Thursday, 13 February 2014

Women's Tour a waste of money, says idiot councillor

Unless you live in Welwyn Garden City, you've probably never heard of Martyn Levitt. He is one of the city's councillors and, as such, you'd have thought he'd be a man with a good understanding of the issues that affect modern society. Things like how a sedentary life style causes poor health, which in turn causes misery and detriment to the economy, for example. Perhaps you'd also expect him to understand that a very good way to encourage people to live a more active lifestyle is a good way to prevent all that.

The Women's Tour is a
waste of money, thinks
Martyn Levitt
Not Mr Levitt, though. Mr. Levitt proved he's entirely incapable of understanding all this when he spoke to local newspaper the Welwyn Hatfield Times recently on the topic of the Women's Tour, which has become the most talked-about cycling race to have taken place in Britain for many years - and is one of the most talked-about races in the cycling world overall.

For Mr. Levitt, the Tour is not exciting, nor fun, nor a superb way to encourage more of the population he serves to get on their bikes and enjoy all the myriad benefits that cycling brings. Oh no. For him,the £50,000 that Welwyn's council put towards the race is all just a waste of money.

"When I have been a councillor for Haldens, I have wanted to get litter bins and I can't get litter bins, I'm told we don't have money. But we have money to fritter away on this," Mr. Levitt told the newspaper.

"The Tour of Britain had Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, household names. It got very little television coverage, what hope is there [that the Women's Tour] will raise £50,000?"

Ultimately, it shouldn't matter to the likes of Mr. Levitt whether his council is paid back the full sum it has put towards the Tour because it's been shown time and time again that the moire people cycle, the better off a town becomes - roads require less maintenance and fewer car[parks need to be built, efforts to monitor and limit air pollution can be scaled back and if even a few of the locals who see it fall in love with cycling and decide to get out on the bike once in a while, the likely savings for the local health authorities are far greater than £50,000. What's more, those people will be healthier and happier - and you can't put monetary value on that.

Mr. Levitt says that come the local elections in May, he will step down. That's all for the best, because he has no idea what he's talking about.

Welwyn residents can tell Mr. Levitt why he's wrong. Find his contact details on the council's website.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Les Déesses

Regular readers - assuming, that is, that I have any of those - may be aware that I've recently become involved with a new website named Neutral Service.

Neutral Service has the potential to become much more than this blog ever was. We're aiming to become nothing less than the central point for anyone looking for information on women's competitive cycling here in Britain and on races taking place abroad when there's a significant British interest (and probably when there isn't, too, if the race takes our fancy; because we love the sport).

Editing and writing for Neutral Service in addition to maintaining Les Déesses and Cyclopunk is becoming a bit too much. After all, I also have to go to work, and find time to waste dicking about on the rest of the Internet, drinking too much and eating biscuits. Something's gotta give - and since just about everything I've done here can now go on Neutral Service, it's going to be this one.

I'm not going to shut down the blog entirely because I'll always need to have a place where I can voice opinions that might not be suitable for putting elsewhere - stuff like my personal feelings regarding certain figures in the cycling world that perhaps veer into libel, and all the fanboy stuff about Marianne Vos.

So, if you still want to read my women's cycling news reports and race previews, click here (and if you want to help out on Neutral Service, click here).


Sunday, 9 February 2014

Harris wins Superprestige Hoogstraaten

With many top riders choosing to stay away from Hoogstraten's Vlaamse Aardbeiencross round of the Superprestige, due at least partly to the Series' apparent lack of interest in women's cycling (as expressed by Superprestige president Etienne Gevaert in this VeloNation interview), many fans wishing to choose a favourite for victory will have selected between just two names - Britain's Nikki Harris, who was second here in 2011, and Belgian Champion Sanne Cant, who won last year.

