Thursday, 30 January 2014

Stafford GP 2014

14.08.2013 Official Site
Stafford, England
45 minutes + 3 laps criterium
Women's National Series
52°48'21.89"N  2° 7'0.83"W
Entries open at the end of February

Ancient High House, just metres from the start line on
Greengate Street. Note the large incidence of street furniture.
(image: Mick Malpass CC BY-SA 2.0)
Like all criteriums, the Stafford GP takes place on a short, urban parcours, but it squeezes a lot into its 1.1km to become a tough and technical race with numerous very tight corners, hidden kerbstones, slippery drain covers, plenty of street furniture and an assortment of narrow sections. In addition to that, most of the rest of the parcours encourages high average speed high speeds - it gains just 9.5m on each lap - and the likelihood that since this is the final race in the series the leaders will be fighting hard for any points they can take. However, it's not all flat; the Greengate Street section running north right after South Walls features a climb that, while short, hits a gradient of 5.6% over the latter half. That would be nothing in a stage race, when it would be climbed once by riders used to much steeper ascents, but in a criterium it'll be climbed many times and the cumulative effect becomes considerable. All those factors combine to make this race a real challenge and an impressive showcase for the riders' skills.

The race follows the usual criterium pattern with the riders racing for 45 minutes rather than over a set distance. Bonus primes will be awarded to the fastest rider on various pre-selected laps throughout the race. At the end of the 45 minutes, they will complete three additional laps before coming to the finish.

This is the third edition of the modern race, which was first held in 2010, but the history of criterium racing in Stafford dates back to the 1980s when, for a while, cycling seemed to be on the brink of becoming very popular in Britain - editions were held in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987 and drew enormous crowds. Then, for some reason, cycling's popularity began to wane once again and, just as the Tour of Britain would a decade later, the Stafford race vanished, apparently forever. Yet, years later, cycling began to find new British fans once more, and not least of all because of the enormous success of British female cyclists on the track and on the road - the Tour was revived in 2004 and has gone from strength to strength, and inspired by its success LeadoutCycling was formed to bring back the Stafford Town Centre races in 2010. For the first time in 2012, a women's race was added - further indication that the health of women's cycling is also improving.

The Parcours

View Stafford GP in a larger map

Guide to map symbols
The race begins on a pedestrianised section of Greengate Street outside the Swan Hotel, then heads south for 83m - this section is just downhill enough to permit very fast starts, making the already tricky first corner as the riders turn right into Mill Street even more technical than it would otherwise have been. Also an issue here is the large amount of street furniture including lamp posts, signs and bollards; immediately after the turn, the route runs through a narrow 20m section between buildings. Rough and tumble is a definite during the first lap and whenever the riders approach this corner en masse, and even a rider who breaks away and rounds it on her own will need to put all her bike-handling skills to good use to avoid trouble. There is a second pinch point by a clock atop a post 70m from the corner, then the circuit follows a left-hand bend to travel south on Water Street - with plenty of room along both sides of the road, this is a good point from which to watch the race.

Water Street is 70m in length, is narrow and ends with a left turn at a mini roundabout, which requires care in wet conditions since the combination of smooth white paint and residue of tyre rubber left by cars results in a very slippery surface; however, there is plenty of space and most riders will be able to avoid it without issue. Immediately round the corner on Mill Bank is a great deal more white paint road markings, which can also be slippery, followed by a traffic-calming hump. 150m after the turn is a second hump, followed by another mini roundabout - riders continue straight on at this one, making it less of a hazard, joining South Walls. 52m beyond the roundabout, a traffic island creates another pinch point and the riders turn a sharp left; the turn is on brick rather than asphalt and can be slippery in wet weather. The next road, 75m long, is Greengate Street; it's only 50m from the Greengate Street that hosts the start line but is not connected to it. It's also the location of that 5.5% climb which, though the total elevation gain is only 3m, will add up over the course of 45 minutes plus three laps and have proven decisive in previous editions of the race. On the left at the end is a small and roughly-surfaced area that looks to be a good place to get punctures, and a drain cover just to the right of the centre immediately before the right turn onto Tipping Street at the end of the road may become slippery. There are more drain covers just beyond the apex of the turn.

The road appears to widen shortly after the turn onto Tipping Street, but this is due to a small parking area - there's another pinch point 40m from the turn. Upon entering the left-hand bend towards the end of Tipping Street, riders on the right should be cautious of a thin line of cobbles along the entrance to the car park behind the police station. 25m later, riders turn left onto the wider Eastgate Street at the Shrewsbury Arms pub; the turn itself is not technical, but leads straight to another traffic-calming hump. The following section is 51m in length at gains 2m in height, thus creating an average gradient of 4% - like Greengate Street, it'll have an effect on the final outcome after being climbed so many times.

The next left takes the race onto Martin Street; care needs to be taken going into the turn due to a drain cover in the middle of the road and coming out of it due to a change in road surface (to brick, marking the beginning of a pedestrianised section, which can be more slippery than asphalt) and due to the restricted space. 108m ahead is a tight right turn; 30m later a slightly wider left, then 42m after that another left just past the trees on the market square. This final turn leads back onto Greengate Street and begins to descend; 102m later, having passed by Ancient High House on the right (which, despite having been built more than four centuries ago in 1594, remains the largest timber-framed house anywhere in Britain), the riders arrive back at the start line to begin a new lap.

Getting There
Stafford lies near to the centre of England, making it entirely possible for cyclists from several areas - including London (250km), Birmingham (51km), Manchester (134km), Liverpool(113km), Nottingham (84km) - within a day or two by bike. This is, of course, by far the best way to arrive, because doing so will immediately mark you out as a cyclist; since the GP is part of the Stafford Festival of Cycling, you'll be sure of a warm welcome.

The M6 passes just to west and makes it very easy to get to the Festival from the north or south; there are also good A-road links from the west (A449, A5013) and the east (A513, A518). Stafford's railway station lies less than third of a kilometre from the parcours and has direct links to all the Midlands cities and to London. The nearest airports are Birmingham and East Midlands.

Staying There
There are several hotels in Stafford itself, but rooms may be booked up in advance due to the popularity of the Festival. The obvious choice, since the race starts right outside and because its owned by race sponsors the Lewis Partnership, is the Swan - this 18th Century former coaching inn has 31 bedrooms. For those who want to push the boat out, Weston Hall is an Elizabethan mansion dating back to 1550. At the more affordable end of the market, the Travelodge at Spitfire Close is 3.1km from the parcours. More details on local hotels here. Dunston Heath Farm is the nearest campsite.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Alexandra Women's Tour of the Reservoir

Edmundbyers, England
Road Race, 67.8km
54°51'27.76"N  1°59'17.62"W
Race Entry

Women's cycling in Britain is desperately in need of some longer races so that the riders have an opportunity to show the public that they're fully capable of completing "proper" events, which will help to finally kill off the misconception that women's sports are not as interesting, exciting or worthy of attention as men's sports. For that reason, the warm welcome received by the announcement that the Tour of the Reservoir would include a women's race for the first time in its history this year was somewhat tempered by the fact that the women will race on a much shorter parcours than the men.

