Thursday 30 August 2012

8th Memorial Davide Fardelli

The 7.85km circuit - the Elite Women will complete
three laps (click for enlargement)
02.09 Official site
Italy, 23.55km Individual Time Trial, UCI 1.2

Be Pink are Tweeting from the race

↓↓↓Parcours, starters (when available), weather↓↓↓

Davide Fardelli, born on the 6th of January 1972, discovered his love of cycling aboard a mountain bike when he was 28 years old - older than most, so he made sure that he made up for lost time by riding as much as possible. "The bike, you know, is a love that often has no limits" says the official race website; in 2002 he decided to give road cycling a go. While he continued mountain biking, road cycling became his passion and, before long, he began to do well in amateur races. Then, on the 26th of August in 2004, he was badly injured in a crash. Four days later, having experienced a great deal of pain, he died. This race is a celebration of his life and of the sport he loved, now in its eighth edition and bigger than ever before.

It consists of six events in total, all of them individual time trials. The Elite Professional men and women race on an identical 23.55km parcours consisting of three laps of a 7.85km circuit with a small hill (17m in 0.86km, average gradient a little over 1.5%, maximum 4% near the top) beginning just after 1km from the start line. The rest is either slightly descending or flat, making it a parcours likely to generate very high speeds. It's very much a race for the strong time trial specialists who are able to produce a lot of power for a long time through the several straight sections, then do the same again on the next - and keep it up for all three laps. There are one or two points where riders might need to exercise caution, but overall this is not a technical parcours: it's more about power than finesse and even the predicted bad weather is unlikely to create many problems.

The Parcours
The race takes place in a glacial valley just north-east of Lago d'Iseo, Lombardy's fourth-largest lake, beginning at a car park on the SS42 road at Rondinera in Bergamo. Mountains rear up immediately to the north and the fortified village of Castelfranco, atop a rocky outcrop, can just be seen from the road. To the south, more mountains can be seen above the roof line of a building bearing the name Fardelli Ernesto & C. - the headquarters of the Global Radiators company created by Davide Fardelli's father, and where he worked before his death. Having turned right out of the car park and onto the SS42, riders will want to make use of the smooth, modern road surface to get up to a reasonable speed immediately but not risk using up too much energy that might be put to a better use later on. There has been a lot of construction work taking place on the far side of Rondinera, around 0.75km from the start; riders will need to take care on their first passage in case there is sand or mud on the road. This is especially likely with the heavy rain forecast for the end of the week and lighter rain through the weekend as the houses to the left of the road are built right up against the lower slopes of the mountains, giving ample opportunity for soil and stones to be washed down onto the road. If the rain keeps up throughout the race, there's no guarantee that because the road surface was free of mud on one passage it will be on the next, either.

Click for enlargement
After passing a field on the right, the riders arrive at Rogno - three houses (one pale green, two terracotta) on the right mark the beginning of the climb which shouldn't give anyone any problems provided they pace themselves properly through to the last lap. Rogno will never win any "most beautiful village in Italy" competitions: it's an industrialised place where people live and work rather than a tourist trap (and let's face it - it would have some very stiff competition), but it does have its charms. One of the most attractive is the old stone house on the right of the road some 1.56km from the start with a football pitch next door - it not only looks nice, it also provides a handy landmark to let the riders know they've reached the steepest part of the climb. A little further ahead, having passed by the town hall on the left, they pass into a narrower section with buildings right up against the road on both sides, then it opens up again as the riders leave Rogno and head into Bessimo - the two villages are all but contiguous, with only a field separating them.

2011 winner Judith Arndt, seen here at
the 2012 Olympics
Bessimo is more industrialised that Rondinera and Rogno, the grey factories next to road don't give a good first impression when the village is approached from this angle, though the mountains - like most mountains - are breathtaking. The road passes straight through with the riders negotiating a roundabout at 2.85km; to the right is what must be one the most intriguing provincial superstore units anywhere in Europe: an Iperfamily with an entrance that looks like a huge, glass orchid. 0.33km later, they turn right onto the Via Nazionale. It's a wide corner, but taking the fastest and tightest line around it leads straight over two drain covers that could prove perilously slippery (there's a third in the middle of the left-hand lane too, where it could catch out a rider taking a wide line). The road descends past a field to the left and industrial units to the right but is straight enough for fuel spillages left by trucks and tractors to be unlikely to cause problems and so the road can be negotiated at high speed; after rounding a sweeping right-hand bend it narrows considerably and passes under overhanging trees - a spot where some riders might experience punctures. After 0.75km from the right turn, the River Oglio comes into view on the left of the road, a short way further ahead the Lago di Rogno appears on the right before the race enters the most attractive part of the parcours with superb views over Rogno to the mountains on the right and across the river to more mountains on the left, then the road bends right, left and right again before reaching 4.95km from the start and the next corner, where the riders turn left.

