The Women's Road Racing Thread 2021

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Yep, Anna doesn't have the same versatility to dominate across disciplines, and doesn't have the sprint that Vos had, but she's got rouleur power to burn, is better against the clock than Vos has ever been and is a great climber. And much like Vos at peak times, she also has a super-team around her. Others have rejuvenated and strengthened, but that long gap between the Kapelmuur and the Kanarienberg, as I suspected, neutralized that interesting earlier move, and led to a much larger group heading towards the final obstacles where the key selection was made.

And unlike the immediate post-Kapelmuur bunch, once the key selection was made, there was not the same even spread of the biggest teams; we were left with a familiar situation - several strong teams had one rider in the group, Boels-Dolmans had four, which had the inevitable consequence of them being the ones to enable somebody to get away. This time, as so often, it was van der Breggen who timed her move for the best chance to escape, and just as she did at Strade Bianche she used that power to quickly build a sizable advantage before the group behind could even contemplate putting together a cohesive chase - especially knowing they'd have three passengers, with Pieters, Blaak and Guarnier obviously not going to contribute. As a result, as has happened regularly over the last couple of years, Niewiadoma found that being the strongest on the climbs was not enough as in order to make that count she'd need to get away solo because unless she got into a two-up with van Vleuten or Moolman-Pasio (both of whom would easily beat her in a sprint) she'd not stand a chance against the Boels numbers. A number of key names were fairly nondescript - including the defending champion, who had seemed up for the fight earlier on but wasn't able to respond to the important attacks leaving van Dijk to fly the Sunweb flag.

And just as throughout the Ardennes with Deignan last season, Boels were able to convert to a 1-2 as became their trademark in 2016, since they'd had the benefit of a free ride behind Anna VDB, with Pieters outsprinting van Vleuten for 2nd. Jasińska's 6th place is a major result for the Movistar team as I can readily imagine they hadn't been anticipating too much from de Ronde with their mostly Spanish and climbing-based roster but the combative veteran Pole has had a good couple of weeks. Credit also to Kirsten Wild for making it over the obstacles to sprint out the minor placement behind the lead 10.

As ever, de Ronde is something of a Dutchfest, with 5 in the top 7 and six crossing the line before the first Belgian, Jolien d'Hoore in 12th. 2012 is the only edition of the race not to feature a single Dutch rider on the podium (Judith Arndt outsprinted Kristin Armstrong then, with the two veterans escaping, and Joëlle Numainville taking 3rd from the group behind) however this is somewhat surprisingly the first Dutch lockout of the podium. It's also the second Boels 1-2, after 2014 when van Dijk similarly soloed in ahead of an elite group from which Lizzie Armitstead took the 2nd place.
 
There's a really strong .1 race going on this week with the Energiewacht Tour, now known as the Healthy Ageing Tour, a notoriously tough power rouleuse race in the Netherlands. It's all around the provinces of Friesland and Groningen so we're going to see nothing but flat - literally the profiles have 5m as the highest point.

Stage 1: _____ (prologue)
Stage 2: _____
Stage 3a: _____
Stage 3b: _____ (TTT)
Stage 4: _____
Stage 5: _____

As ever, I'm a bit opposed to a TTT in any race, and especially where it's likely this could be the most decisive of all stages and potentially leave us with a GC where one team completely annihilates it a bit like the Tour of China back in the days of Rasmussen and Schumacher at Christina Watches, but it's only 17,5km in length and this race does have a pleasing tendency to create echelon action and prove far tougher than its meagre profiles would suggest - it was here that Ina-Yoko Teutenberg relayed her anecdote about her teammate who was an American climber (gee, I wonder who she might have been referring to?) who mocked races like this as easy because they were completely flat, but after several hours' racing of being battered all over the road by the wind, gave up in tears.

And especially this is possible because there's a really good lineup.