However, the race organisers explained that this year, they'd been unable to organise a race as long as they'd have liked because the road closures they'd been able to secure were limited - and if the 2014 edition proves to be a success, they'll be permitted longer closures in 2015 and thus be able to organise a much longer women's race held on a separate day to the men's. The men's Tour has been highly popular for many years now and is popularly considered to be one of the most challenging races in the country; the women's race, therefore, could become a real showcase for the sport if it's successful this year. As fans, we can make sure that happens - by making sure everyone knows about it and the plans the organisers have for its future, and by going to see it. Remember: the more spectators that show up, the more sponsors show interest.

While the Tour might not be very long, anyone who turns up thinking it'll be easy is in for a shock: along with the Rutland-Melton Classic, this is about the closest women's racing in Britain comes to the infamously difficult Flemish classics - in fact, with the tough climbs dotted along the parcours and the often inclement weather frequently experienced in County Durham and Northumberland in April, this might very easily become one of the hardest women's races in Europe.

Neutral Service reader (and now, contributor) David White lives near the parcours and rides on the same roads regularly. He gave us a brief description of the route...
The character of the race is very much determined by the course and in the case of the Tour of the Reservoir also by the exposed nature of it as well.  The riders HQ is in the village of Blanchland and they roll out of the village on the B6306 a climb out of the village and steady undulating road brings them to Carrick’s Corner at the head of the reservoir and here the race starts. The road climbs away from the reservoir itself and climbs steadily with a few switchbacks thrown in for good measure before dropping down into the village of Edmundbyres. 
Here the route heads off downhill on the B6278 before turning right and riding over the dam of the Derwent Reservoir.  From here they roll down from the dam to rejoin the B6278 next to the River Derwent, a short section of twisting road then opens out from a left hand bend to reveal the main climb of the route.  
Starting as a gentle incline the climb gets serious as soon as the riders fork left off the B6278 and head up towards the Manor House pub on the A68.  The climb is approximately 700m long and averages 8% gradient with a few kicks along the way.  If the riders are lucky the prevailing wind will be on their backs, if not it will be even harder work. 
The riders go onto the A68 and head north following the ridgeline for a short section before leaving the A68 onto and unclassified road heading up to Barleyhill, the highest point on the course.  The road is undulating and exposed but the actual climbing is very gentle.  At Barleyhill the riders make two left turns in quick succession and start to descend back to the reservoir.  I hope some road repairs are done before the event as several large potholes could cause serious damage if not.   
The riders will be flying as they turn and follow the northern shore of the reservoir past the yacht club before reaching a rolling section of road that takes them to the head of the reservoir.  There are some beautiful views of the reservoir along this section however I don’t think the riders will have time to notice! 
At the head of the reservoir the riders make a left turn to join the B6306 to head back towards Edmundbyers completing the lap. The finish of the race will be at the top of the dam, but with a revised way of getting there.  Instead of turning off and riding over the dam itself the riders continue on the B6278 to the bottom of the valley and go over the river Derwent and then into the dam area.  This gives a short climb to the finish at the top of the dam to crown a worthy victor.

The Parcours

View Tour of the Reservoir in a larger map

Much of the parcours is extremely exposed, making the going difficult in even relatively light wind due to the altitude. The prevailing wind around the reservoir blows from the north, meaning that the riders are likely to have to contend with crosswinds from the left for most of the route along the B6306 and B6278, a headwind along the A68, crosswinds from the right  as they travel east along the northern flanks of the reservoir. There are numerous steep sections, including one greater than 10% approaching the finish line, as well as numerous steep descents and difficult corners. Combined, all of these factors make for a very technical and challenging parcours.

Guide to map symbols
The race begins on the B6306 at the westernmost end of the reservoir, heading north-east - the low stone wall down a bank on the left side of the road and the spindly conifers beyond it will do little to calm cross winds blowing down the hillsides over the valley, across the water and straight into the riders' paths, possibly splitting the bunch into several groups only a few metres into the race if blowing with sufficient strength. The road also travels uphill here. After 0.5km, the route passes by some cottages on the left; 100m further on, where the road passes between woodland on both sides, there is a section where a small brook often overflows onto the road after heavy rain (1 Caution, marked by a yellow pin, on our map) - a potentially slippery point, but on  a straight road and thus not especially hazardous. Crosswinds are likely to be even stronger when the riders emerge from the woods.

After 1.1km the parcours passes more woodland, then some buildings on the left before reaching the first bend, a fairly tight right-hander. A farm vehicle entrance right on the apex of the bend may cause mud on the road (2 Caution) and any small lead groups might be able to add a few seconds to their advantage at this point, being able to take advantage of the wind that, now blowing from behind, will allow them to sail up the short hill like land yachts while the riders in the pack behind them have to take things slower to avoid crashing. The road over the hill carries the race into what is unmistakably mountain moorland; at 2.49km, where a track leads off to the left (3 Caution; by the woods), there may be loose gravel on the road.

At 3.13km the road bends slightly right, then sharply left before entering a fast, sweeping left; the road is wide here and the bends can be taken at high speed. The green barn to the left of the road at 3.63km marks the beginning of the biggest and steepest climb so far - over the next 0.3km, the riders will climb 21m to 293m above sea level at an average gradient of 7.1%. The second half of the climb is steeper; according to Google Earth data, it reaches 10.4% at the slight right bend 3.85km into the parcours before slackening as it approaches the summit where a small lay-by provides an ideal spot for spectators*.

From 4.17km, the road starts to descend - the start of the descent is marked by a house high above on the right, but it's hard to see from the road; the first hundred metres is very steep in parts. Approximately halfway down the riders arrive at Edmundbyers where, 4.73km from the start, they keep left to follow the road as it veers to the east (4 Caution). Some caution is required here as riders who fail to brake in time from the descent run the risk of crashing into the metal railings running along the right-hand side of the road. Meanwhile, there is a danger of loose gravel along the left of the road.

The road continues to descend through the village, reaching a left turn onto the B6278 at a T-junction (5 Caution; look for the "finger" signpost pointing left to Shotley Wood and the large red double doors on the house over the road) at 5.07km. The turn isn't difficult but the white lines painted on the road may become slippery when wet. The road then continues to descend, steeply in parts, for the next 1km before arriving at the left turn onto the road that will carry the race up to and over the dam.

The dam wall
(image: Dennis Lovett CC BY-SA 2.0)
Turning left at 6.08km onto a much narrower road to continue to the dam, the riders arrive at a pinch point when they have to pass through a narrow gate (6 Caution) - leading riders, either solo or in small groups, will be able to get through and continue far quicker than the main group, but all riders will be slowed significantly as the gate also has a cattle grid. The road beyond the gate is narrow, giving any climbers at the front of the bunch an opportunity to get away up the hill climbing up to the dam which, while short at 0.5km, reaches 6%. Once there, they begin one of the most spectacular sections of any race in Britain, riding along the top of the dam wall - where, if there's a strong crosswind blowing off the reservoir, the heavier riders may be able to catch them. The short ramp up to the opposite end, meanwhile, allows them further opportunity, being as steep as 7%; the heavier riders then have another chance to catch up from 7.59km (7 Caution) on the steep descent leading back down to the main road, which in parts is near -13%.

