Saturday 29 June 2013

Women's Cycling News 30.06-07.07.2013

Giro Rosa (Stages 1-8) - Tour de Feminin O cenu Ceského Švýcarska (Stages 1, 2, 3) - Barker wins Otley - Forster crashes at Elveden - Interesting Links - Photo of the Week - more to come...

Giro Rosa
The biggest news of the week can only possibly be the Giro Rosa which, as the new incarnation of the legendary Giro Donne, is the only Grand Tour in women's cycling. Race preview here.

Marianne Vos is, of course, hotly tipped for victory, just as she is in every race she enters. If she does win, it'll be her third Giro triumph in row - a feat thus far achieved only by Fabiana Luperini who won in 1995, 1996, 1997 and then for a fourth time in 1998. However, Vos' rivals are not content to sit back and let her win everything so they've all upped their game and the World Champion has some very strong competition this year with Emma Johansson and many others more than capable of giving her a run for her money, which is precisely how Vos likes it - so this may prove to be the most action-packed race of the year.

The Giro is one of the very few women's races that receives anything like the media attention it deserves and, as a result, it ought to be possible to find stage results and a brief outline of each day's events in the traditional cycling media. Nevertheless, I'll post details here when they become available and when I'm able to do so (likely to have an audit at work some time this week, so might be a bit pushed).

The Giro's official Twitter is here, the official site is here and my preview is here. Karl Lima, Bart Hazen, Anton Vos and Sarah Connolly are the people to follow on Twitter for race news. Don't forget that Sarah, who will be known to many women's cycling fans by her Twitter handle Pigeons, is running an excellent series of question and answers with the riders throughout the race over on Podium Cafe. For an insider's point of view, Tiffany Cromwell's stage reports on the Cycling Tips website are absolutely first-rate.
Cycling Direct ‏@CyclingDirectSAStill well pissed off by the crap level of @GiroRosa2013 prize money! @cooksonforuci please take note! #womenscycling

Stage 1
Marianne Vos (Rabobank) won both intermediate sprints; Julie Leth and Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen (both Hitec Products-UCK) took second and third at the first, then Rabo team mate Adrie Visser and RusVelo's Aizhan Zaparova were second and third at the second. Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) took the first GPM points on the Cat. 3 Terlizzi climb and thus leads the KOM competition; Martine Bras (Boels-Dolmans) and Edita Janeliunaite (Pasta Zara-Cogeas) were next to the top.

It wasn't a challenging stage and the peloton rolled along at high speed, nipping breaks in the bud. With so many riders bunched together, things began to get hairy in the final 10km when the pace picked up and teams began to rearrange themselves to position sprinters at the front; several crashes occurred. Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) and Gu Sung Eun (Orica-AIS) did not finish; Chloe Hosking (Hitec-UCK) will not start Stage 2.

Stage 1 winner Kirsten Wild
Vos, the current World Champion, is apparently going to waste no time this year and fought hard to the line but was pipped to the stage win by sprint specialist Kirsten Wild (racing for the Dutch National Team), who is making her return to racing following the fractured shoulder she suffered at the Omloop van Borsele back in April - doubtless a very reassuring victory for her. The next 124 riders, led by Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini-Giordana), crossed in the same group and recorded the same time.

Wild won a 10" bonification for doing so; however, Vos had won 3" at each intermediate sprint and another 6" for her second place and, as a result, leads the General Classification by 2". The question is, can anyone prevent her from adding more and more to that lead over the coming stages, especially when the race reaches the mountains? One thing's for certain - Stage 2 offers plenty of scope for Vos to gain more time, but with another bunch finish on the cards there's a great deal of opportunity for Wild and the other sprinters too.

Stage 1 photos by Velofocus

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Dutch NT) 2h53'55"
2 Marianne VOS (Rabobank) +0"
3 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) +0"
4 Edita JANELIUNAITE (Pasta Zara-Cogeas) +0"
5 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) +0"
6 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank) +0"
7 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) +0"
8 Lauren HALL (USA NT) +0"
9 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) +0"
10 Anna TREVISI (Vaiano-Fondriest) +0"
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 2
With a steep climb on each of the four laps, Stage 2 looked more fertile ground for breaks - but it wasn't until the final kilometres that riders' attempts to get away succeeded, and even then they came to little. Martine Bras (Boels-Dolmans) tried to go in the first lap but was rapidly caught by the pack, then Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabo) and Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) went on the climb in the second lap, but even working together they couldn't stay out for long.

