The Women's Road Racing Thread 2021

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Aug 18, 2017
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Libertine Seguros said:
Waowdeals not entering Vos
It would have been a bit difficult for Waowdeals to enter Vos as she is a month away from returning to racing after breaking her collarbone in LBL.......
 
Tour de Yorkshire starts tomorrow, full broadcasts on UK TV, which is a great sign, as well as the race improving to a two day race meaning rather than just being a rather bleh flat race like in the first couple of years, we get a two-day event including a stage which is likely for the sprinters, and a puncheur finish on the "Côte de Cow and Calf", because sucking up to ASO apparently gets you stuff, at the expense of taking one of the most distinctive forms of dialectal English and applying a liberal smattering of French cycling terminology to create an awkward disharmony that rolls off the tongue even less comfortably than "Ryder Hesjedal: Grand Tour winner".

Except you still can't get television coverage in the Ardennes. Yes, I'm still resentful of that.

Anyway, this does mean that while the sprinters can get likely a stage, they're less likely to play a role in the GC, with the final climb being 1,8km @ 8,2% on Friday, which is a bit out of their remit and more in line with the Ardennes finishes - easier than Huy, but harder than Ans. There's room for more of the domestic péloton than in the Women's Tour, since this isn't WWT, but I'd still expect the big winners to come from those biggest teams. Boels are without Lizzie Deignan who is of course the defending champion, but taking the year out to start a family; in her place Chantal Blaak will pin on the #1 in the rainbow jersey, amid a Boels lineup that appears to be concentrating more on the GC - Dideriksen is the only true engine for the flats, as Canuel and Guarnier will have the Ilkley Bank finish in mind, and Blaak is versatile enough to potentially make it up there too. Plichta will be a domestique for the hills primarily. Wiggle have Kirsten Wild as nominal leader, but Longo Borghini is the obvious GC candidate with a punchy finish on day 2. Yonamine is Elisa's only real helper as the rest of the team is about helping Kirsten get into position for the sprint - though on home roads they may give Katie Archibald some freedom. Sunweb have their youngest duo, Lippert and Labous, here for experience, with van Dijk the likely leader as she can potentially contest both stages, while Kirchmann can do likewise in a different way, and Floortje Mackaij is also something of a threat, but more in stage 1 than 2. Canyon likewise have multiple challengers, but rest the big leaders. Amialiusik is the best climber there, though Alexis Ryan has shown that she can last out some climbs - as a stage end against world class puncheurs may be a different question though, remembering the Cauberg, but she was good at Elsy Jacobs. It's probably a bit tough for the Barnes sisters with the finish being atop the climb, though they will be motivated - and Friday is Hannah's birthday. Cromwell can likely achieve a good placement if the leaders fail as she's very consistent too.

Hitec are led by Tatiana Guderzo; she has that Emilia win in her pocket but this is not as hard a climb as that so the team may be better suited hoping for Susanne Andersen in the sprint. FDJ by contrast will be all about Shara Gillow on the Cow & Calf. Alé are the last big team with multiple aspirations - they have the potential to be all over this race especially if stage 1 is raced hard, as with Marta Bastianelli they have one of the best sprinters in the field - and one of the most durable too - and with Janneke Ensing they have a legit contender for the win on a punchy climb too - plus with a few climbs en route, never rule out Janneke attacking anywhere and everywhere. And Lorena Wiebes starts for Parkhotel and could be a dark horse for a strong sprint placement too. Dani Rowe has the weekend off from Waowdeals duties so is likely to be active as leader of the British national team.
 
The Tour de Yorkshire did rather play out as anticipated, i.e. the first stage was controlled well and led to a sprint, and then the final stage came down to the final hillclimb on the Côte de Cow & Calf. The results alo reflected the teams' general makeup - Wiggle were best at controlling the flats and set up Kirsten Wild to win stage 1, but Longo Borghini was forced to gamble and try to escape on the penultimate climb owing to Boels' superior numbers when it came to taking control of the hills, which paid off of course with Guarnier escaping to victory on the final climb.

It was rather a tale of the two teams, the one, Boels-Dolmans, the seemingly-unstoppable juggernaut running roughshod over the women's cycling calendar, and the other, Wiggle-High5, a slightly but not too seriously wounded animal, with its two biggest stars in tow in an attempt to show that they aren't losing their spot among the superteams, with the rises of Sunweb and Canyon, and on their home roads as a UK-registered team too. Realistically I'd say now that Wiggle belong to that rank of teams along with Mitchelton-Scott and Alé-Cipollini, not quite as deep as Boels, Canyon or Sunweb but with perhaps a bit more depth than Waowdeals or Cervélo, and with a couple of established top result-scorers to lead; the sprint battle on stage 1 was a matter of the experienced stager, Kirsten Wild, using a combination of raw power and veteran smarts to get the better of the young campaigners, as she has almost 13 years over 3rd placed Alice Barnes of Canyon-SRAM, and nearly 14 years over 2nd placed Amalie Dideriksen. Hell, she even has sixteen and a half years' advantage over Lorena Wiebes, the teenage Parkhotel Valkenburg rider finishing 4th, and being something of a revelation - the decision to sign for the smaller team having paid off as she would likely have been somewhat lost in the shuffle had she gone to Waowdeals or Sunweb as was rumoured. Wild's nearest contemporary at the top was Marta Bastianelli, but after an excellent spring, her sense of pace and timing wasn't at her best yesterday.

Realistically though, none of the sprinters were going to contest the GC; even if somewhat versatile riders like Alice Barnes and Floortje Mackaij were up there. They were never going to be allowed to stay there, because Wiggle were not going to control everything all day until Kirsten Wild got dropped on the last climb, because, well, no offence meant to her but it was fairly obvious to all and sundry that a 2km puncheur finish is not going to be one that Wild will survive to contest against this field. As a result it was down to Elisa to try to take this one for the home team, her Italian champion's jersey proudly prominent as she tried to trim the group down. She managed to get rid of a few significant names and trimmed the group down to a mere 10 riders coming into the final climb, with the elite selection comprising the expected names of Longo Borghini, Guarnier, Amialiusik, Ensing and Gillow, but also some more surprising ones. Santesteban usually likes to target this time of year because of the Emakumeen Bira and is a decent enough climber, and BePink's Erica Magnaldi is another latecomer to the sport (this is her second pro year but she's already not far off 26) but had a couple of lower top 20s in the Ardennes, so this is within her reach, but it was definitely interesting to see the two young Sunweb prospects, Juliette Labous and Liane Lippert, both in the group after van Dijk and Kirchmann had been dropped, and Dani Rowe falls more into the former category but, motivated by the home roads, not only did she stay with the top 10 but she was among the strongest of them, eventually managing to come 3rd on the road, but judicious use of race smarts to pick up bonus seconds even when it seemed somewhat unlikely nudged her up to 2nd overall.

