The Women's Road Racing Thread 2021

Page 24 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
I thought it a bit of a shame that Winder moved on from Sunweb after just one year, especially as it seemed to have been working pretty well for her there, but we know that Sunweb have a very structured, controlled environment that for some riders works wonders, and for other riders really doesn't work at all (hi, Janneke). That said, she's a very logical pick-up for Trek, as a relatively young and fairly untapped potential rider in their home market; after her 2017 performances in Europe with United Healthcare I thought she was a no-brainer pickup for somebody as long as she wanted to make the trip over to Europe on a permanent basis, similar to Rivera and Kirchmann before her, I thought Sunweb picking somebody up from a North American team after some breakout performances on their periodic trips to Europe would lend itself well to her, and while perhaps succeeding on Rivera's level was unlikely, she did still win a stage of the Giro and two of l'Ardêche. She's also come to Europe comparatively young for an American who hasn't come from track cycling.

It's a shame that UHC isn't really around now, having merged with Rally. With Katie Hall last year as well, and of course housing Linda Villumsen, and Mara Abbott before her return to Europe with Wiggle (well, her return to a European team. Since they didn't need to lean on her for results, they were happy to let Mara call her own shots, knowing she needs careful handling, which basically meant she would race in the USA as a guest rider for much of the season, then swan in to do the Giro and have everybody work for her, which garnered some justifiable resentment), and providing a stepping stone to the top for Hannah Barnes and Alexis Ryan, and a temporary rehoming for Tayler Wiles when her first tilt at Europe came to a halt, their merger with Rally means hopefully that development doesn't stall. There are a couple of riders on the Rally team that really have potential. Sara Poidevin, for example, finished 2nd to Hall at Gila last year, 7th in the Tour of California and 6th in l'Ardêche; she survived the Innsbruck Worlds in the same group as Moolman-Pasio, Ludwig, Hall, Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Brand. She's not done much of note this season yet, however, but we shall see.
Incredible, but vital, interview with Kseniya Tuhai here (in Russian).

For those that have followed in here for a few years, Tuhai was, a few years ago, one of the most promising young climbers in the world. She'd been top 10 of the Giro Rosa at 21, followed by further top 10s at the Route de France and the Tour de l'Ardêche where she was 4th. But then, things went very awry. She couldn't finish a race in 2017, even dropping nearly 10 minutes in a 50km stage in the Emakumeen Bira and being eliminated hors délais in the kind of stage she ordinarily specialised in. Although she had a contract with Cogeas for 2018, after leaving BePink, she never raced again.

I remember seeing a couple of social media posts and wondering if the dreaded eating disorders had hit her - she was very thin, and I was of course aware of the tales of Bastianelli and of Abbott - and she went to radio silence for several months, before resurfacing with a new profile headed "ex-cyclist, cured of anorexia". That only seems to tell half the story, though. Likewise, you could tell from her social media that she had a deep respect and support for Alena Amialiusik, and it seems that their relationship was a really important cog in the machinery.

Kseniya tells of how at New Year in 2016, she was having a rocky patch in her relationship, leading to them going to different New Year parties, and at the party she went to, she witnessed the suicide of an old schoolfriend which put her in a state of shock. She didn't dare talk to her family, and her boyfriend was ignoring her, and she barely moved or ate for two weeks. Coming out of this time, Amialiusik, who had been functioning as something of an older sister/mentor figure for her, and her boyfriend took care of her, and forced her to eat because they were worried about her. The problem was that her mental state and subsequent problems led to positive sporting results and form in the early season, which got the team manager enthused, and she became obsessed with keeping her weight down for fear that overeating would cause her to lose form and favour.

