Sunday, 28 April 2013

Weekly Women's Cycling News 22-28.04.2013

Broken shoulder for Wild - All over at Orlova for RusVelo - English Op de Troon on the way - Afghan National Women's Team aiming for Rio - Johnson HealthTech GP details announced - UK and Worldwide

(Issue 1 of what I'm going to try to make a regular feature on Les Déesses - a weekly digest of women's cycling news stories, anecdotes and links that you might not have seen elsewhere)

Broken shoulder for Wild
Kirsten Wild
Kirsten Wild, Dutch powerhouse sprinter for Argos-Shimano, crashed early on in the Omloop van Borsele on the 20th and finished the race in 20th place, taking 10'23" longer than winner Vera Koedooder (Sengers) to complete the parcours. Initial investigation after the race failed to show any serious injury; subsequent examinations and x-rays have revealed that she has fractured her shoulder and has fluid on the joint and a partially torn tendon, meaning that she'll be unable to compete at next month's Tour of Chongming Island - where the flat parcours guarantees the sort of no-holds-barred bunch sprints at which she excels.

"The pain is bearable but it is just impossible to lift my arm," the 30-year-old says on her team's website. She'll now undergo physiotherapy and hopes to attend a training camp beginning in the latter half of May. Argos-Shimano report here.

RusVelo: All over at Orlova
The Gracia Orlova (taking place in the Czech Republic until the 28th) ended early and in rather embarrassing circumstances for RusVelo- on Friday Natalia Boyarskaya finished Stage 3 in fourth place, Alexandra Burchenkova was in ninth place overall at +1'33" and the team was fourth in the teams classification. Then, on Saturday morning, they arrived at Lichnov ready to start the stage and discovered... that they were in a different Lichnov, some 70km from the one hosting the stage start. The same mistake has been made by other teams in the past; this year RusVelo were the only victims.

Marianne's book will be
published in English
English language Vos autobiography to be published
World Champion and Officially The Best Cyclist In The World Marianne Vos' Op de Troon (which translates every so slightly unfortunately into English as On The Throne; which for the benefit of non-British readers is slang for "having a crap") was published recently, much to the delight of those womens' cycling fans who possess the necessary Dutch language vaardigheden to read it. Geweldig nieuws, then, that an English version is in the pijpleiding - more details here and on Twitter just as soon as I know more*.

*PS: I can't really speak Dutch, and apologise to the Dutch people if Google's just tricked me into saying something awful about your grandmothers.

Afghan women aiming for Rio
Female pro cyclists face certain issues that male cyclists don't - issues such as the fact that they don't get a guaranteed minimum wage (the men do), the ridiculous prize money at races ("Just won the Ronde van Vlaanderen? Chapeau - here's €1,128, quite a bit less than you'd get paid of you gave up cycling and put in a full week behind the counter in McDonald's instead"), the uncertainty over whether your sponsors will still be around next season or decide out of the blue that they're going to back a men's team instead and the uncertainty over whether or not the entire Elite Women series will still exist next season or vanish into a huge abyss of debt and National Federation apathy. On the bright side, riders can generally go out on training rides without worrying that they might be shot at or kidnapped and executed by a load of fundamentalist nutters who think that God doesn't like women to ride bikes for some reason - very, very real possibilities for the new Afghan National Women's Team. Read more about them and their dreams of Rio here.

Johnson HealthTech details announced
Seven-time British CX champion and
2011 GP winner HelenWyman (who is
also super-friendly and very much
worth a follow on Twitter) returns to
the Johnson HealthTech GP
After only two years, the Johnson HealthTech GP - a series of races in which Britain's best female riders compete on tight, fast, challenging urban circuits - is already one of the most popular competitive cycling events in the UK. Stoke-on-Trent will host the first round, taking place on the 21st of May - and if you can't make it to the race, highlights will be broadcast on ITV4 the following day.

Round 1 - 21.05.2013
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Round 2 - 0.05.2013
Colchester, Essex
Round 3 - 11.06.2013
Woking, Surrey
Round 4 - 13.06.2013
Aylsham, Norfolk
Round 5 - 14.06.2013
Ipswich, Suffolk

Other News
UK
Laura Trott to race Elveden Estate Cycle Series, 11.05.2013 (Eastern Daily Press)
Sophie Faulkner wins Tudor Grange No Frills Racing (Solihull Observer)
Brailsford hails rising Welsh female talents (Wales Online)
Worldwide
Samantha de Riter leads Mersey Valley Tour (The Mercury, Australia)
Moolman-Pasio realises dreams in Belgium (SuperSport)


Tweets
Matrix Fitness RA ‏@onthedrops
Great 'Introducing' article with @jesiwak thanks to @TourSeries - http://thetour.co.uk/news/1542.php#.UXwUdrWce7T … - #ClickThruThurs @JHTUK

Lauren Kitchen ‏@LaurenKitchen1
Yay! Best news when u realize all that suffering was worth it when u get to the finish line to hear that @GiorgiaBronzini wins!


TeamCrescent D.A.R.E ‏@TeamCrescent
@EmmaAhlstrand gives the team our first victory of this season! 1st place on the criterium in Hammarö 3-dagars. Big congratulations!

Bridie O'Donnell ‏@Bridie_OD
83 women across 3 grades will race #TOSW this w/e in Warrnambool, 40 of whom are 1st timers. Pretty fantastic to see #womenscycling growing!


Roger H. ‏@rogerha
All today's winners & jersey holders on the podium of #ElsyJacobs #womenscycling race in Garnich, Luxembourg pic.twitter.com/UWuxgOOBYi


Competitive Cyclist ‏@CompCyclist
Crush it, ladies! RT: @DNA_Plan7_K4: Beautiful day at the depot! @CompCyclist  #TourofTheDepot pic.twitter.com/DT0otfGbsN”


Wiggle Honda ‏@WiggleHonda
The amazing @GiorgiaBronzini wins GP Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg! @Wigglebikeshop @Honda_Uk @honda_australia  pic.twitter.com/EBxmYJtiG8 #Champion




Thursday, 25 April 2013

Rabobank 7-Dorpenomloop van Aalburg 2013

25.05.2013 Official Site
Netherlands, One-day Road Race, 121.2km
UCI 1.2

Only the Dutch could ever have come up with a name such as the one this race bears. In fact, it's not really a name as such, but a description - "Rabobank-sponsored tour of seven villages in Aalburg" - and an accurate one at that, because a tour (sponsored by Rabobank) of seven villages in Aalburg is precisely what it is. One of those villages, incidentally, is Meeuwen; the most famous resident of which is a certain Marianne Vos, who has won four of the six editions of this race - 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 (Loes Markerink won in 2008, when Vos was third; Annemiek van Vleuten won for Rabo in 2012 when Vos was recovering from a broken collarbone sustained at the Valkenburg Hills Classic) - and has given her name to the recreational cycling route that follows the same parcours as the race and to which a new bench is added every time she wins a World Championship (so the local authority had better arrange a good supply of benches for the future).