Marianne Vos (Rabo) and Julie Leth (Hitec-UCK) were once again first and second through the intermediate sprint at the  close of the second lap, Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo) was just behind for third. Aude Biannic of S.C. Michela Fanini-Rox managed to get away during the third lap and was going well enough for Vaiano-Fondriest's Valentina Bastianelli to make the effort to bridge across to her; the pair of them then mounted the day's most successful break which, for a time, saw them riding some 32" ahead of the peloton. However, with GPM points on offer soon after the start of the fourth, last lap, the pace picked up and they too were caught; Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) was fastest to the top again.

Stage 2 winner Giorgia Bronzini
With the climb completed for the last time, Inga Cilvinaite (Pasta Zara-Cogeas) broke away solo and gained a 15"; that Rabo and Wiggle-Honda gave chase and spared no efforts in making sure she got no further was evidence that they were going for a win today and, when Argos-Shimano moved up in order to get Kirsten Wild into position, there could be no doubt that there was going to be another bunch sprint - and what a sprint it turned out to be, despite Wild missing out when she punctured 8km from the line. Vos and Bronzini may be friends when not racing (they're both far too likable and nice not to be), but they have an old rivalry that goes back years; a Vos-Bronzini sprint duel is, therefore, a true clash of the titans. This time, it looked as though Bronzini wouldn't be able to generate the turn on speed she'd need to get out from behind the World Champion and overtake, but then fate intervened - Vos had chosen a line that led her straight into a section of rough, lumpy asphalt that caused her shoe to unclip from the pedal, which would have spelled disaster for a rider with anything less than excellent bike-handling skills. Fortunately, Vos has years and years of cyclo cross experience and remained upright, though she lost just enough speed for Bronzini to get what she needed - seizing her chance, she beat Vos by mere centimetres.

Vos, who led the General Classification after Stage 1, had picked up a 3" bonus at the sprint and then took another 6" for second place; Bronzini took 10" for the win. However, the Italian started the day uncharacteristically in last place with a deficit of 6'34"; she is now in 119th place (28 from bottom) and would need to find 6'33" to lead. Meanwhile, Vos increased her lead and is now 17" ahead of General Classification second place Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini-Giordana). Tomorrow, the terrain becomes hilly (and there's an insanely steep 18% section with cobbles to the finish), then after a sprinter-friendly Stage 4 there are two days in the mountains - and Vos climbs as well as she sprints.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) 2h34'03"
2 Marianne VOS (Rabo) ST
3 Barbara GUARISCHI (Vaiano-Fondriest) ST
4 Lauren HALL (USA NT) ST
5 Emily COLLINS (Wiggle-Honda) ST
6 Pauline FERRAND PREVOT (Rabo) ST
7 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
8 Cecilie Gotaas JOHNSEN (Hitec-UCK) ST
9 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) ST
10 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 3
The peloton was split early on when Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) attacked hard on the Cat. 3 climb at Castel San Vincenzo in the first 10km in an effort to retain the KOM jersey she's held since the first stage before the race heads into the big mountains and the likes of Evelyn Stevens and, perhaps even more of a threat, Ashleigh Moolman start to fight for it. Five riders - Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano-Fondriest), Lauren Hall (USA NT), Lucinda Brand (the Rabo star was celebrating her birthday today), Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS) and Marianne Vos - got away with her; Vos won the intermediate sprint once again with Hall and Scandolara second and third and the rest of the group right behind them. By the time they arrived at Isernia some 41km into the parcours they'd managed to put a full minute between themselves and the pack.

For four of the escapees, the largely downhill 25km section to Pozzilli proved to be hard work: the peloton, using the terrain to sail along at a high rate of knots, constantly whittled down the gap while at the front Vos and Cromwell were simply getting faster. "It wasn’t so aggressive," Cromwell explained later. "There were no attacks. People started to drop off the group one by one as we started climbing. Somewhere around 40km to go it was just Vos and myself – we had dropped everyone else." With Cromwell pulling on the climbs, Vos leading on the descents and the pair of them working together on the flats, they reached escape velocity and headed off up the road together.