Cant rode hard to beat Vos and Wyman at Krawatencross, where Harris was fourth, just 24 hours before this race; but she's proved many times before that she's very capable of making a rapid recovery from extreme effort and coming back even stronger. When you're the female 'Cross Champ of Belgium you have no other choice because you're in demand every weekend - despite what a dinosaur like Gevaert thinks. Cant's also known to be a very, very good rider on sand, so the long sandpit leading to the finish line was likely to do her some favours.

Harris, meanwhile, is very, very good in the mud - and although conditions two hours before the race began were reported to be dry (and windy), heavy rain had fallen several times in the week prior to the race and had left the parcours muddy for most of its length. This, in the end, gave her the advantage she needed.

More details to come...

1 Nikki Harris (GBR)
2 Sanne Cant (BEL)
3 Jolien Verschueren (BEL)

More results to come....

Women's Cycling News 08-15.02.2014

Cyclo Cross -- Road -- Track -- Other

Got a story you think we should know about? Get in contact!

Stultians halts season early
 Rabo 'cross and road rider Sabrina Stultiens has been suffering with a chest infection, which she thought she'd shaken off - however, she explained that recovering from her illness has taken longer than she expected (in Dutch;

This is not the first time the 20-year-old, who was Junior National Cyclo Cross Champion in 2011, has been forced to sit out races this season - she was also unable to ride the first round of the 'Cross World Cup at Valkenburg back in October due to a painful knee.


Video: Marianne Vos on La Course at the Tour de France (
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio retains SA title (Sport 24)
Olympic cyclists to race in Northamptonshire (Northamptonshire Telegraph)
Paige Milward headhunted to join new development team (The Sentinel)
Bigla team presentation (Pez)
Qatar women's team targets 2016 Worlds (Cycling News)
...Sheikh Khalid: "We are focusing on two fronts to develop women’s cycling. We are working towards developing a mass base for the sport, and trying to nurture stronger girls who can compete for Qatar" (Gulf Times)
...Hosking has 2016 vision in Qatar (Cycling News)
A longer course and bigger prize pot awaits entrants to this year’s edition of the Cheshire Classic (Northwich Guardian)
...PEDAL POWER: Gruelling race in store for cyclists (Northwich Guardian)


GB aim for strong showing at Track Cycling World Championships (Yahoo Sport)
Great Britain team for Track World Championships announced (Cycling Weekly)
Wiasak’s World Championships (Lithuania Tribune)  


Redditch Road & Path Cycling Club were the proud hosts of the first ever women's only British Cycling Go Ride (Redditch Standard)

