Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Know what it is yet...?

That's right - it's Marianne Vos' broken collar bone. 

Harriet Owen wins Johnson HealthTech Round 2

Harriet Owen
Node4-Giordana's Harriet Owen fought hard on a challenging Peterbourough parcours to win Round 2 of the Johnson HealthTech GP last night after getting away early in a three-rider break and then beating Oxford winner Annie Simpson (Matrix-Prendas) to the line.

"I just went eyeballs out and hoped that someone would come with me, and it stuck," the 19-year-old explained after the race. "We all worked really well together so got quite a good lead. I knew I felt quite good, but I knew Hannah Barnes had a good sprint and Annie would go for a long one as well, so I had to chance it and go for a long one as if I could get the gap I’d be able to hold it, and it paid off."

"With a big lead on the peloton, it was important for me just to focus on the finish and retaining my overall lead," Simpson said. "We’d already taken the sprint points on the night, and after the last one we’d got 50 seconds, so it was all focus on crossing the line ahead of Hannah Barnes." She now has sixteen points in the Sprints competition, Owen has eight for second place and Barnes seven.

Annie Simpson
Hannah Barnes arrived in third place and is now only two points behind Simpson in the series leadership. Node4 team mates Lucy Garner and Corrine Hall are third and fourth while 2011 overall champion Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing, guest-riding for Matrix-Prendas), who is today celebrating her wedding anniversary with directeur sportif Stef Wyman, is in fifth place. With Garner finishing fourth yesterday and Hall tenth, the squad takes over leadership of the team rankings with an advantage of sixteen points; but with three rounds to go (Colchester 07.06, Woking 12.06, Stoke-on-Trent 12.06), the eventual outcome of what has become the premier women's racing series in the United Kingdom is far from decided.

Matrix-Prendas' Sarah Reynolds crashed badly and was rushed to hospital, where it was initially feared she may have suffered serious injury. After being kept in overnight, tests revealed bruising to her lungs and kidney and some damage - but not, as first thought, a rupture - to her spleen. She thanked fans for their messages on Twitter.

Owen was interviewed by a BBC East news crew minutes after her victory - evidence that fast, exciting city centre criterium races running alongside established men's events such as the Halfords Tour Series are successful in bringing women's competitive cycling to a wider audience.

Short highlights of the race will be shown as part of ITV4's Halfords Series coverage tonight (30th May) at 8pm, repeated tomorrow morning at 08:30.

Best wishes for a recovery that's as
fast as you are, Sarah Reynolds
Round 2 Top Ten 
1. Harriet Own, Node4 - Giordana Racing
2. Annie Simpson, Matrix Fitness - Prendas
3. Hannah Barnes, Team Ibis Cycles
4. Lucy Garner, Node4 - Giordana Racing
5. Amy Roberts, Scott Contessa Epic
6. Lydia Boylan, Look Mum No Hands!
7. Louise Mahe, Mule Bar Girls
8. Emily Kay, Scott Contessa Epic
9. Helen Wyman, Kona Factory Racing
10. Corrine Hall, Node4 - Giordana Racing

Overall Top Ten
1. Annie Simpson, Matrix Fitness - Prendas, 39pts
2. Hannah Barnes, Team Ibis Cycles, 37pts
3. Lucy Garner, Node4 - Giordana Racing, 32pts
4. Corrine Hall, Node4 - Giordana Racing, 28pts
5. Helen Wyman, Kona Factory Racing, 26pts
6. Harriet Owen, Node4 - Giordana, 25pts
7. Lydia Boylan, Look Mum No Hands, 25pts
8. Amy Roberts, Scott Contessa Epic, 22pts
9. Jo Tindley, VC St Raphael, 18pts
10. Louise Mahe, Mule Bar Girls, 18pts

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

No surgery for Vos, will race Giro Donne

Marianne Vos will not need surgery to repair the broken collarbone she suffered at the Parkhotel Valkenberg and has already returned to training, her Rabobank team have revealed.

The Dutchwoman, who finished the race in second place despite obvious pain, was fortunate enough to sustain a "good break," with a simple fracture that will heal rapidly on it own, doctors at the Meander Medisch Centrum in Amersfoort said last Friday; a prognosis since confirmed by the Centre's Dr. van Olden after further tests were carried out.

Image credit: Rabosport
Vos, who celebrated her 25th birthday two weeks ago and is widely considered the best rider of her generation, also revealed that she will make her comeback at the Giro Donne - the last Grand Tour of women's cycling and due to start on the 29th of July, fans had worried she might miss it in order to concentrate on the Olympics. "My participation in London is in no doubt whatsoever," she said , "but it now looks like I'll be able to ride at the Giro Donne too. It's my next planned race and an excellent course with a view to the Olympics. In the Giro, I can gain hardness and rate rhythm. There you go - that what I'll now be focusing on."

Meanwhile, she does not plan to defend her National Road Race Championship title as the race will be held on the 23rd of June. "That's a little bit too soon," she explained. When you're Marianne Vos, missing out on a National Championship isn't a problem - you can always win it next year instead.