Parcours
The Elite Women's race (there are other events too, more information below) consists of three laps around a 28.5km circuit (shown on the map in purple) and three around a 11.3km circuit (shown in orange), making a total distance of 121.2km. The parcours winds around the polders and is entirely flat; however, the wind blows in uninterrupted from the North Sea and can make it a difficult race.

Setting out from Bergstraat in Wijk en Aalburg, the riders first travel 1.3km west to arrive at a bridge over the N267 marking the end of the neutralised zone and beginning of the race proper on Veldstraat. Immediately after the bridge lies a sweeping right-hander bend, followed a little over 100m later by a sweeping left-hander between two farms. 470m beyond the second bend is a crossroads; they continue straight ahead for another 1.43km on Veldstraat to a left turn leading onto Lange Pad. Sheep sometimes graze along the verges here and, if the weather's been wet, the droppings they leave on the road can become slippery - as can be deduced from the damaged bollards. Lange Pad travels south, completely straight and very much prone to strong crosswinds, for 1.81km to a junction with the N283; the riders go around a roundabout to cross it and enter Genderin on the Kelderstraat passing between a petrol station and a car dealership on the way into the village.

390m after the N283 crossing is a fairly tight right turn on regular cobbles (actually bricks) between a convenience store and a branch of Rabobank. This leads onto Hoofdstraat, which will carry the race west for 775m to the western end of the village where it becomes narrower and changes its name to Nieuwe Steege. 1.86km further on the race arrives at Eethen, crossing a bridge just before the village and then, 450m later, negotiating a left turn onto Molensteeg. The entry into the corner is simple, the exit out of it is made more technical by the presence of a traffic island with bollards between the two carriageways, reducing space dramatically - if the peloton is still complete when it reaches it, it would be possible for a small group of riders at the front of the bunch to power away in an attempt to form a break at this point whilst the main body of riders are squeezing through.

Kasteel Meeuwen
Molensteeg leads south for 480m, then crosses a bridge before continuing for a further 630m to a sharp right-hand bend followed 60m later by a wider left. There is a cycleway running along the road, separated from it by a strip of grass, which would be an ideal place from which to watch the riders as they go through this section. After the left bend, the road becomes Kruisstraat and leads into Drongelen; after 289m on it the riders reach a brickwork cobbled crossroads and turn sharply right onto Gansoyen. The road is surfaced with herringbone pattern bricks and there are two mini-roundabouts which may be slippery in the wet in the first 210m, then 300m later the race leaves Drongelen behind and crosses another bridge where the road becomes Eindesestraat and heads back into open countryside. There are several bends in the 700m immediately after the bridge: the first four (right, left, right, right) and gentle; the fifth, a left, is much tighter. The remaining 1.08km of the section is much straighter and ends at a tight right turn onto Matersteeg heading north through an avenue of trees (providing welcome shade if the weather's as hot as it was in 2012). It then crosses a bridge and, 527m ahead, arrives at a junction where the riders turn left onto Moleneind to enter Meeuwen, home of Marianne Vos. 100m after the turn is a T-junction where another left leads onto Dorpstraat, carrying the race through the middle of the village and onward for 1.14km to a junction with the N283 - it's easy to see why Vos chooses to live here, being an attractive village with good transport links but sufficiently small and anonymous for someone as famous as she is to be left alone.

2012 winner Annemiek van Vleuten
Crossing the N283 takes the race north along the Meeuwensesteeg, from where the Kasteel Meeuwen can be seen - it dates from the 19th Century and is surrounded by the moat that once encircled the proper castle that was demolished to make way for the present building. Meeuwensesteeg runs straight for 1.4km with, in places, some trees to offer a little protection from crosswinds, heading north to a bollarded right turn onto Hillsestraat leading into Babyloniënbroek. The road becomes Broeksestraat with two bends, a sweeping left and right, just beyond the village; there's another bridge 710m later, then the road becomes known as the Klaverplak and continues for 2.01km to a left turn leading onto Dodesteeg - the surroundings may seem familiar because the turn is only 60m west of the Veldstraat/Lange Pad junction the riders used earlier on. The corner isn't technical, but Dodesteeg is narrow enough to cause the peloton to have to change shape in order to fit onto it, creating another opportunity for a break; last year the trees on the left of the road blocked the wind and reflected the afternoon sun onto the road, making the 740m section leading to the crossroads unbearably hot and leading to several abandons. After the crossroads the road becomes the Zwaansheuvel; another crossroads lies 466m ahead and becomes Duizendmorgen; 376m after that it crosses a bridge spanning the N267 before continuing for 387m to a third crossroads where the riders turn right onto what is at first Middenweg before becoming Veensesteeg half a kilometre ahead.

Can Vos take a fifth victory? Probably - she is Vos,
after all!
2.02km from the crossroads is a T-junction in Veen where the riders turn right, traveling south for 60m along Schmitzstraat to a left turn onto Nieuwstraat; 320m ahead they turn right onto Rivelstraat and head south, crossing the 3km to the finish line point a few metres before passing by Korvertweg on the left. Rivelstraat bends gradually to the east and becomes Engelsestoof as it approaches Spijk and, at the next T-junction, the riders turn right onto Perzikstraat, following it for 239m before turning right to take De Kroon; 440m ahead the road forks and the riders keep right for Grote Kerkstraat heading back into Wijk en Aalburg, then turn right to continue on the same road at the next T-junction 313m ahead.  335m later, a right carries the race back onto Bergstraat where the riders continue for 237m, passing over the start line to reach the finish line at the junction with Anjelierstraat.

The long circuit described above is completed three times. Having passed over the finish line for a third time, the riders continue along Bergstraat and take the same route west along Veldstraat. At the junction with Lange Pad, they go straight ahead rather than turning left, arriving 60m later at the junction with Dodesteeg that featured in the long circuits; they turn right here and follow the same route via Veen and Spijk leading back into Wijk en Aalburg. This circuit will also be completed three times.

Start List
To be confirmed

Other Events
In addition to the Elite Women's race, there are a total of nine Youth races suited to various categories and a race for handcyclists. The official website is still showing last year's programme; the 2013 should soon be listed here. Other festivities and events also take place; the programme should appear soon here.

How to follow the race
Karl Lima (manager of the Hitec Products-UCK team), Richie Steege (mechanic of Boels-Dolmans), Bart Hazen (photographer and journalist) and Anton Vos (journalist and brother of Marianne) did such an admirable job of providing accurate updates last year that it was possible to follow what was happening in the race on Twitter - a good thing, because as is so often the case with women's cycling there was no other coverage.