The stage featured a second Cat. 3 GPM climb (omitted from the altimetry profile) at 91km, where Cromwell led for the five points before the duo headed into the last section. The final 8km featured a difficult descent to Cerro al Volturno and it was this that proved to be Cromwell's downfall: the Australian, without making any obvious mistake ("I guess I pushed a little too far, but to hold Vos’ wheel for as long as I did is an achievement in itself. Vos is the best bike handler in the bunch," she said), suffered a crash on a descending hairpin 8km from the finish when her tyres simply gave up their grip. Although she was uninjured save for some painful grazes and wasted no time in getting back on her feet and setting off, her chances of going into a two-up sprint with the World Champion were gone (even the camera operator on the motorbike following them seems to have difficulty in locating Vos once the camera's turned away from Cromwell, she's already so far ahead) and she was swept up by a ten-strong chase group.

You'll have white knuckles watching the descents, but Vos takes it all in her stride

So when she finds herself alone near the finish with an insurmountable advantage, does Vos take it easy and cruise over the line at comfortable pace, banking energy for tomorrow? Not a chance of it. Finding herself without a challenger, she raced the clock instead and took the extremely difficult 18% cobbled last descent as fast as she possibly could. It took a lot out of her - she was unable to climb off the bike when she came to a halt, but the 45" between her and the next rider means a great deal more than the advantages she'd been picking up through the intermediate sprints and second places in Stages 1 and 2. Having also won the intermediate sprint earlier, she'd picked up an extra 6"; with bonification seconds awarded for the stage win she leads new second place Claudia Hausler by 1'13". That will change in the mountains when the climbing specialists go to work, but Vos is no slouch on the ascents either - and with another flat stage likely to end in a bunch sprint tomorrow, she might well have added even more time by then.

Finally, a special mention must go to Fabiana Luperini who, 48" behind Vos, took fourth place: Luperini, who turned 39 years old in January this year, holds the Giro Donne (the name by which the Giro Rosa was previously known) record having won an incredible five times. Perhaps even more incredible is the time span over which she achieved her victories - the first came in 1995; she then won again in 1996, 1997 and 1998 then again in 2008, thirteen years (longer than many professional cycling careers) after her first victory.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabo) 2h49'44"
2 Claudia HÄUSLER (Tibco-To The Top) +45"
3 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
4 Fabiana LUPERINI (Faren-Let's Go Finland) +48"
5 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) +50"
6 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +55"
7 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
8 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Netherlands NT) +58"
10 Shara GILLOW (Orica-AIS) +01'02"
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 4
Before the Giro began it seemed certain that Stage 4, the last before the mountains, would be ruled by a breakaway. However, with Marianne Vos (Rabo) 1'13", a group of 13 riders headed by Claudia Hausler next and a 132-strong group including a selection of big name riders ranging from 3'01" to more than hour behind the leader at the start of the stage, it seemed that every team wanted to get as many riders into the break as possible; hence the entire peloton moved at high speed and remained together.

Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS) was at the head of the race for the Cat. 2 climb at Fabriano-Colle Giglioni and took the lion's share of the points at the top, then Vos moved into the lead as the race approached the intermediate sprint a few kilometres later and picked up even more bonification points; Cromwell followed her for second place and Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana), who had presumably intended to be first up the climb, was third.

Valentina Bastianelli managed a short
solo breakaway
It looked, briefly, like Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiano-Fondriest) had achieved what nobody else could do when she managed to break away in the last 25km of the race, using the non-GPM Jesi climb to her advantage; she'll have pleased the fans and sponsors with her short time out in front but, with the pack still moving along at a high rate of knots she was soon caught.

Specialized-Lululemon made it patently clear that they were after a stage win today, moving up to the front of the peloton as the finish approached so as to be in the right spot to mark every move made by Rabobank. Their top GC contender Evelyn Stevens, who some say could steal victory from under Marianne Vos' nose later on in the race, demonstrated exactly why some say that  but was ultimately unable to match the incredible Dutch woman who reached the line alone, 3" ahead of the bunch. With the extra points from the intermediate sprint, her performance today was sufficient to increase her overall advantage to 1'31".

