Monday, 15 April 2013

Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs 2013

26-28.04.2013 Official Site
Luxembourg, 2-stage road race + prologue, 203.5km
UCI 2.1

If you love women's professional cycling - and, since you're reading an article about a women's professional cycle race on a website devoted to women's professional cycling, it seems at least reasonably likely that you do - there's a very great deal to love about the Festival du Ely Jacobs: having started as a race, it's become a three-day celebration of the sport, the athletes and the uniquely involved, passionate fans that women's cycling attracts.

Elsy Jacobs was born into a cycling family in Garnich on the 4th of March 1933. Three of her brothers were professional cyclists and enjoyed varying degrees of success: Raymond, born in 1931, won the Flèche du Sud in 1960; Roger, born in 1923, was crowned National Cyclo Cross Champion on three occasions and won the National Road Race Championship for Independents (riders who either supported themselves or had some limited sponsorship - in his case, Helyett-Hutchinson - but were not paid members of a professional team) in 1950; Edmond, born in 1928, rode in the Tour de France and came third three times at the Flèche du Sud, including the one that Raymond won. Elsy, meanwhile, was destined for greater things - in 1958, she became the first ever female World Road Race Champion and set a new Hour Record at 41.347km. In 1959 she became National Road Race Champion and retained the title every year until 1969, when it went to Sylvie Welter; then she won it back in 1970 and kept it until 1974, by which time she was 41 years old. More than half a century since she became World Champion, cyclists in Luxembourg (many of them not even born when Jacobs was racing) still frequently refer to her by her nickname: The Grand Duchess.

2012 winner Marianne Vos
In 1998, not long after Jacobs died, cycling residents of Garnich organised a mass-participation ride in honour of the Grand Duchess, open to anyone who wanted to take part. So fondly was she remembered even a quarter of a century after she'd last been National Champion that the event proved enormously successful, so it became an annual event and grew larger every year. In 2008, to mark the tenth anniversary of her death, an official, UCI-sanctioned race was added and the GP Elsy Jacobs was born; for the first two years it took the form of a criterium race, then became a road race. In 2011, it was joined by another race in memory of Nicolas Frantz, who was born in the nearby village Mamer on the 4th of November 1899 and went on to win two Tours de France and 12 National Road Race Championships. Initially, the Elsy Jacobs and Nicolas Frantz events existed as separate races (and they still feel that way, having completely different characters, to this day); the time trial Prologue was added in 2011 and then in 2012 the results of all three events were collated to create an overall General Classification. It retains that format for 2013.

The first edition was won by the Italian Monia Baccaille, then Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova won in 2009 and Britain's Emma Pooley (better known as a climber) won the last criterium race in 2010. Since then, the race has been dominated by one woman - the Grand Duchess for the 21st Century Marianne Vos won in 2011 (she won the GP Niolas Frantz too, because she's Vos), then won the Elsy Jacobs stage and the General Classification in 2012 when she beat her team mate Annemiek van Vleuten, who had won the Prologue and the GP Frantz stage, by 13" overall. Vos, current World Champion, recently won the Ronde van Vlaanderen after many years of trying and seems to be on even better form than in previous years; she'll be favourite among many fans for another victory here this year.


Prologue (26.04.2013)
Prologue - click to enlarge
Last year the 1.7km individual time trial prologue felt like a party, running in the evening through the centre of Garnich where crowds of people stood outside the houses and bars to cheer the riders on. The parcours has been moved some 7km north-west from Luxembourg City where it ran around a large park to Mamer this year and the start and finish lines are separate, rather than the riders finishing where they began as was the case in 2012. Taking place on a Friday evening (first riders go at 17:30), it's likely that most of the town will be out to watch the race and enjoy the "Fête du cyclisme" that takes place afterwards.

