The Women's Road Racing Thread 2021

Page 12 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Eddy Merckx is dismantling the calendar in Scandinavia, it seems; not content with the victory in Vårgårda, the first two stages of the Ladies' Tour of Norway have both gone to the Cannibal.

As is often the case at the Tour of Norway, due to the undulating terrain, there are few opportunities to really shatter the bunch apart but there's a lot of technical section, and constant short drags, ramps and repechos that can create a split or can drop riders through force of attrition. Indeed, only 30 riders finished on the same time in stage 1, with a lot of the credit for that level of attrition to be considered due to the wind, but also to Lucinda Brand who escaped on a narrow descent after the day's only QOM point, won by Kasia Niewiadoma, and as a number of small groups of riders crossed over to chase the Dutchwoman, until no more were capable of bridging the gap as the number had swollen to such an extent that more people were working than were able to get together to form another group to work behind. Kasia, having been a little below her peak and unable to perform at her combative best in the Giro and La Course, aimed to make up for it here, setting up another attack group at 30km to go, but with Rivera having made the junction to the Brand group, Sunweb now felt they held the cards in the sprint and were not happy with their representation in the group that the Pole had prised away from the front of the group, and worked to nullify the attack.

Boels' best sprinter on the startline, Amalie Dideriksen, had missed the move, so they worked to give Majerus, their best sprinter in the group, the chance to rest up, with Karol-Ann Canuel attempting a solo break which gained some time, with no team wanting to take the responsibility for chasing once Sunweb decided that a solo break did not need monitoring as aggressively - until the lead reached 30 seconds, whereupon Floortje Mackaij set off in pursuit. Mitchelton-Scott it was, in the end, who took the initiative which seemed odd given they were unlikely to contend the sprint with Annemiek or Amanda Spratt, and Gracie Elvin, whilst a strong all-rounder, surely had a deficit in a group with some of the very strong sprinters remaining. They took their time about it too, and at times it looked like the Quebecoise was going to be safe - but in the end, it was almost-but-not-quite Tony Martin in Cáceres territory, as the final 250m being uphill at 6-7% or so took all of the remaining strength out of Canuel's legs, and Vos led around her to win the sprint ahead of Emilia Fahlin, who benefited from the tough run-in ahead of some of the more pure sprinters finishing behind her, with Rivera 3rd, Elvin 4th and Chloe Hosking 5th - the Aussie was perhaps the best pure sprinter in the group, but also had but one helper - Soraya Paladin - and despite her best intentions was only just able to better her performance here last year where getting that final corner wrong cost her dearly and she finished 6th.

With Vos also having picked up bonus seconds giving her 9" lead over Rivera, 10" over Fahlin, 13" over Majerus and 16" over the bunch, the hillier second stage looked like being a job of 'who can out-cunning the fox?' The answer, of course, was nobody, but it wasn't for want of trying. Wind and rain was the order of the day, despite some record temperatures in some parts of Norway last month - so it became a tough race for the péloton, with crosswind sections to deal with as well as the bumpy terrain and an uphill sprint once more. The status quo from stage 1 seemed to be maintained at the intermediate checkpoints - Niewiadoma bossing the mountains points, Vos besting her usual rivals for the intermediates - Fahlin and Majerus - in the metas volantes. Despite some attempts by Cervélo and Sunweb to break the elastic, the group trimmed itself down only by attrition rather than splitting up in the weather, but Vos was able to sneak into a small but short-lived move to take some bonus seconds and deny the same reward to her GC rivals - though Rivera was attentive, Fahlin and Majerus missed the move and Eugenia Bujak snapped up the remaining time. Brand was part of the three riders that were also off the front as the péloton reached the second intermediate, having led out Rivera, and tried to go solo to similar effect to yesterday's stage, but it wasn't quite so successful this time around.

Brand tried again at 3km to go, but at this point Canyon-SRAM lost their collective minds, and proved what crazy effects several hours in the wind and the rain can have on your mental state; they set up Klein, Worrack and Ryan on the front to ride for - I can hardly believe I'm typing this - their aim of winning the sprint with Kasia Niewiadoma. Now, Kasia is in the GC here, but simultaneously Alexis Ryan made the group in stage 1 and can get over a few slopes, and is an almost infinitely stronger sprinter (Kasia's not Claudia Lichtenberg or Mara Abbott bad, but in a group with the likes of Vos in it, you'd back her perhaps only if the sprint was on the Mur de Huy). And certainly the finish was uphill, and the more uphill the finishing sprint, the more competitive Katie Unknown is capable of becoming. The Pole did her best, and the team did benefit from placement as a couple of sprinters who were unable to match the uphill burst of the QOM were immediately behind them, baulking some of their sprint rivals, but Vos was ever attentive, and got onto Niewiadoma's back wheel to use her as a perfect lead-out to a back-to-back stage win (Kasia did say Marianne made her feel like she was standing still, which is not surprising given the difference in sprint results between the two), while Emilia Fahlin also doubled up on second places as she came around the Pole's wheels on the line; the group splintered with the finish being more decisive time-wise than usual thanks perhaps to the poor weather; as a result the top 3 were also given a time gap on Majerus and Biannic at 3", Siggaard (a great result for her) at 7", Rivera, Buurman, Mackaij and Nilsson at 8", Susanne Andersen at 11", Alison Jackson at 16", Lotte Kopecky at 18", Gracie Elvin at 19" and the remainder at 20 seconds plus. Kasia herself in her post-race interview said "well it's a nice climb, nice finale, but not for me" and seemed a bit bemused but excited by the team's decision to back her in it.

