Friday, 3 August 2012

Route de France féminine 2012

04.08-12.08.12 Official site Twitter Facebook
France, UCI 2.1

Stage reports and results further down the page

Having been held since 2006, Le Route didn't go ahead in 2011 after a series of problems that organiser Hervé Gerardin said made it "almost impossible" to make the race happen. Instead, the organising committee redoubled their efforts, determined that it would take place again in 2012 - "It's a shame for women's sports. It has no real support and I think that's bad... there should be more women's cycling," says Gerardin.

They suffered enough set backs to discourage most race committees, including an abject lack of interest from several ideal stage towns; but their hard work has paid off. In times that have seen so many women's races vanish, the Route de France is something very special indeed - long may it continue. (Fans can help ensure it does, simply by retweeting official race tweets - see the link above, spreading news and talking about it. Anything that helps to increase awareness of the race, in a year when it's likely to be largely forgotten due to the Olympics, is worthwhile!)

Results and news published below with stage descriptions (when available)

Stage 1/Prologue
Fast and flat with plenty of long straights. Several points looked as though they might be hazardous - first corner (Rue de la Republique/Av. Edmond Flamand) due to potentially slippery drain covers on the right; the Rue de la Samaritaine with a truck depot, what appears to be a scrapyard and several industrial units - making the road hazardous if vehicles have spilled oil or fuel. Corner 5 (Rue de la Samaritaine/Rue Alfred Caulier, just past the Land Rover dealership) seemed especially risky, coming as it does at the end of a long, fast straight with several nearby sideroads leading into the industrial area. More depots along the Av. de Petite Synthe made the section between the two bridges another risky part.

Stage 1 Result   
  1.  Alena Amialyusik Be Pink 06'41" 
  2.  Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon +02"
  3.  Kristin Mcgrath Exergy-Twenty12 +05"
  4.  Amanda Miller Team TIBCO +08"
  5.  Emilia Fahlin Specialized-Lululemon ST
  6.  Alexsandra Burchenkova SC Michela Fanini Rox +09"
  7.  Jacquelyn Crowell Exergy-Twenty12 +10"
  8.  Grete Treier SC Michela Fanini Rox +12"
  9.  Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon +13"
  10.  Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink ST
Full result

Stage 2
2. DUNKERQUE (Nord) - NOEUX LES MINES  (Pas de Calais) 102.4km
Another flat parcours, though punctuated with two climbs offering points - Cassel (28km) rises to 167m, Cote de Holain (90km) to 190m. Due tot he flat terrain, high winds blowing off the North Sea have the potential to cause problems, but conditions were calm. A slight rise in the final kilometre meant the sprinters weren't going to have an easy time of things, but wasn't big enough to stop them trying.

Lotto-Belisol rode aggressively right from the start with Ann-Sophie Duyck launching the day's first attack less than a kilometre from the depart fictif, and she rode alone off the front for 68km before the pack brought her back. It was a smart move, because whilst the other teams had to work to catch her, her team mates were able to sit back and save energy for later on - and Cherise Taylor will have needed every last gram of strength she could muster when she went head-to-head with Specialized-Lululemon's lightning-quick sprinter Chloe Hosking in the final battle to the line. Fortunately for her, Duyck's mission proved successful - she beat the Australian by mere centimetres, with the first 52 riders all recording the same time.

Stage 2 Result    
  1.  Cherise Taylor Lotto-Belisol 2h48'32"
  2.  Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon ST
Cherise Taylor
  3.  Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  4.  Christine Majerus GSD Gestion ST
  5.  Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  6.  Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
  7.  Simona Frapporti Be Pink ST 
  8.  Lucinda Brand AA ST 
  9.  Edita Janeliunaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  10.  Giada Borgato Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
Full stage result