Weather
More information closer to race day

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Boels Rental Hills Classic 2013

24.05.2013 Official Site
Netherlands, One-day Road Race, 120km
UCI 1.2

DIY and plant machinery rental companies aren't especially well known for their connections to the cycling world - in fact, they're not really well known for anything much and, upon finding themselves in need of the services of one, most people probably exhibit little brand loyalty and go to whichever one is closest or, if they have a choice, cheapest. So the fact that one such company - Boels, which has some 300 outlets in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as a few more in other nations - has decided to invest in women's cycling by sponsoring a team (Boels-Dolmans) and a selection of races (this one - hence the change from its previous name, the Valkenburg Hills Classic or, as it was before that, the Holland Hills Classic; the Holland Ladies' Tour, which was the Brainwash Ladies' Tour last year and will be the Boels Ladies' Tour this year; the Ronde van Drenthe) is a very promising indication that, in those countries at least, the sport is increasing in popularity. There'll be some cycling-obsessed executive who liked the idea in the head office at Sittard (where, incidentally, the race will both start and finish), but what really counts is that the bean-counters decided women's cycling offered a good enough chance of a return and gave the go-ahead.

So thank you, Boels; if I'm ever asked to recommend a plant hire firm by anyone from one of the countries in which you operate, I'll immediately recommend you. There, you see, other companies? Sponsoring women's cycling works. That's why Parkhotel Valkenburg, who are sponsoring the Mountains classification, is still involved too. Give it a try.

The Dutch have won most editions of this one with Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel taking the honours in first edition back in 2004. Anita Valen de Vries became the first Norwegian winner a year later and German Theresa Senff won in 2006. Dutch Marianne Vos of course gets her name onto the list and, having won in 2007 and 2009, she's the only rider to have won twice. Larissa Kleinman, another German, won in 2008 and the Belgian Grace Verbeke won in 2010. In 2011 the race wasn't held, it reappeared in 2012 when Vos was widely expected to take a third victory; however, an official motorbike on the parcours turned out to be too slow to get out of her path and caused a crash. Completing the race in very obvious pain, she was "only" able to manage second place with the same time as the winner, her team mate Annemiek van Vleuten; x-rays later revealed Vos had fractured her collarbone.

Parcours
Neither a map nor altimetry has yet been made available; however, since we know that the race is 120km long, where it starts and finishes and that it will in all likelihood pay a visit to Valkenburg and the Cauberg, it doesn't seem implausible that the riders will face either three laps around a circuit of approximately 40km or four around one of 30km, beginning at Sittard before heading south to Valkenburg, up and over Cauberg and then north back to Sittard again. A good 40km route would be easy to create, going Sittard-Munstergeleen-Puth-Schinnen-Hegge-Nuth-Hulsberg-Emmaberg-Valkenburg/Cauberg-Broekhem-Groot Haasdal-Schimmert-SBeek-Sittard; or vice-versa. Two possible routes are shown below, the official map will be added here as soon as it becomes available.





Start List
No start list has yet been published.

How To Follow The Race
In years gone by, the Holland Hills stood out among Dutch races in being really rather difficult to follow with little information on the official website, virtually no coverage elsewhere even days after the event and nothing at all on Twitter other than an occasional snippet from a fan at the race. Boels have set up a brand spanking new website; since their commercial webpages are clear, concise and very informative, this is hopefully a sign that things will change this year.

Hitec-UCK manager Karl Lima, Boels-Dolmans mechanic Richie Steege (being from Beek, Richie will be good for all sorts of info) and journalists Bart Hazen and Anton Vos are all, as always, the safest bets for accurate Twitter updates.

Weather
More information closer to race day.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau 2013

18.05.2013 (GP) and 20.05.2013 (Time Trial) Official Site and FaceBook
Canada, One-day Road Race, 132.34km (GP) and 9.2km (TT)
UCI 1.1

Joelle Numainville won in 2010 (when she
rode for Webcor), was second in 2011
(riding for Tibco) and was best-placed
Canadian rider with fourth place in 2012
(with current team Optum)
Back in 2010, Canada found itself suddenly lacking in UCI women's cycling races when several events - faced with financial difficulties or lack of interest - fell by the wayside. Fortunately, instead of deciding that this was evidence that the sport is less interesting than men's cycling and cutting funding as some national federations might do, the Canadian Cycling Association decided to look into why those races hadn't been as successful as they might have been and to investigate ways in which a new event might be given a better start in life.

The reason, they decided, wasn't that women's cycling is boring or less competitive than men's cycling; awareness of it just isn't sufficiently widespread - there is an audience for it, but most of that audience didn't know it yet. The answer they came up with was one that many professional riders and fans have been advocating for years: combine some UCI races with an already-popular family cycling event. That way, the existing event benefits when more professional cycling fans show up and the race benefits from a ready-made audience, many of whom then go home as new fans thinking that this pro cycling thing all seems rather good fun.

What's more, they had the perfect event in mind. Since 2004, Quebec's La Grande Visite de Gatineau cycling festival had been offering a popular mix of gran fondo, bike show, bike market, children's races, fairground attractions, food and all the other things that have made similar events - like Luxembourg's Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs and the Belgian Omloop van Borsele, both of which attract enormous crowds with more coming every year - as successful and glorious as they are in cycling's Low Countries homelands. So La Grande Visite gained a UCI  time trial and a road race, and both of them (along with a couple of new men's races) were so popular that the entire shebang was renamed the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau. And it's been getting bigger and better every year since.

If you're running an event designed to showcase cycling, you don't want to use the traditional point-to-point format in which riders begin in one town and then ride to another town a couple of hundred kilometres away, as is the case in stage racing; the problem being that people who haven't already fallen in love with cycling or casual fans really can't be bothered with waiting around for a few seconds of excitement when the race flashes past. Thus Gatineau, like many other races, uses the circuit format: the riders complete thirteen laps of a 10.18km route, allowing spectators to see them go by twelve times without even having to move. With each lap, the riders become more familiar with the parcours and the race becomes faster instead of slowing down due to fatigue and, often, a rider or group of riders who weren't among the favourites will make an all-or-nothing effort to get into the final lap with a big lead on the bunch, putting the favourites under pressure to respond. Watch the start, find a decent cafe and a decent beer with a view of one of the most crucial points along the parcours, then stroll to the finish line - there's no better way to watch a race.

Previous winners: 2010 Joelle Numainville, 2011 Giorgia Bronzini, 2012 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg

Grand Prix Parcours
GP map - click to enlarge
The race begins on the Boulevard des Allumettières, a wide, smooth and flat road that promises a fast start despite the roundabout, left-hand bend, right-hand bend and right corner all within the first 0.5km; the right corner leads onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées heading north for 1.48km. The first 1.1km are entirely flat, then the road climbs 20m on the approach to the non-technical left corner onto the Rue Gamelin, giving an average gradient of 5.26% - just enough for a group of climbers to make a breakaway attempt (expect the less-well-known riders to do so early on, possibly in the first lap, to get a chance to ride out in front and please sponsors by getting noticed, and the favourites to do so later on nearer to the end of the race) in an effort to leave the sprinters behind.

The Rue Gamelin continues arrow straight south-west for 0.96km; the first 0.2km is flat and followed by a 17m descent in 0.234km, the average gradient of -7.26% being potentially enough for climbers in a break to lose their advantage as, being lighter than sprinters, they tend to lack the weight to maintain efficient control on downhill sections (this isn't true of all climbers, however; some don't fear descents and could maintain or even increase their lead here). There's a small climb of around 10m between 0.5km and 0.6km from the corner, the average gradient is therefore 10% - but this isn't an accurate description of the climb because most of it is far less steep; however, for a short while it tops 14%, which over the course of thirteen laps will take its toll. After descending for the next 0.225km, it climbs again; this time gaining 13m in 0.123km - an average gradient of 10.6% with a few much steeper points before it flattens out before the next corner.