Cant beats Vos at Krawatencross; Helen Wyman third

SanneCantBeating the World Champion must feel great. When that World Champion is Marianne Vos, and you also beat the European Champion Helen Wyman, it must feel absolutely fantastic - which explains Belgian Champion Sanne Cant's delight as she took the top step of the podium following Saturday's BPost Bank Trofee Krawatencross race at Lille. The victory was sweetened yet further due to the Belgian having been fourth  at last weekend's World Championships where Vos won and Wyman was third - and by the fact that Vos won this very race for the last two years, beating Cant (3rd 2012, 2nd 2013) on both occasions. Wyman, who is British Champion for the eighth time this season as well as European Champion for the second time, seemed unable to match Cant and Vos as the race progressed and left the pair fighting a private battle all of their own, each rider refusing to back down all the way to the final approach to the finish. With the race looking certain to end in a sprint the majority of fans will have been expecting Vos to add yet another victory to her spectacular palmares despite Cant's skill on a sandy parcours such as this, but then the Dutch superstar's foot slipped from the pedal. She probably lost no more than a fraction of a second, but it was enough: Cant noticed and attacked hard, taking the tiny advantage that was she needed to triumph. Wyman will also be pleased with her result: she's never stood on the podium at this race before. The only other British rider was Nikki Harris, who took fourth place. Although Wyman still leads the series overall, her advantage is now just 31" to Cant (Harris is third at +1'11"). The final round, taking place at Oostmalle on the 23rd of February, promises therefore to be one of the season highlights. Helen Wyman's race report Video: Cant wins Krawatencross Krawatencross Full Result 1  Sanne Cant (Enertherm - Bkcp)  BEL 2  Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women Team)  NED 3  Helen Wyman (Kona)  GBR 4  Nikki Harris (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team Young NPI)  GBR 5  Loes Sels (Young Telenet Fidea)  BEL 6  Sophie De Boer (Kdl Cycling Team)  NED 7  Yara Kastelijn (Rtc Buitenlust)  NED 8  Ellen Van Loy (Young Telenet-Fidea)  BEL 9  Pavla Havlikova (Young Telenet - Fidea)  CZE 10  Githa Michiels (Toka Print Mtb Team)  BEL 11 Karen Verhestraeten (Sengers Ladies Cycling Team) BEL 12 Reza Ravenstijn-Hormes NED 13 Jolien Verschueren (Dncs/pro 2012 Cycling Team) BEL 14 Esmee Oosterman (Wrv DE Peddelaars) NED 15 Laura Verdonschot (Vzw Lotto - Ladiescycling) BEL 16 Maud Kaptheyns NED 17 Katrien Thijs (UP Cycling Team) BEL 18 Hilde Quintens BEL 19 Lotte Eikelenboom (Drc De Mol) NED 20 Kim Banga NED 21 Christine Vardaros (Baboco - Revor Cycling Team) USA 22 Shana Maes BEL 23 Ilona Meter (Rcp Stevens) NED 24 Nele Van Maldeghem BEL 25 Suzie Godart LUX 26 Suzanne Verhoeven NED 27 Gertie Willems BEL 28 Meg De Bruyne BEL 29 Lena Bischoff-Stein 30 Nathalie Nijns BEL 31 Tine Verdeyen BEL 32 Lene Vrijsen BEL 33 Mara Schwager GER 34 Caren Commissaris (UP Cycling Team) BEL 35 Valerie Boonen BEL 36 Laura Krans NED 37 Anja Geldhof BEL 38 Brenda Kaczmarczyk BEL 39 Yenthe Boons BEL 40 Jessika Timmermans BEL 41 Cindy Diericx BEL 42 Britta Werners GER 43 Caitlyn La Haye BEL 44 Sandra Sintobin BEL

More News...Shorts and Links

Friday, 7 February 2014

Tour of Qatar - Stage 4 - Wild wins stage and fourth GC

Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild finished first in a bunch sprint against some formidable opponents including devastatingly fast Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda), who was second, and Melissa Hoskins of Orica-AIS who was third.

Wild's Giant-Shimano team once again kept tight control on the race and saw to it that the many attacks they knew they'd face were kept strictly in check, with Wild herself ensuring a late attempt by Orica's Emma Johansson was thwarted. A few riders managed to get away in the last 10km, but Wild was simply too strong and soon put them back in their places. Following bonification, Wild's victory earned her a 22" General Classification advantage over the second-placed rider, her team mate Amy Pieters - who won Stage 2 and finishes as leading rider in the Youth category.
Wild won the first and second stages, too; her domination of the race is even more impressive due to the fact that she has now won the General Classification four times, having also triumphed in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
More details and results to come...
Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 2h06'23"
2 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
3 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
5 Jolien D'HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
6 Shelley OLDS (Ale-Cipollini) ST
7 Pascale JEULAND (France NT) ST
8 Roxane FOURNIER (France NT) ST
9 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
10 Xiao Ling LUO (China Chong Ming) ST
Full result: stage / GC

End of the road for the Star Zeeuwsche Eilanden

Chantal Blaak winning Stage 2, 2011
(image: Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden)

For the second year in a row the Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden has been cancelled, with organiser Stichting Wielercomité Koudekerke stating that this is now likely to be the permanent end of the race which has been in existence since 1998.