Obviously the 2016 season was a good one for Kseniya, but her eating habits were incredibly unhealthy by that point. She describes eating a spoonful of peanut butter, and then the following day going to the gym with no food or water as penance for the calories she'd taken on. At the end of the year she broke up with her boyfriend once and for all, and comfort ate various unhealthy foods. Her body weight ballooned from 38kg to 50kg, which she tried to 'correct' with laxatives and forcible vomiting; she described a cycle of training on the bike, crying in the locker room at the Minsk velodrome, going home, eating, vomiting, and crying. After going to a psychotherapist and being prescribed medication to normalize her appetite, she started to bring her life back into line, and took a contract with Cogeas to try to return to the sport.

Her description: "By April, I had no bike or clothes", and spent her meagre earnings on travelling to races in Italy and Cyprus, only to be told that, actually, instead of the trade team Cogeas, the riders would be entering as a Russian national team, which she obviously couldn't enter, being Belarusian. The team started to exile her, and being in poor health she couldn't force her way into races on form either, and so, now sick, depressed and penniless, she returned home to Minsk and checked herself into a psychiatric hospital. She tried to call her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, with the result that she had her phone confiscated; from the sounds of things (if I've understood correctly) she was allowed visitors on a points system based on whether she was actually eating the food provided for her, which seems like a combination of motivation and barbarism. She even wrote a suicide note, but didn't carry through on the thought.

She left the psychiatric hospital to complete her exams, and despite some pleas (particularly from Tatsiana Sharakova, whose letter she describes as being particularly touching, though when Tatsiana tried to call her after leaving the hospital, she couldn't bring herself to answer the phone), decided not to return to the sport (even though it had been one of the justifications she had given for leaving the hospital). She does say, regretfully, that Amialiusik hadn't been in contact, she accepts that Alena had already done a lot for her and without her it might have been a lot worse, but it does rather further the impression I got of the relationship between the two of them, that she somewhat idolized and revered Alena, and it seems like she was hurt by that - however it seems the two have reconciled.

Most pleasingly, she does mention that she does have plans to return to cycling, but she does not have faith that she can mentally or physically handle it at the moment; her testing data is good, and she does ride a lot and constantly train, but she doesn't know whether returning to the sport as anything more than a hobbyist is something that she should do. She left Minsk and all of the associated memories to start afresh, working first as a waitress and then an administrator at a health club in Moscow, experimenting with her appearance, and then taking a job in the Crimea, and reverting back to her natural appearance, which is where she currently is, although she does say that she will probably return to Minsk soon. She came to watch the European Games Road Race, which were what she was originally supposed to be competing for and how she justified checking herself out of the psychiatric hospital.

She's in a much better place now, with or without cycling, and for that we should be thankful. If she can come back, then that's great, but just making it back into the péloton will be triumph enough for her and clearly it's not something that she needs as she has found peace with what happened and how it all went down. And if she can't, or decides that it's not worth the risk to try to return to the professional ranks, then that should be no problem. The people she has around her now are much better for her, and she still has friends within the sport - particularly Kanstantsin Klimiankou, who is mentioned by name. She's settled down and got married (she does take care to point out that a lot of the relationship problems from before were self-inflicted, but clearly the earlier relationship was, if not a catalyst then certainly a lightning rod for her problems), and all of the big names from the Belarusian team - Amialiusik, Sharakova and the national coaches - were there, so obviously it seems there are no hard feelings, presumably now that she's been able to 'come clean' so to speak and they can understand a lot more about what created that situation - and it seems she's come through the other side. She only just turned 24, so she's still got a long, and hopefully happy, road ahead of her whichever way she chooses to go.
I think everybody does, really, it's obviously been a tough few years for her. It's nice to see her looking both healthy and like Kseniya Tuhai again in the accompanying photos, like she's more confident and comfortable with who she is (and who she has been).

The Giro is not the only racing going on right now. In fact, the men are doing some long distance stage race of their own, but in a country which is unable to sustain a long-form women's race, so obviously not a traditional cycling heartland. But those women who aren't at the Giro do have a couple of options for racing.