Boels have immediately settled into their conventional role by capitalising on Anna VDB's stellar form, winning the prologue with her, to keep her racing and happy with the defence of all three Ardennes classics to come. Chantal Blaak was just 2" behind, while Amy Pieters, Amalie Dideriksen and Christine Majerus also continue on from their Ronde team, though their youngest member, Skylar Schneider, steps in for Megan Guarnier. The biggest team threats will probably be Wiggle, who have placed Lisa Brennauer, excellent against the clock and tough as week old steak, in the top 3, as well as the queen of the echelon, Kirsten Wild, in the top 5. They've opted for a less experienced backup team though, with Yonamine heading Barbieri and the Garner sisters. Canyon have given Alice Barnes the lead along with Lisa Klein, who also did a good prologue and of course podiumed Gent-Wevelgem, but the backup is mostly made up of their least experienced riders, with the youthful Christa Riffel and Tanja Erath alongside the older Leah Thorvilson and the guiding veteran hand of Trixi Worrack to keep them all in line. Waowdeals are missing Vos but otherwise intact, with Rooijakkers, Markus and Koster to lead. There's also a good Hitec team with Susanne Andersen and Tatiana Guderzo, Virtu with Christina Siggaard plus a decent sprint option with Barbara Guarischi, and Parkhotel with the veteran Nathalie van Gogh, the controversial Hanna Solovey and the prospect Lorena Wiebes. There's also some decent talent in the national representations, with the Dutch team boasting Floortje Mackaij and Roxane Knetemann and the Danish one with Pernille Mathiesen.
 
Amy Pieters and Alice Barnes got away on stage 2 from an elite group, with Pieters able to play the younger Barnes sister given Boels had the race lead to defend, which enabled her to get the jump in the two-up sprint. The number of potential winners has shrunk to 28, with everybody else 8 minutes down at least, with those behind the leading duo split into two groups - one which came in at 35" with Anna VDB, Wild, Blaak, Klein, Koster, Boogaard, van Gogh, Majerus, Worrack, Brennauer and Korevaar, and one at 1'14" with both Markuses (Riejanne and Femke), Wiebes, van de Ree, Dideriksen, Mackaij, Frapporti, Knetemann, Stougje, Mathiesen, Adgeest, Schneider, Schmidt, Andersen and Guderzo. So yes, the whole Boels team made the selection.
 
Kirsten Wild won a sprint in stage 3a, the most basic of flat stages and just 66km in length, ahead of Christine Majerus and Lisa Klein, perhaps unsurprising as she's an outright sprinter whereas they have other specialisations but a strong sprint. Klein really is Brennauer Jr in terms of skillset. Only a few riders sprinting outright as behind Markus in 7th you have essentially the whole Boels team shepherding Pieters across the line.

They then did entirely as predicted and mercilessly crushed the TTT, which really has no business in a race like this and completely kills the GC as a meaningful competition as Boels now hold 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the GC with Wild, in 5th, at +1'42" and some 48" behind the fourth Boels rider. Virtu were the only team to get inside a minute, and really Boels were likely, given they'd come with what's in effect not far from a full strength lineup, submitting their whole Ronde team save for Schneider - the only one to be dropped in the TTT - in place of Guarnier who's a specialist for the climbs anyway, whereas none of the other teams are as top-down strong; Canyon, Wiggle, Parkhotel Valkenburg, WaowDeals and the Dutch national team were all within ten seconds or so of one another but just over a minute shy of the winners' times, so that should give you a better indicator of the general level in the race.

The orange missiles then underscored their dominance by forcing a number of selections in the fourth stage, which saw a lot of abandons from the smaller teams and the péloton shrunk to 76. That made controlling the race in the face of the Boels onslaught much more difficult, and the race broke up into groups in the difficult hard and fast racing, with the eventual selection of 13 putting a few minutes onto a similarly sized group behind and the others being over six minutes back by the finish. From that group, it all splintered late on, but as ever the marchers in orange were attentive and alert, controlling everything and being able to win the stage with the rainbow jersey of Chantal Blaak, outpipping Kirsten Wild at the end with Waowdeals' Monique van de Ree also getting up there, and Pieters ensuring she doesn't lose any time. Kröger, van der Breggen, Majerus, Guarischi, Klein, (Riejanne) Markus, Worrack, van Gogh and Moberg made up, at varying intervals, the rest of the selection, so are arguably at this stage the only other GC relevances, although even so it's hard to see Boels not sticking at least one of their lead four - Pieters, Anna VDB, Blaak and Majerus - in any selection that's made, and the opposition need at least a minute before they even need to feign concern.
 
Right, the Ardennes begin today, and we're guaranteed a brand new face on the podium of two of the three races, given that Lizzie Deignan is taking time out for starting a family, and with Liège-Bastogne-Liège having been a brand new race last year, and Amstel Gold being rebooted after fourteen years out, nobody who was on the podium in those earlier editions is racing today. With La Flèche Wallonne there's still the possibility of a podium made up of riders who've already been on the podium. It's difficult in some ways to shake the feeling that this trifecta of races is set up to be a repeat of last year's Kasia Niewiadoma vs. Boels-Dolmans duel, with Anna van der Breggen of course taking all three races last year, while Lizzie shadowed the remaining riders to nip ahead of Kasia for 2nd. Last year a few were able to stay with that lead group in Amstel Gold (remember, Annemiek van Vleuten was later credited with equal third at Amstel, so technically speaking I guess it wouldn't be a new podium face if the podium were to be made up of Anna, Kasia and Annemiek in any permutation), whereas in Flèche the three had a sizable advantage and in Liège Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was with them for a while before dropping away.

