The Women's Road Racing Thread 2021

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@RedheadDane, now we can also add children to the list of potential Uno-X signings!

Great news that Uno-X not only wishes to honour Barker's full contract (even though she won't be racing for them for at least most of the 2022 season), but also that they were aware of her pregnancy when she signed for them, after she found about it herself during the Olympics. It probably helped her that Folsach already works with the team, but still something like this sadly isn't a certainty in this sport.

View: https://twitter.com/UnoXteam/status/1445416880362172420
 
Hannah Barnes to UNO-X. 'Looking forward to working with the younger riders' - I've been following her career for nearly 10 years... man I feel old.
You're not old, you've just gained 10 years of valuable experience :D

Veronica Ewers has set the fastest time so far (24:39), but Van den Broek-Blaak is up by two seconds at the intermediate.
Lowden should also have passed the intermediate by now, but I haven't seen the time. Meanwhile Alice Barnes sets the new benchmark with 24:26.

Edit: Lowden was three seconds faster than VvBB, and 12 seconds faster than Barnes at 8 km. But Kirchman has now gone past four seconds faster than that.
 
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why wasn't she doing the tt at the worlds?
She was 6th in the nationals (32km) and 6th in the Simac Ladies Tour ITT (17km) but is otherwise largely untested against the clock - you can't really count the MTTs at the Giro as representative and she's previously finished around the 20th mark in TTs, though her results back with Swaboladies aren't really a realistic marker. If she was of a different nationality, she may well have done it, but the Dutch would always be second guessing themselves.

Besides, you get to this stage of the season and recovery becomes a bigger factor, like, who has how much left in the tank. Demi clearly wants this one, she's been on the move and showcasing the strength she has in reserve each day thus far and has obliterated the ITT to build up a GC lead that realistically should be insurmountable unless SD Worx make a mess of things - she has a strong team at her disposal, has been the strongest rider in the race thus far, and the terrain remaining doesn't really offer a great deal of opportunity to make a difference unless the weather plays ball - certainly a possibility in Britain at this time of year, however - although, you know, Demi is also a fairly elite climber, as we saw in Burgos and the Giro, and is of course absolutely elite in puncheuse terrain, so attacking on those obstacles might be something of a fool's errand, so maybe it is for the best for the opposition that the upcoming terrain is flatter and at the mercy of the elements?
 
She was 6th in the nationals (32km) and 6th in the Simac Ladies Tour ITT (17km) but is otherwise largely untested against the clock - you can't really count the MTTs at the Giro as representative and she's previously finished around the 20th mark in TTs, though her results back with Swaboladies aren't really a realistic marker. If she was of a different nationality, she may well have done it, but the Dutch would always be second guessing themselves.

Besides, you get to this stage of the season and recovery becomes a bigger factor, like, who has how much left in the tank. Demi clearly wants this one, she's been on the move and showcasing the strength she has in reserve each day thus far and has obliterated the ITT to build up a GC lead that realistically should be insurmountable unless SD Worx make a mess of things - she has a strong team at her disposal, has been the strongest rider in the race thus far, and the terrain remaining doesn't really offer a great deal of opportunity to make a difference unless the weather plays ball - certainly a possibility in Britain at this time of year, however - although, you know, Demi is also a fairly elite climber, as we saw in Burgos and the Giro, and is of course absolutely elite in puncheuse terrain, so attacking on those obstacles might be something of a fool's errand, so maybe it is for the best for the opposition that the upcoming terrain is flatter and at the mercy of the elements?
It probably also helped that the Specialized TT bikes are pretty good, but this is definitely a new level for her.
She will be tough to beat in a lot of races next year, if she can cope with the pressure.
 
Oct 7, 2021
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What a difference a pandemic makes. It seems last time we saw it, the Women's Tour was going from strength to strength, with the 2019 edition having been a strong race, with it extending by a day for the first time, adding in its first hill top finish, and throwing in the hardest stage the race had had to date with a tough Welsh stage including some climbing that, if not anything that might make it comparable to a Giro or an Emakumeen Bira, was at least long enough to really give everybody a chance. It had arrived in the calendar with huge crowds and strong support, with the support for the race and the quality organisation, prize money and accommodation making it a well-deserved hit with the teams and riders, and the hour-long highlights package light years ahead of what most races were providing at the time. The race's in-competition aspect at the time left a bit to be desired with uninspiring parcours, however, and lagged behind the organisation, with the first few editions settled on bonus seconds alone and unable to deliver the level of spectacle that the race's hype train would have you believe.