GP altimetry - click to enlarge
There is loose gravel along the roadside at the left corner onto the Promenade Gatineau Sud, but there's plenty of room for riders to avoid it even if the corner is approached by a complete peloton. The section is 1km long and the first 0.27km descends steeply, losing 22m at an average gradient of -8.1% with plenty of scope to let the sprinters catch the climbers again, then following a flat central part  riders climb 10m in 0.15km, average 6.6%. It ends at an easy right turn onto a 0.2km access road leading back onto the Boulevard des Allumettières, where the riders turn right to continue traveling west. The first 0.125km of the access road is flat, the rest descends very steeply between two rocky outcrops. If you take a closer look at the route on Google Earth, note that the mad -40% descents at the end of the access road and the first 0.15km of the Allumettières don't actually exist and appear as features on Google's elevation profiles due to the difference between the altitude of the road (which first passes through a cutting between the rocks and then over an embankment) and the surrounding landscape isn't taken into account - neither of them appear on the race organisers' profiles.

The race now continues along the westbound carriageway of the Boulevard des Allumettières for 1.7km, a flat and gently bending fast section that passes under a flyover 0.82km before a turning point where the riders switch onto the eastbound carriageway and head back the way they came, passing by the access road from earlier before coming to another one 1.82km from the turning point. Turning right onto it carries them up a small climb and onto the Promenade Gatineau heading north; they cross Allumettières on a flyover and then return to the first access road 0.34km after joining the Promenade, following it back down onto Allumettières where they travel east on the westbound carriageway for 1.31km to a roundabout, going right around it before heading west once more. 0.28km later - an ideal distance on a flat and straight road for a good bunch sprint, should the race come down to one - they arrive back at the finish line to either begin a new lap or complete the race.

Time Trial Parcours
TT map - click to enlarge
The time trial, which takes place two days after the Grand Prix, uses a parcours made up of the same roads but in a different order; this makes it 9.2km in length, slightly shorter than the GP's lap length of 10.18km. Evelyn Stevens won the first edition in 2010, Clara Hughes won in 2011 and 2012.

The start line is slightly west of that used in the GP, being located at the roundabout where the Rue Labelle crosses the Boulevard des Allumettières; instead of turning left onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées access road as they did in the GP, the riders continue west along the Allumettières for 2.59km, arriving at the same turning point between the carriageways. They then travel east for 1.82km to the Promenade Gatineau access road, turning right onto it and, rather than turning left after 0.33km on the Promenade to get back onto the Allumettières, proceed north-west for 1.41km to the Rue Gamelin - not an easy route at all due to the steep climb up to the junction. The Rue Gamelin carries the race just under a kilometre to the east, where a right turn leads onto the Promenade du Lac des Fées heading south for 1.48km - the first half-kilometre is downhill and should generate some very fast speeds - to the left turn and access road to get back onto Allumettières; once on Allumettières, the finish line is approximately 110m ahead at the roundabout where the race started.

TT altimetry - click to enlarge



Other Events
The women's Grand Prix and Chrono are just two of many events and activities that make up the GP Cycliste de Gatineau. In addition there road races for Junior, Senior and Masters men, the new-for-2013 Coupe du Québec Cuisses Or de l’Outaouais young riders' race; a 102km gran fondo promising some of the best roads and most beautiful scenery in Quebec; a Ride with the Pros event in which children aged 4-9 can ride on the circuit with some of the professional stars shortly before they race in the Grand Prix; and the 20km family nocturne that formed the very first Grande Visite de Gatineau back in 2004. Velo Village - a combination of bike show, bike market and food/music/art festival, takes place on the Rue Laramee immediately south of the Boulevard des Allumettières start lines throughout the duration of the meeting.

How to follow the race
Keep an eye on Twitter (#Gatineau?) to find riders, team officials and fans tweeting directly from the events.

Starters
No start list has yet been made available. Further details here as soon as possible.

Weather
More information closer to race day.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Tour Languedoc Roussillon 2013

17-22.05.2013
France, 6-stage Road Race, 639.4km
UCI 2.2


16.05.2013 - reports state that the Tour Languedoc Roussillon has been cancelled.


The news broke one day before the race was due to start, with several teams already there and others en route to the event...

Is this for real?? We're on our way right now!


Wat een schandaal! Lanquedoc organisatie laat op het laatste moment de koers niet door gaan. Alle ploegen zijn er al! UCI doe hier iets aan! (What a scandal! Lanquedoc organisers cancel the race at the last minute. All teams are already there! UCI do something about this!)

...While there has not yet been any official announcement nor reason given, rumours suggest that local police have prevented the race going ahead. There are also suggestions that bad weather may be to blame, with another race at Nice having been shortened for this reason.

With only a month to go before the race was due to start in 2012, organisers of the Tour Languedoc Roussillon, who had hoped their event would develop into a replacement for the defunct women's Grand Tour the Tour de l'Aude, announced that a combination of factors had left them with no option but to cancel the race - but promised to do all they could to bring it back for 2013.

They seem to have been successful in doing so - the race is listed on the UCI calendar as taking place on the above dates, as well appearing on team programmes. However, three days before it was due to get underway, the link on the UCI website was dead and no official website could be found. In these days when the majority of cycling fans, especially women's cycling fans due to the difficulty in finding information on the sport via any other means, rely almost entirely on the Internet to keep us up to date, this may prove to be a serious oversight: if fans can't get info on the race, they don't go to see the race - and if fans don't go to see a race, existing and potential sponsors aren't going to be interested. This race offers one of the most beautiful routes in cycling with rolling hills, mountains and stunning coastline; it'd be a terrible shame of it were to vanish simply because someone decided to save a few Euros by not having a website.

Fortunately, Velofocus has managed to track down some more details and has some interactive maps in addition to stage profiles. Click here to see them.


Tour of Zhoushan Island 2013

16-18.05.2013
China, Three-stage Road Race
UCI 2.2

2012 winner Emile Moberg
China is a long way from Europe and America, where the majority of the UCI Elite Women are based, and even a considerable distance from Australia and New Zealand, where most of those who aren't from Europe and America are based. It makes practical sense, then, to hold China's third race in the series a few days after Chongming Island before the riders spend all but a few sorties into Canada, the USA, Brazil and the Middle East (where three races are due to take place in Syria, but might very easily not due to the situation in that country) in professional cycling's more usual haunts.

