Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour 2013

23-26.08.2013 Official Site
Belgium, 4-stage Road Race, 332.5km
UCI 2.2

If you want to be rich, women's cycling is not the place to go seeking your fortune - most of the teams operate on notoriously tiny budgets and riders can never be certain that their sponsors won't suddenly announce they're ending their links with the sport which, in all too many cases when the team is unable to find a new sponsor, means the end. Fortunately, there are a few companies out there that are willing to ignore the bean-counters and put in large amounts of money for returns that, as women's cycling doesn't receive anything like the exposure that men's cycling does, often seem not to make sound financial sense. Rabobank proved itself to be a company that genuinely cares when it elected to continue sponsoring a women's team after pulling out of men's cycling entirely; Boels, a plant machinery firm, is another example, one that sponsors a team and three races (the Boels Ronde van Drenthe, which took place in March, the Boels Hills Classic in May and Boels Ladies' Tour, previously known as the Holland Ladies' Tour and one of the most prestigious events on the Elite Women's calendar, which will take place early in September). There is also Lotto, the Belgian national lottery, and Belisol, a Belgian manufacturer of solar panels, doors and windows - together, they sponsor the Lotto-Belisol men's and women's teams and this race, the Tour of Belgium.

Unlike the Tour de France, which has stages that start in one town and end in another, the Belgium Tour is more like a rock band's tour - it visits a different town each day and the riders then compete on a circuit that starts and ends at the town. This has numerous advantages, chiefly that costs are cut by having each stage consist of several laps rather than one long parcours and fans get to see the race pass by several times, either by remaining at the same point or by moving around to see it from different places.

Stage 1: Warquignies-Angreu (23.08.2013, 19.7km Team Time Trial)

View Tour of Belgium Stage 1 2013 in a larger map
The only non-circuit stage of the race, Stage 1 will see the teams putting their bike handling skills to the test with a series of very sharp corners in the first two kilometres, where it'd be very easy indeed to lose a couple of riders to unfortunate crashes and end up with insufficient numbers to even be awarded a time - which would mean race over. Once through, there's a forested section (which always increases the likelihood of punctures, which can be disastrous when racing against the clock) with a climb of around 70m in 2.5km, then a long and flat straight section running south-west along the Av. du Haut-Pays where the fastest squads will be able to get their heads down and find a serious time advantage against those who haven't been practicing their TTT tactics quite so much as they ought. Another very sharp bend then leads onto the remaining part of the parcours, finishing 19.7km (which is why it's a stage rather than a prologue; a prologue in an Elite Women's race cannot be longer than 4km according to UCI rule 2.6.006).
The route uses many open lanes running alongside flat, wide fields; although the parcours is in Wallonia, the region is subject to typically Flandrian wind and rain - with so little shelter along much of the route, the stage could become an ordeal if the weather is bad. There is also a cobbled section on the Rue des Juifs at Onnezies; however, the cobbles are flat, regularly-placed and in good condition, they will therefore not cause the riders serious problems.

Stage 2: Angreau (24.08.2013, 110.16km)

View Tour of Begium 2013 Stage 2 in a larger map
Stage 2 both begins and ends at the Place d'Angreu, where Stage 1 also finished. From the start line, the riders head into a 12.24km circuit taking them first south to Roisin; they then travel north-east to the first GPM climb of the race - the Cote du Autreppe (5.48km from the start, points awarded at 5.48km, 29.96km, 54.44km, 78.92km, 103.4km), where points will be awarded during the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and final lap. There are also four intermediate sprints, each of which begins as the riders cross the finish line during the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th laps (24.48km, 48.96km, 73.33km, 97.92km).

A tight left-hand turn leads onto the narrow Rue d'Autreppe, at which point the parcours will be familiar to the riders as it now follows the same route via Onnezies (including the 300m Rue des Juifs cobbles), Angre, Honnelles and back to Angreau.

Riders must complete nine laps of the circuit; the Cote, though neither high nor steep, will have a considerable cumulative effect and there'll be some sore knees on the final passage.
Stage 3: Nijlen (25.08.2013, 115.12km)

View Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour 2013 Stage 3 in a larger map
The place names reveal that the Tour has left Wallonia behind and is now in Flanders, perhaps the most cycling-obsessed region in the world. Many of the little towns that dot the flat landscape have produced famous riders, including Nijlen where the race begins - it was the birthplace of Victor van Schil, trusted lieutenant of Eddy Merckx and winner of the 1968 Brabantse Pijl (sadly, van Schil took his own life in 2009 at the age of 69), Bjorn Leukemans (who may have won far more had he not have crashed so often) and Nick Nuyens, winner of the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen and husband of Evy van Damme, Belgian Road Race Champion in 2000 and 2001.