"We've not been able to fill the hole left by the sponsor we lost, and [Potential new] sponsors remain reluctant so we're feeling the financial crunch," Wim Polderman of the Stichting Wielercomité Koudekerke explained. "We made this decision with heavy hearts, because several teams and volunteers had already signed up for 2014. I emphasise that the Committee continues, and our podiumwagen and jurybus remain available."
The race, first held in 1998, was open to professional and club riders and has been won by some of the most famous names in the sport including Hanka Kupfernagel, Leontien van Moorsel, Mirjam Melchers, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Marianne Vos and Kirsten Wild who won a record three times.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Tour of Qatar Stage 3

With Stage 3 staying close to the eastern coastline for much of its 93.5km, teams expected yet more crosswinds today and were entirely correct in doing so: the bunch was split up early on once again as riders battled to make progress - Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products) later described it as "seriously one of the hardest races I have done." A group of 28, including all those who went into the race with a reasonable chance of winning, got away and led for most of the day.

In the final kilometres the lead group had been whittled down to a dozen, and as the finish drew near it looked as though Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), who is the only British rider in the race, would also be the only rider able to challenge the mighty Kirsten Wild, despite the Dutch rider's Giant-Shimano squad having kept tight reins on the race all the way. However, Wild's famously powerful sprint proved too much and she had little difficulty in retaining her lead across the finish line to win a third stage for the team. Armitstead was right behind her, taking second place and an identical time, while Hosking was third.

Following bonification, Wild takes back the overall lead from team mate Amy Pieters (winner of Stage 2) and now has an advantage of 9" - and seems a safe bet for anyone wanting to predict tomorrow's results, too.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 2h27'34"
2 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
3 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products) ST
4 Shelley OLDS (Ale-Cipollini) ST
6 Barbara GUARISCHI (Ale-Cipollini) ST
7 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
8 Elena CECCHINI (Italy NT) ST
9 Amy PIETERS (Giant-Shimano) ST
10 Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) ST
Full result: stage / GC

Monday, 3 February 2014

British hope at the Tour of Qatar

Somewhat surprisingly, considering the enormous upsurge in interest in women's cycling in Britain and the number of world-class athletes from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making their mark on the cycling scene in recent years, British hopes for a Tour of Qatar victory rest on the shoulders of just one rider - even the British-registered team Wiggle-Honda will compete without a Brit.

Armitstead is the only British rider at this
year's Tour of Qatar
However, as that one rider is Lizzie Armitstead, who is currently ranked 17th among Elite Women worldwide by the UCI, there's still a very good chance of a British victory - not least of all because Qatar is made up of the sort of windy, flat stages that usually result in bunch sprints which suit a rider equipped with Armitstead's super-fast sprint abilities (she was, after all, second to Marianne Vos as the 2012 Olympics - and Vos is popularly acclaimed as the greatest rider of her generation), and because she has a strong Boels-Dolmans squad made up of Romy Kasper, Christine Majerus, Katerzyna Pawlowska and Marieke Van Wanroij backing her up.

If the gold General Classification jersey seems out of reach, Armitstead could instead aim for the silver Points competition jersey - a stage win combined with good performances in the intermediate sprints would put her in with a good chance at this. However, with no climbs anywhere in the race, all the teams will be sending the best sprinters they have and she'll face stiff competition for each and every point.

The race covers 388km split into four stages, some of them familiar from previous editions of the Tour.

Stage 1, extending for 97km, is a carbon copy of 2013's Stage 1 which was won by Australian Chloe Hosking of Hitec Products-UCK. Hosking has been one of the finest sprinters in the world for a few years now and has continued to improve; racing for Hitec again this year, she'll be one of Armitstead's strongest rivals for stage victory and the overall General Classification.

The riders will cross the finish line twice, first after 35.5km from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and then again at the end of the race 61.5km later. When they do so for the first time they'll enter the first of two intermediate sprints; the second intermediate sprint on the desert road heading east to Al Wakra.