It sounds like a replay of Chongming with three stages on a large Chinese island, but is in fact Zhoushan is very different: whereas pancake-flat Chongming is formed from silt washed down the Yangtze River and doesn't rise any higher than a few metres out of the water, Zhoushan (in fact one of an archipelago of 1,390 islands) was created by different geological processes and boasts valleys, dales and a highest point 503m above sea level. Nevertheless, the first edition in 2012 was won by Hitec Products-UCK's sprinter Emilie Moberg; that year, there were two races with the one-day Tour of Zhoushan Island II being won by Chinese rider Xiao Hui Liu after the stage race. This year, only the stage race takes place.

There's no official website for the race as of yet and details are sketchy - more information will be added here as it becomes available.

2012 statistics
Stage 1 Emilie Moberg
Stage 2 Zhao Juan Meng
General Classification Emilie Moberg

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Tour of Chongming Island 2013 & World Cup

08-10.05.2013/12.05.2013 Official Site
China, Stage Race; One-day World Cup Road Race
UCI 2.1; CDM

So you thought the Energiewacht Tour was flat? Pah - it's positively mountainous when compared with Chongming Island! Held on an alluvial island in the Yangtze Delta, last year's parcours didn't exactly threaten altitude sickness, the highest point at any time during the event being 3.9m above sea level.

There are two races - the three-stage Tour takes place from Wednesday to Friday, then Sunday brings the fifth round (yes, more than halfway through already) of the UCI Elite Women's World Cup.

It is, as you might imagine, strictly for the sprinters with the climbers not even bothering to make the flight over. An incomplete, provisional start list is below.

TV?
Best News US reports that the Tour and World Cup round will be broadcast live by a national Chinese TV station this year, but has no further details and does not say if this coverage will be available elsewhere. Karl Lima, Hitec Products-UCK manager, is likely to be the best bet for Twitter updates.

Stage 1 (08.05.2013)
Chongbei-Chongbei 73.4km

Stage 2 (09.05.2013)
Chong West-Chong West 113.7km

Stage (10.05.2013)
City Criterium 80.8km

No information on this year's race seems to have been made available as of yet; bookmark this page to check for updates. In the meantime, here's the stats from previous editions...

Stage Race
2012
Stage 1 Melissa Hoskins
Stage 2 Monia Baccaille
Stage 3 Melissa Hoskins
General Classification Melissa Hoskins
2011
Stage 1 Lizzie Armitstead
Stage 2 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
Stage 3 Chloe Hosking
General Classification  Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
2010
Stage 1 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
Stage 2 Kirsten Wild
Stage 3 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
General Classification  Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
2009
Stage 1 Chloe Hosking
Stage 2 Marlen Jöhrend
Stage 3 Chloe Hosking
Atage 4 Marlen Jöhrend
General Classification Chloe Hosking
2008
Stage 1 Yun Mei Wu
Stage 2 Meifang Li
Stage 3 Thatsani Wichana
Stage 4 Cherise Taylor
General Classification Meifang Li
2007
Stage 1 Ellen van Dijk
Stage 2 Belinda Goss
Stage 3 Belinda Goss
Stage 4 Meifang Li
Points Classification Belinda Goss
General Classification  Meifang Li

CDM Race
2012 Shelley Olds
2011 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
2010 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg

Start List

BE PINK

MCIPOLLINI-GIORDANA

RUSVELO

TIBCO-TO THE TOP

BOELS-DOLMANS
BRAS Martine
DE BAAT Kim
KASPER Romy
MARTIN Lucy

FAREN-LET'S GO FINLAND
CECCHINI Elena
VAN BAARLE Ashlynn

HITEC PRODUCTS-UCK
HATTELAND Tone
HOSKING Chloe
JOHNSEN Ceclie Gotaas
LONGO BORGHINI Elisa
MOBERG Emilie
THORSEN Thea

ORICA-AIS
EDMONDSON Annette
GUNNEWIJK Loes
HOSKINS Melissa
JOHANSSON Emma
SUNG EUN Gu

ARGOS-SHIMANO
GARNER Lucy
KANIS Janneke
PIETERS Amy

WIGGLE-HONDA
ROWSELL Joanna
SCHNITZMEIER Anna Bianca

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Vos, a true professional

We hear frequently about how nice Marianne Vos is, how she manages to remain humble despite being a World Champion and, in the opinion of many fans, the greatest cyclist since Eddy Merckx (or even of all time) and how she's graceful even in (rare) defeat.

This is how nice she actually is: nice enough to finish this interview without telling the interviewer he really ought to learn something about women's cycling and storming off right after the first question...

 

That's supernice.

Knokke-Heist - Bredene 2013

04.05.2013 Official Site
Belgium, 1-day Road Race (Lotto Cycling Cup), 112.8km
UCI 1.2


2012 victor Liesbet de Vocht, pictured
at the 2012 Olympics
Last year, of the 129 riders to begin the Knokke-Heist - Bredene, 38 finished 8'15" after winner Liesbet de Vocht (click here for an excellent gallery of photos by Krist Vanmelle and here for video of the race) after spending much of the race simply trying to survive absolutely atrocious weather, with a powerful and bitterly cold wind blasting in straight off the North Sea bringing heavy, driving rain with it, and the total domination of the race by Rabobank, de Vocht's team, which got four riders into the top ten (results here). Throw in some cobbles - this is West Flanders - and you've got a seriously tough race.

Chances are the weather will be, at best, only marginally better - the parcours follows a similar route with a 52.3km main section running from Knokke-Heist and inland via Bruges then along the coast to the first of five laps of a 12.1km circuit, leaving the riders at the mercy of the wind all the way. This wasn't the only race in which Rabo seemed almost without challengers in 2012 and they remain one of the most well-drilled outfits in cycling, a troop of riders who bring their specialist skills and strengths together to form one of the most effective teams women's cycling has ever seen. However, other teams have been working long and hard to put themselves into a position from which they can take Rabo on and win. So, while horrible weather seems virtually certain, the outcome of the 2013 edition is anything but.

Parcours
This is not a hilly race - in fact, with the highest point anywhere along the route being just 11m above sea level and several points below sea level, the climbers will stay at home and let the cobbles specialists and sprinters have a day in the spotlight. With much of the parcours running through open, arable land, there is very little shelter from the wind: if it's blowing in from the North Sea, the peloton will be driven through the first few kilometres by a tailwind, but as soon as they turn south-west they'll have to deal with potentially very powerful crosswinds for most of the section leading to Houtave, then a headwind to Wenduine and an even stronger crosswind along the coast past De Haan to the finish of the main parcours.
Main parcours altimetry - click to enlarge

Main section - click to enlarge
The race begins on Krommedijk (Krommedijkstraat in the race book, Krommedijk on maps) as it passes under the railway in Knokke-Heist, then progresses between the Laguna Beach lake to the left and tennis courts to the right. It's a wide, smooth road that ought to see a good fast start; however, the available road surface narrows considerably at the left turn onto Westkappellestraat 460m ahead, which may well lead to some pushing and shoving as the riders fight to find and then hold their positions in the pack or, as a small group may attempt, to get a few metres' lead ready to try their luck at an early break. If anyone gets stuck at the back, there's plenty of space and time along long, straight Westkappellestraat just around the corner, but with the first riders through the corner likely to make good use of the probable tailwind on this stretch by cranking up the speed, it'll be hard work to get back to the front.