Tomorrow, everything changes - Stage 5 ends with a 1,000m climb to the finish line, favouring a whole new selection of riders. With a 560km transfer overnight to get to the start line, it'll be a challenge in more ways than one.

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabo)
2 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) +03"
3 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) ST
4 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
5 Claudia HAUSLER (Tibco-To The Top) +07"
6 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Netherlands NT) +09"
7 Fabiana LUPERINI (Faren-Let's Go Finland) +09"
8 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +18"
9 Tiffany CROMWELL (Orica-AIS) +20"
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 5
Mara Abbott in 2011, before anorexia forced her to
withdraw from racing
Not much more than a year ago, Mara Abbott - a rider who, in 2010, became the first American winner in the history of the Giro Donne - announced that she would be taking an indefinite break from racing as she was suffering from anorexia (for an excellent interview, which explains how Mara's condition, as is frequently the case with anorexia sufferers, stemmed not from a desire to lose weight but from a feeling that she was not in control of her life, see this ESPN-W article).

During Stage 5 of the 2013 Giro Rosa, she turned what many believed to be Marianne Vos' insurmountable advantage of 1'31" into a 3'20" disadvantage, and in doing so placed herself in the top position with a lead of 1'27" over second place Tatiana Guderzo.

Vos had been looking good in the first kilometres, remaining near the front of the pack as it stayed tight over the day's first categorised climb to Sassello, some 17.2km from the start, though it was once again Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) who took the biggest allocation of points at the summit with Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS) just behind her and ahead of the World Champion. On the descent, Scandolara and eleven others, including a number of strong climbers, joined forces and escaped, which immediately caused the peloton some concern although they didn't immediately react, permitting the group to get 55" up the road - which left Valentina Carretta (MCipollini-Giordana), Megan Guarnier and Roxane Knetemann (both Rabo) to take first, second and third at the intermediate sprint 43.4km in. With the finish now less than 30km, the teams without climbers in the break decided they really needed to take matters in hand and upped the tempo, reducing the gap to 30". Lauren Hall (USA NT) and Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiano-Fondriest) managed to bridge at that point, but even with the new strength they brought the break was spent and, by the time the race arrived at the foot of Mount Beigua, all the riders were together again.

That's when Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) made the move that everybody had been expecting ever since the route was announced, joining forces with Abbott (that both of them are American and it's the 4th of July, it seems, counted for a lot more than the fact that they ride for opposing teams) to put Vos under pressure. It was obvious immediately that the Dutchwoman, remarkably, was not in any fit state to follow them - she tried, but for once her legs simply didn't have the strength; so she fell back. However, very shortly afterwards, so did Stevens; an incredible state of affairs as it left the two popular favourites for General Classification victory apparently out of the game.

Abbott, though, pressed on, and nobody could keep her from slowly but surely adding more and more time to the gap between herself and the rest. Then, in a scene that must surely have deserved to be splashed across the world's television sets far more than the unremarkable bunch sprint at the Tour de France, she crossed the finish line alone and 1'44" ahead of second place Francesca Cauz (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo).

"I'm going to try to protect this lead with the help of my teammates," Abbott told the press after the stage. "They have been great so far. They've done everything that's been asked of them. I have confidence that they will continue to give everything until the end."

Vos confesses that, when Giorgia Bronzini beat her at the World Championships in 2011, she was not in the most pleasant of moods; this time, perhaps realising that while she had been crushingly defeated, Abbott had scored a victory far greater than a stage - one against a terrible disease that, in her autobiography Op De Troon, Vos reveals she too has experienced. "Today was a serious test and I just was not good enough. I can come up with all kinds of excuses, but the others were simply too strong," she said, explaining that she believes she now has no chance to win this year. "I tried to go, but blew myself up. The pace was just too high; then I slowly saw the light go out. One by one they came past me. After a while Megan Guarnier came to me. She got me in tow to try to minimise the our losses a little, but there was nothing left to save."