General Classification
1. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink 2h55'13"
2. Evelyn Steven Specialized-Lululemon +02"
3. Kristin McGrath Team USA +05"
4. Amanda Miller Team USA +08"
5. Emilia Fahlin Specialized-Lululemon ST 
6. Aleksandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +09"
7. Jacquelyn Crowell Team USA +10"
8. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +12"
9. Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon +13"
10.  Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink ST
Full GC

Stage 3
3. NOEUX LES MINES  (Pas de Calais) - TERGNIER (Aisne) 130.7km
There were no hills on Stage 3 - in fact, the highest terrain came within the depart fictif - but the first half of the parcours is rolling, with a large number of dips and rises that have little effect on their own but can drain energy from the legs when they come in quick succession (British cyclists who have ridden in Suffolk will know this type of terrain). There was a small, steep climb at 70km, just before the feeding zone; the remaining 53km were flat - combined with a gentle descent to the last flat kilometre, this was always going to be a stage for the sprinters. As predicted, the entire parcours was subject to strong wind.

Specialized-Lululemon very quickly made it clear that they had designs on this stage, attempting to organise a break early on, but it wasn't happening and they decided to try to wear down their opponents with attacks instead. Marijn de Vries (AA successfully chased down the first; then when her team mate Lucinda Brand went after the next, six riders went with her and the day's break formed from that.

Despite a concerted effort by the pack, the seven escapees managed to maintain a decent lead all the way to the finish - Brand crossed just ahead of the rest with all seven recording the same time. Alona Andruk led the main group over the line 1'39" later, the next 55 riders receiving the same time as her, then Silvia Moroni (Vaina-Tepso arrived 17" after them and was followed by her team mate Valentina Bastianelli 14" second. The final rider to arrive was S.C. Michela Fanini Rox's Ellah Michal - hailing from one of the most under-represented nations in cycling, Israel - who got in 8'38" after Brand. Ally Stacher (Specialized-Lululemon) did not start the stage, Federica Primavera (Forno D'Asolo Colavita) did not finish.

"Wasn't it a nice win?" Brand asked afterwards. She's right - it was.
Lucinda Brand

Stage 3 Result
  1. Lucinda Brand AA 3h26'33" 
  2. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  3. Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink ST   
  4. Anastasiya Chulkova Forno D'Asolo-Colavita ST         
  5. Amanda Miller Team USA ST
  6. Lise Olivier         Lotto-Belisol ST
  7. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon ST
  8. Alona Andruk Vaiana-Tepso +01'39"
  9. Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon ST
  10. Isabelle Soederberg AA ST
Full stage result

General Classification
  1. Amanda Miller Team USA 6h21'54"
  2. Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink +05"
  3. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon +06"
  4. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +07"
  5. Lucinda Brand AA +08"
  6. Anastasiya Chulkova Forno D'Asolo-Colavita +21"
  7. Lise Olivier         Lotto-Belisol +26"
  8. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink +1'31"
  9. Evelyn Steven Specialized-Lululemon +1'33"
  10. Kristin McGrath Team USA +1'36"
Full GC

Stage 4
4. SOISSONS (Aisne) - PONTAULT-COMBAULT  (Seine et Marne) 113.1km
After two days heading south-east, a short transfer took the race to Soissons and the riders headed south-west over somewhat hillier terrain to the Île-de-France just east of Paris. The highest point along the first two-thirds, to 80km, riose to only 149m; but was steep enough to test the legs. The only climb offering points was Cote de Brinches at 60km, closely followed by the feeding zone. At 75km, riders began climbing Cote de Dainville; then with the exception of the last 6km, which rose slightly, the remainder of the parcours was downhill - making the stage seem ripe for a breakaway.

Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiana-Tepso)made her move only 5km into the race and rode solo until Simona Frapporti (Be Pink) joined her at 50km; the two of them were the only riders able to stay away in the end, keeping a lead that had grown to 3'30" at 42" as they made the final approach to the finish -  where Frapporti turned out to be the stronger of the two and got her front wheel over the line a fraction of a second faster. Specialized-Lululemon's enormously popular Chloe Hosking led an eight-strong chase group in 42", hotly pursued by the pack just 3" behind them; then Jacquelyn Crowell (USA/Exergy-Twenty12), Silvia Moroni (Vaiana-Tepso), Ellah Michal (S.C. Fanini Rox) and Moroni's team mate Alessia Martini finished up 53" after the winner. Despite wet conditions on some parts of the parcours, all the riders completed the stage.