At 8.22km, having reached the bottom of the descent, the riders negotiate a tight, fast left-hand bend to rejoin the B6278; they now follow the road as it begins to climb gently to 9.27km, where the biggest climb of the parcours begins. Rising 69m in 0.93km, the average gradient is 7.7%, which is plenty steep enough; however, Google's mapping data puts the steepest section (just after the left-hand turn at 9km) at 9.1% and while it's probably too far from the finish line for an individual to emerge as sure-fire winner, we are likely to see the group from which the winner is selected get away here during the final lap. On each lap, the first riders to the top will be awarded primes.

Manor House Inn, at the top of the prime
(image: Duncan Grey CC-BY-SA 2.0)
The Manor House Inn marks 10km from the start as well as signaling the end of the climb; due to the altitude and exposed terrain just after the left-hand turn onto the A68, the riders are likely to turn into a strong headwind here - another opportunity for the heavier riders to catch up with any climbers who got away on the way up.

The 0.8km from the turning is flat and ends at a fork where the riders will keep left to join a narrower road which remains flat for 0.5km, then climbs 19m in 0.5km (average 3.8%; maximum, in the second half, 6.2%). A short flat section then leads to 12.6km, where another short climb begins - due to the rough track crossing the road here, this may be a hazardous spot with mud and sharp stones on the road. The end of the road, at 13.3km and 306m above sea level, is the highest point on the parcours; the race turns left here and continues for 0.37km, with riders getting some much-needed shelter from the wind by the conifers on the right side of the road, before turning left again to begin the long descent that will take them along the northern side of the reservoir and towards the beginning of a new lap.

The descent, 2.4km long, continues past the next left turn (just past the large grey house and it's best to keep a short way out from the left verge as there are a few potholes in the road) and doesn't get very steep over the first 2km, thus allowing all but the most downhill-phobic climbers to retain any lead they gained on the preceding sections.

15km-End of circuit
The final 0.4km of the descent becomes much steeper, reaching -8.8% as the road follows a sweeping right-hand bend (9 Caution) - the road is wide enough for the bend to be taken at very high speed, but caution is required and with loose verges on both sides of the road the safest place to be is the centre. Unless it's raining, of course, in which case the white lines are going to be slippery.

Following the descent, as the road begins to bend gently to the left, the terrain flattens out considerably - there are a few small climbs, some steep, on the way around the reservoir but no more testing climbs to come for the next 3.5km. This, especially on the final lap, evens things up: any climbers that got away earlier can be caught (especially if they were one of the rare types that can descend, too) and it's a good opportunity for the teams to regroup and get their potential winners into position for the final assault on the finish line. At 15.9km, the reservoir comes back into view on the left; 400m later, with the reservoir once again hidden by trees, the riders come to a short but tough small climb of 0.2km with a maxiumum gradient of around 6% (white fences on both sides of the road mark the beginning and end). The short descent and flat 1km that follows is another point where climbers will have to work hard to maintain a lead.

Descent to the bridge, Carrick's Haugh
(image: Trevor Littlewood CC-BY-SA 2.0)
At 17.6km, where a track crosses the road and may lead to mud and gravel on the tarmac (10 Caution), the road bends left and begins another short climb of around 0.2km length with a maximum gradient of 6.5%, ending at the farm. The next two kilometres running to the westernmost end of the reservoir are rolling but free of steep ramps making this a relatively easy section, with the only real issue being the descent from 18.6km (maximum -4.6%), which takes in a medium left bend followed by a tight right (11 Caution). Both have loose verges and may be slippery. At 19.7km, the riders reach another left leading into a short descent at Carrick's Haugh, then find themselves on a bridge where care is needed not to crash on the verge running along the right (12 Caution). The bridge serves as a handy marker for the start of the final climb on the circuit, a tough 0.4km section starting from 19.9km and gaining 33m by the time the riders arrive back at Carrick's Corner, where they earlier joined the circuit - the average gradient is approximately 8.25%; the maximum, which can be avoided by staying away from the left verge as the road joins the B6306, is 14%.

Final section
After completing three laps of the circuits, the riders will take a different route (marked in red on our map) to the finish line. Beginning at Carrick's Corner, they take the same route towards the dam but this time do not turn left to ride up onto it at 6.08km. Instead, they continue along the B6278 for 0.87km to the point where, earlier, they rejoined the B6278 following the descent down from the dam. Here they turn left, and the descent they tackled earlier, with its maximum gradient of 13%, becomes an ascent that is more than tough enough to shake up the order at the front of the race. The finish line is at the dam.

*Note: The lay-by only really has room for one or two cars. That means, of course, that there's space for about a hundred bikes - so if you're planning to see the race from that point, get there on your bike if you can so that other people will be able to do the same. The more the merrier - take a barbecue and some beers and have a party.

Start List
Not yet available

Getting There
Please note: Derwent Reservoir (County Durham/Northumberland) should not be confused with the reservoir of the same name in Derbyshire.

The parcours is best reached from the south via the A68, from the north via the A69, from the west via the A6079 and from the east via the A694, A692 or A693. Google Maps has an excellent application that can design routes suited to cars or bikes.

Staying There
The local inns offer accommodation, but this is very limited and likely to be booked up well in advance. There is a Youth Hostel at Edmundbyers and also Durham (37km), which as a popular tourist destination has several hotels. There is also a campsite (tents and caravans) at Edmundbyers (postcode DH8 9NN), but people planning to camp should be aware that the weather can be very bad in April.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Women's Cycling News Round-up 26.01-02.02.14

Road - Cyclo Cross - Track - Seen a story we've missed? Let us know!

Road Racing
Interesting Links
Former Giro d'Italia boss Michele Acquarone: "I would have liked to have had men’s and women’s races in the same places. All the other big sports are combined, and I think that women’s cycling deserves more." (Velonation)

Britain's road stars closer to Women's Tour selection after UCI announce teams for 2014 (RCUK) receive invites to Ronde van Vlaanderen, Flèche Wallonne, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen, but cannot contest World Cup (in Dutch -

New British team BikePure, sponsored by Greg Lemond, launches (Inside the Games)

Women to watch in '14 (Pez Cycling News)

Cyclo Cross
World Cup #7 Nommay
Marianne Vos wins seventh and final round of the UCI World Cup at Nommay. British rider and current European Champion Helen Wyman takes second place followed by Italian Eva Lechner in third after American star Katie Compton suffered an asthma attack caused by grass allergy and was forced to abandon.