Stage 2 starts at Al Zubara, a ruined city with a fort that looks medieval but in fact dates from 1938. Heading north-east along exposed coastal roads, the riders can expect very powerful crosswinds all the way to their first arrival at Al Ruwais. This may split the peloton, but it's unlikely that we'll see breakaways here as riders will concentrate on forming echelons for shelter.

At Al Ruwais, they'll turn and ride almost all the way across the country to Athba; since they'll now be heading away from the east coast, a strong tail wind could make this a very fast section of the stage and once again prevent breakaways. After a short stretch north to Al Gariyah, they turn west and begin riding back to Al Ruwais, this time battling a headwind. Having crossed the finish line for the first time they'll begin four laps around Madinat Al Shamal with intermediate sprints the second and fourth times they cross the line before finishing on the fifth after 112.3km.

Stage 2 in 2012 started and ended at the same points, but followed a different parcours that led east across the desert rather than north along the coast, making it an entirely different sort of race. Trixi Worrack won that day; she's back leading the Specialized-Lululemon team this year, but with the changes to the route it's impossible to say whether she has more chance at winning than her rivals this year - and since victory is likely to go to a rider able to generate a sprint-winning high wattage after fighting the wind for so much of the way, Armitstead seems to have odds as good as anyone else.

Stage 3 runs for 93.5km from Katara Cultural Village at Doha just a short distance from the famous Pearl to Al Khor Corniches and then north into the desert before returning to Al Khor Corniche - remaining near to the eastern coast, it's likely to subject the riders to crosswinds which may blow in off the sea to the east or straight across the flat landscape from the west.

Once again, there are two intermediate sprints. The first is at Tenbek, 45km into the race and roughly two thirds of the way to Al Khor Corniche, while the second is 44.5km later at Al Thakira, 8.5km from the finish.

Stage 4 will also feel familiar to riders who competed last year, because it's the same as the final stage from 2013 - though it's listed as being 85km instead of 86.5km this time around, for some reason. Then, unusually for Qatar, the wind dropped and completely changed the character if the race, encouraging fierce breakaways and attacks as Hitec fought to get Hosking into a position to take on race leader and eventual victor Kirsten Wild who is back with her Giant-Shimano team this year - and who will be a very powerful opponent to Armitstead and anyone else hoping to win.

Starting at the Sealine Beach Resort, the parcours heads north via Mesaieed and Al Wakra (site of the first intermediate sprint, 38.5km from the start) to Doha; never venturing more than a few kilometres from the east coast it's likely that the riders will have to contend with crosswinds, unless the weather does something unexpected again. Once at Doha they'll compete five laps of the fast city circuit with the second intermediate sprint at the fourth crossing of the finish line, 11.5km from the end of the race.

Further information
The official race website is here and daily results will be published by the UCI. Team rosters: Ale Cipollini / Australia National Team / Astana-BePink / Boels-Dolmans / China Chong Ming / France National Team / Hitec Products / Italy National Team / Lotto-Belisol / Orica-AIS / Rabo-Liv/Giant / RusVelo / Specialized-Lululemon / Giant-Shimano / Wiggle-Honda.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Women's Cycling News Round-up 02-09.02.2014

World 'Cross Champs - more to come...

More news to come - got a story for us? Let us know!

Vos smashes World 'Cross Champs; Brit Helen Wyman wins bronze
Outside Belgium cyclo cross has never had a profile anything like that enjoyed by its sibling road racing, but once a year the entire cycling world stocks up on the Leffe and prepares for dose of good, filthy fun as the riders get down and dirty and fight it out for the biggest prize in 'cross - the World Championships.

