Wednesday 31 July 2013

Open de Suède Vårgårda TTT and Road Race

16.08.2013 Official Site
Sweden, Team Time Trial, 42.5km

Sweden is not the first country most people think of if anyone asks them which nations most appreciate cycling but the sport enjoys considerable popularity in the south of the country, especially around Vårgårda - which has hosted the Postgiro Open and the two UCI Elite Women events to which the town has given its name - the Open de Suède Vårgårda TTT and, two days later, the Open de Suède Vårgårda road race. A World Cup event and generally considered to be fun in addition to a challenge, the Team Time Trial attracted thirteen teams last year with some of the most famous riders in the world in attendance: names such as Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Ellen van Dijk, Loes Gunnewijk, Judith Arndt, Shara Gillow, Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten, Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Johansson, Hanka Kupfernagel, winner Trixi Worrack and many others were all there, and the 2013 edition should be much the same.

Bosse Anås' sculpture of the Bröderna Fåglum in Vårgårda
The town, home to a little over 5,000 people, was the birthplace of the Bröderna ("Brothers") Fåglum, four cycling brothers whose actual surname was Pettersson - their nickname came about because they all rode for a cycling club based in the village of Fåglum, some 14km north of Vårgårda. Two of the brothers, Erik and Tomas, legally adopted the name; Sture used it alongside Pettersson while Gösta, who won the Giro d'Italia in 1971 and is the only Swedish rider to have ever won that race, remains a Pettersson to this day.

Previous Winners
2008 Priska Doppmann
2009 Kristin Armstrong
2010 Charlotte Becker
2011 Judith Arndt
2012 Trixi Worrack


View Vårgårda CDM TTT 2013 in a larger map

With several tight corners - some of them made more technical by street furniture (Swedish town councils really love street furniture and erect signs wherever they can) and narrow roads - this is a challenging parcours that will favour teams which have spent a good deal of time honing their time trial skills. Expect a grand battle between Orica-AIS and Specialized-Lululemon, but keep an eye on the times set by Rabobank-Liv/Giant and Lotto-Belisol too.

The route is well-known for its crosswinds, which could prove especially problematic if they become headwinds on the 181 between Vårgårda and Herrljunga and again on the exposed bridge on Kullingsleden, approximately 32.5km into the race. There is only one testing climb along the route, coming just after 35km; although the total ascent is only 40m in 2km, it's sufficiently steep in sections and comes close enough to the end to potentially make a big difference.

Altimetry - click to enlarge
At the time of writing, Lotto-Belisol and Rabobank-Liv/Giant are the only teams listed as having confirmed. Karl Lima, manager of Hitec Products-UCK (who'll provide live updates during the race) informs Les Deesses that his team will also be racing and will be led by Emilia Fahlin. Keep up to date on developments with Women Cycling Fever.

Road Race
18.08.2013 Official Site
Sweden, One-day Road Race, 132km

Follow the race LIVE via the official ticker; we're also promised live streams of what looks set to be a wet and slippry race here!

Held since 2006 (two years earlier than the first TTT), the Vårgårda road race also forms a round of the World Cup. The parcours starts at the time trial finish line and follows a similar route; however, it omits the section leading east to Herrljunga and back again - riders travel north immediately after starting, then turn left to follow the time trial route along Storgatan, through and out of the town and then back in again. Note that completing the parcours entails eleven ascents of the big climb - although a gain of 50m in around 1.75km has an average gradient of a little under 3%, it's much steeper on the second third of the way up and, while not quite steep enough to finish off the sprinters, it could well give the climbers a helping hand towards victory if they attack there, especially on the last few laps when their rivals are becoming tired.

In years gone by, Dutch riders have found this race very much to their liking: Susanne Ljungskog, the only Swedish winner, won the first edition and American Kori Seehafer won in 2008 while Dutch riders Chantal Beltman, Marianne Vos, Kirsten Wild, Annemiek van Vleuten and Iris Slappendel won in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively. With both Vos and van Vleuten riding for Rabobank-Liv/Giant this year, it's tempting to bet on a Dutch winner for 2013 too - but they'll face strong competition from Specialized-Lululemon and almost certainly Orica-AIS, who might choose to send the lighting-fast and supremely strong all-rounder Emma Johansson in order to give the home fans another Swedish victory.

At the time of writing, only two teams have confirmed their full rosters - Specialized-Lululemon are sending Lise Brennauer, Loren Rowney, Carmen Small, Ellen van Dijk, Tayler Wiles and Trixi Worrack; the Swedish National Team is sending Emma Ahlstrand, Tilina Levin, Sara Olsson, Malin Rydland, Beata Sandstrom and Malin Wallin. From the teams with incomplete rosters, Lucinda Brand is joining Vos and van Vleuten for Rabobank; Esra Tromp has confirmed for Argos-Shimano and Emilia Fahlin will be riding for Hitec Products-UCK. More details to be announced - Women Cycling Fever is regularly updated, making it the best choice for accurate information.

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