Compton's 350 points amassed thus far in the competition secured her the overall victory, with Brit Nikki Harris second on 284 and Vos third on 270.
Full result and times Report (Cycling News)

Hoogerheide World Championships Start List
1 VOS Marianne NED19870513 
2 STULTIENS Sabrina NED19930708 
3 DE BOER Sophie NED19901212 
4 KALVENHAAR Annefleur NED19940610 
5 KASTELIJN Yara NED19970809 
6 DE JONG Thalita NED19931106 

8 COMPTON Katherine USA19781203 
9 ANTONNEAU Kaitlin USA19920101 
10 ANDERSON Elle USA19880329 
11 MILLER Meredith USA19731226 
12 ANTHONY Crystal USA19801120 
13 KEMMERER Arley USA19840223 

14 LECHNER Eva ITA19850701 
15 ARZUFFI Alice Maria ITA19941119 
16 CAUZ Francesca ITA19920924 
17 VALENTINI Elena ITA19920330 
18 TEOCCHI Chiara ITA19961208 

Great Britain
19 WYMAN Helen GBR19810304 
20 HARRIS Nikki GBR19861230 
21 DURRIN Gabriella GBR19841201 
22 PAYTON Hannah GBR19940323 

Czech Republic
23 HAVLIKOVA Pavla CZE19830420 
24 MIKULASKOVA Martina CZE19930813 
25 KUKULOVA Martina CZE19950328 

26 CHAINEL-LEFEVRE Lucie FRA19830702 
27 FERRAND PREVOT Pauline FRA19920210 
28 MOREL PETITGIRARD Marlène FRA19880502 
29 MANI Caroline FRA19870118 
30 GAULTIER Emeline FRA19961123 

31 CANT Sanne BEL19901008 
32 VAN LOY Ellen BEL19800916 
33 MICHIELS Githa BEL19830328 
34 SELS Loes BEL19850725 

35 TOYOOKA Ayako JPN19800810 
36 KUPFERNAGEL Hanka GER19740319 
37 LAMBRACHT Jessica GER19950701 
38 BRANDAU Elisabeth GER19851216 
39 HECKMANN Lisa GER19880514 

40 MAJERUS Christine LUX19870225 

41 KLOPPENBURG Margriet Helena DEN19880118 

42 ERLANDSSON Asa Maria SWE19740130 

43 NUNO PALACIO Aida ESP19831124 
44 MARTIN RODRIGUEZ Rocio ESP19850316 

45 JACOBS Lisa AUS19810917 
46 ANSET Melissa AUS19750416

Interesting Links
Hornes-Ravenstijn disappointed to miss selection for Hoogerheide following poor Nommay ride (in Dutch -

Japan Track Cup
24.01.14 results: Sprint, Points, Keirin
25-26.01.14 results: Sprint, Omnium, Keirin
Sprint victor Missy M. Erickson's report

Interesting Links
Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares spearheads national titles at Adelaide SuperDrome (

Hayley Jones looking to shift gears in cycling career (South Wales Evening Post)

BikeNZ seeks women's endurance coach (Yahoo Sport)

Do I need a women's bike? (Bikeradar)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Women's Cycling News 19-26.01.2014

Powers to victory in San Luis - BC announce CX Worlds squad - Santos CupShorts and Interesting Links - more to come...

Powers to victory in San Luis
Stage 1
British rider Hannah Barnes (United Healthcare) was the fastest in a 41-rider bunch sprint to win the first stage. Team mate Alison Powers led Barnes out 500m to the line; Barnes jumped with 150m to go and powered past the rest of the bunch.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague, riding for the Cuba National Team, picked up the most points in the two intermediate sprints and now leads the Sprints classification.

Barnes, making her race debut for the team, will now be widely considered a favourite for overall victory as the race consists chiefly of short stages likely to end in further bunch sprints. The final stage takes place on Saturday.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Hannah BARNES (United Healthcare) 1h51'44"
2 Paola MUNOZ ST
5 Valeria PINTOS ST
6 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) ST
8 Barbara FRISCH ST
9 Bibiana NARVAEZ ST
10 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
Full result

Stage 2
Hannah Barnes abandoned following crash and required medical treatment.

Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil NT) wins the stage. Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) leads the Sprints classification; Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla is the leading rider in the Youth classification and also leads the Combination category.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) 1h35'02"
2 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
5 Fernanda DA SILVA SOUZA ST 1
6 Andreina RIVERA +04"
7 Serika GULUMA ORTIZ +04"
8 Cristiane SILVA +04"
9 Paola MUNOZ +04"
10 Estefania PILZ +04"
Full result and GC

Stage 3
Alison Powers (United Healthcare) wins with a 3'18" advantage, propelling herself into first place overall with a lead of 3'04 as well as becoming new leader of the Combination classification. Team mate Alexis Ryan wins bunch sprint for second place.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) leads the Sprints classification; Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla remains leading rider in the Youth classification.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Alison POWERS (United Healthcare) 1h39'25"
2 Alexis RYAN (United Healthcare) +3'18"
5 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
8 Paola MUNOZ ST
9 Talia Ayelen AGUIRRE ST
10 Valeria PINTOS ST
Full result and GC

Stage 4
Alison Powers' individual time trial performance of 14'42" nets her sixth place, 42" slower than winner Fernanda Da Silva Souza, but leaves her in first place overall with an advantage of 2'22". Powers also leads the Combination classification.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) leads the Sprints classification; Marlies Meijas Garcia is the leading rider in the Youth classification.

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Fernanda DA SILVA SOUZA 13'52"
2 Ines Carolina GUTIERREZ +06"
3 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) +15"
4 Serika GULUMA ORTIZ +27"
5 Yudelmis DOMINGUEZ MASAGUE (Cuba NT) +36"
6 Alison POWERS (United Healthcare) +42"
7 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) +42"
8 Barbara FRISCH +42"
9 Luciene FERREIRA DA SILVA +44"
10 Cristiane SILVA +50"
Full result and GC

Stage 5
Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla (Cuba NT) wins bunch sprint to take final stage. Alison Powers (United Healthcare) finishes in leading group to win overall with a time of 7h26'35", 2'22" faster than second place Fernanda Da Silva Souza and 2'37" faster than third place Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil NT). Powers also wins the Combination classification.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) wins the Sprints classification; Marlies Meijas Garcia wins the Youth classification.

Stage 5 Top Ten
1 Arlenis SIERRA CAÑADILLA (Cuba NT) 2h05'36"
3 Alexis RYAN (United Healthcare) ST
4 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
5 Paola MUNOZ ST
6 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) ST
7 Alison POWERS (United Healthcare) ST
8 Talia Ayelen AGUIRRE ST
9 Barbara FRISCH ST
Full result

General Classification Top Ten
1 Alison POWERS (United Healthcare) 7h26'35"
2 Fernanda DA SILVA SOUZA +2'22"
3 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) +2'37"
4 Serika GULUMA ORTIZ +2'57"
5 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) +3'04"
6 Luciene FERREIRA DA SILVA +3'06"
7 Ines Carolina GUTIERREZ +3'07"
8 Arlenis SIERRA CAÑADILLA (Cuba NT) +3'14"
9 Cristiane SILVA +3'16"
10 Valeria PINTOS +3'18"
Full result

Sprint: Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT); Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla (Cuba NT); Barbara Frisch. Youth: Marlies Meijas Garcia (Cuba NT) 7h29'39"; Ines Carolina Gutierrez +03"; Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla (Cuba NT) +10". Combination: Alison Powers (United Healthcare); Marlies Meijas Garcia (Cuba NT); Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla (Cuba NT).

BC announce CX Worlds squad
British cycling have announced the riders who will make up the British teams at the World Cyclo Cross Championships next month. Leading the squad is Helen Wyman, who is currently enjoying a superb season as National and European Champion; she's joined by Nikki Harris, Gabby Durrin and Hannah Payton.

