Sunday, 28 July 2013

Women's Cycling News 28.07-04.08.2013

UCI races this week -  Majerus wins Sparkassen - Tour de l'Ardeche: if you build it, they will come - Women's "Tour of Britain" confirmed for 2014 - English Op de Troon on the way - Making the human cost real to save cyclists' lives - Shorts - Interesting Links - more to come...

UCI Elite Women's race this week: Sparkassen Giro (28.07); Erondegemse Pijl/Erpe Mere (03.08); Route de France (03-10.08).

Majerus wins Sparkassen
Christine Majerus
Race preview
Last year, the Sparkassen Giro was denied its usual UCI status as a result of clashing with the Olympics; this year, having been returned to 1.1 classification, it attracted 21 top teams and 110 riders, including some of the top names in the world, and thousands upon thousands of spectators (the highest estimates claim 100,000) - some of them, attracted by the festival that takes place around the races, won't have arrived as cycling fans, but with the sheer quality of the competition at least a few of them will have gone home thinking they might quite like to see a few more bike races in the future.

Hitec Products-UCK attacked hard and virtually without pause right from the start, and when the team's two star sprinters Emilie Moberg and Chloe Hosking rounded the final bend working closely together it looked a done deal that one of them was going to take the honours. However, at that point Wiggle-Honda's Charlotte Becker launched a furious attack of her own and, suddenly, the race took on an entirely different character with numerous very fast riders fighting hard as the finish line drew near.

In the end, Christine Majerus (Sengers) was fastest, with her team mater Maaike Polspoel right behind her for second place - beating Argos-Shimano's superhero sprint specialist Kirsten Wild into an unaccustomed third.

Majerus, who came second behind Adrie Visser at Sparkassen in 2011, is currently Luxembourgian National Champion in cyclo cross, individiual time trial and road race as well as Small States of Europe Champion in individual time trial, road race and mountain biking.

Top Ten
1 Christine MAJERUS (Sengers) 1h49'09"
2 Maaike POLSPOEL (Sengers) ST
3 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) ST
4 Sigrid JOCHEMS (Water, Land & Dijken) ST
6 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) ST
7 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
8 Daniela GASS (Squadra Scappatella) ST
9 Kaat HANNES (Belgium NT) ST
10 Emily COLLINS (Wiggle-Honda) ST
Full result

Tour de l'Ardeche - if you build it, they will come
The UCI - well, Pat McQuaid, at any rate - says that women's cycling "isn't developed enough" to warrant the kind of financial investment enjoyed by men's cycling, which is why so many women's races operate on budgets so low that the term "shoestring" doesn't even begin to describe the situation. It's really no wonder that mistakes are sometimes made (the peloton being given wrong directions during a race is virtually unheard of in men's cycling, but it happens all too often in women's race), nor that so many organising committees become disillusioned and throw in the towel, canceling their race, after a few years of fighting for every Euro they can get.

The Tour Cycliste Feminin International de l'Ardeche, though, is backed by a number of impressive organisations including the Conseil Generale of the Ardeche region, Credit Mutuel, La Tribune and others; as a result, it's exceptionally well organised, offers prizes that are actually worth winning and takes place on a superbly-planned parcours - and this year, it received applications to race from no fewer than 29 teams. That's so many that, for what may be the first time in the history of women's cycling, organisers will actually have to turn some of them down.

McQuaid looks almost certain to lose his presidential post on the 27th of September, when the UCI will meet in Florence and vote whether to keep him or replace him with British challenger Brian Cookson who, as a supporter of women's cycling, will hopefully understand that the sport needs investment in order to grow rather than needs to grow before it deserves investment.

Cookson confirms Women's "Tour of Britain"
There were rumours several months ago, but now we have concrete facts: there will be a Women's "Tour of Britain" in May 2014 - though it'll be called the Women's Tour, because British Cycling own the trademark "Tour of Britain" - and some preliminary details have been made available.

Brian Cookson, current president of British Cycling, wrote on his blog:

"I'm pleased to be able to confirm that there will now be a five-day international stage race for women in Britain in 2014. The event will be separate from the men's race, but it will be promoted to a high standard and will, I'm sure, be the first step in having a full equivalent Tour of Britain as it develops.