Quite a bit of attrition in the riders completing the stages too; home rider Emilie Moberg withdrew on day 1, while Lucy Kennedy, who's been in the wars for much of her debut professional season, alternating promising performances with injury lay-offs, didn't take the start in Fredrikstad, and we also unfortunately lost both of the TIBCO riders I was most keen to see, Scandolara and Malseed, as well as two of the Astana riders, and half of the Norwegian and Swedish national teams. Going in to the final stage, Vos' lead is 18" over Fahlin, 28" over Niewiadoma, and 31" over Rivera and Majerus. Biannic is at 35" then Brand, Buurman and Mackaij at 40" so the main thing for WaowDeals will be managing Team Sunweb, who have three riders within 40" of her. Other teams will probably have to be prepared to lose in order to win, and gamble on making WaowDeals do the chasing to protect Vos.
 
...and Vos rounds off the week in dominant style, winning the third stage to complete an utter rout of the Ladies Tour of Norway. A few teams tried to wrest control away from her, with a lengthy breakaway from Soraya Paladin, who was then joined by Rachel Neylan, before some exploratory moves from Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt in the run-in, but the race was well marshalled and eventually went to a sprint of the remainder of the péloton once more, with the yellow jersey coming out on top, although there wasn't a total symmetry to the results as Coryn Rivera this time outpaced Emilia Fahlin for 2nd, but the Swedish champion was able to defend her GC 2nd place with third. Time gained in bonuses meant that Rivera and Majerus popped up ahead of Niewiadoma on the GC, with the Pole falling to 5th - while she would have been 3rd on the road with no bonuses, Vos and Fahlin would have 1st and 2nd pretty sewn up on countback and have been the class of the field this week so rightfully take the top 2 positions. Also a nice top 10 on the GC for Alison Jackson - TIBCO have had a couple of very good results this season in WWT races, with Kendall Ryan taking a stage and Brodie Chapman 5th in the Tour of California and Shannon Malseed finishing 2nd overall in Chongming Island, but both of those races featured fairly truncated startlists due to calendar positions and their flyaway nature for most of the Europe-based elites, so it's good to see a strong result here in a European WWT race too for the team seeing as they are long-time stalwarts of the péloton who travel over frequently compared to many of their fellow North American teams (and who have some sweet kits); also that's an excellent result for Aude Biannic and a further confirmation that Eva Buurman is becoming a breakout rider this year.

Final GC:
1 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED 10'17'49
2 Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle-High 5) SWE +22"
3 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +33"
4 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +37"
5 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +39"
6 Aude Biannic (Movistar) FRA +46"
7 Eva Buurman (Trek-Drops) NED +48"
8 Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) NED +st
9 Alison Jackson (TIBCO-SVB) CAN +56"
10 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +58"
 
Another really interesting article, this time on women's cycling, where it stands and where it can go from here, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who is an excellent voice of reason and who represents the calmer, more controlled line of thinking in progress (and whose points about Liège-Bastogne-Liège showing that the 'women and men at the same events' model is no guarantor of sucess are very pertinent, and also things don't reflect well on Dimension Data's principal if he was oblivious enough that he was taken aback by the sight of the women rocking up to race in Marseille last year).

However, she's also a voice to point to whenever the commercial aspect is thrown into the ring, the whole "women's races don't gather attention so don't merit the same treatment" debate that has risen up periodically when a rider has stuck their head above the parapet, because Ash also points out parity needs to be earned - the women have to show that they deserve the coverage and the parity of course and prize money (although this then ties in to Cille's point that they need to be given courses that are as exciting and varied as the men's courses to have a fair opportunity to do that) and seems to have her head very much screwed on about how reasonably achievable this is.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
However, she's also a voice to point to whenever the commercial aspect is thrown into the ring, the whole "women's races don't gather attention so don't merit the same treatment" debate that has risen up periodically when a rider has stuck their head above the parapet, because Ash also points out parity needs to be earned - the women have to show that they deserve the coverage and the parity of course and prize money (although this then ties in to Cille's point that they need to be given courses that are as exciting and varied as the men's courses to have a fair opportunity to do that) and seems to have her head very much screwed on about how reasonably achievable this is.
Not to mention that the races have to actually be televised! Otherwise it becomes a matter of "Nobody is watching, so we're not televising it, which means that nobody is watching, so we don't need to televise."
 