In other women's cycling news Brainwash, the Dutch and Belgian hairdressing chain, has announced that it will no longer be the main sponsor of its three-woman cyclo cross team. The riders will go to the Rabobank Off Road Squad, where Brainwash will become secondary sponsor - more details from Podium Cafe.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Baguette and Bike Racing, Belgian style

"I was quite excited to do my first Belgian race of the year, it seemed ages since I was last here..."  
Matrix-Prendas rider Hannah Walker on racing in Belgium

Exergy ITT video

Races this week

One-day races
27.05 - National Women's Road Race Series Hillingdon (UK)

02.06 - Liberty Classic (1.1, USA) Map

Stage and multi-day races
23-27.05 - Tour de Free State (2.1, South Africa)
Stage maps and profiles 1234

24-28.05 - Exergy Tour (2.1, USA)
Stage maps P1234 Stage profiles P1234

29.05 - Johnson HealthTech GP Round 2 (UK)

Matrix-Prendas at Valkenburg

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Aalburg - second win in as many days for Annemiek van Vleuten

Video below
Two wins in two days for
Annemiek van Vleuten
Baking heat, strong winds and a crash just 7km into the parcours proved too much for a big chunk of the field and caused the peloton to split rapidly into three groups; a small lead group being chased by a second and a big pack of riders simply trying to survive some way down the road as the tough conditions dissuaded anyone from even thinking about putting in more effort than was strictly needed. An attitude of "We're all in this together; let's just get through it" developed, made most evident when Senger mechanics went to the aid of Specialized-DPM-SRAM rider Anouska Kloster - a nice demonstration of the friendliness that, for the most part, is found in women's cycling; but nevertheless many riders preferred to sit it out in the autobus and no doubt wished that they were aboard a real, air con-equipped bus.

It wasn't until the final part of the race that the attacks began. Chantal Blaak (AA was first to go but didn't get far, then van Vleuten and Shelley Olds (AA went together, apparently as much to check out one another's strength as in the hope of actually achieving anything because they'd let off the pace and were back with Blaak moments later. Blaak, meanwhile, was feeling the effects of the heat and was replaced by Amanda Spratt (Australian National Team), the three of them working together to grab an extra 50m and 30" going into the 108th kilometre.

Judith Bloem
Spratt launched an attack of her own a short while later but was soon back. The final 5km, with the three of them calmly riding together, was a fantastically tense bit of racing - each of them demonstrated the sort of self-control of which a poker player would feel proud and gave absolutely no indication of when, or even if, they were about to launch what might well prove to be the winning move. They were still together at 2km to go, then 1km, then 200m...and then van Vleuten lit the fuse and flung herself up the road towards the finish, getting there mere fractions of a second before Olds with Spratt 4" behind. The chase group arrived 1'42" later with Marieke Van Wanroij getting a 2" advantage over the rest, then a third group led by Roxane Knetemann came in just shy of three minutes after the winner. The autobus arrived at +6'23" and turned out to have no fewer than 68 riders onboard, then Judith Bloem (Restore) closed up the race when she crossed the line 6'56" after van Vleuten. Chapeau to everyone who finished - 49 riders did not.

Top Ten
  1.  Annemiek van Vleuten Rabobank 3h04'44"
  2.  Shelley Olds AA ST
  3.  Amanda Spratt Orica GreenEdge-AIS +04"
  4.  Marieke Van Wanroij AA +1'42"
  5.  Chantal Blaak AA +1'44"
  6.  Iris Slappendel Rabobank ST
  7.  Pauline Ferrand Prevot Rabobank ST
  8.  Gracie Elvin ST
  9.  Suzanne De Goede Skil-Argos ST
  10.  Roxane Knetemann Rabobank +2'59"

(Full results)

Friday, 25 May 2012

De Omloop van Aalburg

Click to enlarge
Official site

Local rider Marianne Vos was favourite to win this one - after all, it goes right through Meeuwen, the village in which she lives and takes part in various cycling workshops for the local children, so she'd have been certain of massive crowd support - but since the Dutch superstar crashed and broke her collarbone at Valkenburg, the race could be anyone's; though if Annemiek van Vleuten, Roxane Knetemann, Liesbet de Vocht, Tatiana Antoshina, Rebecca Talen, Lauren Kitchen, Thalita de Jonghand Iris Slappendel are going, as the official start list says they are, another Rabobank victory is very possible (but then, as anyone who follows women's cycling will know, the riders on any race's start list and the riders who actually take part in the race are very often entirely different people). The complete start list is here.

It's one of those very friendly-feeling races, which isn't the only thing it has in common with the Energiwacht Tour - it also takes place on a similar parcours with several long stretches around the pancake-flat countryside. Like Energiwacht, it'll probably end in a sprint too. It begins on the tree-lined residential Bergstraat in Aalberg, then heads west for 3.3km before turning south to Genderen - a village that has been rebuilt since 1944 when, situated on the line between the liberated south of the country and the Nazi-occupied north, it was almost entirely destroyed by Allied shells. The riders then continue west to Eethen, which suffered as much damage as Genderen, then south again to Drongelen on the banks of the Bergshe Maas canal before continuing north-west to Meeuwen. Just north of the village is Kasteel Meeuwen, actually a large and not-very-impregnable-looking manor house that, along with some earthworks, is all that remains of the real castle that once stood here. There was once a clog factory; nowadays, the village's only claims to fame are the castle, an animal feed business and the fact that Marianne Vos has chosen to make it her home.