Westkappellestraat forks after 2.25km; the riders keep right and need to avoid a raised traffic-calming device in the middle of the road. 1.55km ahead is another right on a brickwork section by a white house with a red roof - bollards on the edge of the road present a hazard and the route bends to the left a third of a kilometre ahead, then arrives at a junction 190m later. Having turned right and continued for 150m, they arrive at another junction and turn right again to join Dudzelestraat, a smooth fast road that leads for 2.76km to a roundabout and then onward for another 0.8km, crossing the picturesque Leopold's Canal just before the road forks. Riders keep right again, joining the Havenrandweg Zuid and reaching another roundabout 0.48km later before continuing for 3.58km to Dudzeelse Brug crossing the Boudewijnkanaal. Like the last bridge, the road remains wide and should cause no problems; as the race leaves it behind, the riders have covered 13.3km from the start line.

After the bridge, the peloton stays left and crosses a motorway flyover before coming to a junction with the main Zeelaan road, a technical section with several raised islands and concrete blocks lining the road. The race turns right here, but the riders get to enjoy the benefits of a major road for just 230m before turning left onto Stationsweg, this junction being made tight by another traffic island where the two roads meet. Stationsweg is much narrower than Zeelaan and any rider who wants to remain at the front of the pack will need to make sure she's one of the first through the corner - or, as sprinters are capable of doing, elbow her way through. 0.38km from the junction is a level crossing with two sets of tracks, the road between the them being made of wood and extremely slippery when wet; the road then continues for 0.65km - along the side of the road is a narrow footpath, separated from traffic by a strip that, towards the end, turns from grass to some very rough-looking cobbles. The section ends at a junction where the riders turn right for the Blankenbergsesteenweg, at which point they are 15.5km from the start line.

Blankenbergsesteenweg is smooth, wide, fast and runs NNW for 1.2km, making it a good stretch for riders to bridge to a lead group if one has got away by this stage or for the peloton to catch them. Their time on it ends with an easy left turn at the Kruiskalsijde bar, after which they continue for 1.35km along the fast but for much of its length very exposed Nieuwesteenweg before turning left on smooth and regularly-sized cobble to take Blankenbergsedijk Zuid south-east (hence a possible tailwind) for 2km ending at a crossroads and a tight right-hand turn for Blauwe Torenstraat. The crossroads marks 20km since the race began, after it Blauwe Torenstraat runs north-west through exposed country where the race may face strong headwinds for 1.46km ending with a tight left onto the narrow Heerweg, promising more crosswinds for the following 0.6km to the next left turn onto Brouwerijstraat - the turn isn't especially tight, but a rider who took it too fast and lost control might easily end up in the ditch running along the fields either side of the road. The road forks after 0.22km with the riders keeping right to take Klinkestraat as it winds its way over the next 2.56km, passing farms - always bringing the need for caution as farm vehicles frequently damage road surfaces and leave various slippery substances on the asphalt - and becoming Zuienkerkestraat at some point roughly halfway along. This section is narrow but flat and heads south-west, meaning that a tailwind is likely here; if a break has not yet been successful in escaping the peloton, this may well be the ideal place for one to do so in the hope of getting away so as to be able to enter the circuit with a healthy and potentially race-winning advantage - we can expect to see determined and repeated attacks by the lesser-known riders and teams here, aided by the fact that with the narrowness of the road the top teams might not be able to get chasers through to the front of the peloton in order to go after them.

Zuienkerkestraat ends with an easy left onto the Oostendse Steenweg followed immediately by a more difficult right onto the Ossenstraat - a combination of factors including narrowness and poor-quality road surface (which in places exposes the old cobbles below the asphalt) makes this a dangerous corner. After 0.54km, at a junction, Ossenstraat becomes Molenweg and leaves the riders at the mercy of the crosswinds for the next 2km to the left turn onto Mareweg: the junction between the two is made interesting by an unusual hazard - a tiny chapel, narrower than a large car, standing right in the middle of the road as though dropped there by a passing giant. Mareweg then continues for 1.85km, taking in some tight bends and passing more farms on the way to the next junction (30km from the start) where the riders will turn right to take the Oosternieuwweg-Zuid, a wide and mostly straight road that will carry them north for 3.95km, where a simple left takes them 4.4km to Wenduine on the coast - a fast section if the weather's calm, a long slog in the more probable headwind.

At Wenduine, the parcours turns left over a pedestrian crossing and takes Ringlaan heading west. This being an urban area, the road is the best quality since Westkappelle and - an even more welcome prospect for the riders - is sheltered from the wind by the surrounding buildings; however, at just 0.48km in length, it doesn't provide much of a window of opportunity for breaks to be caught or to escape. It ends where it crosses the Leopold II-Laan, becoming the very exposed coastal Koninklijkebaan running south-west along the sand dunes and through De Haan for 6.65km to a wide left turn onto the Vosseslag road by a flyover, at which point the race is just shy of 45km from the start line and dips back inland for the last section of the main parcours. Vosseslag is straight, in parts downhill and heads roughly south for most of the next 2.12km; a combination that, now that the entry into the circuit is only a few kilometres away, will generate some high speeds even if the expected tailwind isn't blowing, perhaps enabling a lead group to build up a good advantage that, provided they can work together to combat the wind during the five laps to come, could even win them the race. Over the last third of a kilometre before the next junction Vosseslag becomes Dorspstraat, then an easy right takes a road that the race book calls Zuid-Oostwijk and maps call Duiveketestraat; it's exposed to crosswinds for the next 1.6km where it ends at a crossroads and the riders turn right onto what definitely is Zuid-Oostwijk. After another 1.1km fighting the headwind, the race turns onto Batterijstraat for a short 0.29km section, then takes an easy left onto Koerslaan leading for 1.17km into Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-ter-Duine, a town contiguous with Bredene-an-Zee. At the end of Koerslaan riders turn left on regularly-sized cobbles before following Kapelstraat for the remaining 1,150m to the finish line located by No.133, a bar called De Nieuwe Artiesten.

Circuit - click to enlarge
Upon first reaching it, the race isn't over: the riders still have to complete five laps of the 12.1km circuit, adding up to another 60.5km of racing - and with numerous tight corners, fast straights and plenty more wind, just about anything could still happen.

Having continued for 0.91km from the finish line, the riders come to an intersection between Kappellestraat and Koninklijkebaan, turning right  on regular, brick-shaped cobbles and then right again to head north-east, following the road for 3.8km to a right turn onto Vosseslag where they'll repeat the same parcours as earlier to return to the finish line. With the coastal sections being so exposed to crosswinds, it's likely that most teams will want to remain together and form echelons; keeping the peloton together right into the final lap before trying to get their sprinters into place for a bunch finish.
Circuit profile - click to enlarge

Starters
To be confirmed

Weather
More information closer to race day

How to follow the race
Here's an idea that might appeal to some British fans: why not actually go to see the race? Belgium is far closer to the United Kingdom than many people realise and the race takes place within walking distance of the ferry terminal at Zeebrugge. Sailing as a foot passenger or with a bike from Hull on P&O on the 3rd of May and returning after the race on the 4th would cost £203. Calais to the finish line is only 84.9km, an easy distance on a bike and one that could be very simply tailored to visit some other famous cycling towns such as De Panne and Koksijde - sailing from Dover to Calais on the 2nd of May and returning on the 6th (thus leaving time to ride to and from the race), again with P&O, can cost as little as £19.50. If you go by bike rather than by car you can be certain of a warm welcome from the cycling-obsessed Belgians; if time is of the essence the Eurostar can get you to France in no time at all and driving the remaining distance to the race won't take much longer.