On the final climb, Ensing was already struggling, so there went my outsider pick straight away, her teammate Santesteban looked busy, but while there were a couple of feinted attacks, when a real, sustained attack came, it was from Megan Guarnier and it exploded the group. Alena Amialiusik, here acting as de facto leader of the climbing side of Canyon-SRAM, was the strongest of the chasers, pulling the 2016 WWT winner back once, but not a second time, with the former Giro champion showing the kind of strength on a punchy finish that she had back then, and that took her to the podium of La Flèche Wallonne and the Emakumeen Bira, and to victory in Strade Bianche and the Philadelphia one day race on the Manayunk Wall, opening up some clear daylight ahead of the Belarusian, who arrived at the finish followed by Rowe in short order. Magnaldi outsprinted Santesteban and Lippert behind, while the anticipated moves from Gillow and ELB never came; perhaps they've got more in the legs after leading their respective teams through the spring period, but they were not their usual selves when push came to shove. Ellen van Dijk was 'best of the rest' after being the last one dropped by the group of 10, ahead of Alexis Ryan and the Boels duo of Karol-Ann Canuel and Chantal Blaak, who did their job placing Meg where she needed to be, and trusted the birthday girl - Megan Guarnier is 33 today - to take it to the bank.

Final GC:
1 Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) USA 6'48'09
2 Danielle Rowe (Great Britain) GBR +17"
3 Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) BLR +19"
4 Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) GER +31"
5 Erica Magnaldi (BePink) ITA +33"
6 Ane Santesteban González (Alé-Cipollini) ESP +33"
7 Juliette Labous (Team Sunweb) FRA +36"
8 Shara Gillow (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) AUS +38"
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) ITA +39"
10 Janneke Ensing (Alé-Cipollini) NED +1'01"

How often do you see that - a GC of a race where a number of the world's best teams have rolled into town, and the best-placed Dutchwoman is only 10th?!
 
Team Netherlands was quick to regroup though, as today the Lotto Cycling Cup (Belgian series of .1-rated one-day events) was in action, in the Trofée Maarten Wynants, with several laps of a fairly flat circuit in Helchteren, close to Heusden-Zolder and Hasselt, so we knew that this was one for the rodadoras. Intriguing mix of teams, with the UCI Cycling Centre, some small Italian teams and the Thai team all rocking up against the Belgian teams and the 'lesser' Dutch teams, though a few of the bigger teams were in attendance - Waowdeals and Alé-Cipollini the biggest, and also Parkhotel Valkenburg and BTC City-Ljubljana. A lot of B-team riders in action if you like, resting some of the stars, and Waowdeals also gave a debut to a new signing, 19-year-old cyclocross convert Inge van der Heijden, I believe she's the sister of former U23 world cyclocross medallist and MTB specialist Michiel van der Heijden. It was perhaps inevitable that the race would end in a sprint, though, and youngsters be damned, because experience was what won the day, with well-established sprint star Marta Bastianelli taking the triumph with a powerful burst to finish ahead of Waowdeals' Monique van de Ree, who's been bouncing between elite teams and this sort of level throughout a ten year career. There was room on the podium for at least one youngster, however, with Lorena Wiebes of Parkhotel Valkenburg continuing her impressive adaptation to the senior levels, the 19-year-old having been quiet in the Tour de Yorkshire but back to prominence in the more comfortable sprinting confines of the Benelux.

There were a few other young names around there - Marjolein van 't Geloof in 6th is 22, Marta Cavalli 20 and Martina Fidanza, younger sister of Arianna, just 18 - but sometimes you can't beat a bit of experience. And sometimes, the difference between a strong regional calendar and the world's best can be seen. Here, both played into it, as Bastianelli is both the obvious standout name in this sprinting field and one of the smartest finishers around.

1 Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) ITA 2'48'48
2 Monique van de Ree (Waowdeals Pro Cycling) NED +st
3 Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental) NED +st
4 Pascale Jeuland (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) FRA +st
5 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) ITA +st
6 Marjolein van 't Geloof (Lotto-Soudal) NED +st
7 Thi That Nguyen (UCI World Cycling Centre) VIE +st
8 Marta Cavalli (Valcar-PBM) ITA +st
9 Martina Fidanza (Eurotarget Bianchi-Vitasana) ITA +st
10 Kaat Hannes (Jos Feron Lady Force) BEL +st

Meanwhile, Ellen van Dijk has published a bit about the prize money shared out in the women's bunch. It's quite illuminating - obviously the riders get their contract salaries etc., but the prize pot is a large part of how teams pick up funding, and Ellen has since clarified that these are the amounts that each rider gets once it's all been split up rather than the sum totals won, but as we all know cycling tradition sees the prize money won being shared among the participants.

Nieuwsblad: € 22,67
Hageland: € 41,12
Driedaagse De Panne: € 11,92
Gent-Wevelgem: € 21,62
Dwars door Vlaanderen: € 76,74
Tour de Yorkshire: approx. € 600

I mean, this obviously shows one of the reasons why the British races have been such a hit - strong crowds and a much stronger purse - I will say that also of course, Ellen's list there is incomplete - she has omitted a few of the larger races she's done (Strade Bianche, de Ronde, the Ardennes triple, Ronde van Drenthe) and has mostly picked up on the smaller Belgian races (though two of them are World Tour, they are also comparatively small World Tour races). Nevertheless it also includes two races - Omloop van het Hageland and Dwars door Vlaanderen - that van Dijk actually won. And sure, I know that Coryn was Sunweb's best finisher in 14th that day, but €11,92 for a World Tour race? It does rather highlight a certain flaw in that the UCI promoted a race straight to WWT level without any real warning or, given the parcours, any real reason to merit it - the WWT points and the value as a warmup race for de Ronde (which is debatable if it's 150km+ of pure flat racing) are really the only attraction that de Panne has at this stage.
 
On the plus side for Hitec, they've had a positive response to all of this; they have had to reduce their calendar which is a fairly predictaable outcome of this. I hope they'll be able to pull through as they've been a fixture of the sport for best part of a decade and helped bring through quite a few people.

In other bad news, Canyon's young German TT/sprint prospect Lisa Klein has been hit by a car while training. She's come out of it very luckily, with only a collarbone break. It does mean she's had to obviously withdraw from the upcoming World Tour races.

We have two World Tour races coming up this week, too, on either side of the Atlantic. Firstly, the Tour of California, which begins on Thursday and runs until Saturday, parallel with the men's race. The parcours is a bit limiting; there's only the middle stage, around South Lake Tahoe, which is the same as last year's queen stage which was won by Katie Hall ahead of Anna van der Breggen and Kristabel Doebel-Hickok, featuring a small punchy finish off the back of a 12km at 6% climb and descent, so that's where the race will be won and lost - especially so given that unlike last year there isn't a secondary stage with some level of importance as the first stage is essentially rolling with a likely sprint outcome, and the final stage is a borderline crit so unless bonus seconds come into it I can't imagine that will be particularly important to the GC, especially as it's a downtown crit so there isn't the possibility that there is in the first stage that exposed terrain could allow the weather to play a role.