The following active riders have podiumed Flèche however, to give an idea of the threats:
- Trixi Worrack (3rd, 2006)
- Marianne Vos (1st, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2nd 2012)
- Marta Bastianelli (2nd, 2008)
- Linda Villumsen (3rd, 2012)
- Elisa Longo Borghini (2nd, 2013, 3rd, 2014)
- Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (3rd, 2013)
- Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (1st, 2014)
- Anna van der Breggen (1st, 2015, 2016, 2017)
- Annemiek van Vleuten (2nd, 2015)
- Megan Guarnier (3rd, 2015, 2016)
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma (3rd, 2017)

Obviously some of those can be discounted - Worrack is a long way from the point in her career of threatening on the Mur de Huy, Villumsen is no longer specialising all-round as she was back then, and Bastianelli's podium came in the wake of her Stuttgart rainbow jersey and while she was being heavily pressured to diet down to be competitive in the climbs, which caused eating disorders and her suspension, since her return she has reinvented herself as a completely different type of rider.

Many of these also made up the top 10s last year which goes to show you the primary contenders:

Amstel:
1 Anna van der Breggen
2 Lizzie Deignan +55"
3= Katarzyna Niewiadoma +55"
3= Annemiek van Vleuten +55"
5 Elisa Longo Borghini +55"
6 Coryn Rivera +1'02"
7 Amy Pieters +1'51"
8 Pauline Ferrand-Prévot +1'51"
9 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio +1'51"
10 Ellen van Dijk +1'51"

Flèche:
1 Anna van der Breggen
2 Lizzie Deignan +16"
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma +25"
4 Annemiek van Vleuten +43"
5 Shara Gillow +49"
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio +54"
7 Coryn Rivera +56"
8 Janneke Ensing +58"
9 Katrin Garfoot +1'00"
10 Flavia Oliveira +1'02"

Liège:
1 Anna van der Breggen
2 Lizzie Deignan +17"
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma +19"
4 Ellen van Dijk +31"
5 Annemiek van Vleuten +31"
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio +31"
7 Shara Gillow +31"
8 Olga Zabelinskaya +31"
9 Elisa Longo Borghini +34"
10 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig +41"

With no Lizzie to act as her sidekick, then, Anna will probably have to rely more heavily on Megan Guarnier to fulfil that role. Meg was returning from injury so not quite at her best during last year's Ardennes but her previous record with two podiums on the Mur de Huy show that she's more than capable of playing that role - and had they been healthy last year I would probably have backed her to be more helpful to Anna than Lizzie, to be quite honest, but Lizzie was on her best climbing form we've ever seen last season. The Boels sextet for Amstel Gold features a backup squad of Pieters, Blaak, Canuel, van den Bos and Guarnier, so they've still got good depth. Pieters is less likely to be as much assistance in the run-in in the Belgian races but she made it to a high placing in Amstel Gold and is able to get over a lot of that type of climb, but the more sustained Ardennes may be too hard for her. However there's also Karol-Ann Canuel who's been quiet thus far this season but has been a great climbing help in the last two years and able to make most selections. She was top 10 at Binda but that's her only notable result this year. And in previous years on a similar finish to this in the women's Boels Rentals Ladies Tour Chantal Blaak has managed some very strong finishes as well so, while she like Pieters may find the climbs of Flèche less to her liking, she could still contend here.

On her best performance in those stages, however, she came in five seconds behind arguably the biggest threat to the Boels hegemony, Kasia Niewiadoma. As doesn't really bear repeating by this stage, Kasia is a combative climber and since she will lose in a sprint against most real contenders (especially now Abbott and Lichtenberg are both retired, leaving only really Longo Borghini that she can feel confident in a two-up against) she will look to attack as soon as she has the legs. Her backup team includes two former podium riders here - PFP and Worrack. PFP hasn't been able to truly recapture her pre-injuries form, but she was still top 10 of an Ardennes race last year and, reunited with her old Rabo roommate, seems rejuvenated somewhat this season in terms of her riding, though it's still not clear how strong she is or can be. Amialiusik was top 3 in the Boels Rentals Tour stage to the Cauberg a couple of years ago and though she'll probably be a decoy attack with PFP and Kasia behind, she's still too dangerous to allow to go for that reason - though she prefers the bigger climbs later in the week. Ryan and Cecchini complete the team, the latter certainly can't be counted out of making some intriguing moves, though she hasn't been at her best thus far in 2018.