Stage 5 Top Ten
1 Mara ABBOTT (USA NT) 2h25'25"
2 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +01'44"
3 Fabiana LUPERINI (Faren-Let's Go Finland) +01'49"
4 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) +01'51"
5 Shara GILLOW (Orica-AIS) +02'38"
6 Claudia HÄUSLER (Tibco-To The Top) +02'49"
7 Eivgenia VYSOTSKA (S.C. Michela Fanini-ROX) +03'02"
8 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) +03'45"
9 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +03'51"
10 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 6
A victory such as that enjoyed by Mara Abbott (USA NT) yesterday cannot happen by chance, only through hard work, natural talent and developed ability. To prove this, the 27-year-old American took on the best riders in women's cycling once again; she beat them for a second day in a row.

Valentina Scandolara
Marianne Vos (Rabo) knows she'd need to pull off a trick probably beyond ever her abilities to win this race now, but you don't earn the right to be called "the world's most successful cyclist" without a hefty dose of fighting spirit - accompanied by team mate Lucinda Brand, Shelley Olds (Tibco-To The Top) and Valentina Scandolara (who seems determined to spend as much of the race as possible somewhere near the front; MCipollini-Giordana), the World Champion fled the peloton on the long descent during the initial 20km to Crevoladossola. By the time the road flattened out, the trio had half a minute; it would not be enough, however, to prevent the accelerating peloton sweeping them up over the course of the next 20km.

Soon afterwards, 50km into the stage, a new break of nine riders got away and achieved a 1'12"advantage by the time Sari Saarelainen (MCipollini-Giordana) led Alessandra D'Ettore (Vaiano-Fondriest) and Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle-Honda) through the intermediate sprint at Ornavasso, then increased it by another minute by Villadossola. This stage featured no fewer than three intermediate sprints, an effort by the race organisers to keep things interesting on the flat section leading up to the big climb at the end; Malgorzata Jasinska (MCipollini-Giordana) was first through the second with Saarelainen and Kitchen right behind her, then Saarelainen took the best of the points at the third followed by D'Ettore and Adrie Visser (Boels-Dolmans). By now, the peloton had dramatically slashed their deficit down to a more manageable 1'10".

The road began gaining altitude 20km from the finish line, allowing the pack to finally close the gap on the escapees. A few kilometres later, when the gradient really kicked in, a large group of eighteen climbers that had been assembling at the front made its move, settling into the smooth rhythm that marks out the sort of true grimpeurs that were in with a chance of making it to the 1,400m summit with a decent time. However, in a repeat of yesterday's events, not one single rider - not Vos, Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) or even Moolman (Lotto-Belisol), who looks as though she was born for no purpose other than to ride bikes quickly up mountains - was able to stay with Abbott when she increased her pace; the American simply left them behind and sailed away solo to another spectacular stage victory.

Following the stage, it was announced that Fabiana Luperini, the most successful Giro Donne winner of all time, was being disqualified as she had competed on a bike weighing less than the minimum set out under UCI rules.

Stage 6 Top Ten
1 Mara ABBOTT (USA NT) 3h16'01"
2 Claudia HÄUSLER (Tibco-To The Top) +24"
3 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +34"
4 Fabiana LUPERINI (Faren-Let's Go Finland) +41" (disqualified)
5 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) +01'03"
6 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) +01'32"
7 Marianne VOS (Rabobank) +01'39"
8 Shara GILLOW (Orica-AIS)+01'46"
9 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +01'52"
10 Eivgenia VYSOTSKA (S.C. Michela Fanini-ROX) +01'53"
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 7
Marianne Vos (pictured at the 2013
La Flèche Wallonne)
With no more mountains in this edition, Stage 7 consisted of eight laps of a flat circuit that was always going to favour the sprinters. The first few laps saw a number of riders try to break and, for a very brief time, it looked as though Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle-Honda), Anastasya Chulkova (RusVelo) and Inga Cilvinaite (Pasta Zara-Cogeas) looked as though they might even manage to do it - but, with the lack of technical sections permitting the peloton to drive forward at enormous speed, it was soon clear that the only way anybody was going to get any distance from the pack was by dropping off the back.

The intermediate sprint at 103.3km went to Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana), bringing the second-placed overall rider some bonus seconds that, though welcome, are unlikely to make much difference to the eventual outcome. Claudia Hausler (Tibco-To The Top) and Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) were second and third.