The start line is located on the Rue du Marche at the Chateau du Mamer (which now houses the town hall), with the riders passing by it before a sharp right-hand bend just 150m from the line. An easy left at a tarmac-covered circle leads east for 470m along a narrow road through parkland, then a tighter left leads onto the much wider Rue de la Liberation, ending at another left onto the Rue du Marche 482m ahead. After 150m, a gentle right carries them along the Rue J. Barthel for 170m to another left and the Rue du Millenaire which, following a wide left-hand bend 150m ahead becomes the Rue de Dippach running straight for 260m to the finish line next to the football ground. The total distance is 1.8km, short enough for riders to put in all their strength right from the start without needing to worry about conserving energy for later; with an absence of hills (there are a couple of inclines of around 4.5%, but they rise only 3m) we can expect to see some very fast average speeds.

prologue altimetry - click to enlarge
Prologue report: you'd have had to search far and wide to find anyone who didn't believe Rabobank's Annemiek van Vleuten was going to win this - the 30-year-old excels in time trials and is especially effective, perhaps even unbeatable on a short, flat parcours such as this, completing it in 2'29". Van Vleuten's team mate Marianne Vos, who claimed during the Olympics that she'd never be much good at time trials, was second after recording a time only one second slower; Orica-AIS star Annette Edmondson was third with +2".

Top Ten

1 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank) 02'29"
2 Marianne VOS (Rabobank) +01"
3 Annette EDMONDSON (Orica-AIS) +02"
4 Laura TROTT (Wiggle-Honda) +04"
5 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +05"
6 Amanda SPRATT (Orica-AIS) ST 
7 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
8 Adrie VISSER (Boels-Dolmans) ST
9 Jessie MACLEAN (Orica-AIS) +06"
10 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) ST
Full result and GC here

GP Elsy Jacobs (27.04.2013)
The centrepiece of the race, Stage 2 consists of 53.6km main route followed by five laps of a 9.8km circuit. The riders set out from the Rue des Trois Cantons in Jacobs' birthplace Garnich and head north via Windhof; both towns are located on hills approximately 335m in height with a valley in between. Following a short climb when leaving Garnich the riders travel downhill, experiencing gradients as steep as -7% in places, while the climb to Windhof reaches 4.4%. Most of the section from Windhof to Koerich slopes gently downhill, but the final 1.25km is steeper, at one point reaching -8% - potentially just sufficient for a small group of riders to get away in an early break.

Map - click to enlarge
The left turn onto the CR109 at the T-junction in Koerich is marked with a red triangle in the race book, but as the roads are wide it shouldn't be especially dangerous unless made slippery by rain or if approached too fast after the preceding descent. Once through the town, the riders enter a rolling forested area and continue north to another junction at the end of a very steep descent (more opportunity for a break to escape, or extend their lead), this time turning right to join the CR105 as it heads through more forest and past some attractive buildings, then into open country along a river en route to Septfontaines, at which point they have covered 12km from the start of the race. They then continue on the CR105 through Leesbech to Roodt, then climb a short but steep hill to Bour and a right turn onto the N12. Keeping left 0.4km later takes the CR105 to the Grand Château d'Ansembourg, a stupendously grand and beautiful country house that is open to the public. Approximately 1km away is the Buerg Aansebuerg, a real castle built for strength rather than to look pretty; it's the home of the Count of Ansembourg and is very much not open to the public (except for those rich enough to stay in the extremely exclusive hotel housed in one of the buildings). Once past the chateau, the CR105 passes through more rolling countryside, initially forested and then open as it heads north via Marienthal and Hunnebur to Reckange and then into Mersch, by which time the race has covered 26.9km.

Having crossed the A7 motorway as it disappears underground into a tunnel, the riders dip only briefly into Mersch on the Rue Quatre-Vents before turning right onto the Rue de Langheck, a junction marked as dangerous in the road book. It leads them onto the CR102 leading to Schoenfels, where they switch to the CR101 continuing south to Kopstal, then onward to a junction with the Route d'Arlon heading into Mamer to the the Rue du Commerce.