Defending champion van der Breggen is not in attendance as Boels are skipping the race, though two of their riders - Megan Guarnier and Skylar Schneider - are among the US national selection for the event. Astana have yet to announce their squad so it's unclear if Arlenis Sierra - 3rd last year - will be in attendance, but Katie Hall obviously will, the 30-year-old is something of a specialist climber and she has been absolutely wrecking the American domestic scene - more than usual - this season, and this will be one of her season's goals. For the most part the bigger WT teams attending have sent their development cadres which might give Hall a chance to go one better this season, though a couple of the teams have got strong leaders - Sunweb have Coryn Rivera to lead the team, and Ruth Winder back in the US scene where she has been so great in the past, and Canyon most notably have Kasia Niewiadoma, who has to be considered among the favourites in a race which has a serious climbing stage and nowhere else to really gain time, but she may be hamstrung by the team mostly using their young and inexperienced riders (bar Worrack) to back her up, whereas UHC will be going all out for this one.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the Emakumeen Bira, women's País Vasco (the name literally means 'women's race' in Basque and was formerly a companion piece to the Euskal Bizikleta before the latter merged with the Vuelta al País Vasco), takes place with its first WWT edition, starting on Saturday, after its traditional precursor, the one-day Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (women's trophy), takes place on Thursday. This year's Emakumeen Bira is less angled towards the climbers than usual, surprisingly, with a 25km time trial - the kind of length we seldom see on the calendar as an ITT - in the middle of the race which will set up some riders to need to attack from distance in the closing stage which features both a climb and a descent of the classic cathedral of Basque cycling, the Urkiola, meaning that anybody who needs to gain time in the climbs will need to do it from distance.

The field is, as you might expect, pretty strong, as many of the smaller WWT teams do not want the expenditure of the travel to the US, especially those who've just returned from Asia after Chongming Island, so Bira being made WT is a bonus for them, while larger teams can afford to give their riders the choice, and it seems most of the biggest names have elected for northern Spain over northern California. Here, the defending champion is here, as Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is here to try to defend the title she won by grinding everyone to dust on the Jaizkibel last year, and Cervélo are going all out for it, relying as ever on Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig as her main sidekick, and Lotta Lepistö for the sprints (what options Euskadi gives for them - the fact Lotta can get over a good few obstacles obviously helps), but in Claire Rose and Ann-Sophie Duyck they also have some good contenders for the ITT. Returning for revenge after last year's embarrassment, Mitchelton-Scott gave away the lead of a race they'd been dominating on the final day last year by not committing to either van Vleuten or Garfoot until it was too late, with both of them, and Amanda Spratt, being in the mix throughout but unable to match Ash's acceleration on the final climb of the race. Garfoot may have moved on, but Annemiek and Amanda are both here looking for redemption, assisted with the return of Lucy Kennedy after crashing out of the Ardennes too.

The revelation of last year's edition, Eider Merino, returns for more also, now with the Movistar team. The young Basque (her brother Igor rides for Burgos-BH) was a standout performer climbing with van Vleuten last year but dropping away on the descent. With a bigger team led by Małgorzata Jasińska, she may have her work cut out to duplicate that now that she won't be afforded as much scope and in a stronger field. Alé-Cipollini also help with bigger-name local stars as Ane Santesteban will lead their team de facto, though Bastianelli is in attendance with sprints in mind and also Janneke Ensing is ordinarily a better shout for the upper echelons of the GC. The other revelation of last year, Nikola Nosková, returns with the lead of the BePink team - last year the team ended up using the money won by her stage positions to pay for her to fly back later to take her exams back in the Czech Republic...

The big problem for those revelations is, though, with the improvement in status to WWT, the Emakumeen Bira field has returned to where it was six or seven years ago when it was truly a focal stage race in pre-Giro training and all the big names wanted to be there. Boels-Dolmans have released Guarnier to go to California, but that only means one minor gap in the strength of the support team for Anna van der Breggen, since Canuel is no slouch at all, though the rest of the team is not set up for climbing so much with the likes of Dideriksen and van den Bos (though Jippy did once win the U23 category here). Wiggle-High5 look to be full strength, bar Wild who wouldn't expect to make many finishes here; Brennauer will handle sprinting as a result, and Longo Borghini is obviously here for GC. With PFP taking time out and Kasia in California, the GC aims here will be handled by Amialiusik for Canyon, after her strong showing in Yorkshire, while the Barnes sisters will handle the flatter stuff, Cecchini and Cromwell the hillier stuff.

For the others, Kristabel Doebel-Hickok was on the podium in California last year so has climbing capability and will lead Cylance's GC aims, maybe alongside Ratto, but Bronzini is the de facto team leader. The absence of Sheyla Gutiérrez is a shame. Rasa Leleivyte likes the punchy climbs, but not the TTing, so she may contend for a stage here, while previous decent GC performances here have been achieved by Hanna Solovey, Polona Batagelj, and Elise Maes for WNT is an OK climber too. Sabrina Stultiens for Waowdeals is a potential climbing threat, though it's a shame they don't have Pauliena Rooijakkers at their disposal as she finished top 10 last year. Alongside Batagelj, BTC City-Ljubljana have a pretty solid threat in Hanna Nilsson, she's a very decent climber indeed, and might be the biggest threat on a "smaller" WT team other than Shara Gillow, who often fulfils that role with FDJ. Although Zabelinskaya has been going well lately, the controversial veteran Russian hasn't been contesting races against the top stars however so her level against them is unknown. And there's always Francesca Cauz, but I'm not convinced we'll ever see her at the right level again.
 
Brief coverage of Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria

Consisting of several laps of a rolling circuit including the Alto de Miota (not really categorization-worthy by the standards of País Vasco) followed by two different sides of the Goiuria climb (a stop-off point between Iurreta (which has now been subsumed into the Durango urban sprawl, but gives its name to the Emakumeen Bira while the one-day race is based around its big brother) and Monte Oiz), this has long been the traditional lead-in to the Emakumeen Bira, with largely the same field, somewhat akin to the old Subida al Naranco when that was a standalone race separate from the Vuelta a Asturias.


Overall profile, mapped on cronoescalada by the marked twitter account


Final climb: a proper Basque bastard of a climb, with ramps of up to 17% and more inconsistent than Igor Antón

It was an all-Dutch affair at the front, with the select fight coming from a group of 9 riders, from which the Dutch trio of Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten and Sabrina Stultiens variously sprang. Gaps were fairly consistent with just under 30" between each, and from Stultiens back to the remainder of the heads of state - the sextet sprinting out fourth place led home by Elisa Longo Borghini - thus completing the trio that duked out all of last year's Giro's toughest moments, with Annemiek and Anna already across the line - a veritable miracle taking place as for Elisa to be the fastest finisher from a group is a strange feat, especially as Shara Gillow, who's a decent enough finisher, was also in the group. Pauliena Rooijakkers was in the group but not contributing seeing as she had Stultiens up the road, Hanna Nilsson continues to show good performance in climbing races, and there was home interest at the front with Ane Santesteban and Eider Merino.
 
