Vos and Johansson battle in Aalburg and Gooik - Creswick wins R1, JHT GP - McQuaid promises Women's Commission - Not enough "participation and involvement of the women at grassroots-level cycling," says Martin Barras - Reports from the UK - Reports from around the world - Photo of the Week - more to come
Vos wins home race, Johansson wins Gooik
It's a well-known fact that riders have an advantage in races taking place near to their homes. Sometimes that's purely because of their desire to win in front of family and friends, sometimes - though not as commonly as was once the case - it's because their rivals don't race quite as hard as they might otherwise have done, letting a popular rider win (in days gone by, because they'd been paid to do so).
|Queen Marianne of Meeuwen wins again|
The event was marred early on by a big crash which saw Sabrina Stultiens fall hard. Though she attempted to continue, she left the race later on. Annemiek van Vleuten, also of Rabobank and the winner of the Dorpenomloop last year when Vos was recovering from a broken collarbone, also crashed later in the race and, though uninjured, was left too far back to get into the seven-strong lead group that controlled the race in its later stages.
Vos was helped by the pancake-flat parcours because, although she can climb with the best in the world and regularly wins mountainous races, she's also able to keep turning the pedals at maximum RPM for kilometre after kilometre, then persuade her legs to give one last burst of power when others have given all they've got. The other teams didn't make things easy for her, though - Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) was strong in the latter parts of the race and, aided by team mate Loes Gunnewijk, kept things uncertain right into the final 10km. Vos' Rabo team mate Roxane Kneteman attacked as the race neared an end but was unable to trouble the lead group greatly; Vos did the same a short while later. Johansson was next to go and, with 5km to go, was riding out in front with Rabo's Liesbet de Vocht and, with 3km to go, they'd opened a gap of 15" between themselves and their chasers. It wasn't enough: a kilometre later, the gap was slashed to 7"; then the seven leaders were together again as the finish line came within sight - and that's when Vos did what she does best, tapping into a new reserve of the high-octane fuel that runs through her arteries to overpower her challengers and cross the line in first place, winning what is to all intents and purposes her race for the fifth time.
1 Marianne VOS (Rabo-Liv/Giant) 3h00'14"
2 Liesbet DE VOCHT (Rabo-Liv/Giant) ST
3 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Amy PIETERS (Argos-Shimano) ST
5 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) ST
6 Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) ST
7 Roxane KNETEMAN (Rabo-Liv/Giant) +18"
8 Vera KOEDOODER (Sengers) +02'16"
9 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabo-Liv/Giant) +02'39"
10 Nina KESSLER (Boels-Dolmans) ST
Vos wins (by Bart Hazen)
Sunday the 26th brought Belgium's Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik which, with its four big climbs including the notorious Kapelmuur, rated as the toughest climb in the country for its steep gradient and step-like cobbles, is an entirely different beast to the Dorpenomloop.
That Orica-AIS were going to do well was immediately obvious: firstly, all of their six riders got into the lead group that formed when the first climb split the peloton into several smaller groups and secondly, the Australian team is home to some of the top cobbles specialists in the world today, riders who were able to strengthen their lead when the going became rough. By the close of the Grote Ronde, the lead group contained eight riders - Emma Johansson and Tiffany Cromwell (Orica), Rosella Ratto (Hitec Products-UCK, who seem to have a rider in every lead group and break in every race this year), Katarzyna Pawlowska (GSD Gestion-Kallisto), Maaike Polspoel (Sengers), Jessie Daams (Boels-Dolmans) and Orica's biggest rivals, Rabo-Liv/Giant's Iris Slappendel and Marianne Vos.
The gap, 33" as the first local lap began, grew to just over a minute as the eight worked together, then fell to 36" when they sparred with one another during the second. In the third they worked together again and got it back to a minute. On the sixth lap, Vos attacked on a small climb near the finish line, a point that Cromwell later revealed was precisely where she and Johansson had been planning to make their move in the next and final lap, forcing them to change their tactics.
"I was hurting a lot," says the Swedish rider. "I knew I could beat Iris in the sprint, but I wasn’t sure about Maaike. I went at 250 metres. I took the corner wide so neither of them could pass me on the outside, and I sprinted straight for the line after that." After taking the final bend wide to prevent Polspoel overtaking, she was too fast for the Belgian and crossed the line in first place.
"I honestly didn't know if I was going to make it to the finish in that break today, I was so cooked," Johansson told reporters. Sharing Vos' ability to overcome exhaustion and somehow persuade her body to make one final explosive effort, she's a very powerful rival to the Dutch World Champion indeed.