Marianne Vos' defeat on the climbs of Stages 5 and 6 came as a big surprise, one that effectively took her out of contention for General Classification victory; her power in the sprint to the finish line, meanwhile, was no surprise at all and nobody from among the 25 riders that went with her, including old rival Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda), was able to get past her. She picked up bonus sections as a result, but even so ended the stage 4'50" down in the GC. Race leader Mara Abbott (USA NT) finished in the third group, well down in 52nd place at +9" - but with an overall advantage standing at 2'28" after the stage, it'd probably take more of an effort to lose that lead than retain it in tomorrow's individual time trial.

Stage 7 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank) 2h52'07"
2 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
3 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
4 Kirsten WILD (Netherlands NT) ST
5 Barbara GUARISCHI (Vaiano-Fondriest) ST
6 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
7 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
8 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) ST
9 Giada BORGATO (Pasta Zara-Cogeas) ST
10 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 8 (ITT)
Dutch national time trial champion Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) was always the favourite to win the race against the clock in the final stage of this year's Giro Rosa, but going into the stage with a deficit of 21'16" to race leader Mara Abbott (USA NT) there was no chance she'd be able to steal overall victory. However, with several other good time trial riders - including Italian TT champion Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana) in second place at 2'28" - Abbott's eventual win was far from carved in stone.

Lululemon team mate Tayler Wiles was the thirtieth rider to go from the 128 left in the race and set the first benchmark time at 22'22", which made her the rider to beat for more than an hour and was sufficient to give her sixth place for the stage. French TT champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo) was first to beat her time, taking 12" from it, but when van Dijk went shortly afterwards and completed almost a minute faster it was clear that the remaining riders were going to be fighting for second and third place.

Abbott started the day with an advantage of 2'28" and, going up against the time trial specialists, had no choice but to see a big chunk taken away from her overall time today - she finished 38th fastest, 2'13" slower than van Dijk. Her stunning performances in the mountains earlier in the race, though, were enough; by the end of the day she still led by 1'33". The last time she won this race was three years and an eating disorder away - nobody can say that her victory is not an inspiration.

Marianne Vos (Rabo), who many expected to win a third consecutive General Classification victory, took the Points competition for her three stage wins. Abbott's two mountain stages, which she won solo, netted her the Mountains jersey alongside the General Classification while Francesca Cauz (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo), one of this year's revelations with her incredibly climbing skills, is the best rider in the Youth category.

Stage 8 Top Ten
1 Eleonora VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) 21'12"
2 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) +35"
3 Shara GILLOW (Orica-AIS) +52"
4 Pauline FERRAND PREVOT (Rabobank) +57"
5 Linda Melanie VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) +01'02"
6 Tayler WILES (Specialized-Lululemon) +01'10"
7 Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) +01'11"
8 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Netherlands NT) +01'13"
9 Alexandra BURCHENKOVA (RusVelo) +01'15"
10 Carmen SMALL (Specialized-Lululemon) +01'17"
Full stage result

General Classification Top Ten
1 Mara ABBOTT (USA NT) 20h30'15"
2 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) +01'33"
3 Claudia HÄUSLER (Tibco-To The Top) +02'18"
4 Shara GILLOW (Orica-AIS) +03'29"
5 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) +03'39"
6 Marianne VOS (Rabo) +04'08"
7 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +04'25"
8 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +05'23"
9 Eivgenia VYSOTSKA (S.C. Michela Fanini-ROX) +06'48"
10 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) +07'25"
Full General Classification