It seems almost impossible that the riders were passing industrial units only minutes before at this point on the parcours - there is an old and very beautiful house right by the corner, and the narrow road they turn onto looks as though it runs over an Alpine meadow. Cows are grazed along here but, kept off the road by electric fencing, shouldn't have left any slippery surprises; if the weather forecast turns out to be completely wrong, the main issue on this stretch is likely to be wind - there's little cover and riding into a wind blowing north-east off the lake would be hard work, while riding with a tail wind blowing down through the valley from the high mountains (which top 3,100m only 40km away) would make it more like land-yachting than cycling. The road is narrow but it's flat, smooth, mostly straight and likely to be very fast indeed, any rider who feels she had the strength in her legs when she approaches the finish line for the final time, knowing her race is almost over and that she has no need to conserve energy for layer, could put it to very good use and steal a big lead over her rivals by switching up to full power and then hammering through the 1km section between the left turn at the start and the right turn at the end - and could just as easily lose it in the last 200m, where overhanging trees make punctures more likely than anywhere else on the parcours.

Final kilometre
After the right turn, riders head north along a slightly wider road, passing a cottage on the left before entering a right-left-right S-bend leading into Rondinera 0.21km from the corner and marking 1km to go. 0.3km later (this section apparently has some drainage problems, hopefully not an issue on race day), they come to a crossroads where they turn left. Vehicles are prevented from reaching the crossroads by a line of low concrete bollards just around the corner - they will have to pass between these. The road is straight and extends for 0.2km; at the end - having passed through an alleyway between the buildings at the far end - they turn left back onto the SS42, ride back past Global Radiators and return to the start line.


1. Edwige PITEL 33'29"
2. Martina RITTER +15"
3. Pascale SCHNIDER +21"
4. Patricia SCHWAGER +25"
5. Katarína HRANAIOVÁ +53"
6. Oxana KOZONCHUK +54"
7. Thrude KARLSEN +57"
8. Doris SCHWEIZER +1'18"
9. Jacqueline HAHN +1'19"
10. Susanna ZORZI +1'20"
Full results

Not looking good at all. Thunderstorms and 47mm of rain are predicted for Thursday, which is more than enough to bring mud onto the roads as described above. Sporadic heavy rain is also predicted for Friday, then heavy showers on Saturday. Race day morning should be dry with the wind blowing up the valley from the south west, more showers are expected in the afternoon when the wind will reverse direction - however, it'll be no stronger than around 5kph. Maximum temperature is expected to be around 27C.

Saturday 25 August 2012

The Unofficial, Unsanctioned Social Media Jersey

We all know that women's cycling - and the riders themselves - get a seriously bad deal when compared to the men. They don't get a guaranteed minimum wage (the ProTour men do), their teams are run on shoestring budgets and there's little job security because of the ever-present threat of sponsors pulling the plug and the prize money at most races is considerably less than any one of them could get for putting in a full week's work at a fast food outlet.

So why do they even bother? Simple - they love their sport. That's obvious from the look of sheer joy when they win (there's none of that "Well, what do you expect - I'm the greatest" bullshit macho arrogance you get with the men), the non-stop attacking way that they ride and when they turn up at race after race despite knowing it'll have probably been organised on a budget that wouldn't even get a ProTour rider out of his bed (or even paid for his sheets) and that even if they're lucky enough to win, they frequently don't win enough to cover the cost of getting there in the first place.

"Not as competitive," eh?
We all know why women's cycling is like this, too - because people like UCI president Pat McQuaid tell the world that women's cycling isn't developed enough for the riders to deserve a fair deal and because far too many people seem to still believe that female athletes aren't as competitive as the men. Fortunately, most people are bright enough to realise how mistaken they were the moment they actually see a women's race. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cycling fans will never see one because women's cycling is almost entirely ignored by the media (and a great big chapeau to those organisations that have seen the light - there are a few out there).

Fans do their bit, with blogs (I'm willing to put myself forward as representative of all women's cycling bloggers so everyone can buy me drinks, by the way) and Tweets and videos on YouTube, quite a few of which put the official videos that get made at some races to shame. There are directeurs sportif who do their bit, too. Fans do it because we like it and because we want to give something back to the riders who make the sport so enjoyable, directeurs sportif do it (and those who don't should) do it because one of the myriad aspects of their job is to help promote their team. The riders shouldn't have to do it, because they've already fulfilled their part of the deal by, well, riding. Yet they do.

