley turns out to be really good and we get a nice climby race, because the Tour of Britain only ever really rides through Dumfries and Galloway which looks to be the least geographically interesting part of the country from a cycling perspective. I know things like Bealach Na Ba are not likely because they're in very remote areas, but there's definitely parcours potential up there. I guess however that away from the larger cities - most of which are away from the bigger obstacles - they might need either one of the ski resorts in the Cairngorms or some whisky distilleries to host in order to get the best event?
 
So apparently the organisers of the Giro Rosa weren't told about the risk of withdrawal of the UCI WWT status, and the only punishment mandated by the agreement was financial in nature, so they're a bit unhappy and feel blindsided. Some speculation that, far from being a shot across the bow to ASO, it's more a case of clearing the WT calendar with the supposed plan being for ASO to implement a women's Tour in 2022 (I'll believe that when I see it) so that the Giro Rosa's pre-eminence as the longer running and far more established race is eroded - the problem the Giro Rosa now has is that selling live coverage to sponsors during the Tour de France is a hiding to nothing because in most countries there's only one channel broadcasting live cycling at that point, and given the choice, which broadcaster is not going to go for the biggest race in the world? That slot has for years been a real advantage for the Giro Rosa, because they got advantageous positioning getting their highlights out appended to the Tour de France coverage for maximum crossover, but now with the commitment to live broadcasts, that situation is rather reversed and could potentially lead to an absolute ASO bogarting of the WWT calendar for the month of July, seeing as if the Giro Rosa cannot guarantee its broadcast time without moving in the calendar, La Course would be the only WWT race in the entire month (depending on where in the calendar the Saturday of the London Crit (a race which doesn't need to be WWT anyway - it'll draw a good sprinting field with its prize pot regardless, and anybody not a sprinter doesn't really have any interest in appearing).

It seems a bit unclear and a bit conspiracy theorist for the time being, especially as I would have anticipated ASO to be the main organiser targeted by the live coverage regulations, but given how accommodating the UCI already was to La Course, screwing over long established and traditional races like Thüringen to allow it and almost wiping out the French women's international racing calendar by killing races like the Trophée d'Or Féminin and the Route de France, and how long ASO's races have been able to get away with providing some of the worst coverage on the calendar, you can see where the thinking is coming from.
 

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