Yesterday saw the Chrono Kristin Armstrong, a standalone 28km ITT named after the multiple Olympic champion, and it was her team that took the win, with superstar-in-waiting Chloe Dygert demolishing the field, taking nearly 2 minutes over second-placed Olga Zabelinskaya. Dygert's teammate Jennifer Luebke took 3rd place, though the strength of the field is perhaps highlighted by the fact Luebke's time narrowly pipped that of 50-year-old Julie Emmerman - though in fairness Emmerman did take the scalp of hour record holder Vittoria Bussi.

Meanwhile the Tour de Féminin Krasná Lipá is going on; this is actually a pretty good indicator of future potential in recent years, with winners later to break through to the top level including Amanda Spratt, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Ruth Winder. It does struggle from the fact that its winners almost never return as they'll typically be going to the Giro after proving their worth in this terrain, and this is the case once more with the defending champion being Leah Thomas, who moved across to Europe from United Healthcare and is currently riding the Giro for Bigla (in other news, Bigla have committed their sponsorship to 2021). The field includes a few teams who weren't able to start the Giro - Hitec Products and TIBCO are here with a strong team - some national teams including some useful names - Valérie Demey, Ann-Sophie Duyck, Valeriya Kononenko, Olga Shekel and Jessy Druyts are among them - and some second tier type teams, although a few World Tour riders are here as guests - Pfeiffer Georgi, having been sick and missed the start of the Giro, with Pernille Mathiesen deputizing, is here for the Dutch "Loving Potatoes" team, CCC's Evy Kuijpers is here riding for her former Jan van Arckel team and likewise WNT's Laura Asencio is guesting for her former espoise team, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

The first stage was a sprint, won by Hitec's Marta Tagliaferro ahead of former Belgian champion Kaat Hannes and the aforementioned Evy Kuijpers. A time gap left by a rider at the bottom end of the top 20 meant a 7" gap was gained by a few key riders ahead of the split, including Demey, Georgi, Vita Heine, van den Burg, Brodie Chapman and newly-crowned Belgian champion Jesse Vandenbulcke, who was recently filmed talking about winning the championship... at her day job working in a patisserie. Brodie Chapman won the second stage solo, with an advantage of 34" over a trimmed bunch, featuring all of the other key names, though overnight leader Tagliaferro was dropped in the hills and came in with the first of three autobuses. Vita Heine then won the stage 3a ITT, ahead of young Pole Aurela Nerlo and Elyzaveta Oshurkova. Brodie Chapman finished 4th, but it was not enough to defend the jersey, with Vita taking the lead with a 3 second advantage coming into the afternoon semitappe.
Margarita Syradoeva won stage 4, the Saturday semitappe, in the Tour de Féminin, solo ahead of the bunch at +14". Sunday's stage was somewhat more dramatic, with a group of 8 settling the win. The GC was not a problem to sort out, as Vita Heine was safely ensconsced within the octet, but the stage became a nightmare. Katarzyna Wilkoś of MAT Atom Developer team, the Polish domestic squad, won the stage, but originally Ingvild Gaaskjenn of Hitec sprinted to 2nd place. However, she was penalized 20 seconds for an illegal feed and lost her placement (in a previous stage another rider had received a penalty of time but not placement, whereas here Gaaskjenn lost both time AND placement). Only there was a slight problem: Gaaskjenn hadn't taken an illegal feed. After review of the footage, it was determined that in fact the culprit was Olga Shekel, whose combination of the light blue mountains jersey and Ukrainian national team bibs had confused the commissaires leading them to think she was Gaaskjenn, with which the Ukrainian champion was instead penalised. Gaaskjenn's time penalty was annulled but she still seems to have been demoted to the back of her group (as has Shekel), so absolutely no clue as to how this has been resolved. Karl Lima was pretty angry about it earlier.

So, next up for the WWT is the always ripe for discussion La Course. But first, a few absences: van Vleuten doesn't like the new date or the course, so she's going to recon the Olympic Road Race, while the Dutch men's team does the same ahead of the test event (which is only for men, natch). Hitec were going to go to La Course, but the new date bleeding into the BeNe Tour means they've withdrawn.