Without Helen Wyman, British CX
fans would have a far harder time
following the sport
The first thing that your average male rider does after a race is find out if he's being called in for a dope test, then he might favour a journalist with a few words if he's won and they want to talk to him before heading straight off for a massage and a shower, followed no doubt with a bit of a snooze. The first thing many of the female riders do is fire up the Blackberry or laptop and bash out a few hundred words ensuring that their loyal fans get to hear about what happened in the race, because you can bet your last sachet of energy gel that they won't be able to read about it in the newspapers - and some of them have become almost as renowned for their reports as for their racing; people such as Marijn de Vries, whose own website is one of funniest and most fascinating cycling resources on the Net (Marijn is in fact a journalist; she's also an active and friendly Twitterer), and Helen Wyman, whose cyclo cross race reports are pretty much the only way for English-speaking fans to follow European women's CX.

That riders take part in races and in many cases hold down jobs to make ends meet, then find the time and the will to keep fans informed, answer their questions and promote their sport is worthy of serious respect - and recognition. Hence...

The idea was thought up by Sarah and Dan, two fans who blog and take the photos at races that other fans want to see and the mainstream media doesn't provide. The jersey competition will be for any riders who are racing in three European events this September - the hilly Tour de l’Ardèche (3rd-9th September 2012, France), the sprint-tastic Brainwash Ladies Tour (4th-9th September, 2012, the Netherlands) and the Giro della Toscana (29th August-2nd September) and it will go to the rider who’s been the best at using social media to share their thoughts on the race. Anyone will be able to nominate a rider for the jersey, based on their tweets, websites, blogs on team sites, or any form of social media.  The only restriction is that is has to be public and it’s got to be vaguely related to those races. It doesn’t matter what language they’re using, or whether it’s a series of pieces, or just a couple of photos or pithy tweets. If you see something you like, they would like you to nominate it for inclusion. I think this is a very good idea, and going by the number of retweets made by some of the top names in cycling, so do a lot of riders - female and male.

Sarah, when she first explained the idea, thought that with a little luck they might receive sufficient donations to award a t-shirt and perhaps $100 to the chosen rider. Within 48 hours of launching their website and making the idea public, donations topped $870. Days later, it's up to $1,100. That's a lot more than first prize at a lot of races (it's more than the entire prize pot at a few), and will make a real difference to the rider that wins it.

You can get involved, either by donating or, if you can't afford to donate, simply by helping to spread awareness - all it takes is a Tweet.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Vos puts on a show! GP de Plouay 2012

The GP will consist of five laps of the red route
(click to enlarge)
25.08 Official site
France, 135km, UCI CDM (final round, Women's World Cup)

Plouay is a four-day festival of cycling. It begins on Thursday 23rd of August with a farmers' market and a BMX event; Friday 24th offers the open-to-the-public Cyclo Morbihan in which 3,358 people took part last year, a race for journalists and the senior's race. Saturday 25th has the Women's World Cup round and Sunday 26th has the legendary GP Ouest-France for Elite Men.

↓↓↓Starters, race report, results↓↓↓

The UCI announced in March this year that it had confirmed the GP de Plouay's status as a Women's World Cup venue until 2016, and it's not hard to see why - it's always been a fantastically well-organised event with enough going on to keep the huge crowds that show up to watch happy. With a selection of music, food, drink and all sorts of other entertainments going on in addition to the racing, it attracts a wide range of people, even many with no real interest in the sport who are simply looking for a good day out. It all comes together to form a superb showcase for cycling, and this year was no different - Plouay isn't the easiest place to get to in France and the weather forecast was decidedly unfavourable, but still hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to watch some of the top female riders in the world.

In these times when numerous women's races are having to scale down as sponsors pull out or, as has happened with too many events already, vanish forever, Plouay has been growing. Last year, it consisted of six laps of a 19.1km circuit to make a total of 114.6km; this year riders will complete five laps of 27km to make 135km. It helps that the race takes place in Brittany, the heartland of French cycling, but it's also indication that the organisers know the formula for getting things right. Nevetheless, not all the riders liked the look of the new pacours - Lizzie Armitstead (AA had said she preferred the older one, but the changes seemed popular overall with riders and fans.

Start list - click to enlarge. It says "finale," but as always in women's cycling the results list after the race may contain a very different set of names.