If you can't get to the race, following it is limited to Twitter - however, the good news is that the Lotto Cup has recently launched an official Twitter account, promising updates from and information on all the six races that make up the series. At the time of writing, they have only 79 followers - add yourself to the list and show more race organisers that Twitter is a great way to keep fans informed and that they need to follow the Cup's example.

Karl Lima (manager of the Hitec Products-UCK team) and Richard Steege (Boels-Dolmans mechanic) are both passionate fans of women's cycling and provide regular, informed updates from the races in which their teams take part. Bart Hazen (photographer and journalist) and Anton Vos (brother of Marianne) may also be at the race and are both worth following.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs 2013

26-28.04.2013 Official Site
Luxembourg, 2-stage road race + prologue, 203.5km
UCI 2.1

If you love women's professional cycling - and, since you're reading an article about a women's professional cycle race on a website devoted to women's professional cycling, it seems at least reasonably likely that you do - there's a very great deal to love about the Festival du Ely Jacobs: having started as a race, it's become a three-day celebration of the sport, the athletes and the uniquely involved, passionate fans that women's cycling attracts.

Elsy Jacobs was born into a cycling family in Garnich on the 4th of March 1933. Three of her brothers were professional cyclists and enjoyed varying degrees of success: Raymond, born in 1931, won the Flèche du Sud in 1960; Roger, born in 1923, was crowned National Cyclo Cross Champion on three occasions and won the National Road Race Championship for Independents (riders who either supported themselves or had some limited sponsorship - in his case, Helyett-Hutchinson - but were not paid members of a professional team) in 1950; Edmond, born in 1928, rode in the Tour de France and came third three times at the Flèche du Sud, including the one that Raymond won. Elsy, meanwhile, was destined for greater things - in 1958, she became the first ever female World Road Race Champion and set a new Hour Record at 41.347km. In 1959 she became National Road Race Champion and retained the title every year until 1969, when it went to Sylvie Welter; then she won it back in 1970 and kept it until 1974, by which time she was 41 years old. More than half a century since she became World Champion, cyclists in Luxembourg (many of them not even born when Jacobs was racing) still frequently refer to her by her nickname: The Grand Duchess.

2012 winner Marianne Vos
In 1998, not long after Jacobs died, cycling residents of Garnich organised a mass-participation ride in honour of the Grand Duchess, open to anyone who wanted to take part. So fondly was she remembered even a quarter of a century after she'd last been National Champion that the event proved enormously successful, so it became an annual event and grew larger every year. In 2008, to mark the tenth anniversary of her death, an official, UCI-sanctioned race was added and the GP Elsy Jacobs was born; for the first two years it took the form of a criterium race, then became a road race. In 2011, it was joined by another race in memory of Nicolas Frantz, who was born in the nearby village Mamer on the 4th of November 1899 and went on to win two Tours de France and 12 National Road Race Championships. Initially, the Elsy Jacobs and Nicolas Frantz events existed as separate races (and they still feel that way, having completely different characters, to this day); the time trial Prologue was added in 2011 and then in 2012 the results of all three events were collated to create an overall General Classification. It retains that format for 2013.

The first edition was won by the Italian Monia Baccaille, then Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova won in 2009 and Britain's Emma Pooley (better known as a climber) won the last criterium race in 2010. Since then, the race has been dominated by one woman - the Grand Duchess for the 21st Century Marianne Vos won in 2011 (she won the GP Niolas Frantz too, because she's Vos), then won the Elsy Jacobs stage and the General Classification in 2012 when she beat her team mate Annemiek van Vleuten, who had won the Prologue and the GP Frantz stage, by 13" overall. Vos, current World Champion, recently won the Ronde van Vlaanderen after many years of trying and seems to be on even better form than in previous years; she'll be favourite among many fans for another victory here this year.

Parcours

Prologue (26.04.2013)
Prologue - click to enlarge
Last year the 1.7km individual time trial prologue felt like a party, running in the evening through the centre of Garnich where crowds of people stood outside the houses and bars to cheer the riders on. The parcours has been moved some 7km north-west from Luxembourg City where it ran around a large park to Mamer this year and the start and finish lines are separate, rather than the riders finishing where they began as was the case in 2012. Taking place on a Friday evening (first riders go at 17:30), it's likely that most of the town will be out to watch the race and enjoy the "Fête du cyclisme" that takes place afterwards.

The start line is located on the Rue du Marche at the Chateau du Mamer (which now houses the town hall), with the riders passing by it before a sharp right-hand bend just 150m from the line. An easy left at a tarmac-covered circle leads east for 470m along a narrow road through parkland, then a tighter left leads onto the much wider Rue de la Liberation, ending at another left onto the Rue du Marche 482m ahead. After 150m, a gentle right carries them along the Rue J. Barthel for 170m to another left and the Rue du Millenaire which, following a wide left-hand bend 150m ahead becomes the Rue de Dippach running straight for 260m to the finish line next to the football ground. The total distance is 1.8km, short enough for riders to put in all their strength right from the start without needing to worry about conserving energy for later; with an absence of hills (there are a couple of inclines of around 4.5%, but they rise only 3m) we can expect to see some very fast average speeds.

prologue altimetry - click to enlarge
Prologue report: you'd have had to search far and wide to find anyone who didn't believe Rabobank's Annemiek van Vleuten was going to win this - the 30-year-old excels in time trials and is especially effective, perhaps even unbeatable on a short, flat parcours such as this, completing it in 2'29". Van Vleuten's team mate Marianne Vos, who claimed during the Olympics that she'd never be much good at time trials, was second after recording a time only one second slower; Orica-AIS star Annette Edmondson was third with +2".

Top Ten

1 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank) 02'29"
2 Marianne VOS (Rabobank) +01"
3 Annette EDMONDSON (Orica-AIS) +02"
4 Laura TROTT (Wiggle-Honda) +04"
5 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +05"
6 Amanda SPRATT (Orica-AIS) ST 
7 Tatiana GUDERZO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
8 Adrie VISSER (Boels-Dolmans) ST
9 Jessie MACLEAN (Orica-AIS) +06"
10 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) ST
Full result and GC here


GP Elsy Jacobs (27.04.2013)
The centrepiece of the race, Stage 2 consists of 53.6km main route followed by five laps of a 9.8km circuit. The riders set out from the Rue des Trois Cantons in Jacobs' birthplace Garnich and head north via Windhof; both towns are located on hills approximately 335m in height with a valley in between. Following a short climb when leaving Garnich the riders travel downhill, experiencing gradients as steep as -7% in places, while the climb to Windhof reaches 4.4%. Most of the section from Windhof to Koerich slopes gently downhill, but the final 1.25km is steeper, at one point reaching -8% - potentially just sufficient for a small group of riders to get away in an early break.