Mitchelton-Scott are built around Annemiek as you would expect, but with Garfoot not at the top level presently and racing over in the Commonwealth Games, their other major challenger from last year is no longer present. In her place, however, Lucy Kennedy might be of value, she's been top 10 of Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda and while the field may not have been the best, she won the Tour de l'Ardêche last year which shows she can obviously climb. As well as her, they also have Amanda Spratt whose class in this kind of race is well known.

Sunweb are nominally led by Rivera, who had two top 10s, one in Amstel and one in Flèche, last year. The CN article suggests van Dijk to be the bigger threat however, and based on 2018 that's hard to argue; Coryn hasn't shown the same strength so far this season as she began last year with, while van Dijk has been very good, though mainly in races that don't give a representative guide to the Ardennes. Leah Kirchmann is on good form, being on the podium in the Brabantse Pijl, but how effective that is as a guide for the later Ardennes races I don't know, it might be useful for the Cauberg though. Lucinda Brand can't stay this quiet for long though, and Ruth Winder has thus far been anonymous - after the team's last two north American imports, Kirchmann and Rivera, hit the ground running, I can't help but suspect it's a matter of time before she starts to accumulate the results though.

The small size of the Cervélo team means I can more or less rinse and repeat what I've said about them many times before - Ash will be the leader, she's a great climber and we all love her for it, Cille will be the main support rider and she's great too, if the racing is conservative they have Lotta Lepistö but I doubt she'll make it to the end here. Similarly Wiggle are fairly self-explanatory too - without the secondary genuine climbing threat for this kind of race like Johansson and Lichtenberg were in previous years, they're going to be all in on the Longo Borghini train. Brennauer can maybe survive Amstel if her Thüringen Rundfahrt performances are anything to go by but Flèche and Liège should be a step too far. Alé also have a wildcard with Janneke Ensing who went from strength to strength as she worked through last season, and the former speed skater is a great combative rider who won a Boels Rentals Tour stage in the Limburg area last season too.

Marianne Vos, that perennial threat, has submitted probably the strongest on-paper Waowdeals team for Amstel Gold, with decent climbing help from Pauliena Rooijakkers and Sabrina Stultiens. Quite a few talented but inconsistent riders on that team though, so it will depend how well protected those climbers can be on the flats, and how long those flat engines can withstand the hills to be of assistance. There's a good few notable threats in smaller teams too - I'm not sure this week will be best for Cylance, FDJ seem like the biggest outside threat thanks to Shara Gillow who managed some strong Ardennes showings last year, it's been a quiet year for the Aussie so far but she has a strong history in these types of race. Eugenia Bujak once won Plouay of course, so she can potentially survive Amstel if not the others, while Astana have Arlenis Sierra who had a great year last season, and Sofia Bertizzolo in the U23 jersey. Małgorzata Jasińska has had a good and visible early season for Movistar, while Aromitalia have Rasa Leleivyte, who always seems to step up in this kind of finish but not normally until later in the season. A real shame BePink aren't here as I would have liked to see Nosková.
 
Blaak, Ryan and Spratt have a minute and a half with 20km to go, little impetus in the chase as obviously the biggest teams all have a rider up there. Splintered remains of the break in between, Spratt was briefly distanced on the Cauberg but she's got back to Blaak and Ryan now. The first chase group is Brand, Cordon-Ragot and Riejanne Markus, with Lepistö and Bronzini unsurprisingly tailed off as they're the most obvious sprinters of that group. Brand seems to be doing the work to reunite the front trios, Boels are definitely putting their faith in Blaaki as they're stalling the group behind. Canyon seem relatively benign as well so they're putting a lot of faith in Ryan, who is a stronger sprinter than the other two in that group but almost certainly the weakest climber.

Not that it matters as Brand has now made it a front six so the dynamic changes. Brand is probably the strongest all-rounder but her form has been much weaker than Blaak's, Cordon-Ragot is the best rouleuse but not a dynamic climber or sprinter, and Markus is also a good sprinter but like Ryan will be at risk on the climbs. Spratt is a strong climber usually but was tailed off by Blaak and Ryan on the Cauberg here. Not a massive amount of cohesion though, and they've lost 20 seconds of their advantage quite quickly, so they'll need to reconvene and decide to work pretty soon or the impetus will be lost... oh, and then Bronzini and Lepistö might have to be considered too.