Looks like the women’s TOC queen stage was good - at least judging by the riders coming in one by one in the couple of minutes that were shown. Katie Hall first, Taylor Wiles second, Niewiadoma third. Two of the three are unsurprising on a summit finish, but that’s quite a performance by Wiles. Hall will surely be on a bigger team soon unless UHC get back in the WT.
 
I was waiting for Katie to do this, it seemed inevitable from the way she was slaughtering the US domestic scene. The clash with Bira has hurt the field here a bit, and it does sometimes frustrate me the way the US domestic scene is quite insular, so we don't get to see the best of the North American riders competing in Europe that often unless they relocate like Kirchmann, Rivera and Guarnier have done, but I do understand it. However, simultaneously it's a shame that Katie Hall is now 31 years old and has been riding at a good level with UHC for a few years now, and has still not had the chance to compete in several of the world's biggest races; sure, she mainly contests stage races but there really isn't a body of work to say whether she can compete in the one-day events or not because we've so seldom seen her do so against fields of real class.

Wiles being up there is something of a surprise and a coup for Drops. Certainly as the only US WT race now this would have been a target for her but I didn't expect the queen stage to have been quite her cup of tea, but this will be hugely beneficial for the team. Niewiadoma seemingly like at the Ardennes a little below where she'd like to be but given this is between form cycles for her and there aren't too many of the regular big names to judge against it's hard to really say what this means for her. Either way it should be some good WWT points, similar to van der Breggen running out of form but being able to win the race on her race smarts. It may be that the US domestic riders target this race much more, it may be a form question, but she simply didn't have the firepower to answer Hall, and really, if she gets a financially viable offer Katie really needs to cross the pond this offseason; I know Mara managed to get away with only ghosting into Europe a couple of times a season to ride for the team that was contracting her, but Mara's an unusual case (and from a personality/team perspective not always the best example to follow) and she really has nothing left to prove in the domestic scene. From a sporting perspective it would be sad to see her continue to beat up on the domestic scene in Redlands, the Joe Martin Race and the Tour of the Gila, and not get the chance to compete in the Ardennes or the Giro Rosa now that she's an established rider.
 
Re:

yaco said:
UHC is looking for a new sponsor so WT could be an issue - Agree it was a surprising performance by Wiles - Can't remember her climbing so well.
I hadn’t heard that. It would be a real pity if they fold. Quite aside from dominating the US scene, they’ve been an excellent “nursery” for riders going to Europe.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
I was waiting for Katie to do this, it seemed inevitable from the way she was slaughtering the US domestic scene. The clash with Bira has hurt the field here a bit, and it does sometimes frustrate me the way the US domestic scene is quite insular, so we don't get to see the best of the North American riders competing in Europe that often unless they relocate like Kirchmann, Rivera and Guarnier have done, but I do understand it. However, simultaneously it's a shame that Katie Hall is now 31 years old and has been riding at a good level with UHC for a few years now, and has still not had the chance to compete in several of the world's biggest races; sure, she mainly contests stage races but there really isn't a body of work to say whether she can compete in the one-day events or not because we've so seldom seen her do so against fields of real class.

Wiles being up there is something of a surprise and a coup for Drops. Certainly as the only US WT race now this would have been a target for her but I didn't expect the queen stage to have been quite her cup of tea, but this will be hugely beneficial for the team. Niewiadoma seemingly like at the Ardennes a little below where she'd like to be but given this is between form cycles for her and there aren't too many of the regular big names to judge against it's hard to really say what this means for her. Either way it should be some good WWT points, similar to van der Breggen running out of form but being able to win the race on her race smarts. It may be that the US domestic riders target this race much more, it may be a form question, but she simply didn't have the firepower to answer Hall, and really, if she gets a financially viable offer Katie really needs to cross the pond this offseason; I know Mara managed to get away with only ghosting into Europe a couple of times a season to ride for the team that was contracting her, but Mara's an unusual case (and from a personality/team perspective not always the best example to follow) and she really has nothing left to prove in the domestic scene. From a sporting perspective it would be sad to see her continue to beat up on the domestic scene in Redlands, the Joe Martin Race and the Tour of the Gila, and not get the chance to compete in the Ardennes or the Giro Rosa now that she's an established rider.
Hall talks about some of this in a recent interview: http://www.velonews.com/2018/05/amgen-tour-of-california/future-hold-uhcs-katie-hall_466579

The financial part is an insight into the unfortunate realities of the women’s side of the sport. A male rider with Hall’s level would be very unlikely to have a spouse with the bigger income.
 
Absolutely, hence why it's very much from a sporting perspective that it's sad we don't get to see more of Hall racing in Europe - unfortunately from an economic perspective the harsh reality is that making that decision to come to Europe is a difficult one, which is why often the American riders don't do so until fairly late when they've got education completed and have become established enough talents to make it financially viable. Hence why Megan Guarnier is only one year younger than Tatiana Guderzo, but their peak years are over half a decade apart.

As it was, the third stage was a downtown crit in Sacramento of the kind we're used to the women being palmed off with, a bit of a lazy final stage but what can you do? Arlenis Sierra achieved her first UCI win of the season (she won the Pan-American RR a couple of weeks ago) and her first WWT win I believe, besting Alexis Ryan who couldn't quite manage to match Kendall's performance in stage one, with 20-year-old Emma White of Rally Cycling taking third, which with her 2nd place in stage 1 won her the points competition. The GC is therefore settled by stage 2 as we knew it would be, which means Hall gets her WWT stage race win that was denied her last year.