Libertine Seguros said:
I think everybody does, really, it's obviously been a tough few years for her. It's nice to see her looking both healthy and like Kseniya Tuhai again in the accompanying photos, like she's more confident and comfortable with who she is (and who she has been).

The Giro is not the only racing going on right now. In fact, the men are doing some long distance stage race of their own, but in a country which is unable to sustain a long-form women's race, so obviously not a traditional cycling heartland. But those women who aren't at the Giro do have a couple of options for racing.
Shaaaaaade. You made me laugh
So the most controversial race of the year, La Course by Le Tour de France, takes place on Friday. 120km over 5 laps of the Pau ITT course, meaning the women will need to be finished by the time the first men start. There are 169 men still in the Tour, and with the top 10 needing to start 3 minutes apart and the rest at minute intervals, this means the women will need to finish well over 3 hours plus the time taken to complete the TT before the men; in order to complete a 120km race, then do all the podium ceremonies etc. before the men's TT starts, I can readily see that the women need to take to the course seven hours before the key men do, which I can't see as being particularly beneficial from a crowd point of view.

Now, the course should be moderately interesting and provide some good racing, but after a couple of years where La Course functioned as a one-off mountain classic, putting forward a course which is in a style which is already overrepresented in the women's calendar (real mountain stages and ITTs are very underrepresented, TTTs and rolling circuit races are very overrepresented, looking at stats from previous WWT years) feels like a step backward, and that's for a race which already feels like ASO committed to on the assumption Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was going to rejuvenate women's cycling in France, but now she's suffered injuries and decided to specialise in mountain biking, there are no frontline superstars in women's cycling from France (give it a couple of years and Juliette Labous might be, mind) and now ASO want to do the bare minimum they have to do to get away without courting too much public evisceration for sexism.

However, we do have a very strong startlist. All of the main protagonists of the Giro are here - van Vleuten initially was going to skip the event to attend the test events for Tokyo and scout the course (there's no test event for women, because of course there's not. They don't get to do any of the interesting obstacles from the men's race anyway, so they can test everything they need with just the men because of course they can), but the shift of date from the original scheduled date in the middle of next week means she can do both. Spratt, van der Breggen, Moolman-Pasio, Vos, Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini, Hall, Brand, Vollering, Paladin, Labous, Magnaldi, Uttrup Ludwig and Santesteban all line up. A couple of very interesting wildcards to add among those who didn't race the Giro too - Sunweb's Liane Lippert, who proved so strong over a punchy circuit in the Women's Tour, and Lizzie Deignan, who of course won that race, has won countless races on similar types of profile, and is well rested. Annika Langvad is also a wildcard, she has a phenomenal record in the limited number of road races she has entered.
Well, now that Deignan isn't on Boels, it changes that superiority somewhat, but Langvad's phenomenal road racing run came to an end today.

La Course is always the most ambivalence-inducing race on the calendar, because you have this combination of excellent coverage and usually pretty good crowds, but also some incredible laziness from the organizers and this sense that they're trying to make a show of it in as not-making-a-show-of-it a way as possible. I've already said my piece on what I think is going on here, and I think this chart illustrates my point very well:

I would say that this graph closely resembles that of ASO's interest in organizing women's races (with a brief spike in 2017 when they moved the race away from the Champs Elysées sprint), and there is a strong correlation between the two. Now, however, it seems ASO are in the position where they don't really want to be pushed into doing any more than they have to. They've done their empire-building of pro races and they've got a good and profitable cycling portfolio now, and that portfolio can therefore be used for its primary purpose to the Amaurys - propping up their pet project, the Dakar Rally, which is struggling big-time as it runs out of willing hosts, travel costs soar, and paying more money to expend more energy on a potentially risky investment - which they see women's cycling as - is therefore not on their agenda. That's why La Course is always appended to men's Tour stages, and it's why the ongoing clamour for a longer or tougher race have fallen on deaf ears.

