Monday 21 May 2012

Lululemon's big slice of Gatineau

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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)

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