Monday, 23 July 2012

Sparkassen Giro Bochum 2012

In previous years, the Sparkassen Giro featured a stage race in addition to a criterium, but due to the Olympics it's down to just the criterium this year and doesn't have UCI status (it had been 1.1). Neverthless, it looks set to be a superb event: very few organisers do quite so much to ensure their efforts produce a great day out for cycling fans and the public as a whole - taking place in the German city Bochum on the 5th of August, there are no fewer than seven races (including one with dernys and another for inline skaters), live bands, circus entertainers and, to finish off the day, a fireworks display. This turns a race into a sort of one-day festival and ensures that the race attracts people with no previous interest in the sport, generating welcome income for the city as well as for the race itself; and if even only a few of those who come simply because it's a good, cheap day out for the kids go home thinking that this bike racing thing seems quite good fun and that they might go to a few more races in the future then the organisers can be said to have done a good job.

There are obvious parallels with the IG Markets Nocturne, which has used a similar concept to become one of Britain's most popular cycling events within just a few years. The physical aspects of the two events are very similar too, both using a tight urban criterium parcours that tests riders' skills, ensures all spectators can see the peloton go by several times and makes it very easy for television crews to capture all the action - which is precisely what the sponsors want and goes a long way towards guaranteeing their continued financial support. It's also the sort of parcours that best demonstrates the fast, furious and ever-changing nature of most women's cycling races, with attacks coming left, right and centre and the riders' order changing on every straight and corner.

The parcours is 1.5km in length and begins on Südring by the junction with Kortumstraße (51°28'43.27"N 7°13'1.13"E), a wide thoroughfare with trees along a central reservation that could make for slippery conditions in wet weather, then heads east into a gentle left-hand bend for around 500m and passes by the tall Europahaus tower. 165m after the tower is the tightest corner in the race, a very sharp left leading onto Massenbergstraße. Just across the road is a sculpture created by Richard Serra and consisting of four huge slabs of steel - it's called Terminal and will look familiar to any British fan who has been through London's Liverpool Street Station, as his almost identical Fulcrum stands just outside the station. In addition to a huge amount of street furniture, the corner is made dangerous by tramlines: they vanish again as soon as the riders get onto Massenbergstraße but are ideally placed to catch front wheels. There's also a low concrete kerb separating the two roads, too.

City Hall seen from Bongardstraße, where riders turn left
80m after the corner, riders pass by the entrance to a tunnel and follow the road for 294m through right and left-hand bends leading onto Bongardstraße - the visible through the buildings on the right is the Propsteikirche St. Peter und Paul, founded by Charlemagne and built between 785-800CE but extensively remodeled since. The road then straightens out and continues for 200m to a 90 degree left turn onto Viktoriastraße by the grand City Hall - there's a lot of street furniture along Bongardstraße, but the junction is very clean and smooth; Viktoriastraße remains the same for 135m before being split into two narrow lanes by a central reservation - a potential problem if a large number of riders attempt to get into the lane at the same time, creating a bottleneck. The last corner, a 90 degree left, lies 198m ahead; it's another wide, clear junction with the only obvious hazard being a manhole cover in the middle of the road, right in the line of riders on the right of the peloton - this could be very slippery if conditions are wet. Riders then continue straight along Südring, passing the finish line 80m later. As is always the case with urban races on roads used by trucks and buses, there is a possibility of spilled diesel along the entire parcours.

Start lists have not been released, but will be added here when available. This year, the race does not have UCI status - it had previously been 1.1. However, it attracted some of the top names in women's cycling over the last few years including Ellen van Dijk, Tiffany Cromwell, Chloe Hosking, Noemi Cantele, Valentina Scandolara, Linda Villumsen, Hanka Kupfernagel, Annie Simpson, Helen Wyman and current World Champion Giorgia Bronzini - it seems likely therefore that it will still draw a very competitive field.

Amateur race 13:00
KNAX MiniGiro 14:30
Professional Men 16:00
Professional Women 18:00
Fun Giro 19:30
Derny Race 20:00
Full programme including bands and fireworks

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