Saturday 10 March 2012

Ronde van Drenthe Women's Road World Cup

Marianne Vos wins the first round of the World Cup
Saturday brought us the Ronde van Drenthe, Round 1 of the 2012 Women's Road World Cup which, as such, is arguably the most important date on the Elite Women's racing calendar so far this season. The top cyclists in the world were in attendance, including World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, Martine Bras, Ellen Van Dijk, Trixi Worrack, Lizzie Armitstead, Kirsten Wild, Nicole Cooke, Janneke Kanis, Loes Guunewijk, Judith Arndt, Emma Johansson and current favourites for the Cup Marianne Vos, in her second road race of the year after a stellar cyclo cross season, and last year's winner her Rabobank team mate Annemiek Van Vleuten.

2011 Cup winner Annemiek Van Vleuten
(image credit: K.J. Schilstra CC BY 3.0)
Several of the women have won on this route before: Vos last year, Gunnewijk in 2010, Johansson in 2009. Bronzini finished third in 2011 and 2010, meaning she'll be eager for success today - however, Bronzini is likely to be basing her season around a performance peak in time for the World Championships and a third consecutive win, which left the majority of fans expecting Vos - who seems to be able to peak 365 days of the year - to take this one, and as ever the 24-year-old Dutch phenomenon did not disappoint: once the group of favourites, having led for much of the race, had been whittled down by the narrow roads and testing cobbled sectors, the Rabobank team went to work for their leader and finished off the competition one by one. Chantal Blaak made a brave attack but the Rabo women let her exhaust herself, leaving Vos to demonstrate again just how good she is with a fast and furious twelve-women sprint to the finish line. Vos, despite having won more races than just about any currently-active rider of either gender, still manages to look overjoyed and thankful with each new triumph she adds. Today was no different - looking every bit as excited as a neo-pro minutes after their first victory, she told reporters how thankful she is to have such a great team supporting her.
"In the sprint, I joined Kirsten Wild’s train. When she started it, I went along with her immediately and rode blind to the finish in the hope that nobody else would get past us. I’m really pleased with this win, but particularly pleased with the fact that the team worked so well together. The communication was excellent and we now seem to be in tune with each other. Iris Slappendel, Roxane Knetemann and Sarah Dünster put in a lot of work into the pursuit." - Marianne Vos
Vos: "I'm just very glad I was able to win again!"
The 132.8km parcours was a tough one with some cobbled sections and no fewer than three ascents of the VAMberg, the green and lush 75m "mountain" that is spelled in the unusual way that it is because it's really a rubbish dump created by waste disposal company Vuil Afvoer Maatschappij. The dump has been turfed over, making what was a blight on the landscape into a very beautiful feature among the flat surrounds, and in parts it's very steep indeed - as much as 16.7% at one point, making it one of the steepest climbs in professional cycling. Emma Johansson of Hitec Products-Mistral Home, back from a double clavicle fracture sustained in a training accident earlier this year, did remarkably well therefore to take third, recording the same time as Vos; especially since her team started the race with only five riders after Lise Nøstvold became ill. Best placed Brit was Lizzie Armitstead with 17th place, 3" down on Vos. (Full results here,)

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