Over time, the parcours has ebbed and flowed. The race, while always well-planned from an organisational standpoint, has struggled to provide a point of differentiation to those not in the péloton, where the point of differentiation was the respect with which they were treated and the size of the crowds. On the bike, it's only been in two editions - 2016 and 2019 - that we've really seen a break from the time bonuses being decisive - 2018 for me being particularly disappointing because the preceding two editions had been steps in the right direction, but in 2018 Coryn Rivera managed to win both the intermediate sprints classification and the GC, all without leaving the confines of the péloton. I appreciate - in many ways even support - the desire to honour and return to those areas of the country that helped establish the race, but even taking into account the relatively flat terrain in Eastern and Central England, they are skipping past a lot of the potentially more interesting terrain in the area and always have done. For example, 2019's race had a stage finish in Stowmarket, and did you know there's a climb of 800m at 6% just outside the town that, while not likely to disturb the sprinters, could have added some intrigue and a platform to attack from? Don't worry, neither did the organisers.

Obviously, 2020 changed everything and the Britons were somewhat slow to react when the pandemic began, meaning the chances of opening up enough to hold the race in 2020 were pretty much eliminated, and title sponsors Ovo Energy left the fold as well. The organisers, SweetSpot, decided early on not to bother trying to throw something together in the rapidly congested 2020 season that began later on, feeling they couldn't do their event justice (and depending on when they lost the title sponsor on the way, that may have played a role too). They were far from alone in this and I do not blame them for it. However, I do resent that the punishment meted out to the Giro Donne for failing to provide live coverage in 2020 could so easily have been avoided had they, like the Women's Tour, simply not bothered to run it and kicked the can down the road. The 2020 Giro Donne was thrown together on short notice and it clearly showed, with the race having to be rapidly amended on the fly and changes to the course happening even while the riders were already on the road, but they managed to put on an event and they probably regretted it, seeing as they got their WWT status revoked due to the issues they'd faced.

Now, the Giro Donne's organisation leaves a lot to be desired, and it has done for a long time. That I cannot dispute. However, the Women's Tour - which has always had very professional and slick TV production, but has crucially never had any live coverage - was frequently used as the counterpart to the Giro, and as something that it should aspire to. It does seem - and it is something I am ambivalent about - that the era of the privateer organiser in women's cycling is coming to an end. I'm ambivalent about that because those underfunded volunteer organisations have been the lifeblood of the sport for many years, keeping it alive while the big event organisers had no interest, and I feel a sense of regret that they're being chewed up and spat out by the likes of ASO, who've spent so many years trying their hardest to do as little as possible for women's cycling; but at the same time the more races that take place with top level organisation, with better coverage and better prize money, the stronger the level of professionalism in the women's bunch and the less need there is for the privateer group that cannot secure significant prize money or sponsorships, not through lack of willing but through lack of resource.

However, a lot has changed in the two and a half years since the Women's Tour was last run. The UCI have made live coverage compulsory, and even ASO have acquiesced. Paris-Roubaix has been added, there is talk of a women's Lombardia (long overdue, and for all the criticism ASO take for their token efforts, RCS do even less) and we finally have live coverage at events like La Flèche Wallonne. We've had an Olympics which has given us some major headlines and put women's cycling, albeit briefly and not necessarily for the right reasons, at the forefront of international sports news. We've had a Women's Tour de France announced, and we've had races like the Vuelta Challenge turned from one of those old pseudo-crits into a mountainous stage race, even if only in the short term. And in that time, in Britain, things have stagnated. And now, far from being the ones setting the pace, they're the ones struggling to keep up.