Lizzie Deignan was the most vocal one today, and the points still seem the same every year (mind you, Lizzie did add a few of her own personal touches in her own inimitable way, both throwing shade on the Giro Rosa by saying "it's about time women had a Grand Tour" when, you know, they literally had one which finished five days ago, and also by saying it was up to people like her to call for it), though she was far from the only one to comment.

It's also a bit of a frustration that the course was a hilly circuit race, not because it didn't provide good racing, because it did, but because it's the kind of race we already have lots of. The last two years, La Course has at least offered something different to the calendar. Last year's being especially good, serving as like a women's equivalent of Lombardia, or perhaps even more, as it was a true climber's race. Still, on the plus side, the women really have been giving us a show lately, with Vos seemingly back to her imperious best, only without anybody being afraid to attack the great Cannibal, so we've seen some finishes like Kennedy being caught on the line, and Spratt being caught 400m out today. And of course, we got a finish which meant people put a microphone in front of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, which is always beneficial for coverage of women's cycling!
Beyond the obvious greatness of Vos, and Spratt's combativity, a few things to note.

Kirchmann is less an unappreciated gem as was commented earlier on the Tour stage/La Course combined thread, and more somebody who had rather got buried in the hierarchy at Sunweb after initially being really good when first coming over in 2016. The success of Coryn Rivera when the team used the same plan they had when they signed Kirchmann - picking up strong sprinters with transferable skills who ride on North American teams but have translated well to the European races when touring - along with picking up Lucinda Brand in Rabobank's yard sale meant that Leah fell a little way down the hierarchy, however with van Dijk and Winder - another signed from the North American ranks - moving over to Trek, the young guns Lippert and Labous being handled understandably with care to not overburden them, and the team's big off-season signing of Ensing not having worked out, Kirchmann's come back to the fore within the team hierarchy. Also Cille will probably be kicking herself that this form wasn't there in the second half of the Giro, or maybe not if it works well come September - she hasn't been as strong in the high mountains as she was last year, but she's been stronger in the puncheuse terrain and the short to mid length climbs, and the team obviously had faith in her, with Chabbey, Banks and Nosková all very active early on. And an on-form Cille is a happy Cille, and a happy Cille is good for women's cycling.

For the most part, other than Cille who would have hoped for more from her Giro, the upper echelons of the results sheet were made up of those who went well in the Corsa Rosa despite the parcours being significantly lighter on climbing than 2017 or 2018; in both of those you had some riders who had not done the Giro being successful but here, the first rider to cross the line who wasn't in Italy was Floortje Mackaij in 12th, and for the most part the big names who had rested were not competitive, either under-raced for form or simply not having a good day - Langvad at least finished up with the bunch, but Deignan and Lippert were well down despite a course that seemed on paper to suit them. More good results for Vollering and her breakout year might just see her get to ride the Worlds at this rate despite the Netherlands' strength in depth - she gets to make her debut in orange at the European Championships, as she revealed before the race. And also quite impressively, the six point maximum for the U23 WWT standings go to Paula Patiño, who has done a lot of racing for Movistar as she adapts to Europe. This area at the bottom of the top 20 - 25 seems to be her level at the moment - 18th in Thüringen, 23rd in Il Giro, 18th here - but as a 22-year-old specialist climber in her first year in Europe coming from the South American scene (she did a handful of French .1 and .2 races last year with the WCC admittedly) she won't have been racing in events as professional as equivalent age riders in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy or the US.
Meanwhile, we also have the BeNe Ladies' Tour going on for those who like it flat. We had a prologue last night, which was rain-affected, which is bad for the TT specialists but perhaps good for the race as it means that they don't have as much of an advantage as might otherwise have been the case. In the end, Canyon's young German Lisa Klein took the win in the 4km test around Utrecht, with a 2" advantage over Ellen van Dijk, with Amy Pieters in 3rd. They deposed long-time earlier leader Mieke Kröger, who finished at +8" in the end, and latecoming chrono specialist Marlen Reusser of Switzerland. Boels have also placed Jip van den Bos high up in the standings, while Lorena Wiebes posted +12", which puts her right in the hunt with bonus seconds available. Apart from her Gent-Wevelgem podium Letizia Paternoster has had a quiet year, but she was also at the same time, and is potentially one to keep an eye on for the race. The weather took a few casualties in that riders who might have thought they were in with a chance sometimes posted unrepresentative times further down the results sheet than you might expect; Christine Majerus and Hayley Simmonds the clearest examples.