The Race
The GP de Plouay and GP Ouest-France are Plouay's main claim to fame, so the road upon which it begins has been named the Boulevard des Championnats du Monde. It lies just outside the town and a little way to the north of the velodrome with a hard-surfaced area set aside specifically for the team vehicles and race infrastructure; the initial 500m is straight, slopes slightly downhill and tends to encourage the sort of spectacularly fast start that those spectators who were fortunate enough to find space on the raised grassy area along the northern edge of the road got to see today. A number of serious contenders took immediate control, getting into prime positions at the front of the pack even before the gentle right and left bends that carried them past what may the world's ugliest Carrefour (quite an achievement, it has to be said), then, 0.75km from the start, into the first corner and onto the D2. The corner is 90 degrees but reasonably wide and fast; with several shops and industrial units nearby it looked to be the sort of junction that frequently suffers from fuel spillages but fortunately it seemed to be a lot less hazardous than expected.

Riders followed the D2 for 0.52km with the road beginning to climb the Cote du Lezot, gradient around 7% in several places . There was a roundabout near the end, then some 60m later the second corner leading left onto the Rue du Moulin, which traveled uphill for 220m to a tight right corner onto the D178 (there's a nice view over Plouay looking south from the little white cottage on the junction, which the riders never got a chance to see as they were going the opposite way).  The D178 headed straight into a wide left-hand bend with forest to the right, then to the 140m summit of the Cote du Lezot just after a footbridge over the road and shortly before a gentle right-hander - there is another raised section to the left of the road, an ideal place from which to watch the race. 0.75km after the footbridge, they arrived at a junction and turned left towards the village of Kerscoulic 1km away (note the several rather non-French-sounding placenames in the area - Brittany is to France as Wales is to England and has its own distinct Celtic culture, traditions and language). The road climbed for a short way just after the junction, then descended before a very small climb to the village.

Profile - click to enlarge
 At the far end of the village, the road bent gently left and then right before it passed Questenen Plaine along a 0.61km straight section which descended for most of its length, then kicked up at the very end before the junction with the D110 (shown on the route map as the D10). Just after the third bend, the riders arrived at a roundabout (Le Pont Neuf) and followed the road to the right to continue along the D110. The roundabout marked the lowest point between the Cotes du Lezot and the Chapelle Ste. Anne des Bois, meaning that as soon as they'd passed it they began to climb again - and they continued to climb for the next 6.9km as they followed the course of the Le Scorff river  through the Foret Domaniale de Pont-Calleck (if you ever have a holiday in Brittany, make time to visit the Moulin de Coat-Cren around 1.5km along the D110 from the roundabout - Virginie, Les Déesses' locally-born guide to all things Breton, says it's one of the most beautiful sights in the region).

The Chapelle Ste. Anne, just west of Pont Callec, looks exactly like a scaled-down model of a grand Baroque cathedral with only three windows along each side. Anne is the patron saint of - among many other things - lost objects; riders who suffered on the climb to reach her chapel and had been losing hope may find it again half a kilometre further on where the parcours flattened out for 4km as it passed Poulgroix, then descended for the next four. 5.1km from the Chapelle, the race arrived at a junction with the D204, within sight of the Le Pont Neuf roundabout negotiated earlier.

Château de Manehouarn, Plouay; as seen on a million
jigsaws, postcards and boxes of chocolates
The D204 section was fairly flat and straight, offering an opportunity for those who may have conceded time on the climbs to try to win it back before the final Cote de Ty Marrec. At the end, the riders came to a junction and turned left onto the D769 - one of the main routes through the region and into Plouay, it has little of the rural charm found along some of the earlier roads. Fortunately, after around 0.15km (which takes them past the 5km to go point), the riders turned right onto the smaller Pont le Bris road leading for 1.6km past a lake and through forest before rejoining the main road. There was a sharp left-hand turn in the forest after 1.2km, marking the beginning of the Cote de Ty Marrec climb, and the reason the organisers had directed the race away from the D769 was to take in Minojehn du Calvaire, just after the left-hander - it climbed 45m in around 0.4km and was the steepest section of the entire parcours, surpassing 10% (in fact, it looks to be nearer 15% at the steepest part). It must have been an unbearable prospect for those riders who don't the hills, lurking near the end of every lap.

After rejoining the D769, riders faced another 0.3km of much gentler climbing followed by a flat 0.45km to the 3km to go point then 1.5km downhill, at the end of which they needed to scrub off speed to be able to negotiate a sharp left turn leading via a right turn 0.17km later back onto the D110. The 1km to go point lay 0.15km ahead, just around a sweeping left bend; then it was downhill all the way back to the start/finish line.