British rider Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon), best young rider today, came 36th, slipping from third to fourth place in the General Classification.

Simona Frapporti
Stage 4 Result
  1.  Simona Frapporti Be Pink 3h02'55"
  2.  Valentina Bastianelli Vaiana-Tepso ST
  3.  Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon +42"
  4.  Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  5.  Christine Majerus GSD Gestion ST
  6.  Edita Janeliunaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  7.  Emilia Fahlin Specialized-Lululemon ST
  8.  Lucinda Brand AA ST
  9.  Cherise Taylor Lotto-Belisol ST
  10.  Giada Borgato Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
Full stage result

General Classification
  1. Amanda Miller Team USA 9h25'34"
  2. Lucinda Brand AA +05"
  3. Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink +05"
  4. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon +06"
  5. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +07"
  6. Anastasiya Chulkova Forno D'Asolo-Colavita +21"
  7. Lise Olivier         Lotto-Belisol +26"
  8. Simona Frapporti Be Pink +1'02"
  9. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink +1'31"
 10. Evelyn Steven Specialized-Lululemon +1'33"
Full GC

Stage 5
5. PONTAULT-COMBAULT  (Seine et Marne) - CHALETTE SUR LOING (Loiret) 122.5km
Stage 5 headed south over pancake-flat terrain without climbs, ending with three laps of a circuit at Chalette sur Loing and passing en route through the National Park west of Fontainebleu, once the hunting park of the French monarchs.

As expected, the parcours made it a sprinter's stage with no fewer than 57 riders finishing together. Specialized-Lululemon's Chloe Hosking - who can produce the sort of power a rider would need to see off people such as Giorgia Bronzini and Marianne Vos in a sprint, as she proved at the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo in March this year - was the quickest in the final couple of hundred metres and took the stage win. Alone Andruk (Diadora-Pasta Zara was on her all the way but had to settle for second, with Vienne Futuroscope's Fiona Dutriaux taking third place.

British rider Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) was 24th and thus recorded the same time as Hosking, therefore remaining in fourth place overall. Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiana-Tepso), who did so well yesterday when she escaped in a break and came second, trailed the main group by 20" to come 58th, a sign of just how much effort she put in on Stage 3. USA/Exergy-Twenty12's Jacqueline Crowell was another 5'02" behind her and Ella Michal (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox) arrived 8'09" after Hosking. Poor Emilia Fahlin (Specialized-Lululemon) crossed the line 24'06" down after her handlebar snapped and she was forced to ride 85km on her own off the back of the peloton; then Alessia Martini and Silvia Moroni (both Vaiana-Tepso) finished together at +36'17". Unfortunately, four riders were unable to finish: Lorena Forisi (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox), Ann-Sophie Duyck, Cherise Taylor and Joanne van de Winkel - the latter three all riders for Lotto-Belisol, bad news for the team as it's now reduced to three riders.

Chloe Hosking
Stage 5 Result
  1.  Chloe Hosking Specialized-Lululemon 3h08'36"
  2.  Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  3.  Fiona Dutriaux Vienne Futuroscope ST
  4.  Edita Janeliunaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  5.  Simona Frapporti Be Pink ST
  6.  Alena Amialyusik Be Pink ST
  7.  Giada Borgato Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  8.  Lucinda Brand AA ST
  9.  Oxana Kozonchuk Be Pink ST
  10.  Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
Full stage result