It really feels, though, like the van der Breggens, Niewiadomas, Moolman-Pasios and van Vleutens of this world are happy to settle for a quiet ride today and not burn too many matches with the more prestigious race to come mid-week and then Liège next weekend too. The gap is now holding at about 1'20" and a bit more cohesion has been found in the sextet, mainly with some of the less strong teams like Waowdeals and Wiggle happy to ensure a strong position here and go for it on the final climb of the Cauberg rather than take their chances from the péloton. You know, since we're all well aware that the Bemelerberg is a colossal crock of crap that had completely ruined the men's Amstel Gold since they started to bring in the 2012 Worlds course, until they switched the route around a bit.

Lepistö and Bronzini have a 16" deficit over the Bemelerberg. Cordon-Ragot is trying to stretch them out as they head back toward Valkenburg. Blaak is sitting in second wheel but not really going for it on her turns. For somebody who was dropped last time over the Cauberg Spratt is also taking quite a lot of the wind along with Audrey. Ryan, Markus and Brand are not contributing. Brand I feel to be dangerous, Ryan and Markus are durable sprinter types who you would not expect to contribute too much here as they need to conserve energy to survive the Cauberg, Brand is a stronger all-rounder. The gap to the bunch is now up to 1'45" so the break will take this, an interesting situation because no team has more than one rider up the road but every major team was happy with their chances from the representation, which is pretty rare. Blaak looks pretty relaxed in the rainbow jersey and she made the difference on the climb last time around, so suspect that Boels are going to reassert their position but they can't replicate last year's 1-2 at least. Lotta and Giorgia are still chasing hard but their chances of making the catch are next to nil, it's basically 2 and a half versus 2 with Cordon-Ragot/Spratt and partially Blaak vs. the two of them, but they'll need all their reserves on the final climb which they don't have after 20km of chasing. They're getting closer but probably at best will make contact in time to be dropped again on the climb when attacks start.

And they have literally just done that, a great descent from the two sprinters and they just start the Cauberg immediately behind the leading group of six! Markus now pulling, but Brand makes the first significant move as anticipated... Blaak marks it, Ryan and Spratt join the wheel. Lucinda is working hard but the rainbow jersey looks comfortable in pursuit. Spratt attacks, Markus is getting back on but now she and Ryan are finding it hard to follow the wheels. Brand again and the elastic snaps, the two sprinters are gone, and it's Brand, Blaak and Spratt at the head of the race! Spratt goes again, Blaak at the back, she's barely done any work at all as the other two have taken all the aggressive moves. Now Blaak rolls through as they reach the top of the climb where it shallows out, to keep up the impetus and prevent the fast finishers from chasing on. Final kilometre, but Markus and Ryan are only about 3 seconds behind... they could make it. Spratt takes up the lead to prevent that, but now Blaak won't roll through, how much can Spratt lead out? Ryan is fighting like an animal to make contact again.

Blaak opens up the sprint and comfortably takes it ahead of Brand, Spratt just holds on from the chasing duo. Cordon-Ragot takes 6th, Bronzini rolls in ahead of Lepistö. Looks like Eugenia Bujak won the sprint from the remains of the péloton ahead of Marianne Vos to round out the top 10. Definitely a BTC rider.

Now confirmed it was Bujak. Bertizzolo just outside the top 10 so she picks up another slew of points for the U23 competition.

1 Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) NED
2 Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) NED
3 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS
4 Riejanne Markus (Waowdeals) NED
5 Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) USA
6 Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle-High5) FRA
7 Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) ITA
8 Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) FIN
9 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) POL
10 Marianne Vos (Waowdeals) NED

You might have got some good odds before today on Waowdeals being the only team to put two riders in the top 10, and certainly I didn't expect the race to be quite as quiet as that, the heads of state seemed fairly soporific, suspect the fact Ryan went so well on the penultimate time on the Cauberg sealed the fate of the group as Canyon would probably have been the only team that would have been unsure about their women up front, Boels obviously have plenty of reason to trust Blaaki, Sunweb didn't necessarily have any better options than Brand, as Rivera's not been on form so if van Dijk radioed in that she wasn't feeling great, then this was perfect for them. Cervélo probably knew Lotta wouldn't win from there, but unless Ash felt she had great legs, they would probably not have won from behind, plus with Lepistö up the road, they'd have precious few engines to be able to expend because they'd need to preserve Cille as well. The big question mark would have been Canyon, since the rider they'd got in the move was not one of their climbing squad.
 