Now, obviously, the change in the calendar to October has not helped. Rather than being a focal point of the season, taking place in May or June, the race is taking place as something of a coda at the end of the season, and with all other conceivable season's targets now passed, it feels like something of an afterthought. That coverage that had been groundbreaking is now decidedly passe, and although some people are unwilling to call them out (Jose Been, for example, has pleaded for understanding with the race, although the fact the Women's Tour gave her one of her first major TV breakthroughs might predispose her to a more sympathetic outlook of course) there have also been a lot of voices calling for the WWT status to be revoked, since the precedent has now been set. Starting just one day's rest after the first ever women's Paris-Roubaix means hardly anybody has been talking about the Women's Tour, and it feels very much like an afterthought after an epic day's racing in the rain and the mud on Saturday. An insipid parcours that has a lot more in common with the early bonus second fiesta editions than the stronger editions in 2016 and 2019 does not help (a certain irony in that those two editions were the ones won by the home star, Lizzie Deignan, so you would have thought that the combination of better quality racing and a marketable winner in the race's home market would have inspired them to follow that formula, but the reverse seems to have been the case) with its only defining feature being a long ITT which, with no hilly stages to counterbalance it, threatens to completely imbalance the GC. This combination has really hurt the star power this year too, with no Jumbo-Visma or Ceratizit, and a huge number of the biggest names still active missing - and not just those that the route doesn't suit, like Niewiadoma or Uttrup, but those that it does, like Vos, Brennauer and Norsgaard, too.

Hopefully this can be a one-year anomaly, but realistically they should earn their WWT status back. The organiser is the same one that produces the men's Tour of Britain, which just had live coverage less than a month ago, and is a race at a considerably lower level relative to the calendar than the Women's Tour is, or at least how it purports to be. Now, not all of this is SweetSpot's fault. Of interest was the discovery that, although they had played nice and explained it was because the idea was that it was a Women's Tour in Britain rather than a Women's Tour of Britain that the race wasn't called Tour of Britain, minimising some of the debate that periodically arises when one of the constituent parts of the UK has been neglected by the race in the men's Tour of Britain for a while, in reality SweetSpot run the men's Tour of Britain in conjunction with British Cycling, whereas British Cycling are not involved in the organisation of the Women's Tour and protected their trademark of the title Tour of Britain, preventing SweetSpot from using it, and it is likely this link to British Cycling and the more marketable names that hold sway in the live coverage debate. And it strikes a worrying note, reminding me of ASO suing the organisers of women's stage races in France if they used the word Tour or had a yellow leader's jersey. Or maybe British Cycling as an entity, that has controlled pretty much all cycling in Britain for decades, is growing a bit concerned about losing some of that stranglehold? Who knows, but the Women's Tour really needs something to inject some momentum back into it, even if it's just a return to its regular calendar spot, because the race has gone from a focal point on the calendar attracting almost all the top stars and receiving praise for its coverage to a late-season afterthought in danger of falling behind the curve very, very quickly.
I can't add much more to this and the state of affairs for this race which, as you point out, despite the frustrations with route selection and lack of live TV coverage was, pre-Covid, the most exciting event on the Women's calendar in terms of showcasing its potential.

The TV coverage is particularly frustrating with the (for years now) unchanging edit-by-numbers format of intro with mandatory tourist bit about the start / finish town, overly extended coverage of the neutralised roll out straight to an ad-break as soon as the flag falls followed by basically nothing more than showing each of the Skoda sprints / QOM (with tiresome nod to the sponsor's sign on each occasion), perhaps a crash if that happens, then cut to the last 10K or so which is shown without much context to what actually happened in the stage, followed by a brief snippet of each of the jersey winners and an interview with (usually) the stage winner. To be fair this is fairly similar to how the Men's Tour of Britain highlights package is / was put together, but I had the luxury of being able to avoid it and watch the live coverage instead. It's crying out for a refresh, although it could do a lot worse than look at how Channel 4 / ITV put together highlights packages in the 80s and 90s as they were more informative and interesting than what is put on offer currently.