General Classification
  1. Amanda Miller Team USA 12h34'10"
  2. Lucinda Brand AA +05"
  3. Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink +05"
  4. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon +06"
  5. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +07"
  6. Anastasiya Chulkova Forno D'Asolo-Colavita +21"
  7. Lise Olivier         Lotto-Belisol +26"
  8. Simona Frapporti Be Pink +1'02"
  9. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink +1'31"
 10. Evelyn Steven Specialized-Lululemon +1'33"
Full GC

Stage 6
6. CREPS - Bourgogne Dijon (Côte d’Or) - ARC ET SENANS (Doubs)  100km
The longest transfer of the race took the riders to Creps overnight (where they were billeted in a completely rubbish hotel that offered them a breakfast insufficient to keep a sparrow in flight for more than an hour, never mind a fully-grown adult woman pedaling at full speed for 100km). There were no real hills (and hence no climbing points) on the way to Arc et Senans, but the Alps visible to the east will have been a welcome sight to the climbers and a reminder that their turn to shine is coming soon. 

The final 5km were flat; it came as no surprise that the stage ended with a bunch sprint consisting of 58 riders. First among them was Loren Rowney, taking Specialized-Lululemon's second stage win in as many days, while Alona Andruk (Diadora-Pasta Zara) repeated her performance from yesterday to come second, followed by her team mate Giada Borgato in third.

Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon), the only British rider in the race, was 57th but, crucially, finished in the main group and thus remains fourth in the General Classification. Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiano-Tepso) was the first of the riders to finish apart from the bunch, arriving 26" after Rowney; next in was Ellah Michal of S.C. Michela Fanini Rox at +01'10", then Jacqueline Crowell (USA/Exergy-Twenty12) at +02'06" and finally the unfortunate Silvia Moroni (Vaiana-Tepso) at +27'51".

The latter part of this race is an entirely different beast to the former - with a 503m climb briefly reaching a gradient as high as 28% on its way to the 1,035m Planche des Belles Filles to end tomorrow's stage, there's a good chance that there'll be a different leader tomorrow.

Loren Rowney
Stage 6 Result
  1. Loren Rowney Specialized-Lululemon 2h36'24"
  2. Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  3. Giada Borgato Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  4. Sandrine Bideau Vienne Futuroscope ST
  5. Oxana Kozonchuk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  6. Edita Janeliunaite Diadora-Pasta Zara ST 
  7. Simona Frapporti Be Pink ST 
  8. Sara Grifi S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
  9. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink ST 
  10. Fiona Dutriaux Vienne Futuroscope ST 
Full stage result

General Classification 
  1. Amanda Miller Team USA 15h10'34"
  2. Lucinda Brand AA +05"
  3. Silvia Valsecchi Be Pink +05"
  4. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon +06"
  5. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +07"
  6. Anastasiya Chulkova Forno D'Asolo-Colavita +21"
  7. Lise Olivier         Lotto-Belisol +26"
  8. Simona Frapporti Be Pink +1'02"
  9. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink +1'31"
 10. Evelyn Steven Specialized-Lululemon +1'33"
Full GC

Stage 7
7. MORTEAU (Doubs) - LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES (Haute Saône)  126.4km
Having headed roughly south ever since the beginning of the race, the riders head in completely the opposite direction - and at long last, the climbers gt their chance to take over the race. Beginning at 750m above sea level, te teams faced a 175m climb simply to get out of the depart fictif; the terrain then dropped until 20km before swinging upward for the climb to the summit of 692m Les Varans, the first of the two climbs offering points today. There was a smaller climb between 40 and 50km, then a long descent to 70km and a brief kick up to the feeding zone at Geney, after which the remainder climbed gently with a few small, steeper hills... until 120km, at which point the riders had the difficult 503m climb to the Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges (as seen in this year's Tour de France), 1,035m above sea level and the second climb with points.