Keeping left as the Rue de Commerce forks takes the riders onto the Rue de Dippach - a road that will rapidly become familiar as one of those used in yesterday's time trial. Just past the Prologue finish line at the football ground, a tight right turn takes the road through a short tunnel under a railway, through fields and into a forest where, 3.75m from the tunnel, it joins the CR103. This section climbs all the way and, coming near to the return to Garnich, could potentially change the race entirely - a break could be caught, ruining its chances in the final laps at Garnich, and a group of climbers could get away and enter the laps with a handy advantage. Dippach lies 1.5km after the junction; when they reach the right turn onto the N5, the riders have covered 48.2km. At the far side of the town they turn right at a roundabout onto the N13 leading to Dahlem, then follow the road for 4km as it bends right and heads north back to Garnich. The first half of this section is flat, the second descends all the way before climbing 8m in the last 0.4km to return to the start line.

GP Elsy Jacobs altimetry - click to enlage
As the riders cross the start line for the first time, they've covered 53.6km and begin the first of five laps around a 9.8km circuit; having crossed the line they come to a left turn leading onto the Rue de la Montee and follow it out of the village, keeping right as it becomes the Rue Kahler - the road climbs and, 55.5km into the race, the day's first GPM climbing points will be awarded (more will be awarded on the third lap). Although vertical gain is only 34m over 0.75km, giving an average gradient of 4.5%, 12m are climbed in the first 0.1km (average gradient 12%) before the slope lessens for the remaining distance to the summit. Much of the descent into Kahler is also steep (-7.8%) which leaves the climbers, who tend to dislike steep downhill sections since they lack the weight to comfortably control their bikes at high speed, at risk of losing any advantage they gained on the way up on the -7.8% gradient. Immediately upon reaching Kahler, riders negotiate a very tight left-handed switchback lying at the end of a short descent where it can easily catch out anyone who fails to brake in time. After it, the road becomes the Rue de Hivange, climbing the Reiberg hill as it heads south for 2.87km to Hivange village - gaining 94m in 1.9km with an average gradient of 4.9% (the gradient increases near the top), the climb is neither long nor especially steep and would present a professional cyclist with few problems if encountered once on a parcours; the combined effect of climbing both hills five times each in close succession will be far greater and may well decide the outcome of the race . At the top of the hill after 1.53km, the race passes to the right of  a spectacular conical water tower; by the time the race has reached Hivange, it's covered 59.6km.

2km later the riders reach Dalhem and turns right, once again heading north to return to Garnich, where the riders will have covered 63.4km at the completion of the first lap, 73.2 after the second, 83 after the third, 92.8 after the fourth and 102.6 after the fifth, as which point the race ends.

GP Nicolas Frantz (28.04.2013)
GP Nicolas Frantz altimetry - click to enlarge
Stage 3 takes a similar format to the GP Elsy Jacobs: the start line has been moved to Mamer, Frantz's birthplace, but otherwise the race consists of the same main parcours followed by five laps of a different 9km circuit to give total length is 99.1km. The start line will by now be very familiar to the riders as it's in the same location as the finish line of the opening prologue on the same Rue de Dippach; heading south, they turn sharply right to pass once again through the tunnel under the railway and then follow yesterday's route west, north, east and south to return to Mamer.

The race again ends with five laps of a circuit. Having taken the same route through the tunnel under the motorway and onto the CR102 into the forest, the riders turn a sharp right to head north on the CR103 to Holzem where a right turn carries them via the Route de Garnich onto the CR101, then back to Mamer. 216m after the bridge over the railway, another right takes the Rue de Millenaire back to the start line. GPM points are awarded at the Montee du Barendal on the main parcours, located at 51.2km as the riders make the first return to Mamer, and 3.1km after the railway tunnel (57.5 and 66.5km from the start of the race) on the first and second laps of the circuit.

Start List
More information closer to race day

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