Re: Re:

RedheadDane said:
Libertine Seguros said:
However, she's also a voice to point to whenever the commercial aspect is thrown into the ring, the whole "women's races don't gather attention so don't merit the same treatment" debate that has risen up periodically when a rider has stuck their head above the parapet, because Ash also points out parity needs to be earned - the women have to show that they deserve the coverage and the parity of course and prize money (although this then ties in to Cille's point that they need to be given courses that are as exciting and varied as the men's courses to have a fair opportunity to do that) and seems to have her head very much screwed on about how reasonably achievable this is.
Not to mention that the races have to actually be televised! Otherwise it becomes a matter of "Nobody is watching, so we're not televising it, which means that nobody is watching, so we don't need to televise."

I really wish they'd televise the women's version of Strade Bianche (then again I wish they'd televise the men's version as well) in the US. Unfortunately that's my biggest problem, I'm in the US trying to watch any of it.
 
Annemiek van Vleuten wins the Veenendaal-Veenendaal classic in a two-up sprint against Małgorzata Jasińska over a slightly lumpy course, or at least as lumpy as they're able to make it in the region around Arnhem - being from nearby Wageningen, this is about as close to a home race as Annemiek can get, and she took full advantage of local knowledge to make the most of the opportunities presented by the parcours, racing for a strong Dutch national team that also included Floortje Mackaij and Nina Kessler. Phenom youngster Lorena Wiebes won the sprint from the péloton to complete the podium, ahead of Lotte Kopecky and Maria Vittoria Sperotto.

Transfer news now, something of a round-up.

Cervélo-Bigla have signed the young Briton, Sophie Wright, who won the Tour of the Reservoir. I don't know much about her, but she's 19 years old and on the radar of a team like Cervélo, whose scouts for junior talent have been pretty useful of late, so assume she must have some good potential. Similarly, after losing Karlijn Swinkels to Alé-Cipollini, Parkhotel Valkenburg have signed the youngster's even younger sister Sylvie, who's just 18 at present and it will be her first year out of juniors. Perhaps even more crucially, they've retained Wiebes, extending her contract.

The Trek women's team has continued to build up a pretty solid base - with Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini now installed as leaders (and a pretty solid pair of leaders they are too), they now add Ruth Winder from Sunweb, whose first season in Europe has perhaps not been the runaway success of Rivera and Sierra before her but has nevertheless been a pretty solid year capped of course by that spell in the maglia rosa, and Australian rouleuse Lauretta Hanson from United Healthcare too, who hasn't had too much European racing but has been raising hell on the Benelux crit circuit of late. Rumours connect them to Ellen van Dijk as another major name, with Audrey Cordon-Ragot another name mooted, as after all how could she be separated from her twin?

The majority of the Wiggle riders still have their futures up in the air, though a few may well find their home at Drops, now shorn of their Trek link - they may find that the Trek team takes a couple of riders with them, but even if they don't, space is opened up by Eva Buurman getting the opportunity to join the ranks of the superteams at Boels and the retirements of Annasley Park, who's barely raced this year, and Molly Weaver, who has struggled to get back to where she would want to be after her terrible injuries a couple of years ago. It's hard to believe that the likes of Lisa Brennauer and Kirsten Wild aren't going to find top level rides, and after recent races Fahlin surely as well, but some of the lower-ranked domestiques and part time track riders and junior Britons may have to retreat to the national calendar.
 
One more Wiggle rider has a home for the future - the ailing Hitec Products team has managed to stump up the cash to run through 2019, and Lucy Garner will ride for them, as will former Parkhotel Valkenburg youngster Chanella Stougje.

Back in racing matters, the former GP de Pooley, now renamed GP de Plouay-Lorient Agglomération, was on yesterday featuring a strong cast of classics women and climbers. The reigning champion is Lizzie Deignan, so we were without the defending champ, and also 2011 winner Annemiek van Vleuten and 2014 winner Lucinda Brand were absent, however there were a couple of former winners contesting the event, with the on-fire Marianne Vos having won in 2012 and 2013, and Eugenia Bujak having got that surprise victory in 2016 in the first Women's World Tour. There was a strong lineup although a few teams were down to bare bones, Boels even entering just four riders - Guarnier, Pieters, Canuel and Schneider - after a couple of illness and injury-related withdrawals. Canyon and Mitchelton were also undersized, with 5 riders each, though the former welcome Hannah Barnes back into the fold after her injury lay-off. The fact that the course doesn't quite favour either the climbers or the sprinters clearly means that different editions will vary in how hard they are raced and the differences that are made, and so the startlist ran the gamut from pure sprinters to elite climbers, with several teams trying to balance out the aims of both - Alé leading with Hosking but also having Ensing and Santesteban, for example, while other teams that don't have the same size of roster were utilizing mid-season pickups to help pad depth - Cervélo gave a race debut to Sophie Wright who they've just picked up from the UK domestic scene (while they of course as ever mingle their climbing and sprinting aims because of their small roster size, and given Lotta Lepistö's relative durability as a sprinter that makes sense, while obviously their side of the team directed towards the climbs is represented as ever by Ash Moolman-Pasio and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig) and WaowDeals' mid-season pickup on the startlist was Inge van der Heijden, the 19-year-old cyclocross specialist having come on board in May but mainly raced the domestic races and .1s rather than the WWT thus far.