Click to enlarge - this is not a race for the climbers!
The parcours heads north past the castle, then east to Babyloniënbroek and past the village "castle," even less like a castle than the one at Meeuwen - it's little more than a large country cottage (though not at all bad to look at). When the race reaches Veldstraat, where it earlier turned south for Genderen, the riders turn north and cross a bridge over the N267 trunk road and, a little way ahead, turn east to head into Veen before following the roads south back to Bergstraat in Aalburg. This loop is completed three times - on the fourth passage from Bergstraat, the riders will turn north towards the N267 instead of south towards Genderen and complete three laps of the smaller circuit.

High temperatures of around 24C are pretty much the ideal for most people and the 24kph easterly wind won't do anything to reduce it - though on such a flat parcours, it may affect the riders on the open sections. Rain is extremely unlikely at any point during the day, making it perfect weather to go and watch the race.

Van Vleuten Victorious in Valkenburg, Vos injured

Sharon Laws led the race for a long time
today - if it has been a little cooler, she
could very easily have been the winner
In addition to Stage 1 at the Exergy Tour, Friday brought us the Parkhotel Valkenburg Classic, the 86.7km race that starts and ends in the Limburg city and takes the riders up and over some of the toughest climbs in the area - none of which are very high, but many of which enter double-digit gradients.

Marianne Vos (Rabobank) and Sharon Laws (AA had gained a 55" lead just 15km into the race - a familiar sight to the rest of the field, who have become well-used to the 25-year-old  Rabobank star's tendency to get away early on and then dominate the remainder of the race just like she did here in 2007, 2009 and last year. Laws, however, is an opponent even a rider as talented as Marianne cannot take likely, especially after her stunning performances in Flanders earlier this season; if she could keep up, another Vos victory was far from guaranteed should the race prove destined to end in a test of physical strength. Then, a few kilometres further on, Vos had a  a crash - one of the official motorbikes on the parcours turned out to be slower than the Flying Dutchwoman and failed to get out of the way quickly enough.

She was rapidly back in action, but not before Laws opened a 45" gap between them. Seeing Vos in trouble spurred several hopefuls into action and before long the Dutch rider was trying to make up the gap and hold off a sixteen-strong chase group. She made it back as Laws was slowed by the first ascent of Cauberg, but was visibly suffering and apparently hoping the 2'45" lead they now had would see her through.

By the time they got around to the third ascent, Vos was looking somewhat recovered and the two riders played cat-and-mouse, taking it in turns to put one another to the test and gauge their strength. Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabobank) and Lucinda Brand (AA Drink) had now escaped the chase group and were attempting to bridge to their team mates. Unfortunately for AA Drink, the heat had taken its toll on Laws and she was beginning to lose pace; meaning that even with Brand to help her they stood little chance when their rivals turned up the gas.

Annemiek van Vleuten
Van Vleuten neither intended nor expected to win, but made the most of the opportunity that fate had given her and attacked with 500m to go. "Our team manager Jeroen Blijlevens called me in the last couple of kilometres to say I was very close to the leaders," she explained after the race. "So I went for it, without consulting Marianne because there was insufficient time." Chances are, Marianne will be among the first to congratulate her.

Laws was third and recorded the same time as van Vleuten,  followed 15" by Emma Pooley who crossed the line alone ahead of her team mates Chantal Blaak and Lucinda Brand (+1'47") and, in eighth, Shelley Olds - an incredible five AA Drink riders in the top ten.

Vos seemed orifinally to have escaped anything serious: "I've grazed my shoulder and arm, an my right arm is giving me some trouble. I'll have it checked out," she told reporters. However, by 16:00BST rumours had begun to circulate online that she'd suffered a broken collarbone; the news being confirmed by Rabobank's press officer a short while later (and she rode Cauberg FOUR times...and responded to Laws' attempted attacks? Just how good is she?) Often called the best cyclist in the world today, Vos will undergo further tests on Tuesday to investigate the fracture (described by brother Anton as a "good" break, so it should heal quickly) and help decide whether surgery will be required. She'll now need to concentrate on making a full recovery in time for the Olympics and, if she's taking part this year, the Giro Donne; but she'll obviously be unable to race the Dorpenomloop Aalbrg, which passes through her home village Meeuwen, and will probably miss the Emakumeen Bira, RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden and other races. Meanwhile, the fact that she did so well today despite her injury suggests she might do very well indeed in the World Championship road race this year, which takes place on an almost identical parcours. Very best of wishes for a speedy recovery, Marianne.

Top Ten
  1.  Annemiek Van Vleuten Rabobank 2h31'18"
  2.  Marianne Vos Rabobank ST
  3.  Sharon Laws AA ST
  4.  Emma Pooley AA +15"
  5.  Chantal Blaak AA +1'47"
  6.  Lucinda Brand AA ST
  7.  Adrie Visser Skil-Argos +2'22" 4
  8.  Shelley Olds AA ST
  9.  Annelies Van Doorslaer Kleo ST
  10.  Pauline Ferrand Prevot Rabobank ST

Pics of the day

Exergy Tour Prologue Review and Stage 1 Preview

Tara Whitten
Stage 1 preview and weather after the prologue results

The Exergy Tour is all over for favourite Kristin Armstrong (Exergy-Twenty12) already after a crash in the peloton left her with a broken collarbone. The 38-year-old, twice World Time Trial Champion and the last down the start ramp, was halfway through a blisteringly fast lap of the 3.2km parcours in Boise, Idaho when her front tyre lost grip, causing her to land hard on her left shoulder.
"We are all absolutely heartbroken for Kristin, but we are ready to rally and do this for her and her hometown." (Tayler Wiles, Exergy-Twenty12)
Ignoring the pain, she was up in seconds and back on her bike to finish the stage; the combination of lost time and reduced speed in the latter half making her eventual 13th place and time of 4'17.88" remarkable. She'll undergo surgery today, during which stabilising pins will be inserted into the bone, and will then begin to concentrate on making a full recovery in time for the Olympics - get well soon Kristin!