Santos Cup
Loes Gunnewijk wins the Santos Cup
(image c/o Orica-GreenEDGE)
Organisers of the Santos Women's Cup decided to experiment with their event's format this year, starting off with a fast (average speed 44.7kph)  30 minutes + two laps criterium on the streets of Adelaide where one corner proving sufficiently technical to cause a number of accidents - four riders required hospital treatment. Orica took all three top places with Loes Gunnewijk on the top step of the podium after getting ahead for the final quarter of an hour and finishing six seconds ahead of Melissa Hoskins and Nettie Edmondson.

A nearby bushfire raised concerns that the race might have to be abandoned, but in the end it was Orica's Amanda Spratt that burned up the competition in Stage 2, launching an explosive attack on the tough Menglers hill climb, which reaches a gradient of 18% in places, that even the famously strong attacker Valentina Scandolara couldn't catch - the Italian would finish in second place, 32" behind. Having finished the first stage in 26th place, she has 12 points in total and could still wrest overall control from Gunnewijk who has 16. Scandolara, with 10, is third overall.

The third and final stage, a criterium on a fast and tight circuit at Prospect, took place on Tuesday. With 12 points on offer for the winner numerous riders remain in contention but as far as many fans were concerned after seeing her performance on the first stage, Gunnewijk had it in the bag. They turned out to be correct - while the Dutchwoman didn't win the stage, losing out to team mate Shara Gillow who got away from the pack and soloed to victory, her second place secured the overall win.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Loes Gunnewijk 37'35"
2 Melissa Hoskins +06"
3 Nettie Edmondson ST
4 Lucy Martin ST  
5 Rochelle Gilmore ST  
6 Ruth Corset ST  
7 Lizzie Williams ST  
8 Kristy Glover ST  
9 Julia Kalotas ST  
10 Sophie Williamson ST
Full result

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Amanda Spratt 2h39'52"
2 Valentina Scandolara +32"
3 Joanne Hogan +1'02"
4 Taryn Heather +2'04"  
5 Jessie Maclean +2'06"  
6 Lizzie Williams +2'57"  
7 Loes Gunnewijk ST  
8 Gracie Elvin ST  
9 Sophie Williamson ST  
10 Jessica Mundy ST
Full result

Stage 3 Top Ten (times not available)
1 Shara GILLOW
3 Valentina SCANDOLARA
4 Lizzie WILLIAMS 
5 Amanda SPRATT 
8 Taryn HEATHER 
9 Gracie ELVIN 
10 Joanne HOGAN 
Full result

General Classification Top Ten
1 Loes GUNNEWIJK 26pts
2 Valentina SCANDOLARA 18pts
3 Amanda SPRATT 18pts
4 Lizzie WILLIAMS 16pts
5 Shara GILLOW 12pts
6 Taryn HEATHER 10pts
=6 Melissa HOSKINS 10pts
7 Joanne HOGAN 9pts
=7 Nettie EDMONDSON 8pts
8 Sophie WILLIAMSON 7pts
9 Lucy MARTIN 7pts
10 Jessie MACLEAN 6pts
Full result

Shorts and Interesting Links
Crowell sidelined by cancer diagnosis (Cycling News)
Fatehah Mustapha is first Malaysian woman to win UCI World Cup medal (New Straits Times)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Women's Cycling News 12-19.01.2014

Tour de San Luis - Wyman wins eighth CX Nats - CX, Road and ITT Nats around the world - Otegem CX - Tour de San Luis - Shorts and Interesting Links - Photo of the Week - more to come...

Tour de San Luis
Stage 1
British rider Hannah Barnes (United Healthcare) was the fastest in a 41-rider bunch sprint to win the first stage. Team mate Alison Powers led Barnes out 500m to the line; Barnes jumped with 150m to go and powered past the rest of the bunch.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague, riding for the Cuba National Team, picked up the most points in the two intermediate sprints and now leads the Sprints classification.

Barnes, making her race debut for the team, will now be widely considered a favourite for overall victory as the race consists chiefly of short stages likely to end in further bunch sprints. The final stage takes place on Saturday.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Hannah BARNES (United Healthcare) 1h51'44"
2 Paola MUNOZ ST
5 Valeria PINTOS ST
6 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) ST
8 Barbara FRISCH ST
9 Bibiana NARVAEZ ST
10 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
Full result

Stage 2
Hannah Barnes abandoned following crash and required medical treatment.

Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil NT) wins the stage. Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) leads the Sprints classification; Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla is the leading rider in the Youth classification and also leads the Combination category.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Clemilda FERNANDES SILVA (Brazil NT) 1h35'02"
2 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
5 Fernanda DA SILVA SOUZA ST 1
6 Andreina RIVERA +04"
7 Serika GULUMA ORTIZ +04"
8 Cristiane SILVA +04"
9 Paola MUNOZ +04"
10 Estefania PILZ +04"
Full result and GC

Stage 3
Alison Powers (United Healthcare) wins with a 3'18" advantage, propelling herself into first place overall with a lead of 3'04 as well as becoming new leader of the Combination classification. Team mate Alexis Ryan wins bunch sprint for second place.

Yudelmis Dominguez Masague (Cuba NT) leads the Sprints classification; Arlenis Sierra Cañadilla remains leading rider in the Youth classification.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Alison POWERS (United Healthcare) 1h39'25"
2 Alexis RYAN (United Healthcare) +3'18"
5 Marlies MEJIAS GARCIA (Cuba NT) ST
8 Paola MUNOZ ST
9 Talia Ayelen AGUIRRE ST
10 Valeria PINTOS ST
Full result and GC

Wyman wins eighth National Cyclo Cross Championships
Having last year ended Helen Wyman's seven-year reign at the top, locally-born 27-year-old Nikki Harris was odds-on favourite for the British Cyclo Cross National Championships on Sunday - and Wyman would most certainly have agreed.
(Image c/o Jack Chevell)

Whatever happened, though, it was no secret that this race was almost certain to be a competition between the two women right from the start, with the rest of the field fighting it out among themselves for third place: both are based in Belgium and as a result have opportunity to attend a far greater number of races than the British-based riders. Whilst 'cross does appear to be on the up here, we don't have anything like as many races as in Belgium, where the sport is enormously popular and draws crowds of thousands; Wyman and Harris have a selection within in relatively easy reach of their Flemish homes throughout the season.

Wyman's had an excellent season so far, winning the European Championships for a second consecutive year back in November and is evidently in fine form. Harris was second in that race too, though, and has also performed superbly this season. There's no doubt that sooner or later the baton is going to be passed, but when the heavy rain on Friday night combined with Saturday's races to turn the Moorways parcours into a quagmire of which even the infamous Flemish races would have been proud, things began to look ever better for 32-year-old Wyman because in conditions that slimy, experience counts and her formidable bike-handling-in-treacherous-mud skills are well-known - and well-respected - throughout the cyclo cross world.

Harris was able to match her friend and rival's typically lightning-fast start, but once out on the fields it was clear that she wasn't going to be able to keep up and before very long at all Wyman had ploughed away into the thick of it. All those years as the best 'cross rider in Britain have left the St. Albans-born rider with an ability to read the track that is almost psychic - where other riders see the surface and have to experiment in the early laps to find the best lines, Wyman has an uncanny ability to see what lies beneath and find the firmest paths through it, enabling her to start building her advantage from the moment the race gets under way. Then, because she's got the strength to match, she can keep going.