The first hour passed without notable incident other than a puncture for Marianne Vos, but with the assistance of her strong Rabobank team she was returned to the front of the race in no time at all. Speeds remained relatively sedate during the first couple of laps as the riders tested the roads to see what sort of speeds they'd be able to safely sustain around the corners later on and tried out new lines; but after 1h05' a split had formed - 55 riders were starting to open up a gap between themselves and the remainder, and the pace was already picking up. It wasn't much longer before some riders bridged and others fell back, the numbers changing to 45 and 30; the leaders were then whittled down to ten in the penultimate lap. During the final lap, the lead group was reduced further, down to a trio made up of Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-GreenEDGE), Elisa Longo-Borghini (Hitec-Mistral) and Vos, all of them sufficiently strong that the competition looked certain to have been slashed to three contenders. Their 35" advantage had almost doubled four minutes later, then doubled again over the next ten minutes, remaining at 2' as they climbed Ty-Marrec for the final time towards the 4km to go point.

Marianne Vos: 2012 Olympic
champion and winner of the
World Cup. World Champs
next? Very possibly - it seems
there's no race she can't win
Vos doesn't always win (though it sometimes feels like it) and she's lost out in a few sprints this season. She also didn't need to win today, because the race offered 75 points to the winner whereas she started with an 84 point lead on second-place Judith Arndt's 176 in the World Cup so she may as well have already had that trophy on her mantlepiece, but Plouay was one of the increasingly small number of races she had never won. So, she rode to the utmost of her ability and put in superhuman effort to cross the line so fast her tyres were probably beginning to melt, her determination and sheer power driving 35" wedge between herself and Cromwell. When a rider puts in a show like that (and with that look of pure happiness that she still has each and every time she wins) who could ever tire of watching her take another victory? The takeover of Nederland-Bloeit by Rabobank earlier this year was predicted to put Vos into a position from which she would dominate competition, but there have been a few times when it looked as though the 25-year-old was simply too good for the team to be able to keep up and help when she needed it - directeur sportif Jeroen Blijlevens says that he picked a new squad for Plouay, and it looks as though he's found the combination that his champion needs. Perhaps 2013 will, therefore, be the year that she tops Eddy Merckx's record season total of 56 victories?

Cromwell took 50 points for second place and Longo-Borghini earned 35 for third, finishing 4" later. First of the remainder and 2'40" behind Vos for 30 points was European Under-23 ITT Champion Anna Vanderbreggen, who is having a superb season with Sengers after a couple of quiet years; Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) recorded the same time and took 27 points for fifth place.

Top Ten
1. Marianne Vos (Rabobank) 3h39'45"
2. Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-GreenEDGE) +35
3. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Hitec-Mistral) +39
4. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) +2:40
5. Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) +2:40
6. Luisa Tamanini (Faren-Honda) +2:43
7. Fabiana Luperini (Faren-Honda) +4:09
8. Trixi Worrack (Specialized-Lululemon) +4:09
9. Marta Tafliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini) +4:09
10. Judith Arndt (Orica-GreenEDGE) +4:09
Full results

Eurosport 2 will be showing footage from Plouay at 19:30 on Saturday the 25th in the United Kingdom; but the half-hour show will be shared with reports on the amateur race and other events and, as a result, the time devoted to the women's race is likely to be very short.

Photos: Vos (MarieTiburce)

Other Sites 
The legendary Gwéna, queen of women's cycling reporting, has an interesting post on the differences between this edition and 2011.
Monty at Podium Cafe has a guide which will be especially worth keeping an eye upon for the comments added during the race.
With a bit of luck, Meredith Miller will be writing one of her always-excellent reports after the race, bringing us news from within the peloton.
Tiffany Cromwell of Orica-GreenEDGE has a pre-race report.

Friday 17 August 2012

Limitless Performance

Two young women, riding their bikes down a rather pleasant country road on a summer's day. Then a man on a bike catches up, looking disparagingly at them before riding past. The women try to keep up, but they can't - because they're weak girlies, of course. They start to sweat and their jerseys turn out to be body paint, which begins to melt as the camera zooms in on their breasts...

Porn film, right? Or some sort of 1970s comedy sketch? Nope - a 2012 advert for British cycling kit manufacturer Limitless Performance who, after receiving several complaints, first blocked comments on YouTube and then removed it from both there and their own website. Fortunately, someone out there in the Internet thought to save stills from it for posterity, so we'll always be able to remember what utter shitheads the company are.

"Nice try, girls - but it's not for you," is the final message before the ad ends.