Gillian Carleton (Canada) looked to be in with a good chance of winning when she set the bar at 4'9.98", which remained fastest time for 30 minutes until team mate Tara Whitten shaved off 0.34" - which, following Armstrong's misfortune, earned her the victory. Fellow Canadian Clara Hughes (Specialized-Lululemon) took third with 4'10.55", her team once again achieving their now customary domination of the top ten with no fewer than five placings. Nicole Cooke (Faren-Honda), the only British rider in the race, was 61st with 4'38.56".

Top Ten
  1.  Tara Whitten Team TIBCO 4'09.64"
  2.  Gillian Carleton Canada +0.34"
  3.  Clara Hughes Specialized-Lululemon +0.91"
  4.  Ina Yoko Teutenberg Specialized-Lululemon +2.52"
  5.  Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon +2.77"
  6.  Alison Powers Now & Noverstis +2.84"
  7.  Shara Gillow Orica GreenEdge +4.27"
  8.  Jade Wilcoxson Optum p/b Kelly Ben. +5.54"
  9.  Trixi Worrack Specialized- Lululemon +5.86"
  10.  Amber Neben Specialized- Lululemon +7.01"
(Full result)

Stage 1
Friday's Stage 1 extends over a 120km parcours starting and ending at the Recreation Centre in Nampa, Idaho. Riders will first head south and west on straight roads, then follow the banks of Lake Lowell for 14.5km before once again turning south. After 8.21km, they arrive at the beginning of a 33.9km loop running along the Snake River before turning north and back to the start of the circuit for a second lap. The stage's "Queen of the Mountains" climb comes at the southern end of the circuit; not a huge one at around 150m, but it's steep. Once done, they start the 23.12km journey back to Nampa by heading east along Deer Flat Road which, were it not for a wide bend and climb in the first 4km, would be perfectly straight and almost entirely flat; then it's flat all the way. It looks, therefore, rather like a sprint finish is on the cards - and Carmen Small is the Les Déesses top pick.

It doesn't look as though the weather will be to many people's tastes - maximum temperatures of around 14C aren't too bad (though a north-north-westerly 16kph wind will make it feel a good 2-3C cooler than that), but rain and thunderstorms look extremely likely.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Giro Donne 2012

Since the sad demise of the Tour de France Feminin (last held in 2009, problems securing sponsors appear to have finished the race off for good) and the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin (last held 2010, brought to an end for the same reason) the most important race and the only Grand Tour on the women's calendar has been the Giro Donne (though having said that, the Exergy Tour is well on its way to becoming one). There were some fears that the 2011 edition might be the last after one of the big name jersey sponsors failed to pay up as agreed, but organisers have today announced that the race will go ahead and revealed details of the stages.

It's a nine-stage race that takes in some of the most beautiful scenery, most interesting cities and toughest climbs Italy has to offer, and many of the most famous names in the sport of the last quarter of a century have stood on its podium: Rossner, Canins, Fanini, Luperini, Brändli, Pučinskaitė, Žiliūtė, Cooke, Doppmann, Neben, Arndt, Abbot, Pooley and - of course - Vos, who won half the stages and wore the race leader's jersey for all but one day last year.

It looks as though none of the real monster climbs from 2011 (Stelvio, Mortirolo) put in an appearance this year, but it's by no means an easy race. Stages 8 and 9 are likely to be especially challenging, taking place in the mountains of Lombardy. No itineraries or maps have yet been released, but stage towns and distances allow us to make a guess at which route the riders will take each day.

1 29 June: Napoli - Terracina 139 km
2 30 June: Roma - Roma (individual time trial) 8 km
3 1 July: Montecatini - Montecatini 99 km
4 2 July: Vernio - Castiglione dei Pepoli 126 km
5 3 July: Polesella - Molinella 126 km
6 4 July: Modena - Salsomaggiore 124 km
7 5 July: Salice Terme - Castagnole delle Lanze 120 km
8 6 July: Crugnola di Mornago - Lonate Pozzolo 117 km
9 7 July: Sarnico - Bergamo 108 km

Stage 1
As the name suggests, the Cratere degli Astroni was
created by meteorite impacts - there are several craters
It looks as though Stage 1 will follow the roads along the coast, perhaps dipping inland immediately after Naples to visit the Cratere degli Astroni natural park before taking the SP56 and SS7 to the sea and then proceeding via Castel Volturno, Mondragone, Minturno and Formia, then the SS213 through Gaeta, Sperlongo, Rio Claro and on to Terracina - a fairly flat route to begin the race with only a few small hills to stretch the legs.