Six riders, among them La Route's only British rider Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon), got away after 45km; Simona Frapporti and Silvia Valsecchi (both Be Pink) later broke away together and managed to get as much as 2'20" out in front of the pack, earning them a joint Combativity sward for the stage. Colclough finished in 44th place and thus loses the Youth classification lead to 19-tear-old Dalia Muccioli of Be Pink, who put in ride on the Planche that will earn her the respect of climbers far more experienced that she is. Two other riders, GSD-Gestion team mates Oriane Chaumet and Lucie Pader, have also overtaken the Brit.

Just as expected, the mountains changed everything: Amanda Miller (Team TIBCO) has handed over the race leadership to stage winner Evelyn Stevens, who was unapproachable on that big final climb and delivered a third consecutive stage win for her Specialized-Lululemon team. As a powerful all-rounder, it's going to take a lot of effort if anyone wants to shift her from the top spot now that there are no flat stages left - however, you can bet your last energy gel there'll be a lot of people trying to do just that.

After all the bunch sprints earlier in the race, the riders all recorded different times today (with the exception of Giada Borgato of Diadora-Pasta Zara and AA's Marijn De Vries - whom you really should be following on Twitter, incidentally, because her comments on races and racing are both hilarious and invaluable - who finished together at +4'01". Last rider in was Silvia Moroni (Vaiana-Tepso) again, this time needing an extra 1h21'57" to complete; so let's hope she's enjoying the race.
Marijn de Vries ‏@marijnfietst
Really cool to see Thomas Voeckler cheering for us just before the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles started!
Evelyn Stevens
Stage 7 Result
  1. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon 3h32'33".
  2. Kristin McGrath Team USA +22"
  3. Carlee Taylor Vienne Futuroscope +41"
  4. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink ST
  5. Edwige Pitel Team France +59"
  6. Lise Olivier Lotto-Belisol +1'13"
  7. Flavia Oliviera Forno D'Asolo Colavita +1'42"
  8. Dalia Muccioli Be Pink +1'44"
  9. Carol-Ann Kanuel Vienne Futuroscope +1'50"
  10. Carla Ryan AA +2'03"
Full stage result

General Classification
  1. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon 18h44'40"
  2. Lise Olivier Lotto-Belisol +06"
  3. Kristin McGrath Team USA +35"
  4. Alena Amialiusuk Be Pink +1'31"
  5. Carlee Taylor Vienne Futurocope +1'02"
  6. Lucinda Brand AA +1'03"
  7. Edwige Pitel Team France +1'17"
  8. Amanda Miller Team USA +1'41"
  9. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +2'02"
  10. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +2'16"
Full GC

Stevens wins Stage 7 (c/o France 3)

Stage 8
8. LURE (Haute Saône) - SAINT DIE DES VOSGES (Vosges)  115.3km
Stage 8 took in the highest climb of the race, 1,131m Le Collet. The initial 22km rose only gently, then the climbers competed for points on Col des Croix, followed by a steep and fast descent to Le Thillot and a climb without points to Col du Menil. Despite its height, the ascent of Le Collet was not judged challenging enough to offer points; having gone through the feeding zone at the summit the climbers had to deal with the 27km descent before getting another chance to win points on the Col du Plafond. The remaining 22km were downhill - a chance for the other riders to make up a few valuable seconds on the climbers. 

It was, obviously, a stage for the climbers; and as expected a group of them got away to mount a challenge to Evelyn Steven's (Specialized-Lululemon) General Classification lead. In the group were some dangerous figures: Oxana Kozonchuk (Be Pink), Edwige Pitel (France), Andrea Dvorak (Team USA) and others, hence the effort made by the rest of the pack to catch them. Through the hard work of a chase group making excellent use of those last 22km, Stevens was able to overtake Kozonchuk, as was Lucinda Brand (AA, but the escapees had piled on too much pressure earlier in the stage and the chasers couldn't summon up the energy they'd have needed to catch them - but they came very close: Dvorak and Pitel still had a 6" lead at the finish line. However, what really matters is that Stevens' GC lead remains - in fact, her performance on the stage was sufficient to increase it by 4" so that she now has an overall advantage of 10". Lise Olivier is second; expect her Lotto-Belisol team mates to launch savage attacks on Lululemon during the final stage on Sunday.