Tour de Feminin - O cenu Ceského Švýcarska (Tour Krasna Lipa)
Race preview here
Amy Cure leads by 1'21" after four stages; Emma Pooley second and Esther Fennel third at +2'28". With several tough climbs in the final Stage 5, British star Pooley may yet take first place.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Paulina BRZEZNA  3h04'36"
2 Katarzyna NIEWIADOMA  +09"
4 Mascha PIJNENBORG  +16"
7 Andrea GRAUS  ST
8 Rebecca WISIAK ST
9 Svetlana STOLBOVA ST
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 2
1 Amy CURE  2h48'22"
3 Janine VAN DER MEER  ST 
4 Pavlina SULCOVA  ST
5 Desiree EHRLER  ST
7 Svetlana STOLBOVA  ST
8 Katarzyna NIEWIADOM  ST
9 Daniela GASS  ST
10 Jermaine POST  ST 
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 3 (ITT)
1 Emma POOLEY 26'47"
2 Martina RITTER +02"
3 Esther FENNEL +04"
4 Amy CURE +21"
7 Rebecca WISIAK +30"
8 Lucy COLDWELL +40"
9 Reta TROTMAN +42"
10 Natalia BOYARSKAYA +47"
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 4
1 Amy CURE 2h35'54"
3 Karolina GARCZYNSKA +02'13"
4 Daniela GASS ST
5 Riejanne MARKUS ST
6 Natalia MIELNIK ST
9 Ausrine TREBAITE +02'15"
10 Jacqueline HAHN ST
Full stage result and General Classification

Stage 5
1 Emma POOLEY 2h15'29"
2 Lisanne SOEMANTA +12"
4 Lelizaveta OSHURKOVA ST
6 Paulina BRZEZNA ST
7 Svetlana STOLBOVA ST
9 Martina RITTER ST
Full stage result

Final General Classification
1 Amy CURE 11h11'29"
2 Emma POOLEY +01'00"
3 Martina RITTER +02'47"
4 Esther FENNEL +02'57"
5 Paulina BRZEZNA +03'10"
6 Taryn HEATHER +03'14"
7 Katarzyna NIEWIADOMA +03'18"
8 Svetlana STOLBOVA +03'25"
9 Rebecca WISIAK ST
10 Natalia BOYARSKAYA +03'44"
Full General Classification

Points: 1. Amy Cure 86pts; 2. Emma Pooley 47pts; 3. Lisanne Soemanta 42pts. Mountains: 1. Pauline Brzezna 34pts; 2. Lisanne Soemanta 30pts; 3. Emma Pooley 24pts. Youth: 1. Amy Cure 11h11'29"; 2. Katarzyna Niewiadoma +03'18"; 3. Lelizaveta Oshurkova +04'18".

Elinor Barker wins Otley
More information when available; in the meantime you can send your messages of congratulations to the Wiggle-Honda rider via her Twitter account. Photos by VeloUK.

Forster crashes at Elveden
Michelle Forster
Michelle Forster (London Phoenix CC) was fortunate to escape serious injury in a crash at Elveden. Since she's such an articulate Tweeter - and very much worth following - here's her own description:
Michelle Forster ‏@forstertweet 
I added entertainment with a spectacular crash near the finish.hands shaking, couldn't get chain back on in time to stop 1 rider catching up
Michelle Forster ‏@forstertweet
But did get back on and finished 7th. Pleased with how we raced today :)
Michelle Forster ‏@forstertweet
@LyD_ers on way to hospital now to get head checked. Helmet totalled. Head hit the ground on the 3rd bounce. Fingers crossed!
Michelle Forster ‏@forstertweet
Just out of hospital now. Nothing broken, a little concussion, overnight observation, I look like a steak. thanks for the well wishes all!
Michelle Forster ‏@forstertweet
@LyD_ers yes :-) . when I woke up in hospital this morning my thoughts were on how much I enjoyed the race yesterday, so I can't be too bad
Interesting Links
United Kingdom
Why does cycling have podium girls? (BBC)
Women’s National Road Series wide open ahead of Curlew Cup (British Cycling)
Otley Preview (British Cycling)
Liz Dimmock trains like a pro to break world cycling record (and she wants women to join her) (BikeRadar)
Rapha, dhb and Altura: Womens' cycling kit reviewed (The Guardian)
Douglas County's first ladies-only cycling event coming (OurLoneTreeNews, Colorado)
Brianna Walle, Portland neo-pro cyclist, to race Giro Rosa in Italy (Oregon Live)
Canberra's Chloe Hosking is concerned about the state of cycling (Canberra Times)
Rachel Neylen: remember the name (BackPageLead)

Photo of the Week
Isla Rush riding for WindyMilla at Curborough
(photo by North Norfolk 100)

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