Even in the 1970s, a lot of people would have found such an advert questionable. The fact that it was made public in 2012 is remarkable - not least of all for the fact that any company could possibly have thought it was a good idea.

Nevertheless, the company is now claiming that it never meant to cause offence and that their vile sexism was tongue-in-cheek - on their website, they say...

"Apologies our 'tongue in cheek' viral has landed badly to say the least so we have removed it from our site.

We were not insinuating that women can't cycle. The British women were extremely successful at the 2012 Olympics and we are full of admiration for them and all women cyclists!

We were intending to make a light hearted viral to communicate that we just design for guys, NOT that women can't cycle.

Apologies for any offense that has been caused."

Er, right. Yeah, that sounds pretty sincere. Do they mean to say, "Oh arse, we screwed up big time there by assuming all male cyclists are a bunch of complete scumbags like us, didn't we? Here's our attempt to wriggle out of it...?"

Like they say, Limitless Performance don't produce a range of women's cycling clothing. They may well find that they don't need to produce a range for men now as well, because a lot of people aren't going to want to buy it anymore.

Trophée d'Or Féminin 2012

For enlargements, click on this or any other
18-22.08 Official site Facebook Downloadable race bible Meredith Miller's Race Reports
France, 499.1km, six stages, UCI 2.2

Stage reports, results, previews and start list below

There are many fun things about this fantastic race - as would be expected, since it involves 108 of the world's greatest cyclists fighting for supermacy on a 500km route round the French countryside.

One of the most amusing aspects is that while it at first seems like a sprinter's race with a number of flat stages and a lack of big climbs (likely to be something of a relief for those riders who were at the Route de France last week) the organisers have ensured that everyone else has a chance to win by inserting some difficult sections, in many cases right in the last few kilometres of the stages. This makes each stage - and the eventual General Classification - exceptionally difficult to predict with any degree of certainty.

Chapeau to the organisers for that, then; it looks all set to be a race that will keep us all guessing right to the very end.

Results and news from each stage will be added here as it becomes available.

18.08.2012 Stage 1 Saint-Amand-Montrond - Mehun-sur-Yèvre, 89.8 km
19.08.2012 Stage 2 Orval - Orval, 9.6 km (team time trial)
19.08.2012 Stage 3 Vierzon - Graçay, 95 km
20.08.2012 Stage 4 Cosne-sur-Loire - Cosne-sur-Loire, 101 km
Stage 1
21.08.2012 Stage 5 Avord - Avord, 118.3 km
22.08.2012 Stage 6 Saint-Amand-Montrond - Saint-Amand-Montrond, 85.4 km

Stage 1
A relatively straight-forward leg-stretcher of a stage with three easy Category 3 climbs, the Cote de la Gazonnerie 4.5km from the start, the Cote de Berry-Bouy at 57.3km and the Cote du Beauregard at 77.2km. Gazonnerie looked to be the hardest at 1.4km in length and with a vertical gain of 57m, creating a gradient of 4.1%.

The race began at 16:20 local time, by which point the reason for the late starts had become clear - as reported by Bart Hazen, who is at the race, it was hot. Very hot; around 40C. The first stage of any race is rarely the most exciting as the riders spend more time getting the measure of one another's form rather than going all-out to win, but in conditions such as that racing is pretty much off the menu entirely and riders simply try to get themselves from one end of the parcours to the other, ideally without anyone fainting along the way.
Stage 1
At 65.8km, they passed the finish line for the first time in a group and began a 17.8km circuit that included the final climb. At 83.6km, they passed the finish line for a second time, still in a group, to begin the first of two identical 3.1km circuits. As the stage had no hard climbs, the peloton was xpected to arrive at this point all together, and they remained so all the way; though Luisa Tamanini  (Faren-Honda) had a go at a solo break with 15km to go before apparently deciding it was too hot to be worth the effort and dropping back.

The stage finished, therefore, in a bunch sprint - Mcipollini-Giambenini had taken control at the front of the group and their tactics worked well, placing Elena Cecchini in precisely the right position to power over the line in first place. Cecchini's team mate Marta Tagliaferro took second place with current European Under-23 Champion Evelyn Arys (Kleo) hot on her heels for third. Having taken the most points on the climbs and the intermediate sprints, Cecchini also leads the Mountains and Points competitions; as she's 20 years old, she is the leading rider in the Youth category too.

Hazen also reports that Joanne Hogan (Bizkaia-Durango), World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora-Pasta Zara) and many others were caught up in a big crash just before the finish line; fortunately all riders escaped without serious injury - though there were some painful-looking cuts and grazes as they finished and there'll be some impressive bruises in the morning. More news on the race, the riders in the crash and full results, as it become available.