I quite like the way Plouay runs, where it is a women's race which runs in conjunction with the men's race, but it's on a separate day with its own coverage and therefore you have a Bréton cycling weekend, which makes it feel like an event, but with the benefit that the fans out there to see the women know they're going out there to see the women, so it's a better gauge of the audience than the races where you have to balance out against the number of fans who are going out there to see the men later and the women act as a supporting cast.

While it seemed bizarre back in the Giro, Lotta Lepistö might start to make these attempted (abortive attempted) solos a thing seeing as she had a go early on, but it was one of those races where the péloton was not keen on the composition of any break that attempted to go, and so the pace was kept high and the inevitable attacks were prevented from gaining too much time, as we often see in women's cycling when the smaller team size and lower number of riders in the position to attack and be given the rope as they aren't seen as a threat but can still sustain a sizable gap means that traditional "break of the day" antics aren't as successful, with the attack->catch! attack->catch! method keeping the pace high until the elastic snaps. As a result it was only on the penultimate lap that we saw a significant move, with Hanna Nilsson - a strong climber who was top 10 on the Col d'Izoard last year - attempting to go long range, but a lack of support combined with Cervélo-Bigla trying to set up attacks on Ty Marrec, meant that she was swept up as the fireworks began, and the bunch was trimmed considerably after Moolman-Pasio set the pace on the race's trademark climb trying to get rid of as many of the fast women as she could.

When they got to the final ascent of Ty Marrec, the official Laws of Womens' Cycling (not Sharon, rest in peace) were adhered to, that is to say, the road went uphill, and Kasia Niewiadoma attacked. She was marked, and then counter-attacked, by Trek-bound Elisa Longo Borghini, which drew Vos out of the bunch to cover her. Several attacks then characterised the run-in; Aude Biannic decided to show off her French tricouleur, standing little chance in the sprint, but was swiftly covered and countered by Megan Guarnier, which drew another move from Longo Borghini, with Wiggle lacking a sprint option and with her needing a very specific composition of break to stand a chance in the sprint (probably her and a couple of the less experienced specialist climbers like Magnaldi and Merino, I'm not sure I'd even back her against Niewiadoma in a sprint these days as Kasia seems a bit more competitive in them than a couple of years ago when she could barely outsprint Abbott), but Vos was not keen on letting that go, before Moolman-Pasio had another go, resulting in the pack being reduced to just 15 and dumping her own remaining helpers, Koppenburg and Ludwig, out the back door (though if they had nothing left to give, that might have been why Ash attacked). Jose Been's recap made me laugh at that point as she explains how pointless trying to escape the clutches of the bunch would be at that point, "but that did little to deter Alé Cipollini's Janneke Ensing"... because there isn't much that deters Janneke from attacking, it must be said. That said, the official results sheet showed that it was actually a case of mistaken identity and was in fact the Italian, Soraya Paladin, and not the former speed-skater. Nevertheless, she did well and took it into the final straight but realistically that straight is too open and the sprinters too strong for her to have stood a realistic chance of making it especially with a pseudo-counter of Bujak and Spratt chasing down, as two isolated riders could potentially otherwise have tried to get the teams with numbers in the group - Boels (Guarnier & Pieters), Canyon (Cecchini & Niewiadoma), Sunweb (Lippert & Rivera) and Movistar (Biannic & Jasińska) - to do the lion's share to pull the escapee back which might have created the bit of hesitation that Paladin needed (especially as you could argue Movistar and maybe even Canyon wouldn't want to burn matches since neither of their riders would be expected to win a sprint against the likes of Vos, Rivera and Bujak). It's also doubly strange as it was precisely that kind of bluffing as an isolated rider two years ago that enabled Bujak to take her and her team's biggest career victory.

In the end though, bare bones lineup or no bare bones lineup, Boels-Dolmans are still Boels-Dolmans, and though their dominance hasn't quite been as, well, dominant as a couple of years ago, the insatiable appetite of the orange armada for victory is undiminished, and Amy Pieters outkicked Vos and Rivera to the line, extending the team's lead in the teams classification of the WWT and denying Merckx some potentially crucial points, given that for the most part the remaining races are flatter races which will potentially favour Vos over van der Breggen. Rivera's strong autumn continues, after a spring that was a little on the disappointing side given her explosive introduction to the World Tour. The remainder of the péloton - some 30 riders or so - trailed in at 40" back; Biannic was the best home rider in the absence of PFP, but was swamped in the sprint, eventually finishing 14th of 15 in the group, only besting Paladin who sat up when she was caught.

1 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED 3'17'18
2 Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
3 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +st
4 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +st
5 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +st
6 Alison Jackson (TIBCO-SVB) CAN +st
7 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL +st
8 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA +st
9 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +st
10 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +st

The final WWT stage race begins on Tuesday, too - the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour. It is a six-day stage race covering the south and east of the Netherlands, also known as "where all of the best terrain in the Netherlands is". Luckily, no TTT this year. It starts in Arnhem with a prologue and then moves to Nijmegen where they show us everywhere the Giro went wrong, with an interesting hilly circuit which features 8 times up the van Randwijckweg climb, a variation on the Oude Holleweg, 7 times as part of a circuit and then after the final time, descending straight back down before a long straightish run-in.

