There were the three intermediate sprints - the first at 16.5km, the second at 31.4km and the third at 47.1km; each of them beginning at the top of the low hill 0.8km after the finish line. The first two fell to Fabiana Luperini (Faren-Honda) with Sharon Laws (AA Drink Leontien.nl) second, Grete Treier (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox) third and Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) fouth, the four of them having led for most of the race despite the consistent effort of a strong chase group that included Emma Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Judith Arndt (GreenEDGE) and several others. Luperini and Laws switched places on the third.
|Sharon Laws laid down some serious|
power to get within 10" of Luperini
within a very short time
2. Laws +10";
3. Treier +35",
4. Guderzo +40",
5. Ratto +51"
6. Cantele ST
7. Vullumsen ST
(Top ten and links to full results to come...)
Top Eight GC after Stage 2a
1. Noemi Cantele Be Pink 2h32'33"
2. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE ST
3. Malgorzata Jasinska MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss ST
4. Charlotte Becker Specialized-Lululemon ST
5. Alexandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
6. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo ST
7. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl ST
8. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani ST
|Linda Villumsen, seen here competing for|
her native Denmark in 2009, won both
the stage and overall
Marta Bastianelli was the eleventh rider to go and set an early benchmark at 8'48.33", but it wasn't very long before Elke Gebhardt (Be Pink) cracked it with 8'40.45". Shelley Olds (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) then toppled her when she completed the course in 8'26.83", which stood as best time for a while until Katarzyna Sosna (Vaiana-Tepso) shaved off more than eight seconds to record 8'18.91". Inga Cilvinaite (Diadora-Pasta Zara) came close with 8'20.98" before Jessie Daams managed 8'17.58" (AA Drink-Leontien.nl).
By this time, the real big-hitters were getting ready to head out. Judith Arndt showed them all how it's done with a blistering 7'57.69" - the first sub-8' and enough, many will have thought, to win her the stage; but then Linda Villumsen (GreenEDGE) smashed it with 7'53.14", winning herself the General Classification and the stage. Noemi Cantele, who performed so well to win Stage 1, was still to go but at this point her ride was really just a formality: only her most die-hard fans would have given her much chance of beating those superb times dset by Arndt and Villumsen, and her eventual 8'08.06" is proof that she was outclassed.
1. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE 7'53"
2. Judith Arndt GreenEDGE +04"
3. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo +07"
4. Claudia Haüsler GreenEDGE +14"
5. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl ST
6. Noemi Cantele Be Pink ST
7. Tatiana Guderzo MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss +16"
8. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani +22"
9. Jessie Daams AA Drink-Leontien.nl +24"
10. Katarzyna Sosna Vaiana - Tepso +25"
(Full stage result)
Final General Classification
1. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE 4h26'05"
2. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo +07" 40
3. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl +14"
4. Noemi Cantele Be Pink +15"
5. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani +22"
6. Charlotte Becker Specialized-Lululemon +38"
7. Alexandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini Rox +40"
8. Malgorzata Jasinska MCipollin-Giambenini-Gauss +1'41"
9. Sharon Laws AA Drink-Leontien.nl +3'19"
10. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini Rox +3'45"
(Full General Classification)
It has been, in the opinion of everyone following it that I've spoken to, an absolutely superb race full of excitement, first-rate riding and with nothing certain until the last few minutes, suspense. It should be remembered that it almost didn't happen this year: with the global economy in its current state, women's races (which have always been underfunded) are being cancelled left, right and centre, but fortunately the organisers managed to find a way to go ahead even though they were forced to cut it by one day. Yet the UCI is not in financial difficulty - in February this year, they very proudly announced that average salaries paid to (male) Pro Tour riders had risen from €190,000 to €264,000 over a three-year period from 2009 which, they say, is evidence that cycling is bucking the worldwide trend and doing very well ("So we're obviously doing a good job" is what they seem to really be saying).
The UCI is responsible for co-ordinating efforts to develop cycling in all its many forms. When riders asked president Pat McQuaid why it is that Pro Tour riders receive a guaranteed minimum salary and the female riders do not, the official line was that it's because women's cycling isn't "developed" enough.
OK Pat. Like a lot of fans of the women's sport, I've called you quite a few nasty names over the years. Right now I'm going to say sorry for that, even though you can't force me to keep my personal opinions quiet like you did with Chloe Hosking. In fact, I'm going to credit you with some intelligence (we'll overlook that whole South Africa thing from back in the day, even though it was really stupid, because hey, we were all young and foolish once). Now - a question: do you want women's cycling to develop, right to a level where races turn a profit, the development of cycling in all its wonderful shapes and forms being kind of point of the UCI and all? Do you, in fact, give a shit? (Don't forget that if women's cycling did turn a profit, it'd mean more cash for the UCI and for you. Betcha give a shit now, don't you?)
Races like this are how you do it. Stages 1 and 2a were hard-fought right from the start line and they finished with high-speed, high-adrenaline battles that would have made superb TV. Cycling fans love cycling, not just men's cycling (nor only women's, of course) - believe me, give races such as this one the backing they need to survive and grow and we will watch them. Thousands of us around the world have been avidly following Twitter for every scrap of information we can find, jut like British cycling fans used to tune into French broadcasts on shortwave radio before British TV cottoned on and paid the ASO for the right to show it. There is a potential audience, and just as soon as sponsors realise that they'll be wanting to give you money.
Do it - the UCI, cycling and you will be richer. You never know, people might even stop saying you're a dick.