Stage 1 was marred by a significant crash in the final kilometre, which happened right near the front of the bunch and took out several of the main sprinters. Among those going down were Lorena Wiebes, Ann-Sophie Duyck, Lonneke Uneken and seemingly almost the whole FDJ and Valcar teams, but the worst affected was Jolien d'Hoore, one of the favourites for the win, who ended up with a broken elbow. She wasn't the only injury - Chanella Stougje proving that Dutch women signing for Hitec Products have to be hard as nails as a rule (remember Ilona Hoeksma and her punctured lung crossing the line in case she could start the next day?), riding the final 90km with a dislocated shoulder. Laura Süssemilch has a broken collarbone, and Kaat Hannes has banged up her knee (but we don't have formal confirmation of any breaks). In the end, the sprint was won by Christina Siggaard, ahead of Claudia Koster and Letizia Paternoster, but the combination of bonus seconds and Ellen van Dijk leaving the race meant that Amy Pieters inherited the leader's jersey.
Stage 2a was a 90km flat stage around Watervliet, which saw a three-woman escape group win out as the evening ITT meant that the sprinters teams had few engines to contribute to the chase; having 2 ITTs out of a 5 stage race is perhaps overkill, despite my acknowledging that this does at least partially redress the balance with regards to the lack of real ITT mileage in the women's calendar. In the end, Alé-Cipollini's Serbian champion Jelena Eric took the stage win, the 23-year-old benefiting from experience against Rhona Callander, the 20-year-old Briton who impressed in the Healthy Ageing Tour and is guesting for Team Isorex, and Kirstie van Haaften, a young Dutchwoman who is also 20 and riding for the beleaguered Health Mate team, whose coach has been under investigation for sexually harrassing some of the young riders in his command. Wiebes won the sprint for 4th fairly convincingly over Marta Bastianelli, but the 30-second time gap in conjunction with the bonus seconds meant that van Haaften took the race lead briefly.

We didn't get to see, however, whether Health Mate would have been able to rally around their new team leader for the week, as in the evening a 14km ITT was held around the town, and, having expended a lot of energy on the breakaway to get that moment in the leader's jersey, van Haaften shipped nearly two minutes to the stage winner and subsequent race leader, Lisa Klein, who took her second ITT win in three days, this time by a pretty convincing margin of 15" ahead of Marlen Reusser and Amy Pieters once more. It was a veritable German festival in fact, with Mieke Kröger in 4th and then two more Germans on the Canyon team, Tanja Erath and the teenage prospect Hannah Ludwig, next in line. This left a fairly convincing margin of lead for Klein, but she had to defend against Amy Pieters collecting time bonuses on the final day; for this she found ample assistance from her strong rouleuse teammates and compatriots, alongside helpers for Parkhotel Valkenburg and Virtu in aid of their sprint weapons. And, just as the day before, young sensation Lorena Wiebes won, outsprinting Marta Bastianelli and another promising teenage Dutchwoman, Lonneke Uneken of Team Hitec Products, only this time they were contesting the victory. Pieters needed far more time to try to pilfer the GC on the final day, she gave it her all but just missed out on the time bonuses, finishing 4th on the day.