Most of the great Flemish races have taken place in warm, dry conditions in recent years, but for many people racing in this part of the world will always be associated with cold winds and driving rain. The parcours is far enough from the coast to avoid the worst, but with the topography being as flat as it is any wind blowing in from the North Sea rips across the land and still has plenty of power by the time it reaches Nijlen - crosswinds on the section heading west between Herenthout and Kruiskenberg and headwinds on the section heading north between Heikant and Nijlen may create some problems. Riders must complete nine laps of the 14.49km circuit, making the stage

There are no GPM points on offer on this, the flattest stage of the 2013 edition; the feed zone passes through an area known as Kruiskenberg, which sounds dauntingly like one of the brutally steep climbs for which Flemish racing is infamous, but which is in fact an undemanding hillock rising no higher than 20m with an average gradient of around 1.5% (maximum 3.5%). There are, however, four intermediate sprints. Each begins at the Cafe de Max located at Bevel-Dorp 160 in Bevel and points will be awarded on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th laps (10.59km, 39.57km, 68.55km, 97.53km).

Stage 4: Geraardsbergen (26.08.2013, 87.47km)

View Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour 2013 Stage 4 in a larger map

Rather than several identical laps like the earlier stages, Stage 4 consists of a total of four laps around three circuits; the first is 29.16km in length with one GPM climb and will be completed once, the second is 19.17km with no GPM climbs and will be completed once and the third, which is 19.57km in length and features one GPM climb, will be completed twice. There are also intermediate sprints when the parcours crosses the finish line for the first, second and third times.

The first circuit begins at marketplace in Geraardsbergen, a town that will be familiar any riders who took part in Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik back in May - it's also been a feature in many editions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen over the years. Very soon after heading out into the neutral zone they'll catch glimpses of what, to cyclists, is Geraardsbergen's most famous feature, Kapelmuur, but for the time being they can concentrate on other things. Racing gets underway 1.9km from the start on Verhaegenlaan and the parcours remains unchallenging until Parikeberg, a 0.6km climb offering GPM points, with an average gradient of 5.8 and maximum of 7%; it is 21.44km from the end of the neutral zone. The remainder of the circuit runs back into Geraardsbergen, with several tight and potentially risky corners leading into the town.  The riders will take the last (non-GPM) climb to arrive at the start line at the market place, then continue to the first T-junction where earlier they turned right; now they turn left and follow Vesten, passing the finish line and contesting the intermediate sprint for the first time.

Riders tackle the Muur van Geraardsbergen
during the 2006 Ronde van Vlaanderen voor
A short while later they turn south onto Edingseweg, then west on Guilleminlaan and follow it through two sweeping curves until it joins Vesten heading south and the race then continues along the same route as earlier until reaching the T-junction at Priem. In Circuit 1, the riders turned left here to travel west; this time they turn east along Molenstraat, neatly avoiding Parikeberg. A few hundred metres ahead, they rejoin the Circuit 1 parcours and follow it back into Geraardbergen, taking the same route via the marketplace and back to the finish line where another intermediate sprint is contested.

To begin Circuit 3, the riders turn right before reaching the Oude Steenweg junction used in Circuit 2 and follow Oudebergstraat, a route that takes them directly to and over the notorious Kapelmuur - the reason that Geraardsbergen has featured in so many legendary races, Kapelmuur is, according to some, the toughest climb in East Flanders. With cobbles as large as steps and a maximum gradient of 19.8% (average is 9%), it's proved decisive many times and may well do so again today, even on the first lap of the circuit if one rider manages to get away and a crash in the peloton holds everyone else up - when that happens, many riders find it impossible to get going again on the steep slope and have to run up instead. Once over the top, the parcours takes Oudeberg and Dreipikkel for the short distance to Oude Steenweg and turns right, the remainder of the circuit following the route of Circuit 2. By the time the finish line approaches, those climbs will have taken their toll and there might not be any sprinters left in contention, in which case the race will be fought out by the climbers - unless, of course, one of them has built up a sufficient solo lead to win ahead of the pack.
Altimetry, Circuit 1 and Circuits 3/4


Ellen van Dijk
Lisa Brannauer
Gillian Carleton
Trixi Worrack
Evelyn Stevens
Katie Colclough
Loren Rowney

Kimberly Buyl
Joanne Hogan
Birgit Lavrijssen
Julia Soek
Evelyn Arys
Sofie de Vuyst
Vera Koedooder

Marijn de Vries
Jolien d'Hoore
Ann Sophie Duyck
Kaat Hannes
Steffi Lodewijks
Kim Schoonbaert
Celine can Severen

CycleLive Plus-Zannata
Annelies van Doorslaer
Carla Ryan
Annelies Dom
Daisy Depoorter
Monique van der Ree
Latoya Brulee
Liz Hatch

TopSport Vlaanderen-Bioracer
Jessy Druyts
Kelly Druyts
Else Belmans
Tessa de Moyer
Gilke Croket
Nel de Crits

Tibco-To The Top
Shelley Olds
Claudia Hausler
Chantal Blaak
Melanie Spath
Jasmine Glaesser
Lauren Stevens