Map - click to enlarge
The left turn onto the CR109 at the T-junction in Koerich is marked with a red triangle in the race book, but as the roads are wide it shouldn't be especially dangerous unless made slippery by rain or if approached too fast after the preceding descent. Once through the town, the riders enter a rolling forested area and continue north to another junction at the end of a very steep descent (more opportunity for a break to escape, or extend their lead), this time turning right to join the CR105 as it heads through more forest and past some attractive buildings, then into open country along a river en route to Septfontaines, at which point they have covered 12km from the start of the race. They then continue on the CR105 through Leesbech to Roodt, then climb a short but steep hill to Bour and a right turn onto the N12. Keeping left 0.4km later takes the CR105 to the Grand Château d'Ansembourg, a stupendously grand and beautiful country house that is open to the public. Approximately 1km away is the Buerg Aansebuerg, a real castle built for strength rather than to look pretty; it's the home of the Count of Ansembourg and is very much not open to the public (except for those rich enough to stay in the extremely exclusive hotel housed in one of the buildings). Once past the chateau, the CR105 passes through more rolling countryside, initially forested and then open as it heads north via Marienthal and Hunnebur to Reckange and then into Mersch, by which time the race has covered 26.9km.

Having crossed the A7 motorway as it disappears underground into a tunnel, the riders dip only briefly into Mersch on the Rue Quatre-Vents before turning right onto the Rue de Langheck, a junction marked as dangerous in the road book. It leads them onto the CR102 leading to Schoenfels, where they switch to the CR101 continuing south to Kopstal, then onward to a junction with the Route d'Arlon heading into Mamer to the the Rue du Commerce.

Keeping left as the Rue de Commerce forks takes the riders onto the Rue de Dippach - a road that will rapidly become familiar as one of those used in yesterday's time trial. Just past the Prologue finish line at the football ground, a tight right turn takes the road through a short tunnel under a railway, through fields and into a forest where, 3.75m from the tunnel, it joins the CR103. This section climbs all the way and, coming near to the return to Garnich, could potentially change the race entirely - a break could be caught, ruining its chances in the final laps at Garnich, and a group of climbers could get away and enter the laps with a handy advantage. Dippach lies 1.5km after the junction; when they reach the right turn onto the N5, the riders have covered 48.2km. At the far side of the town they turn right at a roundabout onto the N13 leading to Dahlem, then follow the road for 4km as it bends right and heads north back to Garnich. The first half of this section is flat, the second descends all the way before climbing 8m in the last 0.4km to return to the start line.

GP Elsy Jacobs altimetry - click to enlage
As the riders cross the start line for the first time, they've covered 53.6km and begin the first of five laps around a 9.8km circuit; having crossed the line they come to a left turn leading onto the Rue de la Montee and follow it out of the village, keeping right as it becomes the Rue Kahler - the road climbs and, 55.5km into the race, the day's first GPM climbing points will be awarded (more will be awarded on the third lap). Although vertical gain is only 34m over 0.75km, giving an average gradient of 4.5%, 12m are climbed in the first 0.1km (average gradient 12%) before the slope lessens for the remaining distance to the summit. Much of the descent into Kahler is also steep (-7.8%) which leaves the climbers, who tend to dislike steep downhill sections since they lack the weight to comfortably control their bikes at high speed, at risk of losing any advantage they gained on the way up on the -7.8% gradient. Immediately upon reaching Kahler, riders negotiate a very tight left-handed switchback lying at the end of a short descent where it can easily catch out anyone who fails to brake in time. After it, the road becomes the Rue de Hivange, climbing the Reiberg hill as it heads south for 2.87km to Hivange village - gaining 94m in 1.9km with an average gradient of 4.9% (the gradient increases near the top), the climb is neither long nor especially steep and would present a professional cyclist with few problems if encountered once on a parcours; the combined effect of climbing both hills five times each in close succession will be far greater and may well decide the outcome of the race . At the top of the hill after 1.53km, the race passes to the right of  a spectacular conical water tower; by the time the race has reached Hivange, it's covered 59.6km.

2km later the riders reach Dalhem and turns right, once again heading north to return to Garnich, where the riders will have covered 63.4km at the completion of the first lap, 73.2 after the second, 83 after the third, 92.8 after the fourth and 102.6 after the fifth, as which point the race ends.

GP Nicolas Frantz (28.04.2013)
GP Nicolas Frantz altimetry - click to enlarge
Stage 3 takes a similar format to the GP Elsy Jacobs: the start line has been moved to Mamer, Frantz's birthplace, but otherwise the race consists of the same main parcours followed by five laps of a different 9km circuit to give total length is 99.1km. The start line will by now be very familiar to the riders as it's in the same location as the finish line of the opening prologue on the same Rue de Dippach; heading south, they turn sharply right to pass once again through the tunnel under the railway and then follow yesterday's route west, north, east and south to return to Mamer.

The race again ends with five laps of a circuit. Having taken the same route through the tunnel under the motorway and onto the CR102 into the forest, the riders turn a sharp right to head north on the CR103 to Holzem where a right turn carries them via the Route de Garnich onto the CR101, then back to Mamer. 216m after the bridge over the railway, another right takes the Rue de Millenaire back to the start line. GPM points are awarded at the Montee du Barendal on the main parcours, located at 51.2km as the riders make the first return to Mamer, and 3.1km after the railway tunnel (57.5 and 66.5km from the start of the race) on the first and second laps of the circuit.

Start List
Weather
More information closer to race day

Friday, 5 April 2013

Giro Donne becomes the Giro Rosa

Women's cycling's last Grand Tour the Giro Donne looked to be dangerously near to going the same way as the defunct Tour de France Féminin in December last year when organiser Epinike revealed it would not be seeking a renewal of the contract to run the event, which is owned by the Italian Cycling Federation.

After widespread calls to save the race - from, among others, Emma Pooley ("It would be terrible for women's cycling if our Giro stopped") and Evelyn Stevens ("...the Giro, that's the race... You hope that maybe it will be saved because it's such a beautiful bike race. I love it.") - Federation president Renato di Rocco assured fans and riders alike that if he was re-elected, he would make preventing the Giro's disappearance a priority.

Di Rocco - who also revealed that Giuseppe Rivolta, who ran the event between 2002 and 2005, again from 2007 to 2009 and then continued as race director after Epinike took over, would be his choice as president of the organising committee - didn't break his promise. Following negotiations and the creation of a new organising company by Rivolta, Erre 4, the race began to find itself on firmer ground and early this year it was confirmed that the 2013 edition would go ahead under a new name - the Giro Rosa.

The Giro's Twitter is @GiroRosa2013 and it has a Facebook page. The official homepage is here.