Stages 2, 3 and 4
Stages 2 and 3 are virtually impossible to predict with any certainty - however, with Montecatini lying just south of the Northen Apennines, it seems that Stage 3 will be the first to take the race into the mountains, but nothing too high. Stage 4 is also difficult as the two towns lie only 11km apart, so the parcours will take a winding route between them; perhaps going south on the SS325 to Prato and Pistoia, then back north. The riders will now be in the heart of the Northern Apennines, so higher mountains and tougher climbs can be expected.

Stage 5
Polesella and Molinella are 40km apart, so it'll be a roundabout route again. Organisers may choose to go east, in which case the race is going to be as flat as the flattest of the Dutch races; making west (SP255, SS496, SP18, SR6 via Stienta) seem a more likely option, though this also is far from hilly.

Spa at Salsomaggiore
Stage 6
The route might first head south on the SP3 to Maranello, then west along the SP467 to Scandiano and perhaps heading south for some climbs in the hills between Scandiano and Basio, otherwise north to Reggio Emilia and west along the SS9 to Parma. The route may pass through Parma, but the ringroad to the south is as likely; then the SS9 continues to Fidenza where the SP359 leads south-west to Salsomaggiore.

Stage 7
The race may pay homage to Milan-San Remo, perhaps using the same roads around Novi Ligure, but north on the SP1 then west along the E71/A20 past Alessandria followed by the E74 and Via Valle Tanaro south to Castagnole delle Lanze is more probable.

Stage 8
Having taken in Milan-San Remo country, the race now moves into terrain familiar from the Giro di Lombardia. The two stage towns lie only 15km apart, so a route around Lakes Maggiore, Como, and Lugano is as good as guaranteed, and a visit to at least one of the famous lakeside cities (Verbania, Lugano, Como) is almost definite. There are several opportunities for climbs along the way, making this parcours the obvious choice for the Queen Stage.

Stage 9
Having begun in Sarnico on the western banks of Lake Iseo (which has the largest lake island in Southern Europe), the race can head either south into the flat lands or north into the mountains. This being a relatively highly-populated area, there are numerous mountain towns and villages connected by a network of roads of varying size - several possible routes total around 108km, making it all but impossible to plot a likely one. A popular choie with fans would be to head thriugh Foresto Sparso on the SP81, then head to Nembro and north into the mountains towards Selvino - a route that would include the Trevasco San Vito section of the SP36 with its twelve hairpins. From Selvino, the SP28 leads via Algua to the SP33, then the SS470 to Zogno and down through Alme to Bergamo. Alternatively, organisers may be planning a decisive climb of Valcava to finish off the race.

Annie Simpson reports from Oxford

"[The] team plan was to make it hard and aggressive, which suited me fine as I find it hard to ride any other way."

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Why does it matter if women ride bikes?

"Why should we and other advocates be focusing on the female rider? Why its it important to get greater support for women’s racing and events? Why should the cycling industry spend more time marketing to women? Why does it matter if women ride bikes?" - Women In Cycling: Why We Matter, Girl-Bike-Love

A strange choice for Sky Ride spokesperson

The Sky Rides have done a good job of introducing more people to cycling - each event has been a success with everyone from hardcore racing cyclists to families on their way home from Halfords with a roof rack full of new machines showing up to experience the pleasure of riding in a group that, in some cases, has numbered thousands. It's good, therefore, to see that the Rides are being covered on ITV's Lorraine talk show next Tuesday (ITV1, 08:30, 29th of May); because it'll bring them to the attention of a whole new audience who might otherwise never have heard of them.

One question, though. Why is Kelly Brook on the show to talk about them? I've got nothing against Brook personally and, like most models, she's far more intelligent than the stereotype portrayed in the media. But why have Sky decided to have as their spokesperson a woman who became (and primarily remains) famous for taking her clothes off, rather than one who is associated more with cycling? There are plenty to choose from in the Team GB track team, after all.

Do they think that a glamour model will help to sell cycling? If so, they're mistaken: as Mary Jo Kane of the University of Minnesota argues, sex sells sex, not sport, and in fact attempting to use sex to sell sport damages not just women's sport, but sport in general (by sport, incidentally, I mean activities taken up in order to improve fitness, in addition to competition).

Road racer and cyclo crosser Nikola Butler tweeted...
Nikola Butler ‏@nik_tweet
@Cyclopunk apparently women identify with her better than an actual cyclist. God knows how they figured that out
Really, Sky? Women with an interest in cycling (or at least, women who may develop an interest in cycling, which are surely the target audiences for the Lorraine segment since the show is aimed at women) identify more with a 34E-24-34 glamour/lingerie model and TV star best known from Page 3 and smutty calendars than they would do with a female cyclist best known for, erm, cycling? Someone like Victoria Pendleton, or Laura Trott, or Jo Rowsell, or Dani King or any one of the other world-class athletes you could have picked to appear on the show? Or somebody like Josie Dew? It probably wouldn't take someone as clever as Dr. Kane to pick holes in that.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lululemon's big slice of Gatineau

Click to enlarge
On Saturday, Specialized-Lululemon's Clara Hughes won the Chrono Gatineau Rona TT - which any team would have considered a great success. Lululemon, however, seem to hav a bigger appetite for glory than most other teams, so they took second (Evelyn Stevens), third (Amber Neben) and fifth (Ina-Yoko Teutenberg) as well.