I just watched the last 25 kilometres of the women's race and it made me wonder about something: Why were so many teams satisfied with the situation in the end? Everybody knew that Blaak would win, but all the other teams who were represented in the front were doing nothing in the peloton, and the rest of the teams didn't think it was their responsibility either.

I heard an interview with Cecilie Uttrup afterwards, and she said that they didn't chase becayse Lepistö was up there. But it just seems incredibly tactically inept since she didn't have any chance whatsoever of podiuming. That was evident with 20 k's to go.

So why didn't anyone chase? In a men's race it wouldn't have happened that ways (but there are of course even more teams present which is also a factor here).

Edit: Okay, LS updated her post above after I wrote this, addressing just what I was wondering about.
 
Also, for some of those teams - Waowdeals, Cervélo, Cylance - it is in their interest to allow the break to go because they'd expect a good strong placement in the top 10 to be as best as they could do from the péloton, they then don't have to work behind, and why trade a likely top 10 for a possible top 10? Wiggle is slightly tougher as realistically the chances of Cordon-Ragot winning from there were slim as she's not got a sprint and though she's a functional climber she wouldn't expect to contest a climb like the Cauberg on an even keel with the likes of Spratt, but having been shorn of their secondary options for hilly races that they have had in previous years, they are very heavily reliant on Elisa Longo Borghini, who may not have fancied her chances against a completely fresh van der Breggen, Niewiadoma and Moolman-Pasio given she's had a few weeks out and a tough start to the season. I will say I'm surprised how inactive the péloton was on the Cauberg, I would have thought that a few placements might have been fought out for the WWT points, but then I guess Boels, Canyon and Sunweb aren't too fussed by them, whereas Bujak really looked like she was turning herself out to get 9th place which I think is BTC's best WT result this year. At the same time, for the Individual rankings you'd have thought the likes of Anna VDB, Elisa and Kasia might have fought out that final climb - I guess given the race was being left to the break, keeping your cards close to your chest for the Mur de Huy might be more important, considering Flèche is the most important race of Ardennes week for the women.

Blaaki will skip Flèche but she will ride Liège, as per her post-race interview.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
Also, for some of those teams - Waowdeals, Cervélo, Cylance - it is in their interest to allow the break to go because they'd expect a good strong placement in the top 10 to be as best as they could do from the péloton, they then don't have to work behind, and why trade a likely top 10 for a possible top 10? Wiggle is slightly tougher as realistically the chances of Cordon-Ragot winning from there were slim as she's not got a sprint and though she's a functional climber she wouldn't expect to contest a climb like the Cauberg on an even keel with the likes of Spratt, but having been shorn of their secondary options for hilly races that they have had in previous years, they are very heavily reliant on Elisa Longo Borghini, who may not have fancied her chances against a completely fresh van der Breggen, Niewiadoma and Moolman-Pasio given she's had a few weeks out and a tough start to the season. I will say I'm surprised how inactive the péloton was on the Cauberg, I would have thought that a few placements might have been fought out for the WWT points, but then I guess Boels, Canyon and Sunweb aren't too fussed by them, whereas Bujak really looked like she was turning herself out to get 9th place which I think is BTC's best WT result this year. At the same time, for the Individual rankings you'd have thought the likes of Anna VDB, Elisa and Kasia might have fought out that final climb - I guess given the race was being left to the break, keeping your cards close to your chest for the Mur de Huy might be more important, considering Flèche is the most important race of Ardennes week for the women.

Blaaki will skip Flèche but she will ride Liège, as per her post-race interview.
It didn't help her chances that she took it upon herself to solely lead the front group the final four kilometres before the final ascent of the Cauberg. Which there was absolutely no good reason to do, especially since the peloton wasn't chasing.

I don't want to sound condescending towards the women's racing and I really haven't watched much of it but it seemed that some of the decisions taken today were extremely odd. And there are taken stupid decisions in men's cycling too but I thought it was a little peculiar to see so many within 25 kms.
 