After that there are two flat stages before the now-traditional Sittard stage which finishes at the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park, though unlike the men who lapped the outside of the Bike Park, the women do the little climb up to the artificial hill. The stage is even longer than last year's thanks to a minor re-routing being required - 160km, which is pushing up against the usual limit, as opposed to 157km - but to all intents and purposes it's the same race as last year's stage won by Janneke Ensing in style, and a similar stage but with a different finish to the 2016 one won by Niewiadoma. The Cauberg stage from 2013-15 is now off the menu given that it has been supplanted by Amstel Gold, which it more or less had the exact same route as, so this and Nijmegen will need to be made to count by the climbier riders seeing as the race ends with a 19km ITT, one of the longer ITTs on the WWT calendar and a good opportunity for a Worlds tune-up seeing as the women don't get to do the climb in the men's TT at Innsbruck.

Last year Annemiek van Vleuten won both the prologue and the long TT (which was mid-race rather than on the final day) to underpin her overall victory and of course she's in rainbows against the clock and pinning #1 onto her jersey, so she'll be the woman to beat. All of last year's top 4 enter though there's no sign of Linda Villumsen who was 5th - however with van Dijk (2nd last year), Brennauer (3rd last year) and van der Breggen (4th last year) there's plenty of competition to lay a marker down for the World Championships. Cervélo are probably the most high-profile absentee team, they will likely skip the subsequent Lotto-Decca Tour (Tour of Belgium) too and prepare for the World Championships via the Giro della Toscana as this seems to be the team's usual calendar.

Mitchelton are out in force to back up Annemiek's defence and also try to take a bunch of stages where possible - Jolien d'Hoore is here to sprint, Amanda Spratt is here to be an alternative threat, and with Elvin, Roy and Williams they've got some tough riders for all terrains that the Netherlands can throw at them. Boels are, as ever, super strong top-down in their home race, none of the junior riders or lower-down-the-totem-pole riders even get a start - Blaak, van der Breggen, Canuel, Pieters, Majerus and Dideriksen mean it's all killer no filler from the marchers in orange. Sunweb have a double leadership threat with Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk, but the fact Liane Lippert does not start means that I believe Sofia Bertizzolo has now sewn up the WWT U23 jersey as she cannot mathematically be defeated. No Niewiadoma for Canyon either, they will rely on Amialiusik for their climbing hands and none of these climbs are out of Cecchini's range either, while Klein will sprint/TT and the Barnes sisters are good on this terrain too, with Worrack to be the combative and mighty veteran. Wiggle are all-out to go out on a high note, with Wild here to sprint and Longo Borghini and Brennauer here for GC, and WaowDeals will presumably be all about shepherding Vos to a defence of her WWT jersey to lead into the last flat races of the season.

Hosking will sprint for a reduced (5-woman) Alé team, Ensing is probably their GC threat while this is also alleged to be one of Roxane Knetemann's final races as she's rumoured to be retiring at season's end and it would be nice for her to bow out at home so to speak. Most of the next echelon of teams, such as Cylance, FDJ, and co., are out in force with their strongest teams, and of course Parkhotel Valkenburg will see this as a home race too and have the phenom sprinter Lorena Wiebes on hand. With the Dutch teams all out in force, the Dutch national team is mainly mere prospects, but the American national team looks very strong with Katie Hall leading even if the route isn't ideal for her, and Tayler Wiles, Leah Thomas and Skylar's big sister Samantha Schneider all on-hand.
 
Quite a few big moves to catch up on.

Before that, however, a non-move, so to speak, as Megan Guarnier has elected to end her career at the end of the year, answering to a great extent the question as to how Boels will juggle such a star-studded lineup once more; with Deignan having moved on to Trek, Guarnier also retiring will mean that inevitably the rise of Pieters will cover some of that slack in the flatter races with Hall slotting into Guarnier's stage racing role, albeit providing far less of a dual threat with a fast finish than Megan does. After a couple of strong years with TIBCO she moved to Europe comparatively late, at 27, to race for the Rabo team, but she found her home with Boels, being one of the best in the world in 2014 and, when the super dominant Rabo apparatus started to get too top heavy, being one of the main riders to capitalise in 2015, finishing on the podium of the Giro Rosa and winning Strade Bianche. 2016 obviously was her best of all years, as the Boels dominance was really felt for the first time, winning the Giro Rosa, the Philadelphia International Criterium and the Tour of California and finishing on the podium of the Emakumeen Bira and the Trofeo Binda; injuries have meant that she hasn't been quite as strong the last two seasons but, at 33, there is the feeling that she still has plenty to offer, not least because she is the same age as Ash Moolman-Pasio, two and a half years younger than Annemiek van Vleuten, and it feels like her career has only really kicked off in the last five years because of how seldom she got to mix it with the big European names before that. At the same time, compatriot and former teammate Evelyn Stevens retired at the same age, also at the top of her game.