Monday brought the Hydro-Quebec Gatineau GP, an elite women's road race in which the riders completed thirteen (and a very small bit) laps of a hilly 10.18km parcours for a total of 134km in temperatures that reached 29C and some difficult cross winds. Tara Whitten got away early on and wasted no time at all in building up a lead of more than a minute, then 1'40" as she finished her third lap. Her efforts began to break up the peloton in Lap 5 as some riders elected to leave the hard work later and others chased, causing the pack to spread out. In time, Whitten's lead began to shorten, down to 1'09" at the end of the 6th lap.

Tara Whitten
By this time, Lululemon were already controlling the race, the high pace at which they drove the peloton both discouraging attacks and reducing the gap to 36". Bridie O'Donnell (Vanderkitten) isn't the sort of rider to let a rival team frighten her, however, and she was the first to really shake up the race when she crossed the gap to Whitten and then kept going, putting a 30" space between her back wheel and the front of the pack before a chase group got on her case and brought her back. Fabiana Luperini and Rochelle Gilmore (Faren Honda), Alona Andruk (Ukraine), Melissa Hoskins (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Teutenberg were next to go, working together to form a very powerful break; there was still a long way to go, but with five riders of their calibre out in front the other riders' chances began looking extremely precarious, hence a superhuman - and successful - effort to prevent them simply riding away with the race.

Lululemon were straight in with the next break, too, getting Evelyn Stevens off the front accompanied by Carmen Small (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Rhae Christie-Shaw (Canada), and with 50km to go things were getting serious. Realising that, if it came down to it, Stevens was going to have a tough job fending off Small in a sprint, they sent Amber Neben up to assist. Jennifer Hohl (Faren Honda) and Claudia Haussler (Orica-GreenEDGE) tagged along for the ride, but the break proved less of a threat than expected and rapidly merged back into the straggly peloton. Then Stevens and Haussler had another go, taking Luperini with them this time, though this time around Haussler couldn't keep up the pace and soon left the other two to go on alone; though it wasn't long before they too proved tired and Hughes passed them. Hoskins joined her, followed by Leah Kirchmann (Optum) and Julie Beveridge a short way up the road; a situation that threw the pack into a bit of a panic as the race moved into the last 34km. Was Hughes going to win again? There was no way that break was going to be allowed to live!

Good luck catching Teut in a sprint!
Luperini and Neben, roping in four others to help them, launched another assault and, just as soon as the pack caught them, others fired off - a fantastic example of the sort of high-speed tit-for-tat action that makes women's cycling the sport that it is. 7km from the finish, a group of 17 broke away. It was still too early to say if this was the one that was going to make it or predict a winner with any real chance of being right, but since the group included Neben, Joelle Numainville, Megan Guarnier, O'Donnell, Teutenberg, Stevens, Gilmore, Shara Gillow and Hoskins it looked very much as though the selection process had begun. They were caught, but it mattered little - that amount of talent was never going to relinquish control and they bossed the peloton all the way to the bunch sprint. There aren't many people who can take on Teutenberg when that happens, and whilst Gilmore, Andruk and Numainville had a damn good go at it they never stood a chance of catching the German. Video below the top ten.

And the other Lululemon riders? Hughes took 8th, Stevens 10th and Neben 11th. Not a bad three days at all.

Top Ten
  1.  Ina-Yoko Teutenberg Specialized-Lululemon 3h25'03"
  2.  Rochelle Gilmore Faren-Honda ST
  3.  Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  4.  Joëlle Numainville ST
  5.  Carmen Small +2"
  6.  Kate Chilcott ST
  7.  Nicole Cooke Faren-Honda +6"
  8.  Clara Hughes Specialized-Lululemon ST
  9.  Jasmin Hurikino ST
  10.  Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon +14" 
(Full results here)

Clara Hughes wins Gatineau TT

Exergy begins

Norwegian Cup

Emilie Moberg (Hitec Products-Mistral Home) wins the Norwegian Cup

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Women's Cycling News 20.05.12

GP Comune di Cornadero (click to enlarge)
GP Comune di Cornaredo
The 4th GP Comune di Cornaredo (UCI 1.2) is due to take place this afternoon in the Province of Milan, early fears that the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Northern Italy this morning might affect the race proving unfounded. (Itinerary)

World Champion Giorgia Bronzini did not start deciding that the risk of a season-endangering accident on a parcours with so many tight, high speed corners was simply too great. Those corners also meant that predicting the outcome of this one was difficult even despite the presence of Marianne Vos (almost invariably the safest bet in professional cycling), because anything could happen in a race like this. All the same, it was no surprise just an hour and fifteen minutes into the competition when Bronzini's trade team, Diadora-Pasta Zara, Tweeted the information that Vos was already pulling the rest of the field along behind her.
Diadora Zara ‏@TeamDiadoraZara
Cornaredo, la Vos sta gia' staccando tutte.
Iris Slappendel
Once Iris Slappendel joined up with Vos (usually team mates at Rabobank, both were riding for their National team today)  and the two started working together, it wasn't long before they'd gained a two-minute lead over the rest of the field and it began to look as though one of them was likely to be the winner. When they upped it to three-and-a-half the top two steps on the podium were as good as theirs, and it was no surprise when they crossed the line with a comfortable lead.