@CordonRagot 5h
Tdy I gave it all to make sure I get a result. I know some people think I raced stupid but believe me, this 6th place feels like a win after so many years working hard and never be reward or caught 1km to go like in Bergen.Thanks to my teammates to give me this opportunity <3
 
I had no problem with the way the Women's race unfolded - First we need to understand that women's races tend to be ridden at a stronger tempo, especially early in the race, hence breakaways given little rope - When do you see a breakaway get 8 or 10 or 12 minutes - As LS pointed out there was a group of circumstances that allowed the break to continue - Boels were confident that Blaak could win from that group, Sunweb were happy with Brand in the group, MS were happy for Spratt to get a podium, WAOW happy to get a rider in the top 10, while Cyclance and Cervelo Bigna had climber types in the next group who were unlikely to feature well in a sprint - I will also add that some women are STILL considerably stronger than others, especially when compared to the men's peleton, so controlling a race is a trickier exercise.
 
Re: Re:

tobydawq said:
I don't want to sound condescending towards the women's racing and I really haven't watched much of it but it seemed that some of the decisions taken today were extremely odd. And there are taken stupid decisions in men's cycling too but I thought it was a little peculiar to see so many within 25 kms.
DSs commonly refer to how rewarding it is to see the riders improve quickly from tactical coaching in the women's peloton precisely because until turning pro most of them have had little such coaching. Some, in fact, have had none.

They usually compare it to men's racing where as a junior you're already soaked in the details of reading a race - not that you don't still have a ton to learn - so DSs have a smaller effect on pros.

In particular, the prowomenscycling podcast had an episode a couple years ago or so that featured an interview with a fomer Wiggle director comparing his experiences between the men and women's pelotons in terms of coaching.

As a spectator, I feel it makes the races more interesting and unpredictable.
 
There's also the issue of fairly significant concentration of talent into a few superteams, which affects the way a race like yesterday's is run - while Cervélo and Cylance may not be confident of the chances of Lepistö and Bronzini from the group there is up the road, they would also have had to toast a lot of decent riders to gamble on the Cauberg. With Cervélo that's not a bad option as long as Moolman-Pasio feels good, but if she doesn't, she mightn't do better than the 8th place Lotta eventually got, as the Cauberg is not a sustained enough climb for her to drop a lot of the riders who could contest a sprint with her, and also she would be toasting a lot of her teammates to bring riders back only to then likely be outnumbered by the likes of Boels at the end, who could do the old 1-2-3. Cille was the only teammate she had in that group and they may not have wanted to toast her when they could take a bottom end top 10 and keep the climbing duo fresh for later in the week - those climbs are more suitable for Ash anyway, and Cervélo only have 9 riders contracted, so they don't have the same freedom to plug in substitutes and rest the stars that the biggest teams have, therefore a chance to bank a result without working the team's leader for the hilly races is ideal - just as they might choose not to chase a break if Ash or Cille get into one in one of the flat crit type races, to save Lotta. Cylance would really be gambling, because they'd have been reliant on Ratto at the end, and she's very inconsistent.

Also, you have that while teams like Boels, Canyon and Sunweb are always going to be up there in contention, for some teams like Waowdeals and Cylance, these points are vital in holding them in a high position in the World Tour standings, key for invites in coming seasons and funding, so while they know full well they aren't likely to best Blaak or Spratt in a sprint up the Cauberg, they don't want to trade a definite top 10 for a risky strategy of burning a lot of domestiques to chase people back, knowing that their domestique corps doesn't have the strength in depth of Boels and Canyon and risking isolating their leaders at the end. That's also why Eugenia Bujak was turning herself inside out to get that 9th place from the sprint of the péloton, because BTC are an established team but they're at the lower end of the WT - not too dissimilar to seeing a WT team like Groupama-FDJ or Lotto being more keen when scrapping for points behind a breakaway in a WT classic than a team like Sky or Quick Step.
 
Flèche is tomorrow, the most prestigious but least well-broadcast of the Ardennes triple.



Van der Breggen's run of triumphs in the Ardennes came to an end, but Boels-Dolmans' one didn't, and besides Anna's the triple-defending champion here on the Mur de Huy so she will be the one there to be shot at, after the big grimpeuses rather engaged in a cold war on Sunday at Amstel.