She's not the only big name to be leaving a long established home, either - though thankfully we aren't losing the others to retirement. It seems that the British WNT-Rotor team is going to look to increase in size with the plentiful riders available in the market and may well serve as the home of choice for many of the Wiggle-High 5 riders, as well as extending their race outreach. They are likely to form a formidable opposition in flat stages, seeing as they have some very powerful flat engines already, most notably Hayley Simmonds, and a promising young sprinter in Lea Lin Teutenberg, daughter of Sven and Ina-Yoko, and to this they are now adding the two star attractions in the Wiggle auction, veteran superstar sprinter Kirsten Wild and star German time triallist with bonus sprint capabilities Lisa Brennauer. It's something of a coup for them because obviously having a couple of big names like that is a pretty good guarantor of invites and a fairly reliable source of at least a couple of decent level wins.

Trek have also extended their roster as well, and continue with the "all chiefs, no Indians" theme by bringing in established sprinter Lotta Lepistö from Cervélo. Deignan, Longo Borghini and Lepistö being all on the team essentially guarantees their being able to be competitive over pretty much any terrain (other than high mountains close to Longo Borghini's hometown). Cervélo have done some work to replace the inevitable large loss that Lotta will be from their results, however the net result is that they will become an even more climbing-biased team, it seems, as the next to join their ranks is the young Czech climber from BePink, Nikola Nosková. This suggests they will likely lean on Cille more for results or will hope for somebody like Norsgaard to make good progress, otherwise they will be very dependent on hilly and mountainous races next season or have to race with serious aggression without a reliable sprint option (this ought to be entertaining, mind).
 
Annemiek Van Vleuten attacks with 25 kms to go in a brilliantly orchestrated move by Mitchelton Scott - She is followed by Anna Van Der Breggen with Amanda Spratt on her wheel - AVV has about a 45 seconds lead with 10kms to go, when she is sent down the road - Has to back back up and loses around 30 seconds - Recovers to still win the stage by around 10 seconds.
 
It's an interesting one as Peter van den Veen has posted some photos - signs seem to be a bit confused and the marshal that was at that roundabout previously was not there when Annemiek came by the last time around.

It would seem that the GC ought to be settled from the first 28 riders on the stage, though I guess with the team strength Boels have Pieters (less so Pirrone who finished with her) being just a minute back has the chance to profit from the right escape. With the likes of Cecchini, Spratt, van Dijk, Brand, Kirchmann, Wiles, Longo Borghini, Guarnier, Ensing, van der Breggen and Mackaij all in the group that came in at 12" (the latter three losing four extra seconds at the line) that loss of 30 seconds or so of her lead could be very significant. It's not that uncommon in women's cycling with the relatively small organisational committees and sometimes complex looping routes - I remember Niewiadoma being sent the wrong way when solo in the GP Elsy Jacobs in 2015, like van Vleuten she held on for victory but it's not always been the case - Tayler Wiles was out front alone in the Thüringen Rundfahrt in 2014 when she was sent the wrong way, and she emerged just a few seconds behind the remains of the breakaway, and with the péloton chasing hard and it being unclear if the escape could make it, they couldn't afford to ease up to let her back in, so she was able to watch them on the road in front of her all the way to the line. This definitely also happened at the Tour de l'Aude one year as well, I think it might be the 2010 stage where Evie Stevie comes in 40" or so behind Abbott and Pooley who didn't contest the sprint with one another.
 
After Annemiek won the first two stages, Boels have decided to assert themselves. Stages 3 and 4 were both sprints, although the run-in and sprint in stage 3 was marred by a crash which took out Chloe Hosking, Floortje Mackaij and Roxane Fournier, out of riders who might have contested the finish. Amalie Dideriksen won, making it her first victory since regaining the Danish cross jersey in June, out-kicking Lorena Wiebes and Jolien d'Hoore. The finish being affected by the crash does impact that, but Jolien is a huge scalp for Wiebes, and the fact Parkhotel Valkenburg have already retained her services is a coup for them. Annemiek kept herself safely in the front end of the pack, but very few time gaps were generated at all, only six riders losing time, though these did include Hannah Barnes, who had been in the break and collected the combativity award, but obviously the British TT champ is clearly not yet back at full strength after her injury otherwise they'd probably have held her back for the sprint. Dideriksen then doubled up by winning stage 4, which had a more convoluted sprint, with all but the first 7 riders on the day losing 2 seconds at the line - Lucinda Brand being the nearest thing to a threat to van Vleuten's lead to make that gain, and she also got bonus seconds at the line for coming 2nd as well, with Wiebes third.

This set us up for the Sittard-Geleen stage, with the same finish at the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park as last year, but it was a lot less selective this year and we didn't see climber upon climber trying to get away with anything like the success of last year's race, but when an escape came that stuck, it was Chantal Blaak who took another home triumph in the rainbow jersey, looking to get a final win or two with it before she has to defend in a course not ideally suited to her (but it would be even less so if the women were allowed to do the Gramartboden climb, which is closed to them to let cyclotourists ride it on the day of the women's race so they can say they climbed the climb from the World Championships even though it was only allowed to be used in one race...). She lost 2 minutes in the Nijmegen stage so was little threat overall, and then the next 46 riders came in on the same time, Bronzini outsprinting Brand for 2nd as the Sunweb rider edges ever closer to van Vleuten's lead.