That's where it got complicated - for some time after the race, there was confusion as to who had actually won. Anton Vos (Marianne's brother) and Cicloweb both said Slappendel, whereas Wilerland and other sources said it was Vos. Marianne herself Tweeted that Slappendel had beaten her at 20:05BST, which is more than authoritative enough for this blog. Annemiek van Vleuten was third and Loes Guunewijk fourth - an excellent day for Dutch cycling!

Jessie Druyts (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) was taken to hospital for x-rays following a crash at Breendonck(19.05) - her team has yet to reveal further news. 19-year-old Miriam Bjørnsrud, Norwegian Under-19 Road Race Champion in 2010, won after taking the lead from Ann-Sophie Duyck (Lotto-Belisol) in the 96th kilometre.

Top Ten
Miriam Bjørnsrud
  1.  Miriam Bjørnsrud
  2.  Ann-sophie Duyck Lotto Belisol
  3.  Jolien Hoore Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012
  4.  Fiona Dutriaux Vienne Futuroscope
  5.  Emma Johansson Hitec Products-Mistral Home
  6.  Kim De Baat
  7.  Cecilie Sateroy Johansen Hitec Products-Mistral Home
  8.  Nathalie Nijns Lotto Belisol
  9.  Annelies Dom Wielerclub Steeds Vooraan-Kontich
  10.  Valerie Robert
(Full result)

Ronde van Zuid Oost Friesland
Monique van de Ree
The Ronde van Zuid Oost Friesland (19.05) also ended in a bunch sprint with Skil-Argos taking an impressive three places in the top five. Monique van de Ree (Skil-Argos) git the better of Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank) for first place while Skil team mates Janneke Kanis and Kelly Markus were third and fifth respectively, Nina Kessler of Dolmans-Boels planting herself in between them for fourth.

Top Ten
  1.  Monique van de Ree Skil-Argos
  2.  Roxane Knetemann Rabobank
  3.  Janneke Kanis Skil-Argos
  4.  Nina Kessler Dolmans-Boels
  5.  Kelly Markus Skil-Argos
  6.  Laura van der Kamp Dolmans-Boels
  7.  Sanne van Paassen
  8.  Hannah Welter GWC De Adelaar
  9.  Jermaine Post LRTV Swift
  10.  Rixt Meijer WV De Noord-Westhoek
(Full result)

Ronde van Rijssen
Sharon Laws
Saturday also brought the Ronde van Rijssen, an event that fits into the Paris-Roubaix category of races that apparently exist for no reason other than their own half-mad beauty. Taking place on a square parcours of 60km, the organisers selected a route that takes in about as varied a selection of pavement, tarmac and street furniture as they could find before throwing some narrow residential streets and a climb with a maximum gradient of around 6.5% into the mix for good measure, then sending the riders around it at high speed 43 times. All in all, it was a parcours very much to the liking of AA - the team managed to take no less than 50% of the top ten places, including first.

Top Ten
 1. Sharon Laws AA  
 2. Jessie Daams AA  
 3. Chantal Blaak AA  
 4. Nathalie van Gogh Ibis  
 5. Emma Pooley AA  
 6. Linda Ringlever NWV Groningen  
 7. Linda van Rijen Skil-Argos  
 8. Janneke Ensing Dolmans-Boels  
 9. Marieke van Wanroij AA  
 10. Esther Olthuis Ibis

Other News and Views
Lululemon dominate Gatineau TT - DDLR

Emma Johansson enjoys a kermesse -

Weeping Legs - Marijn de Vries

The Aussies are coming! - Sarah Kent on the Johnson HealthTech GP

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lululemon dominate at Gatineau

Clara Hughes
Clara Hughes' victory at the Chrono Gatineau Rona TT would have been more than enough for most teams, but Specialized-Lululemon are not like most teams - as far as they're concerned, why limit success to first place when you can have second (Evelyn Stevens), third (Amber Neben) and fifth (Ina-Yoko Teutenberg) as well?

Lululemon have built up a stunning list of triumphs in their first season and Hughes revealed after the race that the stiffest competition she faced came from her own team mates. "We have amazing TT riders on this team so I knew it was going to be hard to beat my teammates," she said in the squad's official race report. "I felt really good out there and after a hard spring season of racing I’ve benefited from that and I feel like this is the first race of my season now leading into the Olympics."

During the race, Hughes and her comrades wore wristbands showing their support for Doing for Daron - a charity that seeks to raise awareness of youth mental health issues. All their racing at Gatineau is dedicated to the organisation and to Daron Richardson, who took her own life in 2010 when she was aged 14.

"It’s a really good field here so it’s impressive to be able to pull off 4 out of the top five places," said direteur sportif Ronny Lauke. "It was an important race for them and they were well prepared to have a great race here and they all did."