Brand was third to finish, arriving with seven others who all recorded the same time, then the main group of 24 riders got in 4" after Brand and were followed 7" later by a group of nine. Silvia Moroni (Vaiana-Tepso), who had finished in last place on the previous two stages, had a much better day finishing 25" after Dvorak and coming 45th of the 57 riders to finish. She was accompanied by another Silvia, Valsecchi (Be Pink), then Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) got in 2" later; riding with her was Karol-Ann Canuel (Vienne Futuroscope), taking 48th place after giving so much in the breakaway. Fans had a long wait for the next group, six riders led by Uenia Fernandes da Souza (Formo D'Asolo Colavita) who arrived 11'25" after the winner, then Alessia Martini (Vaiana-Tepso) arrived at +19:56, Ellah Michal (S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox) at +30'16" and Eleonora Spaliviero (Vaiana-Tepso) finished up with +35'19". Steffi Jamoneau (France) and Fiona Dutriaux (Vienne Futuroscope) abandoned during the stage. Martini and Michal share the Combativity award.

The Youth classification remains the same with Dalia Muccioli (Be Pink) leading and Oriane Chaumet and Lucie Pader (both GSD-Gestion) in second and third; Katie Colclough retains fourth place.

Andrea Dvorak
Stage 8 result
  1. Andrea Dvorak USA 3h13'13"
  2. Edwige Pital France ST
  3. Lucinda Brand AA +06"
  4. Alena Amialiusik Be Pink ST
  5. Giada Borgato Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  6. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon ST
  7. Oxana Kozonchuk Be Pink ST 
  8. Kristin McGrath USA ST 
  9. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox ST 
  10. Simona Frapporti Be Pink ST 
Full stage result

General Classification
  1. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon 21h57'59" 
  2. Lise Olivier Lotto-Belisol +10" 
  3. Kristin McGrath USA +25" 
  4. Alena Amialiusik Be Pink +39"
  5. Lucinda Brand AA +1'03"
  6. Carlee Taylor Vienne Futuroscope +1'06" 
  7. Edwige Pital France +1'11"
  8. Amanda Miller USA +1'45" 
  9. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +2'06" 
  10. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +2'16"
Full GC

Stage 9
9. CORCIEUX (Vosges) - MUNSTER (Haut Rhin)  113.9km
As soon as they left the depart fictif behind, the riders were straight into the thick of it on the Col du Martimpre, rising to 796m; then from 10km they faced another ascent of Le Collet, this time to 1,101m, followed by another 143m to Hohneck. A high rolling plateau led to Le Markstein at 40km, then it was downhill for the majority of the next 30km to the feeding zone. Once through, the climbers began to battle for the points on the Col du Firstplan, topping out at 714m, then a fast descent and gentle climb led to Munster and the first passage of the finish line. Passing straight over it, the riders approached the last mountain (and the climbers' last chance for points), 875m Le Reid; the parcours then descended all the way to 110km ready for a gentle climb back to the finish line 3.9km away.

Five riders led by Andrea Dvorak made their escape as soon as the race got under way and worked hard, building a lead of 1'30". Unless they experienced a miracle, none of them really had any chance of taking the overall GC (Amélie Rivat, with the lowest time among them, started with a disadvantage of 4'09").

A superb ride by Dahlia Muccioli netted her the Youth
classification and proves that she's a rider with
enormous potential for the future.
Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) didn't need to win today - she started with a 10" advantage and, provided she'd finished in the top three, she'd still have been going home with the trophy. But in women's cycling, the riders don't think that way - when your team battles for every sponsorship Euro it can find, you've got to put in real fan-and-sponsor pleasing spectacular rides (when you have the sort of form that Stevens has found this year - she won the Tour of New Zealand, the Waalse Pijl, the Gracia Orlova and came third overall at the Giro Donne - why not go for as glorious a victory as you can?) - so, she gave chase; a move not without risk because Christine Majerus and Kristin McGrath (USA) went with her. Majerus, who started +5'19", was unlikely to be a threat but McGrath had started only 25" down and looked very dangerous indeed. The slightest misjudgement on Stevens' part - even a tiny over-estimation of her energy reserves - could have ruined her chances and handed the race on a plate to McGrath. Make no mistake - having added a whole minute to her advantage on the tough parcours, this was indeed a glorious victory by any standards.