However, after crossing the line completely caked in mud, even Wyman herself was genuinely surprised by her winning margin: finishing in 41'14" compared to Harris' 42'28", she was an incredible 1'14" faster and isn't ready to let go of that baton just yet. Just how much of an advantage they had over the rest of the field was apparent when Ffion James of Abergavenny Road Club finished 4'23" after Harris for third place.

Megan James (Abergavenny CC), Lucy Horrocks (Team Hope) and Ellie Russell (Mid Shropshire Wheelers) were first, second and third in the Under-14 event; Charlotte Broughton (MG Decor), Isabella Boon (Derby Mercury RC) and Jessica Roberts (RST) in the U-16; Tracey Fletcher (Team Empella), Claire Smith (Cotswold Veldrijden), Marie Jackson (Paul Milnes Cycles) topped the Veteran Women.

What makes Helen's victory even more remarkable is the fact that she underwent root canal surgery on the Friday before the race. You can read all about that in her own report.

Elite Women Top Ten
1 Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA Factory Team) 41'14"
2 Nikki Harris (Telenet Fidea) 42'28"
3 Ffion James (Abergavenny RC) 46'51"
4 Abby-Mae Parkinson (RST Racing Team) 47'08"
5 Amira Mellor (Paul Milnes Cycles/Bradford Olympic) 47'46"
6 Diane Lee (Mulebar Girl-Sigma Sport) 48'12"
7 Alice Barnes 49'38"
8 Beth Crumpton (Hargroves Cycles RT-Specialized-Trant-Next-Elliott's) 50'16"
9 Delia Beddis (ViCiOUS VELO) 50'22"
10 Tracy Moseley (Malvern Cycle Sport) 50'42"
Full results for all events

Around the World
Britain's Championships weren't the only ones taking place over the weekend - there were more CX Nationals taking place around the world and even some Road Nationals. In the "CX Top Four" nations the were few surprises with Sanne Cant winning in Belgium, Marianne Vos winning in the Netherlands, Katie Compton winning in the USA and Pauline Ferrand Prevot winning in France.

Each nation's results are at the end of the following links...

CX Nationals Austria - CX Nationals Belgium - CX Nationals Croatia - CX Nationals Denmark - CX Nationals France - CX Nationals Germany - CX Nationals Hungary - CX Nationals Ireland - CX Nationals Italy - CX Nationals Luxembourg - CX Nationals Netherlands - CX Nationals Poland - CX Nationals Spain - CX Nationals Switzerland - CX Nationals USA

Rushlee Buchanan kicked off her year with new team United Healthcare in fine style by winning the New Zealand Road Race Championships, the first road racing championships to take place in 2014. Jaime Nielsen took the Individual Time Trial title, taking an unexpected 28" less than Linda Villumsen to get to the finish.

In the Australian Championships, Orica's Gracie Elvin took the Road Race when she was first over the line from a bunch of eight favourites that all recorded the same time. The ITT went to Felicity Wardlaw.

Otegem CX
Belgian champ Sanne Cant was 7"
slower than Helen Wyman
So on Sunday you won a decisive victory at a major national sporting competition. What do you do on Monday? I know what I'd do - sleep until midday, get up to a leisurely breakfast and then be in the pub for 3pm. But I'm not Helen Wyman who, having won the British National Cyclo Cross Championships for the eighth time on Sunday, traveled 600km in a camper van to back in Belgium on Monday morning ready to race at the Otegem CX. Which she also won, beating Sanne Cant, who won an eighth title of her own at the Belgian CX Championships on Sunday.

Otegem Top Ten
1 Helen WYMAN 37:35
2 Sanne CANT 37:42
3 Sophie DE BOER 37:47
4 Ellen VAN LOY BEL 38:09 
5 Pavla HAVLIKOVA 38:50 
6 Loes SELS 38:54 
7 Jolien VERSCHUEREN 39:48 
8 Asa Maria ERLANDSSON 40:15 
9 Karen VERHESTRAETEN 40:39 
10 Cindy BAUWENS 41:24
Full result

Shorts and Interesting Links
World champion Vos's Rabo Liv team presented (Cycling News)
Compton races to 10th US cyclo-cross title (Cycling News)

Photo of the Week
"Yes, it weighs half a ton - but with Kirsten pedaling, it'll still win the final sprint!"
(With thanks to Kirsten Wild and Lucy Garner)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Tickhill GP 2014

24.08.2014 Official Site 1/2
Tickhill, England
53°25'57.51"N  1° 6'24.30"W

If enthusiasm was all that was needed to organise a bike race, the Tickhill Velo GP would be as big as the Tour de France. Held for the first time in 2013, it felt immediately like an established event and the fact that it doesn't have a pedigree stretching back decades, like the Belgian criterium races it so closely resembles, came as something of a surprise to many fans and riders.

In the case of some races that include events for men and women, it soon becomes clear that they consider the women's race to be a bit of a chore, something they've had to do in an attempt to appear modern. So, they don't bother chasing up decent sponsorship and end up with a race that looks and feels every bit as half-assed as it is with a prize fund that wouldn't even pay for the bouquet given to the winner of the men's race and complain when only six or seven riders (who, discovering that nobody's even bothered to advertise the event and they haven't been provided with any facilities, understandably can't really be bothered with making much of an effort) sign up.  I spoke a great deal with the organisers while writing this preview and it was obvious to me that they are definitely not in that category and that they have a very deep appreciation of women's cycling. When I asked event organiser Richard Stoodley why he feels it's important to support women's cycling, it was clear that he doesn't just think it's the right thing to do, he can't comprehend why anyone might not want to become involved in the sport.

"Why not? It's a growth area of cycling; National & International Level success means spectators EXPECT to see a women's category; it gives other girls and women something to support and aspire to be/do; it's great to promote something that counters the teenage binge drinking images that we see on the TV in every town centre" Stoodley answered, adding: "Both the men & women are ELITE… they are the best in their field at this level, therefore there should be no differential. The women have put in equal training and effort and we believe that they should benefit equally. The Title Sponsor agrees with our view that the women should get equal prize money."

When talking to someone like Stoodley, it's easy to feel optimistic about the future of women's cycling in Britain. Therefore, we as fans have a duty to support his team or organisers and their race - they're doing the things we've all argued for so long that all organisers should be doing, and for all the right reasons. Let's all try in any way we can - by going to see the race, by following it on Twitter and helping to spread the word with retweets and by telling everyone who'll listen all about it - to hep make sure that this race gets the recognition it deserves, so that it becomes an example of how to do things right. I have no doubt that it'll make it onto the Women's National Series calendar sooner or later, and we'll be able to say that we played a part in making it a success.