The super-steep nature of the finish renders a few of the riders who are happy enough to do Amstel less well-adapted to the strains of the Mur de Huy, so some of the less hill-adept riders who can get over the smaller côtes of Limburg skip the race. This includes a few of the key players from Sunday, with them having worked significantly harder at the weekend than the likely favourites for Flèche and in many cases not being the team's most likely option for this profile anyway. Chantal Blaak, for example, takes a planned rest and will be back on Sunday for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and likewise Amy Pieters, who is a super engine for flat to rolling races but for whom these climbs may be beyond her remit after a hectic and successful early season, skips the Arrow, in their places come Anna Plichta, who has been a good domestique in the national team and for WM3 in this type of race, and Skylar Schneider, who like van den Bos will likely be put to use to control the opening section of the race, before Anna, Meg and Karol-Ann Canuel are left to handle the business end of the race. Canyon keep all their climbers intact and Ryan gets another start, with Worrack being the one to rest and Lisa Klein, German national champion, stepping in in her place. Mitchelton-Scott have the problem of limited numbers on site; this means that there's no replacement for Lucy Kennedy, who crashed heavily in Amstel Gold and so is unable to start, so van der Breggen will have a more limited range of helpers and Spratt will have to go again after expending so much energy at the weekend; Jolien d'Hoore gets an unexpected run-out on the Mur de Huy too. Sunweb also are putting a few too many eggs in the Coryn Rivera basket, both Lucinda Brand and Leah Kirchmann are resting, with the very young Liane Lippert and Juliette Labous - 20 and 19 respectively - in their place. I find it hard to believe Ellen van Dijk is going to be plan A, as though she has some decent hilly results, the nature of the Mur de Huy is not ideal for her and she lacks explosivity in comparison to the more pure climbers. The other high profile withdrawals compared to Sunday are Marianne Vos, who has previously won this race several times of course, who backs down for Waowdeals to be replaced by Rotem Gafinovitz, and Giorgia Bronzini, who's probably achieved as much as she could have done this week with a top 10 in Amstel; Cylance will probably therefore be hoping one of Lauren Stephens, Kristabel Doebel-Hickok and Rossella Ratto can find some form for the rest of the week.

Elsewhere it's as you were - the race has broken up in the last couple of years to the elites on the first passage of the Mur and then the decisive moves have come on the Côte des Chevrères - last year Kasia Niewiadoma dropped everybody but the all important Boels duo, despite numerous attempts to shake them. Van der Breggen then took an advantage on the downhill with Lizzie shadowing Kasia, and then Anna got enough of a gap that she wasn't going to be caught, especially once Kasia had used up too much of her energy trying to get rid of the Boels duo earlier, and with Lizzie able to stay with her on the Mur it was academic since Lizzie would have got the jump on her even if she'd been able to bring van der Breggen back. And we all know that's easier said than done. No Lizzie this year but obviously Anna is the three time defending champion and therefore the obvious favourite; the other major contenders are - as you might expect - Niewiadoma, van Vleuten, Moolman-Pasio and Longo Borghini, the other elite climbing talents of the péloton, while Guarnier and Canuel give Boels strong backup options and other Plan B challengers will include Ferrand-Prévot (a former winner of course), Ludwig, Ensing, Rivera, Gillow, while it's interesting to spot veteran Brazilian grimpeuse Flavia Oliveira finding her way onto the startlist with Health Mate-CycleLive, and Tibco are on the startline too, having not been there in Limburg.
 
Do you know where - if anywhere - it might be possible to contact ASO to lobby for them to actually show F-W and L-B-L?
Made a comment on a FB post (the le Tour de France page) which - after the obligatory "Valverde gonna win" for the men's race - actually mentioned how we shouldn't forget the ladies' race... because apparently everybody can just go to Belgium...
 
Re:

RedheadDane said:
Do you know where - if anywhere - it might be possible to contact ASO to lobby for them to actually show F-W and L-B-L?
Made a comment on a FB post (the le Tour de France page) which - after the obligatory "Valverde gonna win" for the men's race - actually mentioned how we shouldn't forget the ladies' race... because apparently everybody can just go to Belgium...
At least the UCI's producing summary videos means the cameras actually get switched on, they just only produce highlight videos rather than doing any live broadcasting, heaven forfend we miss any of the action when the men are 120km from the line - after all we know how often the men's Flèche Wallonne descends into chaos with important moves early on. Aside from spamming their social media outposts, and fans have done that for some time, I'm just not sure what would have an impact on ASO. They're too busy patting themselves on the back for giving the women La Course, even though they just about killed off an eight-day stage race in France to make room for it, then tried to kill off a long-established seven-day stage race in another country entirely for their experimental version last year.
 
This sounds like a vomit-inducing circle of corporate buzzwords in the making... after the job he did at the UCI after talking a good game, I'm more than a little apprehensive of what this is going to entail. Especially with the whole Sky thing being up in the air, I'm wary of people being left in the lurch if Cookson's close association with that team and brand during his time as president becomes an obstacle and sponsors get cold feet like in Germany in the T-Mobile and then subsequently Gerolsteiner fallout, the Nürnberger/Skyter collapse or the third iteration of Liberty Seguros.
 

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