Kristin Armstrong wins the Tour of California TT

Womens Cycling News

Alison Shanks

Lucy Garner leads the very strong entry of 53 riders in the Hillingdon Women’s GP - British Cycling

Putting the brakes on inequality in women's cycling - Kathryn Bertine, ESPNW

Armstrong leaves 'em in the dust -

Shanks adapting to pursuit - NZHerald

Hughes does it for Daron - LFP

London calling for Tiffany Cromwell - Adelaide Now

Races 19-26.05.12

One-day races
19.05.12 - Chrono Gatineau Rona (1.1, Canada) Start listmap and profile
19.05.12 - Copa Fundadeporte (1.2, Venezuela)
20.05.12 - GP Comune di Cornaredo (1.2, Italy)
20.05.12 - Clasico Fundadeporte (1.2, Venezuela)
21.05.12 - Grand Prix cycliste de Gatineau (1.1, Canada) Map and profile
25.05.12 - Parkhotel Valkenburg Hills Classic (1.2, Netherlands) Start list
26.05.12- 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg (1.2, Netherlands) Start listmapTwitterradio (available online, in Dutch)

Stage and multi-day races
23-27.05.12 - Tour de Free State (2.1, South Africa)
Stage maps and profiles 1, 2, 3, 4
24-28.05.12 - Exergy Tour (2.1, USA)
Stage maps P, 1, 2, 3, 4 Stage profiles P, 1, 2, 3, 4

Saddles in the news

Several newspapers and websites seem to have all discovered "cycling may lead to loss of genital sensation in women" studies over the last week or so, with stories based around it for some reason for some reason appealing even to papers that usually show no interest in cycling in general and even less in women's cycling (ie, the vast majority of the media). (see 1, 2, 3)

Why this should be is a mystery: it's definitely something that everyone - especially female cyclists - should know about, but precisely why this story rather than the hundreds of others concerning female cyclists and women's cycling each and every week are so comprehensively ignore remains unexplained. There are those who will put it down simply to society's obsession with sex; there are others who will see hints of something more sinister, perhaps evidence that society still believes that "sex is what women are for" and that if a woman loses interest in it, she has no further value. I'm in the first camp. Doesn't matter - that's not what this article is about.

Relieving the numbness experienced by male cyclists is
simple - just cut out the central part of the saddle
PNS suddenly came to the fore in the late 1990s when male mountain bikers began complaining about it (road cyclists, far more masochistic than mountain bikers, had presumably always thought of it as just another sacrifice that had to be made to the wheel). It had been well-known for years that male riders can suffer genital numbness or penile numbness syndrome, and there had been studies claiming cycling may lead to male impotence for, well, about as long as there had been bicycles (there are just as many others that say it doesn't). That was a good thing, because somebody realised that if they could invent a saddle that prevented it, they were going to sell lots of them. So, a study was commissioned - and discovered that the problem was caused by pressure on the blood vessels in the perineum. That was a good thing too, because the answer seemed obvious - make saddles with a softer central section, or even eliminate the central section entire. So they did, and they worked, and now almost all "serious" saddles (as opposed to those fitted to cheap bike-shaped objects which will never be ridden more than a kilometre or two anyway) are made that way.

So if you want to do the same for women, you just cut out
the central section of a women-specific saddle, right? Er,
no - this may come as a surprise, but men and women are
not physically identical.
If one listened carefully, in among the moans of hundreds of thousands of men complaining about their numb willies could be heard the dulcet tones of the far smaller number of female cyclists pointing out that they too found their saddles less than ideal and that they too were experiencing numbness. The even smaller number of bike companies and saddle manufacturers that had realised that some people who enjoyed riding bikes happened to be women took notice and cut out the middle sections on their women's saddle designs. Unfortunately, because women's cycling was and remains a far smaller market than men's cycling, those that understood that women and men are not constructed identically couldn't afford to commission a proper study this time. As a result, women's cut-out saddles didn't work quite so satisfactorily as men's.

"Noseless" saddles are of little use to competitive and
serious cyclists as they severely curtail bike control
For the same reason, further research has only recently been conducted - fifteen years after the men's anti-PNS saddle became popular. The new study, conducted by Yale, took a detailed look at the effect saddles have on the female anatomy, rather than simply using data obtained from studies conducted on males. It recommends that female riders position their saddles lower than their handlebars to relieve pressure (the opposite is true for men), which is all well and good for women who use bikes for short, low-speed journeys. It's completely useless for women who race, because if they set up their bikes like that they'll be sitting bolt-upright and get completely thrashed by opponents in the traditional, steamlined position. Another option is to use a "noseless" saddle, one that supports only the "seat bones" of the pelvis - which is once again useless for women who ride competitively because "noseless" saddles cannot be used to control the bike as can standard designs.

What it all boils down to is that female cyclist's health has suffered because, until recently, nobody had really looked at what was causing the problem they were experiencing. Now we know. What remains to be seen is whether a saddle manufacturer will take those findings and use them to develop a saddle that doesn't cause the problem, will permit women to ride in the standard streamlined racing stance and doesn't limit bike control. What do you reckon? Another fifteen years? Possibly, if manufacturers decide that such a saddle wouldn't sell in sufficient numbers to justify the cost of developing it. Possibly less, if enough of us talk about it and let manufacturers know that such a saddle would sell (I'll have to leave that part up to you female cyclists, since I'm merely support crew rather than on your team). Despite the sport's financial problems and neglect at the hands of the UCI, there are more female racing cyclists around nowadays than ever before - let the manufacturers known that it's in their interests to provide a women-specific anti-numbness saddle that actually does what it promises.