Special mention must go to Be Pink's Dahlia Muccioli - the nineteen-year-old, who is in her first professional season, really has been the sensation of the race with top ten finished on two mountain stages and an overall time only 5'27" greater than the vastly more experienced Stevens, putting her into first place in the Young Riders category. She is, without any doubt, a rider with a very great future ahead of her; and if she doesn't win several major races over the coming decade many of those who have followed her performance over the last nine days will be very surprised indeed. (Results below)

Stage 9 result
  1. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon 3h14'11" 
  2. Carlee Taylor Vienne Futuroscope +45" 
  3. Kristin McGrath USA ST 
  4. Lucinda Brand AA +02'34" 
  5. Karol-Ann Canual Vienne Futuroscope +02'51" 
  6. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox ST 
  7. Amélie Rivat Vienne Futuroscope ST 
  8. Flavia Oliviera Forno D'Asolo Colavita ST
  9. Dahlia Muccioli Be Pink ST 
  10. Edwige Pitel France ST 

Final General Classification
  1. Evelyn Stevens Specialized-Lululemon 25h12'10"
  2. Kristin McGrath USA +01'10"
  3. Carlee Taylor Vienne Futuroscope +01'51"
  4. Lise Olivier Lotto-Belisol +3'01"
  5. Lucinda Brand AA +03'37"
  6. Edwige Pital     France    +04'02"
  7. Inga Cilvinaite Diadora-Pasta Zara +04'57"
  8. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +05'07"
  9. Karol-Ann Canuel Vienne Futuroscope +05'14"
  10. Dahlia Muccioli Be Pink +05'27"

Final Youth category
  1. Dahlia Muccioli Be Pink 25h17'37"
  2. Lucie Pader GSD-Gestion +12'10" 
  3. Katie Colclough Specialized-Lululemon +19'06" 
  4. Kaitlin Antonneau USA +31'41"

  1. Vienne Futuroscope 75h49'48"
  2. USA +04'22"
  3. Be Pink +16'05"
  4. AA +16'13"
  5. Forno D'Asolo Colavita +35'01"
  6. S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox +48'17"
  7. GSD-Gestion +51'07"
  8. France +53'03

La Route has been an absolutely fantastic race, not least of all for the organisers' admirable refusal to believe that female professional cyclists can't cope with the same sort of mountains that the men climb - the final three stages would have been considered tough in the Tour de France. The level of competition has been first-rate, just as anyone who knows anything at all about women's cycling would have expected (know what I mean, McQuaid?), and Evelyn Stevens is a deserving and heroic victor.

Race coverage has been exceptionally bad. We expect this in the mainstream media, of course, because the majority of the bike magazines and websites devote at best only a few lines of text to women's races. (VeloNews seems to have been the only mainstream source to have even mentioned the race.) However, the organisers could also do with learning a lesson or two here - other than posting the results on the official website, photos on their FaceBook page and the odd Tweet or two, they've provided very little information on how the race has panned out. Fans have, as always, risen to the occasion and swapped as much news as they can; but very little news has been available. Yes they're running on a tight budget, but providing Twitter updates and a brief report on each stage every day would have cost very little - possibly even nothing. La Route has the potential to join the Giro Donne as one of the Grand Tours of women's cycling, even though the sport is in an abysmal state in France; but if the organisers don't think seriously about how they're going to make it possible for fans to follow it the race could all too easily vanish forever, just like the Tour de France. That really must not be allowed to happen.

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