Unfortunately, finances are always an issue in women's cycling, and even the keenest organiser will experience difficulty in attracting even a fraction of the sponsorship they dream of finding - companies such as Boels (which has been pumping enormous amounts of cash into women's races and teams in Europe for a few years now) are few and far between, so teams and race organisers alike battle constantly for every penny they can get and struggle to persuade potential new backers that there really is an audience for the sport. Tickhill, though, has proven that it can be done, provided the organiser really pushes for it and, at the time of writing, Stoodley was excited to announce that he'd just received confirmation from what he described as "a HUGE sponsor which will allow us to carry out most things on our event wish list… one being "very attractive" prize funds!"

Potential sponsors
The organisers are, of course, still searching for more backing, and the more they receive the better an event they can provide - and the better the returns for sponsors. With sponsorship deals starting from as little as £99, there's a package to suit every company. Contact Richard Stoodley at for more details.

The Parcours
Tickhill is a good example of a criterium and demonstrates how the format enables an organiser to put on a great event while keeping costs to a minimum and limiting road closures so as to make the race more acceptable to local councils and non-cycling fan residents. A compact parcours also offers benefits for fans - the Tickhill circuit is 1.232km in length, but from east to west it's a just half a kilometre across and from north to south only 95m, which means that any fan that chooses to do so can easily walk around the entire parcours and see all the corners, bends and straights as the race plays out.

It's a very flat circuit (total elevation gain per lap is only 4.2m) with two straight sections of 370m and 520m, meaning that it can be a very fast race; add to that the five difficult bends and, perhaps most important of all, the general party atmosphere in the village created by making the GP part of Tickhill's T-Fest music and dance festival (another tradition at the Belgium crits, which are often an important part of village festivals and fetes) and the race becomes a very enjoyable event indeed. The race will continue for 50 minutes and three additional laps.

View Tickhill Velo GP in a larger map

The start and finish is located on Sunderland Street (A631) outside the Scarborough Arms pub. The riders set off  west along the latter half of the first straight, covering 170m before arriving at the 18th Century Buttercross (which marks the site of the market and where fresh produce for sale would once have been displayed on the stone steps). The parcours takes a route around the Buttercross that's just wide enough to be fast and easy in dry conditions but just tight enough to require caution when wet, especially when crossing the white road markings as the riders leave Sunderland Street and join Castle Gate (A60) and again after they've rounded the Buttercross and rejoin Sunderland Street.

The riders now head east along a straight 390m section, passing by the start line. Having passed to the right of a traffic island, they arrive at a tight right-hand corner leading onto York Road. It may be necessary to avoid the centre of York Road at the junction as rainwater, oil and leaves can collect in a shallow depression; this will be far easier to do in a smaller group of riders. York Road continues for 90, and ends at a junction with Lancaster Crescent, where riders turn left; there are two drain covers a couple of metres beyond the point where the two roads meet which will also be easier to avoid in a smaller group. Lancaster Crescent continues for 112m, then reaches a T-junction with two more drain covers lying in the centre of the road. Riders turn left onto a slightly narrower road and proceed for 87m to arrive at a T-junction and a left turn back onto Sunderland Street. As was the case when the riders left Sunderland Street, the centre of the road at the apex tends to collect water and assorted slippery detritus. Now on the final straight of the lap, the riders can get their heads down and reach very high speed; they will arrive at the finish line after 340m.

The Buttercross marks the western end of the circuit
(© John Garfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Start List
Not yet available

Getting There
Tickhill lies immediately west of the A1, making it extremely easy to reach from the south and north. Leave the A1 at Junction 34 before taking the B6045 into Blyth, followed by the A634 to Oldcotes and the A60 directly into Tickhill. This section of the A1 is motorway and thus is not open to bikes.

From the east or west, take the M18 to Junction 2 at Loversall then follow the A1 south to Junction 34 and use the previous directions.

With parking a premium in Tickhill all year round, bike or train is definitely the best way to get to this race. The town does not have a railway station of its own, the nearest being at Doncaster 13km away: take the A60 south via Loversall and Wadworth, then directly into Tickhill. Google Earth and Maps both have applications that will design routes suitable for bikes from any point in the United Kingdom.

Sunderland Street
(© Ian S, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Staying There
Once, Tickhill was the second most important town in South Yorkshire, as can be seen from the substantial remains of its ruined castle, and enjoyed great prosperity; when castles became obsolete the town entered a period of decline and today it's a quiet place with a population of 5300. Accommodation is therefore limited to the local pubs, some of which rent rooms, and to Hannah's Guest House which, despite a bad reputation in the past, has by all accounts undergone significant improvements. With the race and festival going on, these rooms are likely to be booked up well in advance; fortunately, Tickhill is very close to Worksop (15km), Rotherham (23.5km), Doncaster (13km) and Sheffield (30km) - all larger towns with much more accommodation.

...And while you're there
Tickhill is less than 4km from Harworth - the town that will forever be famous among cyclists in Britain and overseas as the home town of Tom Simpson, who now lies in the town's cemetery. During his professional career and for many years afterwards, Simpson was widely considered to be Britain's best-ever chance at a Tour de France victory - his sixth place in 1962 remained the best placing by a British rider until Robert Millar came fourth in 1984, his 1961 victory at the Ronde van Vlaanderen is the only time a British rider has ever won the race, his World Championship in 1965 was also the first by a British man (Beryl Burton had won in 1960) and would not be matched by another British man until Mark Cavendish won in 2011. All cyclists know how Simpson met his end on Mont Ventoux in 1967, and how the amphetamines found in the pocket of his jersey forced the cycling world to start dealing with the problem of doping. There is a small museum dedicated to him in Harworth, and you can pay your respects at his grave (53°25'8.13"N  1° 4'21.57"W).

It's probably also worth knowing that notable bike-hater Jeremy Clarkson lives in Tickhill. That this race probably really annoys him is another fine reason to support it.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Women's Cycling News 05-12.01.2014

Bronzini's blitz at the Bay Crits - Compton conquers Rome - Joiner and McPhee injured - Team News (Argos-Shimano saved; new bikes for Optum) - Shorts and Interesting Links (Good Riddance!; Teut still involved; Norway gets UCI race; Tour of Qatar)  - Photo of the Week - more to come...

Bronzini's blitz at the Bay Crits
Giorgia Bronzini
Giorgia Bronzini, the World Champion in 2010 and 2011, made cycling history at the first six stages at the Route de France last year - the Italian sprinter conceded only the prologue, to Emma Johansson, and the final Stage 7 to her team leader Linda Villumsen, who won overall. She managed a similar result at the Mitchelton Bay Crits last week by winning three out of a total four stages, and won the General Classification as a result.

Bronzini's team mate Peta Mullens, who spent much of the race attacking anything that moved (especially if it happened to be wearing an Orica jersey; meanwhile, Valentina Scandolara of Orica returned the favour) won the Sprints classification while their team, the British-registered Wiggle-Honda, won the Teams classification.

Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt) was the only other rider to win a stage, forcing Bronzini and Orica's Nettie Edmondson into second and third when she launched a powerful sprint more than 400m from the finish - it was not the first time she's beaten Bronzini and is further evidence that she's destined to win cycling's ultimate accolades in the coming years, but Stages 3 and 4 being much tougher than 1 and 2 it was clear that shifting Bronzini from the lead was going to take a serious effort. Then, strong winds combined with a short and steep climb to make the going even harder; perfect conditions for a rider with Bronzini's strength to gain the upper hand once more. She did so, once again with help from Mullens who wore down the opposition, and crossed the line with a healthy advantage.