1 Katie Hall (UHC Pro Cycling) USA 7'51'11
2 Tayler Wiles (Trek-Drops) USA +29"
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +1'07
4 Erica Magnaldi (BePink) ITA +1'12
5 Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-SVB) AUS +1'16
6 Carolina Rodríguez (Astana) MEX +1'20
7 Sara Poidevin (Rally Cycling) CAN +1'43
8 Leah Thomas (UHC Pro Cycling) USA +2'24
9 Juliette Labous (Sunweb) FRA +2'28
10 Marcela Prieto (Swapit-Agricolo) MEX +2'31

Back in Europe, the Emakumeen Bira has got started with a fairly active stage around Legazpi. A fast pace early on prevented any breaks, before a bit of a skirmish among the big guns following the Aztiria climb led to Annemiek van Vleuten outsprinting Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio for bonus seconds and the duo kicking on a bit. Though they were caught, the placing of an intermediate sprint at Atagoiti, which is atop a small hill, led to a splintering of the bunch as the bonus seconds kicked off a scrap won by van der Breggen ahead of the defending champion, with Sabrina Stultiens mopping up the extras. After that, however, we were left with an elite quartet at the front, with those three and Annemiek joining up after the latter attacked on the descent, taking Sabrina with her most of the way, and then attacking off the front herself, and while she was caught, this activity raised the quartet's lead to a minute; this was as big as it got, however, as the splintered remains of the bunch were working well behind, with a group of 20 including a number with every onus to work - Elisa Longo Borghini, Alena Amialiusik, Janneke Ensing and two Movistar riders were in the group, which also included teammates of some of them - only Spratt, Ludwig, Rooijakkers and Rowe had reason to sandbag with riders up the road - yes, you read that right, the all-conquering orange armada of Boels-Dolmans could not get a second rider into the chase group to allow van der Breggen a bit of a respite at the front. As the gap reduced and the big guns looked at each other to see who would do what, Stultiens took her opportunity and snuck away with 5km to go, finishing solo with an advantage of 17". The remaining trio were caught right at the very end, with Lisa Brennauer for Wiggle and Giorgia Bronzini for Cylance, the best sprinters among those who'd survived to be part of the group of 20, coming around to deny van der Breggen any bonus seconds for her day's effort. The UCI's highlights package is here, while EITB's more detailed summary is here.
 
Van der Breggen may be the GC favourite, but Annemiek van Vleuten has some unfinished business with the Emakumeen Bira after losing on the final day last year, and with today being a long ITT, she also knew that this was the day she had to deliver, given that, you know, she's only the reigning World Champion in the discipline. Helpfully for her, she is made as we know primarily from titanium and awesomeness, so she hit the course hard and delivered a storming time of 34 minutes bang on for the 26km course, leaving the Boels rider trailing at a 14" deficit. She was the only one to get close - Lisa Brennauer continued her strong performance yesterday with another one today in the discipline she favours, but although she got another top 3 finish, this time she was 44" back from the winner and with less favourable terrain to come, she may find herself fighting to protect her GC position rather than pushing forward. Defending champion Ash Moolman-Pasio was next, the only other rider to stay within a minute of the world champion, and after yesterday's exertions the yellow jersey of Sabrina Stultiens shipped almost three minutes to fall far from major contention and indeed all the way down to 19th place in the GC. Aromitalia-Vaiano even lost two riders to the time limit, so storming was Annemiek's performance, while a couple of strong climbers like Nikola Nosková and Kristabel Doebel-Hickok both lost over five minutes. Santesteban losing four minutes and Merino 3'45" suggests the super-long by WWT standards ITT may be a one-and-done for the Emakumeen Bira, as the chances of Merino replicating last year's GC heroics are pretty much nil from here.

Others were more fortunate. Scraping into the top 10 of the ITT brings Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig into 5th in the GC, which will mean Cervélo have double the options, and while Elisa Longo Borghini would have hoped for more from today's performance, she still protects a top 10 position, though is only 3rd among her team, with Martina Ritter just ahead and Brennauer of course up in the mix. Spratt gives Orica another option (I'm not sure Georgia Williams or Gracie Elvin have the climbing nous that Amanda does for the last two stages) while Cecchini is Canyon's best-placed rider after outperforming Amialiusik today.
 
That TT route was unnerving. The riders are going down one lane while cars drive the opposite way on the other lane, with at times not even cones or a white line dividing it.

Also, that cringy moment on the podium with Van Vleuten hoisting the prizes and a fan yelling that nickname :lol:
 
Yes... the UCI's official video summary amusingly has an awkward silence at that point as they've muted that clip...

Weirdness afoot in the race today, with traditional Basque weather (ie: rain) meaning the race got a bit scrappy and we almost had a complete left-field wholesale change of the race situation à la Amstel Gold. The bunch stayed together until the first intermediate sprint, as the bigs wanted to contest it - Anna van der Breggen, who three years ago could barely have outsprinted Mara Abbott and Claudia Lichtenberg, is now a serious threat in these and picked up three seconds to narrow her gap to Annemiek, though her compatriot in the race lead did collect one second to limit her loss. With 44km remaining, a group of 10 escaped from the splintered remains of the bunch, with all of the big names behind it, but most of the big teams represented. The best placed in the group was Georgia Williams, who did an excellent ITT yesterday, so Mitchelton-Scott were happy to let it go since Williams would not contribute and Annemiek then did not have to expend any energy chasing; Boels had Amy Pieters, the best sprinter in the group, while the other team of the big guns here, Cervélo-Bigla, hesitated over leaving things to Clara Koppenburg up front, but Ludwig was not on a good day so they didn't want to isolate Ash and the group was allowed to go. The locals were represented by Movistar's Catalan rider Alicia González, and local heroine Ane Santesteban, for many years the biggest hope for home success here. The big guns were fairly soporific in their chase, but then so were the breakaway themselves when the second best placed rider in it, Pauliena Rooijakkers, hit for home alone with 35km remaining. The Dutchwoman is a pretty solid climber, who won on Mont Lozère in the Tour de l'Ardêche and was in the top 10 of this race last year, so she had decent pedigree, building a lead that at one point reached 50 seconds at the summit of the final, two-stepped climb, with the chasers then holding over three minutes back to the remainder of the péloton.

It couldn't hold, however, as what goes up must come down, and there is no MTF at the Emakumeen Bira this year, and what Pauliena gained in ascending she subsequently lost in descending on the way to Aretxabaleta; the eight remainder of the chasers (Rooijakkers' teammate Anouska Koster was dropped) reeled her in 4km from the line, after which their advantage seeped away as they played games coming to the line. By the time they got to the finish their advantage was just 2 minutes... was it enough for Georgia Williams to take an unexpected race lead off her teammate? The answer was no, but only because she rolled slowly across the line rather than contesting the sprint, she and Rooijakkers being credited with a 4 second time loss at the line as a result. In the end, however, the sprint was won rather predictably by Amy Pieters - the group tried to find a way to not have the best sprinter in the group come to the line with them, but all their efforts were for nought, although somewhat amazingly this is the very first victory at the Bira for the orange armada. The winner of the Ronde van Drenthe was able to outpace Emilia Fahlin and Clara Koppenburg to the line, who now takes centre stage with Cervélo to keep them up with Ash in the GC, with Cille dropping down to be the highest-profile casualty of the day, dropping a minute compared to Anna VDB/Annemiek/Moolman-Pasio/Brennauer (joined in that group behind by Shara Gillow and Sabrina Stultiens, so some decent company for the Dane there).