If I could offer any mitigation for the organisers in trying to justify why the event is looking a little lacking this year then it is , sadly, but inevitably, Covid related. The British racing scene (Time Trialling excepted) was decimated entirely in 2020 by law and has very slowly got going again through the year, with the club guys and girls I know who race only really doing so in the past month or two and mostly at events that take place on private roads e.g. motor racing circuits. Unlike ticketed sporting events where measures such as Covid testing before entry can be enforced and those who attend do so at their free will, events such as bike races and road running races are more problematic in being able to 'control' potentially unlimited amounts of spectators congregating within a limited space and in so doing potentially upset those who are not currently comfortable with the concept of mass gatherings being acceptable. The London marathon organisers, for instance, had to request that each competitor only bring along one spectator and the Great North Run had to greatly change its iconic point to point route to satisfy the Covid protocols stipulated months in advance for events taking place this autumn.

I can imagine that the desire to not overwhelm towns with spectators is one of the reasons why advance publicity around the men's and women's tours of Britain was not that great (I inadvertently rode a section of the Tour of Britain this year a week before it took place and you wouldn't have known it was taking place other than the legal road closure signs that such events have to put up in advance) much like the British Championships next week which has seemingly zero local coverage (I'm sure it had more when it was last held in Lincoln a few years ago). Moreover, given that these and other events held currently were organised under the very real threat of them being cancelled at short notice if Covid restrictions were changed / imposed and comparable events in the arts industry for instance were abandoned / cancelled / postponed due to this, then I could imagine that it would be prudent to not expose yourself too much financially or emotionally to an event that had a 50/50 chance of taking place.

I hope therefore that the 2021 Women's Tour can be seen as something of a holding card before normality resumes at some point in the future with an event that builds upon the foundations that looked so promising back in 2019. Alas with events such as the London Marathon already avoiding its traditional spring date in 2022 for an autumn running, presumably anticipating some restrictions in the first half of 2022 to remain, it may be some time before we can enjoy fully such events on British shores as they should be.
 
I can't add much more to this and the state of affairs for this race which, as you point out, despite the frustrations with route selection and lack of live TV coverage was, pre-Covid, the most exciting event on the Women's calendar in terms of showcasing its potential.

The TV coverage is particularly frustrating with the (for years now) unchanging edit-by-numbers format of intro with mandatory tourist bit about the start / finish town, overly extended coverage of the neutralised roll out straight to an ad-break as soon as the flag falls followed by basically nothing more than showing each of the Skoda sprints / QOM (with tiresome nod to the sponsor's sign on each occasion), perhaps a crash if that happens, then cut to the last 10K or so which is shown without much context to what actually happened in the stage, followed by a brief snippet of each of the jersey winners and an interview with (usually) the stage winner. To be fair this is fairly similar to how the Men's Tour of Britain highlights package is / was put together, but I had the luxury of being able to avoid it and watch the live coverage instead. It's crying out for a refresh, although it could do a lot worse than look at how Channel 4 / ITV put together highlights packages in the 80s and 90s as they were more informative and interesting than what is put on offer currently.

If I could offer any mitigation for the organisers in trying to justify why the event is looking a little lacking this year then it is , sadly, but inevitably, Covid related. The British racing scene (Time Trialling excepted) was decimated entirely in 2020 by law and has very slowly got going again through the year, with the club guys and girls I know who race only really doing so in the past month or two and mostly at events that take place on private roads e.g. motor racing circuits. Unlike ticketed sporting events where measures such as Covid testing before entry can be enforced and those who attend do so at their free will, events such as bike races and road running races are more problematic in being able to 'control' potentially unlimited amounts of spectators congregating within a limited space and in so doing potentially upset those who are not currently comfortable with the concept of mass gatherings being acceptable. The London marathon organisers, for instance, had to request that each competitor only bring along one spectator and the Great North Run had to greatly change its iconic point to point route to satisfy the Covid protocols stipulated months in advance for events taking place this autumn.

I can imagine that the desire to not overwhelm towns with spectators is one of the reasons why advance publicity around the men's and women's tours of Britain was not that great (I inadvertently rode a section of the Tour of Britain this year a week before it took place and you wouldn't have known it was taking place other than the legal road closure signs that such events have to put up in advance) much like the British Championships next week which has seemingly zero local coverage (I'm sure it had more when it was last held in Lincoln a few years ago). Moreover, given that these and other events held currently were organised under the very real threat of them being cancelled at short notice if Covid restrictions were changed / imposed and comparable events in the arts industry for instance were abandoned / cancelled / postponed due to this, then I could imagine that it would be prudent to not expose yourself too much financially or emotionally to an event that had a 50/50 chance of taking place.