Last year's winner of the Sittard stage, Janneke Ensing, was surprisingly one of the riders to not make the selection, losing 3 minutes. She's part of a surprising exodus of climbier riders from Alé-Cipollini actually, having just been announced at Team Sunweb, along with the junior star Susanne Andersen from Hitec Products. The team has also extended Pernille Mathiesen and Leah Kirchmann, but with only Winder leaving thus far it makes me wonder if there is likely to be another sizable mover. Alé have also lost the services of Ane Santesteban, who is also going to WNT-Rotor with Wild and Brennauer, which is a bit left-field - the Basque has shown her climbing credentials improving as the years go on, and was top 10 in both the Giro and La Course, you would have thought Movistar would have pushed for her, and she's been at Alé for four of the last five years so you'd say she's also fairly settled, so it must have been a pretty good offer from WNT.
 
About as perfect a preparation for the World Championships as you could get for Annemiek in the defence of her rainbow jersey, successfully defending the lead of the Boels Rentals Tour in the ITT with a third stage win, topping an all Dutch podium ahead of Ellen van Dijk and Anna van der Breggen. Obviously the Worlds is over double this distance and is a very different scenario but this type of event suggests the main threat to the Dutch comes from the Germans, with Mieke Kröger returning to strong form for 4th place, and the two similar-skillset Lisas, Brennauer and Klein, both up in the top 10 also, while Tayler Wiles continues her excellent season with 5th, the last person to make it within a minute (by hundredths of a second) of van Vleuten's time. With the number of stage wins that have underpinned two of her three WWT wins this season, the victory also puts Annemiek into the lead of the overall WWT, with only the Madrid Challenge and GuangXi to go - she has a very slender lead over Vos with van der Breggen also less than 100 points back. Ordinarily from here I would back Vos, but the new and "improved" version of the Madrid Challenge is potentially the absolute worst designed race in history: it has added a day, but that day is a Team Time Trial of 14km around Boadilla del Monte, before the usual pan-flat Madrid circuit, so we're likely to be well en route to a single team bogarting places 1-6 on the GC like the 2012 Tour of China I, in which case van der Breggen is much more likely to profit than Vos given Boels' superior Team Time Trial capabilities to WaowDeals. However, there is a caveat which suggests Annemiek is more than likely safe: neither Boels nor WaowDeals are on the entry list for the race, and indeed nor are Canyon-SRAM, though the other two of the biggest few teams, Mitchelton-Scott and Sunweb, are on hand, as are Wiggle, Alé, Cervélo-Bigla, BTC and of course Movistar. There are a few teams in the fight for the lower end of those top 15 placements - Astana (12th), Trek-Drops (14th) and TIBCO (15th) are all absent, but FDJ (16th), Hitec (19th) and BePink (20th) are present.

Back to the Netherlands, though, and it's another year on the podium for van Dijk, her 6th in succession, and the race podium reflects last year's, just with Anna and Ellen swapping places. Final GC:

1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED 14'34'54
2 Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) NED +52"
3 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +1'05"
4 Tayler Wiles (USA National) USA +1'44"
5 Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) CAN +1'45"
6 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +2'05"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) SLO +2'09"
8 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +2'11"
9 Leah Thomas (USA National) USA +2'12"
10 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +2'14"
 
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Re: The Women's Road Racing Thread 2018

Emilia Fahlin from Wiggle High5 to FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope. She's signed until the end of 2019 for the French team.
 
Also, the rumours of retirement were premature for Rox Knetemann, she'll be back next year with Parkhotel.

Today the Tour of Belgium got underway with a prologue in Nieuwpoort, which was won by Aude Biannic - which I believe is the first international-calendar win for the Movistar team - they've won a few national championships, and a number of national calendar races, but this is their first UCI-rated win in an individual race I believe. The rest of the podium was from WaowDeals, with Riejanne Markus and Anouska Koster, ahead of Alison Jackson and Lotte Kopecky.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
Also, the rumours of retirement were premature for Rox Knetemann, she'll be back next year with Parkhotel.

Today the Tour of Belgium got underway with a prologue in Nieuwpoort, which was won by Aude Biannic - which I believe is the first international-calendar win for the Movistar team - they've won a few national championships, and a number of national calendar races, but this is their first UCI-rated win in an individual race I believe. The rest of the podium was from WaowDeals, with Riejanne Markus and Anouska Koster, ahead of Alison Jackson and Lotte Kopecky.

I'm fairly sure in one of Movistar's posts/tweets today they said this was their first win on the international calendar.
 
Rumours on twitter that Marianne Vos is teaming up with....Jim Ochowicz. Yes, really. That came out of left field.

I wonder if Max Testa is part of the package.


It was apparently "announced" by Piotr Wadecki but I don't speak polish so using a translator I can't make out where he supposedly announced this
 
That is... weird, and I'm not convinced it's good either, if true.