1 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) 3h30'11"
2 Maaike POLSPOEL (Sengers) ST
3 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
4 Tiffany CROMWELL (Orica-AIS) +48"
5 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +48"
6 Jessie DAAMS (Boels-Dolmans) +48"
7 Katarzyna PAWLOWSKA (GSD Gestion-Kallisto) +48"
8 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) +48"
9 Christine MAJERUS (Sengers) +05'50"
10 Adrie VISSER (Boels-Dolmans) +ST
Creswick wins Round 1, Johnson HealthTech GP
The Johnson HealthTech GP Series has grown and developed over the course of its existence and is now one of the best-known, most hotly-contested and popular women's events on the British cycling calendar. Running in conjunction with the men's Pearl Izumi Tour Series, the original idea was that the races would benefit from having the ready-made audience there to watch the men race; now in its third year, the GP Series attracts large numbers of fans in its own right - for many of them, getting to see the men's race too is a bonus rather than the reason to be there.
|Mulebar Girl-Sigma Sport|
(image credit: Sigma Sport)
Creswick leads Barnes in the overall Series standings with 20 points to 19. Matrix, with three riders in the top ten, were the winning team for the round and Hannah Walker won the Sprints. Matrix lead the overall team standings with 45 points, Mulebar and MG-Maxifuel are second and third with 38 points apiece.
Highlights of the race will be broadcast on ITV4 at 10pm on the 22nd of May.
One chuffed @NatCres doing her team @MuleBarGirl proud winning @JHTUK GP series last night in Stoke. #womenscycling pic.twitter.com/udQUmy6CHT
Natalie blogs about her victory.
Result, Round 1
1. Natalie Creswick (MuleBar Girl-Sigma Sport)
2. Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel)
3. Louise Mahé (MuleBar Girl-Sigma Sport)
4. Jo Tindley (Matrix Fitness Race Academy)
5. Sarah Byrne (Champion Systems-Maxgear-Base)
6. Gabby Day (Matrix Fitness Race Academy)
7. Charline Joiner (MG-Maxifuel)
8. Hannah Walker (Matrix Fitness Race Academy)
9. Alice Barnes (Scott Contessa Epic)
10. Hayley Jones (Node4-Giordana)
Full Round 1, Overall and other classification standings
Round 2 30th May (Colchester)
Round 3 4th June (Redditch)
Round 4 11th June (Woking)
Round 5 13th June (Aylsham)
McQuaid promises Women's Cycling Commission
There have been calls from riders (including Emma Pooley, who has used her fame as a platform to be very vocal on the subject), team officials and fans for a dedicated body to oversee the development of women's cycling for some years now, with many people accusing the UCI of showing little concern for the sport.
Money talks, and fans = money With existing fans becoming more vocal in their support and large numbers of new fans following the sport after the enormous success of the Women's Road Race at the Olympics, it seems that cycling's governing body has decided that the time is right to listen to those demands: president Pat McQuaid has revealed that if re-elected to the post for a third term, he'll create a new Women's Commission at the UCI's annual conference this September.
Will it be given the money and powers it needs if it's going to set right decades of neglect and turn women's cycling into the popular, profitable sport that it could be? Over to you, Pat.
Cash grants for four American projects aiming to get women cycling
$7,500 (£4,944 or €5,809) isn't a huge amount of cash in the big scheme of things - the toilet roll holders on Team Sky's tour coach probably cost more* - but shares of it are enough to make a massive difference to not-for-profit organisations working to get more women onto bikes or teaching them to be bike mechanics, such as the four recipients of grants made by the League of American Bicyclist's Women Bike program.
The four organisations are We Are All Mechanics of Madison, Wisconsin ($1,500); Girl Scouts On Wheels (part of Women Bike PHL) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ($1,500); Women On Wheels In Spanish at the Marin County Bicycle Federation ($2,500) and Engaging Latina Women Through Bilingual Outreach and Resources of WE Bike, NYC ($2,000).
"We want to make sure the best efforts take root and serve as examples for the rest of the nation," says the League's Women Bike director of communications Carolyn Szczepanski.
*OK, possibly rather than probably.
Are YOU: A; Australian, B; Fast?
|Fancy joining McCulloch and Meares on|
"The battleground for us is very much the detection and development level, we're still not seeing enough participation and involvement of the women at grassroots-level cycling," Barras says. "It's not good enough to just open the doors and hope that women are going to come in. You have to go and seek them, make it inviting for them to get them into the sport, then you have to look after them as well. It's not good enough to send out women and say 'you're going to train with guys and that's going to be good enough and interesting and make for a great experience', it needs to be … more specific."
Chances are you won't be riding alongside Hosking as she takes on Marianne Vos and Giorgia Bronzini at the Giro Rosa next year, but you might - and you'll have a lot of fun finding out.
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Marijn de Vries on crashing (Marijn's blog)
Q&A with Elly Blue, Feminist Bike Activist and Independent Media Titan (DC StreetsBlog, USA)
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Photo of the Week
(image by Pauliena Rooijakkers)