Final GC:
1 Lisa Klein (Canyon-SRAM) GER 8'20'09
2 Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) NED +11"
3 Marlen Reusser (UCI World Cycling Centre) SUI +24"
4 Mieke Kröger (Team Virtu Cycling) GER +29"
5 Tanja Erath (Canyon-SRAM) GER +52"
6 Hannah Ludwig (Canyon-SRAM) GER +52"
7 Letizia Paternoster (Trek Factory Racing) ITA +1'06"
8 Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +1'10"
9 Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) LUX +1'22"
10 Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +1'24"

Elsewhere, the first provisional startlist for the Clásica San Sebastián has been published, and for a first year race it's pretty promising - Mitchelton-Scott and CCC-Liv clearly treating the race very seriously indeed, with van Vleuten, Spratt and Moolman-Pasio all going, all of whom are former winners at Emakumeen Bira of course. Perhaps most pleasingly, Sabrina Stultiens appears on the startlist - this would be her first race in almost an entire year after a heavy concussion; a healthy Stultiens is a real contender for a race like this, but we shouldn't expect too much of her just yet, if she even makes it to the start - I suspect this may be a bit like Rubén Plaza's comeback from his leg break or Adriano Malori's attempts to return after his horror crash, and we shall see whether she can compete or not just yet. WNT also have a very strong team of climbers, with of course Santesteban on home roads, Magnaldi fresh from the Giro top 10, and Ensing too, while Movistar are obviously here in strength, with Mavi García returning to action alongside Eider who has a point to prove after a disappointing Giro; Jaizkibel is the climb where she arrived, so to speak, however, so she will be keen to make amends on home roads. The other big star of the season to start is Soraya Paladin, who has had a phenomenal year for Alé - this is the kind of profile she likes too. Cogeas, well, you never know what to expect; they have teenage sometimes-phenom Maria Novolodskaya along with relics like Zabelinskaya and Pitel, while BTC have Hanna Nilsson, also hoping to recover from an anonymous Giro, and Eugenia Bujak, who the stronger climbers will need to make sure they drop early on the longer climbs as she's got a good finish after a hilly race. Smaller teams with some notable climbers also compete, with Cristina Martínez and Nicole d'Agostin of Bizkaia, Tatiana Guderzo, Tetyana Riabchenko (who so nearly won the queen stage in the 2017 Giro) and Jade Wiel arguably the most interesting. Well, unless Cauz rolls back the years or something, and I've pretty much given up all hope of that at this point.
That is insane...

The rebuilding of the Spanish women's cycling scene continues apace with more race organisers looking to capitalise on success of developing other races; with the first women's Clásica San Sebastián coming up at the weekend, we now have two further one-day races joining the calendar this week in neighbouring Navarra; Navarra and País Vasco are rather joined at the hip, with obviously much of Navarra having Basque heritage or claiming Basque identity, and with the two serving as one of the most significant cradles of Spanish cycling; Caja Rural and Movistar are both based in Navarra, and the Vuelta a Navarra is one of the most important amateur races in the country.

The dual identity of the Comunidad Foral is reflected in the two races' names: the first race, from Pamplona into the northwest of the province, is named Emakumeen Nafarroaka Klasikoa, and the second, from Pamplona to the south of the province, is named Clasica Femenina Navarra; i.e., the two races' names are direct translations of one another, and both are tough, with the Basque-Navarrese race being very mountainous, and the South Navarrese race being hilly and including some dirt roads. There's even some coverage, though the livestream is showing mainly interviews and post-race that I can see, I presume we'll be able to rewatch the whole thing once the live stream finishes.

Yes, that's right, a one-day race including the monster San Miguel de Áralar, which saw its Grand Tour debut in 2014, when Fabio Aru won atop its peak. Here it is used in a way I've always been partial to, leading to a descent finish in Lekunberri, which is a semi-frequent stage host in the Vuelta al País Vasco, and so I thought this would be a great way to have a non-Arrate climactic stage.

Anyway, with a mixed péloton with lots of riders resting after Il Giro and La Course, there was a startlist which varied between a handful of strong World Tour teams with major contenders, and the Spanish national péloton, which is perhaps why the race only clocked in at 108km.