Stage 1 Finish photograph (Bart Hazen)
Elena Cecchini (Fabrice Germes)
Cecchini in the maillot vert (Fabrice Germes)
Cecchini in polka dots (Fabrice Germes)
Cecchini in white (Fabrice Germens)

Stage 1 Result
1. Elena Cecchini (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 2h20'48"
2. Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
3. Evelyn Arys (Kleo) ST
4. Alona Andruk (Vaiana Tepso) ST
5. Megan Guarnier (Tibco To The Top) ST
6. Julia Martisova (Be Pink) ST
7. Aleksandra Sosenko (Vaiana Tepso) ST
8. Anastasiya Chulkova (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) ST
9. Jacqueline Hahn (Scappa Speed Queens) ST
10. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) ST
Full stage result 

General Classification (after bonification)
1. Elena Cecchini (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 2h20'48"
2. Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +04"
3. Evelyn Arys (Kleo) +06"
4. Alona Andruk (Vaiana Tepso) +10"
5. Megan Guarnier (Tibco To The Top) ST
6. Julia Martisova (Be Pink) ST
7. Aleksandra Sosenko (Vaiana Tepso) ST
8. Anastasiya Chulkova (Forno d'Asolo Colavita) ST
9. Jacqueline Hahn (Scappa Speed Queens) ST
10. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) ST

Stage 2 time trial
Stage 2
A team time trial held the morning before Stage 3, Stage 2 saw the teams pitting themselves against one another on what was predicted and turned out to be a very fast parcours - each team no more than 13 or 14 minutes to complete the 9.6km at an average speed of between 40-44kph. In fact, it would have been even faster were it not or a short hill with a 7% gradient at 4km, the only real technicality on an otherwise flat route. There were, however, several sharp corners: the worst of these came at the end of the Rue des Ecoles and the Rue des Escargots, both only a short way from the start line where the riders hadn't yet built up to full speed. There was also a very tight left as they joined the D925 and another just past the entry into the final kilometre as they reached the Route de Lignieres. Two long straight sections, the D951 and the Route de la Roche, generated very high speeds.

Elena Cecchini ((Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) retains her lead with an overall time of 2h33'44", but the rest of the General Classification has changed dramatically - Evelyn Arys (Kleo) has moved into second place with a disadvantage of 3" and several new names have appeared. Meanwhile, Lotto-Belisol now number four riders after two of their members were late enough to miss the time limit.

Stage 2
Stage 2 photos by Fabrice Germes: 1 / 2 / Cecchini in yellow / Sengers on the podium / "Well, someone's got to get the results online..."

Stage 2 result

1. SENGERS 13:03
5. LOINTEK +37"
7. BE PINK +39"
9. MIXED TEAM 4 +51"
11, MIXED TEAM 2 +1'02"
14. MIXED TEAM 1 +1'21"
17. LOTTO-BELISOL +1'49"

General Classification
1. Elena Cecchini (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 2h33'44"
2. Evelyn Arys (Kleo) +03"
3. Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +04"
4. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) +07"
5. Vera Koedooder (Sengers) ST
6. Tatiana Guderzo (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +10"
7. Malgorzata Jasinska (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
8. Megan Guarnier (Tibco To The Top) +14"
9. Amanda Miller (Tibco To The Top) ST
10. Valentina Carretta (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST (Thanks again, Bart!)
Full GC

Stage 3
Stage 3
Despite setting out at 16:00, the riders once again faced 40C temperatures as they completed two crowd-pleasing 3.5km laps of another criterium-like circuit, this time in Vierzon, before turning left and heading off for the 60.3km journey to Graçay. The first climb, Cat 3 Cote de la Noue (0.55km, 23m, 4.2%) was at 8.7km; at 57.2km they arrived at Cat 2 Cote du Tertre aux Morts (1.1km, 58m, 5.3%).

Mcipollini were apparently planning to repeat their Stage 1 tactics and had made their way to the front of the pack by the time the bike computers showed 35km, but they weren't going to get away without challenge this time: Tibco and Topsport-Ridley were right there with them, as were Sengers - the first team to sound out the pack by sending Sarah Koedooder on a short-lived attack into the stidd head wind at 65km; she soon allowed herself to drop back into the peloton. Many riders were beginning to suffer from the heat 30km further on and were either hanging off the back or looking ready to drop as the race neared Graçay and the finish line - but there would be no let-up yet because, once over the line, they would continue towards the last and hardest climb of the day, Cat 2 Cote du Princay (0.6km, 40m, 6.7%).