More transfers, as Trek do a bit of what I thought they would do and pick up a few of the Drops riders. Abigail van Twisk and Tayler Wiles, who has been having a stellar season, are the two thus far. In addition to picking up Knetemann, Parkhotel have also undergone some upheaval, bringing in Janine van der Meer, who won the Diamond Tour this season on the Lotto Cycling Cup, and the experienced Belgian veteran Sofie de Vuyst, ex of Lotto, Lensword and Lares-Waowdeals, who won a stage and scored a GC podium at the Tour de Féminin as well as scoring good hilly results, 3 times in the top 20-25 of the Ardennes classics and two top 10s in Plumelec. Femke Markus, younger sister of Riejanne, is their other signing. Quite a few riders leaving the team, too, including Hoeksma, van Gogh and Solovey. Hitec are rumoured to lose Charlotte Becker to Trek, and possibly also Nina Kessler, they have signed two young riders in Amalie Lutro and Lonneke Uneken.
 
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Libertine Seguros said:
That is... weird, and I'm not convinced it's good either, if true.
Gee, YA THINK? :D

Sorry about that, just really wanted to emphasize that that's not good at all. But of course we can't discuss it outside the clinic, so moving on

Are WNT going World Tour? I haven't seen any source saying either way, but it seems almost mandatory given the signings they've made.
 
Not sure but I think the amount of points they've inherited may well put them there anyway, or at least get them more or less any invite they choose subject to the bigger name riders contesting it.

So the CCC Women/Waowdeals deal is now confirmed, which comes rather a year too late for the team, what with a Polish sponsor coming on board a year after they lose the highest profile Polish rider. They have, however, been linked to a couple of the natives; Anna Plichta is a no-brainer pickup, having been at the team before in the WM3 incarnation and being surplus to requirements at Boels, while Katarzyna Pawłowska has had a comparatively quiet year with Virtu and will move into a similar kind of role to Dani Rowe, one would anticipate, if that deal comes to pass. Charlotte Becker's move away from Hitec was known about, but while Trek had been a mooted destination, in the end it's FDJ who've brought in the veteran German.

For the Tour of Belgium, we've now come to a conclusion; in stage 1, around Moorslede, the flat profile suggested that unless the weather played ball it would be hard to fox the sprinters, and so it proved, Lotte Kopecky being the fastest in the charge to the line, wresting the leader's jersey off of Aude Biannic in the process and pipping Monique van de Ree and Emilia Fahlin, who looks to be somewhat rejuvenated in the late season following her home race and the Scandinavian leg of the World Tour. Stage 2, around Herselt, also ended in a sprint, although five riders opened up a brief gap to the line that led to a second's gap being awarded; WaowDeals continued their hot streak with Jeanne Korevaar winning ahead of Fahlin and Kopecky; with the help of bonus seconds the Belgian now had a 9 second GC lead, but Korevaar, Fahlin and Biannic were separated by just one second each. Koster and Hannes were the only other riders to get up among the riders on no time gap (showing the strength in depth that WaowDeals have for profiles like this), while the number of abandons suggests some crashes among the less experienced riders in the bunch.

All this set up an interesting final stage around Geraardsbergen. The Kapelmuur of course will always break things up, and it was not expected that the sprintier riders would hold on at the front, and though Kopecky did an admirable job controlling the front and stuck to her race well, eventually the elastic inevitably broke. The rider to profit most was the young German, Liane Lippert, who took her (awful, thanks to Sunweb) German national champions' jersey to the line solo, with a 10" advantage over Liane Lippert which, with the time bonuses, was enough for her to surpass her neighbouring country's national champion on the GC; Biannic held a lead from the prologue, but the advantage Lippert had at the line was enough to surpass her. The two opened up a sizable gap, with third place on the day going to the ever-consistent Fahlin, who took a couple of seconds over a trio of Alison Jackson, Anouska Koster and the impressive Kopecky. Everybody else was in dribs and drabs until the remainder of the péloton at over 3 minutes.

Final GC Tour of Belgium:
1 Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) GER 8'54'08
2 Aude Biannic (Movistar) FRA +9"
3 Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +33"
4 Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle-High 5) SWE +37"
5 Anouska Koster (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +46"
6 Alison Jackson (TIBCO-SVB) CAN +47"
7 Riejanne Markus (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) NED +1'01"
8 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL +1'04"
9 Julie Leth (Wiggle-High 5) DEN +1'10"
10 Kaat Hannes (Jos Feron Lady Force) BEL +1'13"
 
Aug 18, 2017
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15-16 September Madrid Challenge by la Vuelta
not confirmed by UCI or race organizers yet, but the first stage has been altered from
15 September : Madrid TTT, 14.00 km to
15 September : Boadilla del Monte ITT, 12.6 km
and three more teams added
HEALTH MATE-CYCLELIVE TEAM, SWAPIT AGOLICO & SPAIN National Team.

edit: Boadilla del Monte ITT now confirmed on website
http://www.madridchallengebylavuelta.com/en/stage-1
 

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