Having an international field competing in a stage race in my home country will provide a template for the kind of changes I will develop on the international stage if I'm successful in my bid to become UCI President in September. We know women's racing can be every bit as attractive to broadcasters, fans and sponsors as men's racing, we just need the governing body to step in, take it seriously and nurture it."

Guy Elliot, speaking for organisers SweetSpot, says that the five-day race will concentrate for its first year on East Anglia and the Midlands, but that it will grow to become a true tour of Britain in the future. The reasons for the decision to remain in a limited area for the time being are threefold:  East Anglia and the Midlands have a limited number of races at present; those that do take place in both areas - especially in the case of women's events such as the Johnson HealthTech GP - have proved highly popular and it's thought best to start with a fairly flat parcours before moving into mountainous terrain when the race is more established.

Crucial to the future of the race, SweetSpot have secured TV coverage, though they're not yet revealing which channel (ITV4 seems most likely) and it's not clear if race footage - which would take up half of each one-hour show, with the remainder focusing on the riders - would be recorded highlights or live.

English Op de Troon on the way
English-speaking fans eagerly await
Vos' book Op de Troon
Those of us whose Dutch is limited to a few cycling terms have been eagerly awaiting the English translation of Marianne Vos' book Op de Troon - which the world's greatest cyclist stresses is not an autobiography, because she says she's too young to write an autobiography yet.

The exact publication date hasn't yet been revealed, but Marianne's brother Anton (whom you really should follow on Twitter because his race photography is among the finest in women's cycling - and he's a very pleasant and friendly chap too) informs Les Deesses that it's "only a few weeks away" and promises to alert me as soon as it's available. Watch this space for more details.

Making the human cost real
Vulpine, the cycling clothing company that has already become known for some of the most stylish gear on the market, has begun a project that aims to "humanise" cyclists.

Many cyclists have noticed that a minority of drivers seem unable to connect the bikes they see being ridden on the road with human beings. It's common to hear cyclists described in terms that suggest they're a mere irritation, a nuisance that gets in the way of human activity - Nick Hussey, creator of Vulpine, reasons that if those drivers are made aware that the bikes they see on the roads are being ridden by people who have families and loved ones, they might then show a little more consideration towards them. How to do it? Nick's asking you to send photographs of the people (or pets) that would miss you if you were killed in a traffic accident.

"An extra bit of impatience or a decision to overtake or turn, made too fast, could create a mourning family. Cyclists are the most fragile and vulnerable road users. I hope we can make that more real. It won't be made for cyclists. It'll be made for the wider public," says Nick. "Your images will only be used to highlight the problems above. We won't brand any completed work with our logo etc, that would be crass. It's not a Vulpine campaign, but a personal one, where we can use the Vulpine platform and following to get the message out."

Read more and contribute photos here.

Pajon with her Olympic medal
Mariana Pajón is World BMX TT Champion
Mariana Pajón, the Colombian BMX rider who won the gold medal in the Women's BMX event at the 2012 Olympics, won her second World BMX Time Trial Championship in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday, 27th July.
King's postbox will remain gold forever
Dani King is probably getting used to being at the centre of historic events by now, but she probably never expected this one to go on her palmares: the Royal Mail has announced that "her" postbox, situated in her home village Hamble in Hampshire and one of many around the country painted gold to commemorate athletes born nearby, will be one of two that will stay gold forever rather than being repainted in red. The other is Lymington, birthplace of sailor Ben Aislie. This is the first time that the Royal Mail has ever permanently changed the colour of any postbox to mark a historic event; why they picked those commemorating Dani and Ben's achievements has not been stated.

Interesting Links
United Kingdom
Helen Wyman solos to women's Sheffield Grand Prix win (British Cycling)
Sarah & Dan's Women's Cycling Podcast (Warning: Almost guaranteed to contain swearing!) - (Unofficial, Unsanctioned Women's UCI Cycling Blog)
Preview: National Women's Road Series - Ryedale Grand Prix (British Cycling)
UCI presidential candidate Cookson backs return for women's Tour (The Independent)
Superfit cyclist aims to become fastest women to go round the world on a bike (Get Reading)
Famous Last Words: Lauren Kitchen (Cycling Weekly)
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme says a women’s parallel event is ‘impossible’ (Daily Telegraph)

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