The current GC therefore now sees a Mitchelton-Scott 1-2 with van Vleuten a handful of seconds ahead of Williams, with van der Breggen looking to overturn a 12 second deficit tomorrow. Koppenburg is at +27" while Brennauer and Pieters are both +42" and Rooijakkers slots in just ahead of Moolman-Pasio, who has to try to repeat last year's final day heroics from a deficit of 53". With the holy Urkiola on the menu, 6km at 9% and a max 200m at 18%, this one is likely to be too tough for a few of those riders, especially those that went hard today, but also it will be interesting to see how Brennauer survives given the climb is some way from the finish - however there's also an ultra-technical descent of that same climb to finish, which has proven decisive in the past (albeit because of a colossal difference in the descending skills of the two great Emmas, Johansson and Pooley). One of the riders I wanted to keep an eye on for this stage, Nikola Nosková, climbed off today after being on horrible form, so that's a shame, but she's at least done better than Kseniya Tuhai did here last year off the back of her Giro top 10.

On the subject of young riders though, I do want to give a shout out to Maria Novolodskaya of the Cogeas-Mettler team. She's only 18, and she was one of the stronger riders in the break today, having been on the podium in Graciá-Orlová a couple of weeks ago. She's won or podiumed a few .NE races in Switzerland and France of late but the level there is hard to really use as a marker of capability against the best, whereas a decent performance here at the Emakumeen Bira - especially now that it's WWT and the field is a bit stronger - is a much bigger statement of intent.
 
So for the second year in a row, Annemiek van Vleuten lost the lead of the Emakumeen Bira on the final day... but unlike last year, this time Mitchelton-Scott got everything right and didn't throw away the win at the last opportunity. The difficult final stage including both sides of the legendary Urkiola climb as well as a loop around Krutxeta left ample opportunities for a last gasp effort and plenty of chances for attackers. And Mitchelton were able to commandeer the stage by using Amanda Spratt to call other teams' bluff; Spratt is a very capable climber in her own right and was top 10 of the Giro last year as well as winning a stage in this very race, and she was also better placed than the other major attackers, Elisa Longo Borghini and Olga Zabelinskaya, which also fell in to place for the Australian team. Annemiek thus abrogated any and all responsibility for the chase to the opposition, and with the climbs reducing her chasing bunch to less than 20, they were sitting pretty. This group itself then split into three roughly equal groups, as the combination of climbs and tricky descents - always a key feature in women's cycling - played havoc with the chasers. All of a sudden the only riders left with the race leader were Anna van der Breggen, Ane Santesteban, Sabrina Stultiens, Małgorzata Jasińska and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, with any respective helpers for the various teams represented (discounting Williams, who was in the middle of the three groups, but who obviously wouldn't have been contributing with Spratt heading the field, there was Merino, Rooijakkers and Koster in the second of the three groups and Koppenburg and Ensing in the last - plus also Maria Novolodskaya whose teammate Olga Z was up the road, trapped with Elisa between Spratt at the front of proceedings and the race leader's group). Mitchelton-Scott were happy to call the others' bluff and in the end it worked double for them; attempts to distance Annemiek were unsuccessful (the need to distance Annemiek was a key factor behind problems with cooperation in the group as they couldn't just think about Spratt - and all riders in the group other than van der Breggen would also find themselves needing to find a way to drop both of them, which is easier said than done at the best of times) AND Spratt's gap held all the way to the line, meaning she leapfrogged her teammate to the race victory, while Williams staying in the +3'30 group means that the former Green Edge took 3 of the top four places. It was a disastrous day for Canyon, however, with Cecchini and Amialiusik both below par and coming in at +7'41, joined by Lisa Brennauer for whom the Urkiola was unsurprisingly a bridge too far in the climbing perspective, though they weren't alone among strong climbers as well - Karol-Ann Canuel, Hanna Nilsson and Rossella Ratto all joined them - while I'm starting to think Cille might have been ill or had a crash or something as she was in the last group to survive the time cut; she may have been back there to help Lepistö, who didn't finish, but one would ordinarily expect Cille to be more likely put to work to help Ash than Lotta. She's a very strong climber, and did a good TT two days ago, so it's strange to see her rolling in with the autobus today.

Final stage result:
1 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS 3'19'25
2 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) ITA +1'16"
3 Olga Zabelinskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) RUS +1'16"
4 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL +2'12"
5 Ane Santesteban González (Alé-Cipollini) ESP +2'12"
6 Sabrina Stultiens (Waowdeals Pro Cycling) NED +2'12"
7 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA +2'12"
8 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +2'12"
9 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +2'12"
10 Anouska Koster (Waowdeals Pro Cycling) NED +2'40"

Final GC:
1 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS 9'50'26"
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +48"
3 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +59"
4 Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott) NZL +1'20"
5 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) ITA +1'27"
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) RSA +1'42"
7 Olga Zabelinskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) RUS +1'52"
8 Pauliena Rooijakkers (Waowdeals Pro Cycling) NED +2'07"
9 Clara Koppenburg (Cervélo-Bigla) GER +2'34"
10 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL 3'13"
 
It's been a good year for Spratt - She's got stronger each year which gave her the opportunity to successfully try a long-range attempt - Thought she was unlucky in LBL in that the only rider in the peleton who has the ability to bring her back on Saint Nicholas was AVV - Anyway it's been a good season for MS - Would have liked another win or two from D'Hoore and it's a pity the gifted climber Kennedy is injured, though she should be back for the Giro Rosa.
 
It's been a fairly busy weekend for the women's péloton, with races spread all over.

First up, there's the Bréton doublette, the Classique Morbihan and the GP Plumelec, which were on consecutive days on Friday and Saturday, drawing a decent field including Cervélo, Alé, FDJ and a host of decent second tier teams. The Classique was won from a small breakaway of five, with Janneke Ensing the highest profile rider to miss out that you might have assumed could make the move. When it came to the final uphill sprint, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio somewhat predictably proved the strongest, outclimbing consistent puncheuse Rasa Leleivyte and Movistar's Alicia González, one of the most rapidly improving of their developmental riders, just pipping Alice Maria Arzuffi and Eugénie Duval to the podium. From the pack behind, Ensing proved the strongest, ahead of Iakovenko and Eider Merino. In the GP Plumelec, it came to the final sprint up the Côte de Cadoudal, and once more nobody could stop one of the world's elite climbers in this field, so Moolman-Pasio doubled up, this time ahead of two other riders who were prominent in the Emakumeen Bira, Małgorzata Jasińska and Ane Santesteban, making this a fruitful weekend for Movistar. Iakovenko and Duval made 5th and 6th, thus confirming themselves as in great form, but there were also a couple of surprise youngsters in the top 10 - 21-year-old Colombian Paula Andrea Patiño made 4th place on one of her rare exploits in Europe, with her prior results suggesting climbing is, predictably, her thing, and squeezing into the top 10 behind two very well-proven climbers, Shara Gillow and Hanna Nilsson, was 19-year-old Frenchwoman Laura Asencio.