Wiggle made sure they had Villumsen keeping control of a break during Stage 4, but explained afterwards that it hadn't been her intention to go for a stage win because she wasn't feeling 100%. With a lead of six points over Edmondson going into the final stage, Bronzini could have played it safe and remained a few places back from the front line, making sure she finished highly enough to keep first place. That's not her style, though, and she was right in the thick of it with Valentina Scandolara (Orica), Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-Securitor), Hosking and Edmondson as the finish drew near, and once again was the strongest - and finished the race with an advantage of twelve points.

Unfortunately, Stage 4 was not without controversy: Hosking (and many fans) felt that while Bronzini's victory was fully deserved, Wiggle had not acted honourably. "Giorgia Bronzini is a class act but can’t say the same about the way Wiggle Honda and their development team colluded today to ruin the race," she Tweeted, arguing that her team could have used the same tactic but chose to "race fair."

Photos here

Bay Crits Top Ten
1 Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) 46
2 Nettie Edmondson (Orica-AIS) 34
3 Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-Securitor) 30
4 Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt) 30
5 Gracie Elvin (Jayco NT) 23
6 Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) 10
7 Lizzie Williams (Specialized-Securitor) 9
8 Sophie Williamson (Vanderkitten) 8
9 Joanne Hogan (Individual) 7
10 Barbara Guarschi (DHB) 6

Compton conquers Rome
Katie Compton has always been an outstanding rider, but over the last couple of seasons she's been steadily getting better and better and now poses a threat to the dominance of cyclo cross by Marianne Vos. At the Rome round of the World Cup on Sunday, she gave a demonstration of just how real that threat is, forcing the Dutch rider to work hard simply to keep up before she cracked halfway through - something we've rarely, if ever, seen Vos do before now.

Katie Compton
Ellen van Loy was quickest off the start and led around the first corner, with Compton not far behind. Then the race seemed to enter a familiar pattern when Vos and Harris upped their pace, overtaking the American before Vos got right behind van Loy. Van Loy, however, wasn't going to give up the lead without a fight, and it took Vos almost all of the first lap to get the better of her.

Vos and Compton now began their own private battle, responding to one another's turns of speed with ever more acceleration so that, going into the last lap, they'd opened a gap of 54" on the chasers. For a brief time, Vos was ahead and many fans will have expected the outcome to have already been decided: after all, she is Vos. But then, Compton found the strength for another burst, and this time Vos could not respond when she just kept going, eventually reaching the finish 24" ahead.

The reign of Vos is far from over, but we're apparently at the start of a new era. Few people will be as happy about that as Vos herself, because Vos relishes a challenge even more than she loves to win.

Helen Wyman was the best British rider, finishing in sixth place; Nikki Harris was ninth.

Rome CX CdM Top Ten
1 Katie Compton (Trek Cyclo Cross Collective)
2 Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant)
3 Eva Lechner (Colnago-Südtirol)
4 Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabobank-Liv/Giant)
5 Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP)
6 Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing)
7 Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea)
8 Sophie de Boer (KDL Cycling Team)
9 Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea)
10 Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (EC Stephanois)

Compton leads the competition by 101 points, having 350 to second place Harris' 249. Sanne Cant is third with 221, Vos fourth with 210 and Wyman fifth with 164.

Charline Joiner and Kerry McPhee injured
Scots riders Charline Joiner, winner of two medals at the Irish International Track GP last year, and Kerry McPhee required hospital treatment following a pile-up during a training ride in Girona on Saturday. Joiner suffered three minor fractures to the transverse processes of her spine while McPhee was left with concussion and bruising.

Both riders have been Tweting, in Joiner's case from hospital. Follow Joiner here and McPhee here.

Team News
Argos-Shimano saved
The Dutch team, home to Kirsten Wild, Lucy Garner and the ever-popular Marijn De Vris, among others, has been saved for 2014 by Giant. Previous sponsor Argos, a fuel company, had initially agreed to back the team until the end of 2014 with an option in the contract to continue that support in 2015 if it wished, but was later purchased by Russian firm Sistema and the contract was ended early.

Late in 2013 the team announced that an American organisation had signed a three-year contract but this agreement was ended within a week for reasons as yet unknown, casting the future of the team - and especially the women's team, as managers tend to experience greater problems in securing sponsors for their women's squads - into doubt. Fortunately Giant, which also sponsors the Dutch Rabobank-Liv/Giant women's team, has stepped in with an agreement to support the team for the next year.

New bikes for Optum
Meanwhile, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies have a new bike provider in the form of a company that is so associated with the BMX world that few people even realise they produce road bikes - Diamondback.

""Diamondback has made a significant commitment to our program and is working very closely with our staff and athletes to deliver the most competitive racing machines available," says Jonas Carney, performance director of Optum's men's squad. The men's and women's teams will both be equipped with the manufacturer's Podium Equipe frames.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Good riddance!
The well-trained eyes of "media maven at a major cycling company" Chris Garrison spotted a rather displeasing recent Cycling Weekly interview (5th December) with former Team Sky directeur sportif Dan Hunt, who has recently left the world of cycling behind for a new job in something called "Premier League football" (I've no idea what this "football" is, but it sounds incredibly dull in comparison to cycling)...
"It all happened very quickly. I told Dave [Brailsford] and his reaction was great, as you would expect. I think he was quietly quite proud; after all he was the person who took a punt on me in 2005. I've grown under him, and it's quite incredible to think that people from this little sport of cycling after getting poached by other sports. 
It demonstrates where cycling is; the fact that someone who started off with the women's team and worked their way through the BC and Sky ranks is off to work in football."
Well, that explains why Sky never seemed to have any interest in starting a women's road racing team. Still, it's nice to know that someone who held a powerful and responsible position in cycling, yet held women's cycling (and cycling in general, apparently) in such disregard, is no longer a part of it.

Yoko Teut is "still going to be involved" in team
"...She’s still talking about how “maybe I should be riding.” She doesn’t want to quit! But it’s good timing for her. She might move to New York to work with the Star Track program. It’s a program in Queens on the velodrome for urban kids. And she’ll also direct our team for races in America," team owner Kristy Scrymgeour told Leah Flickinger in an interview published by Bicycling.

Norway gets UCI race
Norway is to host a UCI women's race in August this year. The event, organised by the National Federation, will run from the 15th to the 17th.

"I've had to wait a long time for this - it's a step in the right direction!" said Karl Lima, manager of the Norwegian Hitec Products-UCK team. Hitec rider Emilie Moberg has been involved in the organisation.

Tour of Qatar stages
Race takes similar routes to previous years.
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Interesting Links
The Tour organisers confirm multi-year commitment to women’s Tour of Britain (VeloNation)
Women's Tour de France within five years, says Rochelle Gilmore (Quaddess)
Astana-BePink launch (Cycling News)
Victoria's Brenton Jones has won the Bay Cycling Classic (Sydney Morning Herald)
Australian road nationals to contain highly competitive field (Cycling News)

Photo of the Week
"Cycling is fun!" says Amber Pierce
(Image credit: Amber and David Pierce)