Lizzie Armitstead
Adrie Visser
Romy Kasper
Nina Kessler
Jessie Daams
Martine Bras

Emma Johansson
Loes Gunnewijk
Gracie Elvin
Jessie MacLean
Tiffany Cromwell
Melissa Hoskins

Hitec Products-UCK
Rossella Ratto
Emilie Moberg
Thea Thorsen
Elisa Longo Borghini
Siri Minge
Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen
Chloe Hosking

Futurumshop NL
Karen Elzing
Sarah Lena Hofmann
Anouska Helena Koster
Mieke Kroger
Janine van der Meer
Mascha Pijnenborg

Crano Go:Green
Madeleine Olsson
Jessica Kihlbom
Linnea Sjobom
Hanna Nilsson
Martina Thomasson
Alexandra Nessmar
Hanna Helamb

Kirsten Wild
Fllortje Mackaij
Esra Tromp
Janneke Busser-Kanis
Willeke Knol
Kelly Markus
Amy Pieters

Wielerclub De Sprinters Malderen
Chantal Hoffmann
Sarah Ingelbrecht
Mieke Leeman
Lilianne Leenknegt
Steffy van den Haute
Laure Werner
Joyce Willems 

Mixed Team (Rabobank-Liv/Giant, Autoglass Wetteren, Group Solar, FCS)
Tamina Kate Oliver
Amy McGuire
Daniela Gass
Roxane Knetemann
Thalita de Jong
Marieke Blomme
Adeline de Vestele

Napoleon Games-St Martinus-Kerksken
Joyce Accoe
Evelien Deltombe
Nele Seghers
Helga Sibick
Janicke Gunvaldsen
Vittoria Bussi

Endura Lady Force
Ines Klok
Margriet Kloppenburg
Michelle Geoghegan
Natasja Nieuwenhuizen
iris van der Stelt
Marjolein Claessen
Elke Bolangier

Dura Vermeer
Kirsten Coppens
Rowena van de Klundert
Charlotte Peeters
Chantal Verstraten
Brigitta Roos
Natalie van Gogh
Demi de Jong

Geertje Hoeke
Olivia Koster
Mary Rose Postma
Danielle Lissenberg-Bekkering
Anne Peer
Nathalie van Katwijk
Femke van Kessel

Parkhotel Valkenburg
Aafke Eshuis
Bianca van den Hoek
Inge Klep
Riejanne Markus
Rozanne Slik
Lisanne Soemanta
Nathaly van Wesdonk

Water, Land en Dijken
Nike Beckering
Melissa Slewe
Bernadette Jeremiasse
Marleen de Kroon
Corrinne Smith
Sigird Jochem

Sofie van Horik
Annemarie Pasveer
Domenique van Santen
Harriet Koorn
Nina van Tol
Yvonne van Dam
Stella Blom-Visser

Les Filles Racing Team
Lydia Boylan
Nicola Juniper
Alexie Shaw
Helen Ralston
Nicole Oh
Nikki Engelbach
Kate Hewett

Mixed Team (Boretti, Matrix, Vanderkitten)
Sara Olsson
Kate Chilcott
Tracy Best
Emma Grant
Christina Siggard
Gina Hofland
Jessica Smits

RC Jan van Arckel
Moniek Tenniglo
Kristen Peetoom
Silke Kogelman
Winanda Spoor
Roos Hoogeboom
Hester Wagenaar
Britt Jansen

GSD Gestion-Kallisto

Keukens Redant

Canada NT
Anika Todd
Shoshauna Laxson
Sarah Coney
Annie Foreman-Mackie
Veronique Fortin
Veronique Labonte

Australia NT
Emily McRedmond
Madeline Marshall
Alexandria Nicholls
Samantha de Riter
Miranda Griffiths

Belgium NT

Further details to be announced; check Women Cycling Fever for regular updates.

Following the race
As is the case with the majority of Belgian races, getting to the Tour is a simple process from anywhere in North-Western Europe - including from the United Kingdom: traveling by ferry from Dover to Dunkirk with a car costs as little as £74 return (check online for deals; Hull to Zeebrugge, a better choice for much of Britain's population, is for some reason far more expensive - around £200 with a bike rather than a car) and none of the Tour towns are more than 180km from the port. Better still, travel by bike - port to race is a day's ride for a fit cyclist, two at a more comfortable pace and, with the Belgians' legendary love for bicycles and cyclists, you'll be sure of a warm welcome. None of the towns are tourist traps, so accommodation will also be affordable.

If you can't get there, the choices for following the race are typically limited to Twitter feeds. Hitec Products-UCK manager Karl Lima provides regular updates on the progress of his team and the rest; Boels-Dolmans mechanic Richie Steege and photojournalists Bart Hazen and Anton Vos (who may attend regarless of whether or not his sister Marianne Vos is there with the Rabobank-Liv/Giant team) are also good choices.


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  2. There is also Lotto, the Belgian national lottery, and Belisol, a Belgian manufacturer of solar panels, doors and windows - together, they ...