In recent years, Marianne Vos' domination of the sport has been so great that bookies probably kept a drawerful of pre-printed betting slips with her name inserted where there'd usually be a blank space - your chances of getting any cash back had you have bet on anyone else was about as likely as your chances of getting it back if you'd dropped your wallet in the Hoogerheide mud. For the last couple of seasons, however, it's been increasingly apparent that rather than "killing the sport" - as some people, presumably ones who've never heard of Eddy Merckx, who was the last rider that can be compared the Dutch superstar, claimed would happen - the Vos phenomenon has had an enormously positive effect: just as the British rider Helen Wyman said would happen, the rest of the field has had to work hard to improve so as to be in with a chance, and women's cyclo cross has become a very great deal more competitive and fascinating as a result. This year, that process has really come to a head - Vos has been World 'Cross Champion seven times, donning the rainbow jersey in all but two of the years since 2006 but for the first time in a long time a large percentage of fans were tipping other riders for victory, with the USA's Katie Compton and Wyman both being named likely victors.

As was the case at the final round of the World Cup at Nommay in France last week, the widely predicted and much-anticipated battle between Vos and Compton never happened - right at the start of the race the American collided with three-time Czech champion Pavla Havlikova and both riders had difficulty untangled their bikes, losing a lot of time. Compton, though, is a very strong rider indeed; she was still in with a good chance of catching up and Vos would only have had to make a tiny mistake for her rival to take control. The thing is, though, Vos doesn't make many mistakes, and later in the race Compton's asthma, which forced her to abandon at Nommay, started to play her up once again. It seems highly likely that, sooner or later, Compton will take the rainbow jersey, but it wasn't to be this year and in the end she took ninth place.

Vos' technique is well-known: she simply finds her pace and then keeps going, and if anyone can stay with her for the duration then they might (and it's a very big might) be able to match her legendary surge of power to the line. In this race she set her pace early, suddenly accelerating hard halfway through the first lap to a speed that suited her. Italian Eva Lechner went with her and looked strong, but the speeds that suit Vos are virtually unhuman and she fell behind by the end of the lap. From that point on, it was virtually beyond doubt that Vos would take another title and there will be those who say that deciding the outcome so early makes for a boring race. However, there is joy to be had in watching an artisan skilled in his or her craft, and Vos is as expert at the technique of cycling as she is as generating vast wattages - time and time again she picked her lines and executed them to absolute perfection, hardly ever putting a tyre more than a centimetre away from where it needed to be to maintain momentum despite the slippery conditions and taking the corners so quickly that the mud hardly had time to stick to her socks, which looked almost as clean when she finished the race after 39'25" as when she started. She is a truly remarkable athlete and entirely deserves every victory she takes, even if her main rival has been taken out.

Lechner, who had now given up on catching Vos and was concentrating on staying as far ahead of the rest as she possibly could; she worked stupendously hard and her second place finish 1'07" behind Vos was impressive. Meanwhile, there was a full-scale melee going on further back down the parcours for the silver and bronze booty: Wyman, who leads many races for a good part of the initial lap due to her lightning-bolt starts, was third for a long time but Compton, still in at this point, and Belgian superstar Sanne Cant were tracking her every move. Had Compton not have experienced difficulties she's almost certainly have finished top three, perhaps even ahead of Lechner; as it was, Wyman ended up only having to deal with Cant who, for a while, managed to get ahead and looked very much like the probable third. Wyman's fast reactions serve for more than just fast starts, though, and Cant only needed to make the slightest misjudgement during the final lap for Helen to leap past her and grab the third place on the podium 1'17" behind Vos.

Of the other members of Wyman's British team, Nikki Harris was the next-fastest in fifth place, while Gabby Durrin was 26th and Hannah Payton 35th.

We hope to photographs of the race as soon as possible.

2014 World Cyclo Cross Championships Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Netherlands) 39'25"
2 Eva LECHNER (Italy) 40'32"
3 Helen WYMAN (Great Britain) 40'42"
4 Sanne CANT (Belgium) 40'45"
5 Nikki HARRIS (Great Britain) 41'58"
6 Lucie CHAINEL-LEFEVRE (France) 42'09"
7 Loes SELS (Belgium) 42'12"
8 Thalita DE JONG (Netherlands) 42'17"
9 Katie COMPTON (USA) 42'23"
10 Caroline MANI (France) 42'24"
Full result