In the good ol' US of A, Winston-Salem was on, with the criterium being won by Samantha Schneider (sister of Boels' Skylar, who was also guesting alongside her) for the tiny ISCorp team, ahead of the far more established Arlenis Sierra and domestic scene veteran Erica Allar. A few other moonlighters here too, most notably notorious mercenary Flavia Oliveira, showing up for Fearless Femme Racing. Today's Winston-Salem Cycling Classic was more to her liking, less crit-like and more tricky, but not enough for her to make that final decisive move as the bunch splintered at the end on the climb. 23-year-old Hagens Bermans-Supermint rider Lily Williams emerged the surprise winner, pushing Sierra down to her second successive second place, with UHC's experienced Colombian Diana Carolina Peñuela, Rally's Kirsti Lay and Alison "Action" Jackson for TIBCO making up the first group, just ahead of the Brazilian mercenary.

Belgium hosted Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, a Classics-styled one-day race which swiftly became an exhibition as despite a strong field, the on-form Mitchelton-Scott team were able to obliterate the field when they successfully got both Sarah Roy and Gracie Elvin up the road; a disorganized chase which was also expertly disrupted by the Australian team, most notably by Georgia Williams, led to the two riding away to a colossal advantage - eventually riding in arm in arm six minutes up on the bunch, Roy taking the win by virtue of rolling in slightly in front of Gracie. The chase group of 5 contested the podium, and though she'd not had to work for obvious reasons, Williams was unable to lock out the podium for Mitchelton, with Elisa Balsamo of Valcar-PBM winning the sprint for 3rd, the bespectacled Italian 20-year-old has been having a good season to date, outmatching Williams and her other breakmates Sofie de Vuyst (the Belgian having had a long drive over from the Bréton races the previous days), Demi de Jong thanks to the help of teammate Maria Giulia Confalonieri.

Finally, having had to move out of its traditional July slot thanks to the enforced changes to accommodate ASO's follies, the International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen got underway today. A rare long-form stage race, this 7-stage race is long established on the calendar - it's the oldest extant stage race other than the Giro, predating Emakumeen Bira by a year. There are seven stages which run the gamut from flat to bumpy with a decent ITT in the middle, with each stage starting and finishing in the same place and saving on logistics as riders will generally stay in the same hotel throughout. There's a good field; Wiggle have the defending champion in Lisa Brennauer, accompanied mainly by their younger riders but with decent help from Emilia Fahlin; Sunweb have an almost full strength squad, with Brand, van Dijk, Rivera and Mackaij all in attendance. They look formidable. Canyon have their more rolling set of riders in attendance, with Alice Barnes but not elder sister Hannah, alongside Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell and home favourite Trixi Worrack. BTC have a strong team with Bujak, Batagelj and Pavlukhina all on hand, while FDJ have no Gillow but do lead the sprints with Roxane Fournier, and Movistar have a decent strength team led by Jasińska and Neylan. On the smaller teams and national representations there are a few decently well-known names such as Tayler Wiles (who has unfinished business here after losing a stage in heartbreaking fashion after being sent the wrong way and then being a few seconds down chasing the new lead group all the way to the line), Dutch durable sprinter/puncheuse Eva Buurman, British TT specialist Hayley Simmonds, Chongming Island winner Charlotte Becker, and others.

The first stage appears to have had a somewhat complex run-in which has allowed some small gaps to form, with Coryn Rivera finally getting belatedly off that zero wins hex following last year's successes, the American outsprinting Roxane Fournier to the win. Brennauer also picked up some bonus seconds for third but lost two on the road to the Sunweb rider, ahead of Cecchini and Buurman. Most of the other key names came in at +5", though Brand, Simmonds and Cromwell lost 12", while Alice Barnes had a terrible day losing 1'44" which suggests something went wrong for the Briton, maybe a crash or an ill-timed mechanical, as one would expect that she would not ordinarily lose time especially to several of those who stayed in the bunch, and U23 European RR/TT double champion Pernille Mathiesen lost over 2 minutes. Aafke Soet also abandoned, which may give some hint.
 
Follow up on what's been happening in Thüringen:

Stage 2 saw the bunch reduced in number to around 45 over some small climbs, but all the major protagonists made the selection save for Tiffany Cromwell who had teammates up front anyway. There was unfortunately a late crash which took out a number of riders, including Aude Biannic, a reasonable sprinter for Movistar, Liane Lippert, the young Sunweb prospect, and Grace Brown, the Australian in only her second race since moving to Wiggle-High 5 midseason following a successful Aussie domestic season. In the confusion, Elena Cecchini was able to take the stage ahead of the stronger sprinters like Rivera, Brennauer, Fournier and van Dijk (in that order), but with time bonuses Rivera was able to retain the leader's jersey.

Stage 3 was around the town of Schleiz, though strangely not on the old Schleizer Dreieck racing circuit that hosted the Friendship Games road race back in 1984 and was a regular DDR-Rundfahrt stop-off point. It was very much a rolling stage with a finish that was undoubtedly a sprint but slightly uphill so as to mean that quite a few minor time gaps opened. The sprint was won again by Coryn Rivera, but only ten riders escaped without a time gap - behind Rivera, there ws Brennauer, Fournier, Eva Buurman (who's had a very good race here for Drops), van Dijk, Jasińska, Bujak, Mackaij, Wilkoś and Brand. Cecchini, Lippert, Worrack and Wiles lost 3", Fahlin 11", and everyone outside the top 50 was at least 8 minutes down thanks to the mid-stage significant climbs before the rolling finale.

The traditional Rund um Gera was stage 4, which usually results in an Olaf Ludwig sighting. This was a stage which consisted of a large loop, with the now-traditional trip over the Land border into Sachsen for a mid-stage climb of the Steiler Wand von Meerane, albeit in a much less decisive role than you might otherwise expect from the legendary cobbled berg this year, before a hilly final circuit around Gera, though not as hilly as the depart, which featured two notable climbs in the first 20km. This time the group that settled things numbered slightly less than 50, as the same kind of names cropped up again and again, with a few being tailed off by that final climb on the closing circuit, but the parcours proving a bit more repetitious than normal, and the péloton more adept at chasing those breakaways than they have been in previous years here (will always remember Gracie Elvin's solo escapade in Meerane, and her dying a thousand deaths as she zig-zagged her way up the final 350m wall to victory, or Tayler Wiles being sent the wrong way when leading solo, and being sent back onto the course, only to find herself a few seconds behind the new leaders, chasing them all the way to the line helplessly). This time, however, it was the home favourite and defending champion, Lisa Brennauer, who took the sprint, ahead of van Dijk (who was 3rd in 2016 and 2nd in 2017 so is looking to continue that upward trend) and 2016 winner Elena Cecchini. Truly, this gives you an idea of who likes the Thüringen Rundfahrt! The more versatile sprinters made up the remaining placements - Bujak, Rivera, Fournier, Buurman the next across the line in that order, and while Coryn's 2018 has shown signs of 'difficult second album syndrome' so far, she's certainly getting closer to where she would want to be at this stage. A lot will hinge on that final ITT, however, where you would expect her to be tailed away by the likes of van Dijk and Brennauer.