I hope therefore that the 2021 Women's Tour can be seen as something of a holding card before normality resumes at some point in the future with an event that builds upon the foundations that looked so promising back in 2019. Alas with events such as the London Marathon already avoiding its traditional spring date in 2022 for an autumn running, presumably anticipating some restrictions in the first half of 2022 to remain, it may be some time before we can enjoy fully such events on British shores as they should be.
I can't watch the ITV broadcasts, but as a GCN member I can at least watch them ad-free later on. Sadly they are only made available the following day after the next stage has finished which makes them a bit irrelevant. It's my own fault for not having a ES Player subscription, cause that would have allowed me to watch them earlier.

When it comes to TV coverage it seems they were trying to find a way to do it, but it the end it just turned out to be too costly (for this year at least). The problem they also seems to face is that they have a deal with ITV until 2025, so unless they want to broadcast it live, it probably won't happen before 2026.
 
Oct 4, 2020
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I can't watch the ITV broadcasts, but as a GCN member I can at least watch them ad-free later on. Sadly they are only made available the following day after the next stage has finished which makes them a bit irrelevant. It's my own fault for not having a ES Player subscription, cause that would have allowed me to watch them earlier.

When it comes to TV coverage it seems they were trying to find a way to do it, but it the end it just turned out to be too costly (for this year at least). The problem they also seems to face is that they have a deal with ITV until 2025, so unless they want to broadcast it live, it probably won't happen before 2026.
Looks like British Eurosport are showing the last hour live tomorrow.
 
Tomorrow's stage is around the area I often ride. There are some short steepish hills available if they had north/north-east from Colchester around the Stour valley, but I suspect that it is Tendring Council rather than Colchester/Babergh who are invested in this. The two QoM "climbs" (three QoM opportunities, but one is repeated) are no challenge at all: very short pitch of 5% ish, then a slight drag for 300m.

If there had been the normal prevailing southwesterly winds, there might have been scope for something along Clacton seafront or either side of Thorpe-le-Soken, but the wind is due to be weak and from the south.

One point that would have been a good potential springboard for an attack is a short corkscrew down and up between Bradfield and Mistley (37.5 km to go), but that has probably been neutralised by the sprint shortly after.

Really nasty pinchpoint shortly after they turn onto a minor road at Great Oakley, where the road has narrowed, but then swings right and left down a river bank and over a very narrow (two, maybe three riders wide) bridge; about 42.4km to go. I will be pleasantly surprised if they get past there without a major fall.

After the last QoM there is a similar short slope followed by a longer continuing rise that finishes with a bit of an increase in incline at Pump Hill (finishing shortly after the turn to St Osyth) that would be the place to go for, or to stifle, a late attack about (6km left).

The finishing straight is very short (I suspect it was determined by stopping before the first traffic island after the road straightens out along the front: it is quite a bit short of the town centre): the final left hander is not very tight, but there are (unless something has been done n the two weeks since I rode that section) traffic islands in the last 1/2 km before that bend, which can't be good.

Work means I won't be able to take advantage of its proximity: lack of outlook for seeing anything other than a tightly packed cloud of multi-colour lycra makes me disinclined to try to do anything about my work commitments.
 
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Reflecting on the women's first edition of PR - Overall, it was a disappointing edition which I half expected - I thought it was likely a strong solo rider would go early and every likelihood the race would be decided early as the women would be conservative in their riding - I expect that for upcoming editions that the teams will use their riders more effectively.
 
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Wiebes took yet another victory. Balsamo was closest to her, but the win was never in doubt.
Hayley Simmonds had been in a solo break for much of the stage, but even though she had more than four minutes at one point it wasn't enough to surprise the peloton.

View: https://twitter.com/thewomenstour/status/1446465461609189377




Mark Cavendish, who was a spectator along the route yesterday, and his son Casper were present at the finish in Clacton.
Carlton Kirby was there, too, for some reason.
 

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