Edit: here is the race footage. Great action on the climb with the likes of Eider Merino, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Lucy Kennedy and the WNT duo of Janneke Ensing and Ane Santesteban in combative mood. Moolman-Pasio proved strongest on the climb, perhaps not surprisingly given she is one of the pre-eminent climbers in the péloton and she loves racing in this part of the world; however she was caught by Lucy Kennedy on the descent, having just a 20 second lead over the summit; however, as the Australian mentioned in her interview, sprinting is not one of her strong suits (as we saw in the Giro, sorry Lucy!) and so Ash won the two-up sprint rather convincingly.

The trio behind comprised Janneke Ensing and the two Basque climbers, locked in a season-long battle for supremacy in the mountains, and this time, with the former speedskater's help, Ane Santesteban came out on top, as WNT played the numbers game to enable them to out-sprint Eider Merino, which seems rather overkill since being the size of Eider Merino and having the skillset of Eider Merino is usually handicap enough when it comes to unleashing a power sprint! Good race for Novolodskaya, I hope she gets out of the Cogeas mire because she's still a teenager and has some really impressive results, but that team's odds-and-sods feel and with its core of 40-year-old ex-dopers will prevent her from really developing.

Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa:
1 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA 3'20'36
2 Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +2"
3 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +1'23"
4 Janneke Ensing (WNT-Rotor) NED +1'23"
5 Eider Merino Cortazar (Movistar) ESP +1'25"
6 Yevgeniya Vysotska (Servetto-Piumate-Beltrami TSA) UKR +1'52"
7 Maria Novolodskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) RUS +2'58"
8 Tatiana Guderzo (BePink) ITA +2'58"
9 Margarita Victoria García Cañellas (Movistar) ESP +4'19"
10 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +4'19"
The flatter race was won by Sarah Roy from a group which held off a larger one by a few seconds. For the most part this was a bunch race, contested by mostly teams that didn't really want a bunch kick. And an incredible result for 20-year-old Portuguese Maria Martins, who's had a couple of good results on the Spanish domestic scene and one good stage in the Tour de Brétagne, but this is definitely her best result to date, riding for the tiny Basque Sopela team.

1 Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS 2'56'01
2 Maria Martins (Sopela) POR +st
3 Marta Lach (CCC-Liv) POL +st
4 Roxane Fournier (Movistar) FRA +st
5 Diana Carolina Peñuela Martínez (Alé-Cipollini) COL +st
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +st
7 Alicia González Blanco (Movistar) ESP +4"
8 Monique Tenniglo (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +6"
9 Agnieszka Skalniak (CCC-Liv) POL +8"
10 Maria Novolodskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) RUS +8"
Thank you for your full explanation. I knew if I came here you'd have a good explanation of these two races which Movistar (obviously) had their updates on (twitter).

If they do this correctly, maybe they could turn these three races (these two plus San Sebastian) into a Spanish version of Ardennes week?

Koronin said:
Thank you for your full explanation. I knew if I came here you'd have a good explanation of these two races which Movistar (obviously) had their updates on (twitter).

If they do this correctly, maybe they could turn these three races (these two plus San Sebastian) into a Spanish version of Ardennes week?
The profile of yesterday's race hardly fitted into an Ardennes style course - Anyway it's the female San Sebastien on Saturday - Of course it clashes with Ride London which is a mickey mouse race.
Re: Re:

yaco said:
Koronin said:
Thank you for your full explanation. I knew if I came here you'd have a good explanation of these two races which Movistar (obviously) had their updates on (twitter).

If they do this correctly, maybe they could turn these three races (these two plus San Sebastian) into a Spanish version of Ardennes week?
The profile of yesterday's race hardly fitted into an Ardennes style course - Anyway it's the female San Sebastien on Saturday - Of course it clashes with Ride London which is a mickey mouse race.

I was thinking more build this set of races up to make it a really nice set of 3 races than specifically that style of races. The women's San Sebastian course looks to be set up very well. I can easily see why many of the women would prefer to race it to Ride London.
I don't think San Sebastián and RideLondon really have any problem with one another, they're so disparate that they aren't going to be competing for startlists, and they can quite happily coexist even if San Sebastián takes off and becomes a major race.