The fifth stage was the most decisive yet, a circuit race including the Dörtendorfer Berg, affectionately dubbed the Hankaberg after local heroine Hanka Kupfernagel. The climb is not the trickiest puncheur finish in the world, but several times up it can have an effect, and indeed it did as on the final ascent we saw the race splinter and serious time gaps be presented for the first time. Rozanne Slik took the victory, which perennial women's cycling info source Peter van den Veen suggests is the very first win for the Vienne-Futuroscope team since FDJ took over as title sponsor (other than national titles), which seems almost improbable for a team which has the likes of Shara Gillow and Roxane Fournier in it. Looking into it it seems to be correct at the UCI level, as Gillow won some domestic races last year at the pro-am level, but for UCI categorised races while they had a couple of podiums (Gillow in Emakumeen Saria and GP Plumelec, Fournier in Madrid) no wins to date. That could be a trivia question in future years - who won FDJ's first UCI race: Rozanne Slik. Anyway, only Ellen van Dijk (unsurprisingly, given her strong Ardennes results) and Małgorzata Jasińska (again unsurprisingly, given she's one of the strongest climbers in the field here) got away without a time gap, while Lisa Brennauer and Lucinda Brand lost just 2" at the line, which meant that with her bonuses for the stage win on stage 3, Brennauer is able to take the race lead over Ellen, since Rivera lost over 30 seconds on the climb. Bujak and Buurman continue to race strongly, coming in at +5" (the latter has proven surprisingly adept at punchy sprints this season, I think she's moving into the kind of territory that Leleivyte fills, and could probably get a contract at a bigger team next season off the back of this [edit: possibly not though, it depends if a bigger team would want her to give up her off-season speed-skating exploits]), Cecchini at +13", and Mackaij a further ten seconds back. It sets up an interesting final weekend, with the Gotha stage including a circuit including a decent hill and a cobbled drag in the finale, but the large first loop including a genuine mountain, easily the biggest single obstacle of the race, and then the 18,7km ITT that will finish the race on Sunday.
 
A dramatic final weekend in Thüringen. In the Saturday stage around Gotha, the large climb in the first half of the stage heavily reduced the field and, whereas in previous days the sprinting field had been circa 50, on this day fewer than 30 remained in the péloton at the end of the day. There were a few splintered groups all over the road but the majority of the remainder lost over 20 minutes, with their GC bids over and wanting to save energy for the final day time trial. Having had a fairly quiet race, Canyon-SRAM's Alice Barnes managed to sneak away with 6km remaining, and with a less than organised chase she was able to hang on on the slightly uphill cobbled finale in the city centre, with just a 3" advantage over the first group of chasers, from which her teammate Elena Cecchini, having rested up for the whole run-in with Alice up the road, sprung to take 2nd. A 1-2 for Canyon is not bad for a team which only had two representatives in the group! Lisa Brennauer took some potentially vital bonus seconds by taking third, ahead of Buurman and van Dijk. The next group, with Slik, Bujak and Brand, lost a few seconds, and Jasinska, Rivera, Lippert and Mackaij lost a couple more as well as the slightly uphill nature of the finish opened some small gaps in the sprint field.

All this set us up for a dramatic final ITT, with a likely head to head between Brennauer and van Dijk, two excellent time triallists, split by less than ten seconds on the GC. The early time to beat was set by Trixi Worrack, after a disappointingly uncompetitive time by Hayley Simmonds, the other genuine TT specialist threat in the early starters. The veteran German's time was quite significantly faster than anybody for a long time, even once some of the TT riders who were in a slightly better GC position came in. Pernille Mathiesen, Tayler Wiles and Martina Ritter all only just got within a minute, while Liane Lippert managed to set a strong time once the higher GC riders started to finish, but even so only in the same kind of ballpark (this time also wrapped up the U23 classification for the German).

Lucinda Brand was the first to beat Trixi, setting a rocket time of 26'42. She may have been unfancied against such decorated time trial opposition for the GC, but she was going to make them work for it. Some of the riders who've been central to the race stood to lose big time given the limited time gain options and their TT deficits - Buurman was over 2 minutes down, Slik two and a half, Richioud three. Even fairly established riders like Małgorzata Jasińska were losing the best part of 2 minutes, which shows you how good the time from Brand was. Coryn Rivera, however, set a very strong time, only around 40 seconds off Brand, setting up a strong finish to the race for the American, but she couldn't compete, naturally, with Ellen van Dijk, who left everything on the course, but showed just how good Lucinda Brand was today when she crossed the line, just 4 seconds ahead of her compatriot. All eyes then turned to Brennauer - the defending champion only had 7 seconds to play with against Ellen, she was on similar pace, could she go back to back?

The answer was a resounding yes, as though she couldn't dethrone her rival's time for the stage win, she neatly bisected the two Dutchwomen, coming in 2" behind van Dijk and 2" ahead of Brand, meaning that the same 1-2 as last year would be the final GC, Brennauer ahead of van Dijk - they may have a new slot in the calendar but the outcomes still have strong similarity! A couple of interesting statistics have come out in light of this - Lisa is only the second rider to go back to back in the Thüringen Rundfahrt - after Judith Arndt in 2007 and 2008. A Dutchwoman has only won the race once, and that was all the way back in 1989 when Vanessa van Dijk took home the trophy when it was still held in the DDR! Brennauer has been a picture of consistency here, finishing in the top 4 in every single stage, crucially including the time trial which is so decisive in this final stage position, whereas in previous years it has been mid-race setting up more aggressive final stages (as Eva Buurman can attest, six top 7 performances back to back but a lack of chrono skills means she drops out of the GC top 10 on the final day). It's a great result for Wiggle too, as obviously this is what Lisa has been brought in to do, the team crucially needing a secondary leader to keep pressure off ELB, and seeing as with Brennauer and Wild being the main other 'name' riders now, Elisa is going to be on her own in the mountains a lot, so the rouleuses need to be picking up the results in the less mountainous races to counterbalance that. And Sunweb threw absolutely everything at her, seeing as they eventually stuck almost their whole team in the top 10.

The final GC of the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen therefore looks like this:

1 Lisa Brennauer (Wiggle-High 5) GER
2 Eleonora van Dijk (Team Sunweb) NED +5"
3 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +38"
4 Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) USA +1'05"
5 Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) ITA +1'33"
6 Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) GER +2'07"
7 Eugenia Bujak (BTC City-Ljubljana) POL +2'11"
8 Małgorzata Jasińska (Movistar) POL +2'26"
9 Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) NED +2'30"
10 Tayler Wiles (Trek-Drops) USA +2'40"
 

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