Mcipollini remained in control as the peloton drew once more towards Graçay at 88.4km, where the riders passed over the finish line for a second time before embarking on a final circuit. Challenging and technical with a 24m hill (gradient 8.5%), a narrow section and a very tight right-hand corner onto the ominously-titled Rue de l'Enfer followed by an almost equally tight left 1km 1km from the line, these last 6.6km were always likely to be the most hard-fought part of the stage - as indeed turned out to be the case when Sengers launched an attack, revealing that Koedooder's attempt earlier had been an exploratory mission rather than an intended escape. Mcipollini were ready for them, however, and proved more than capable of fighting back - they got the 20-year-old Susanna Zorzi, who won the Italian Junior Championship independent time trial and road race two years ago, into a position so ideal she was able to beat the World Champion Giorgia Bronzini into second place in the bunch sprint.

Stage winner Susanna Zorzi
The first 50 riders finished together and thus recorded an equal time to Zorzi; a group of four led by Lotto-Belisol's Robyn de Groot were next at +14"; sixteen more arrived five seconds later and then the remaining seven at various times down to +51" for Tibco To The Top's Meredith Miller. Tomorrow brings six climbs - the GC is likely to look completely different by the end of the day.

(With thanks to Bart HazenYaël Richard and Fabrice Germes for the invaluable updates!)

Stage results
1. Susanna ZORZI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 2h46'55"
2. Giorgia BRONZINI (Diadora-Pasta Zara) ST
3. Alona ANDRUK (Vaiano Tepso) ST
4. Barbara GUARISCHI (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) ST
5. Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
6. Julia MARTISOVA (Be Pink) ST
7. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) ST
8. Evelyn ARYS (Kleo) ST
9. Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Faren-Honda) ST
10. Roxane FOURNIER (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne) ST
Full stage result

General Classification (after bonification)
1. Elena CECCHINI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 5h20'39"
2. Evelyn ARYS (Kleo) +03"
3. Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +04"
4. Anna VANDERBREGGEN (Sengers) +07"
5. Tatiana GUDERZO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +10"
6. Malgorzta JASINSKA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
7. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) +14"
8. Amanda MILLER (Tibco To The Top) ST
9. Valentina CARRETTA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
10. Vera KOEDOODER (Sengers) +26"
Full GC
Stage 3

Stage 4
Stage 4
Beginning a little earlier at 14:50 (and again in sweltering heat), Stage 4 was the hilliest of the race with six categorised climbs. The first was Cat 1 Route Forêt de Charmes (1.5km, 107m, 7.1%), the second was Cat 1 Route des Vignes (1.3km, 94m, 7.2%), the third was Cat 2 Sury-en-Vaux (0.78km, 53m, 6.7%), the fourth was Cat 1 Les Remparts (1.6km, 115m, 7.2%), the fifth was Cat 1 Orme aux Loups (1.5km, 130m, 8.7%) and the sixth was Cat 1 Cote des Loges (0.73km, 65m, 8.9%). They were located at 16.5km, 23.2km, 27.7km, 33.2km, 38.2km and 59.2km respectively.

Fabiana Luperini (Faren-Honda) and Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) were out in front by the time the race reached Orme aux Loups; since both are extremely effective and experienced all-rounders, the other teams were not letting them go without a battle and a strong chase group followed at +25". By 70km, they'd been caught and the lead group that formed as a result headed towards the first passage of the finish line in a 35-strong bunch.

It didn't last long before a six-rider break, including Stage 3 winner Susanna Zorzi, splintered off and put a gap that grew to almost a minute between themselves and their pursuers and lasted right into the last of the four laps around the 5.3km circuit that finished the stage. The circuit, like yesterday's, was technical with narrowed sections, a central reservation along the Rue du Dahomey, several tight corners and a small 5.5% climb a little under 3km from the finish line; making the stage seem to be one that a break might win. Once again, however, the race finished in a bunch sprint - the teams without riders in the break made sure of it by increasing the pace to a speed that the six riders simply couldn't beat.

This time, Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) wasn't about to be taken by surprise - when the World Champion switched on the power, nobody could match her; Megan Guarnier (Tibco To The Top) came closest for a very impressive second place after crashing earlier on between Orme aux Loups and the Cote des Loges . The next 25 riders recorded the same time, six more finished over the next 7'31", the main group of 41 riders arrived 12' after the leaders and ten more came in afterwards. Audrey Cordon, Emma Crum, Genevieve Whitson, Fanny Riberot, Karen Verhestraeten and Maaike Polspoel did not finish.

2009 US National Champion Meredith Miller (Tibco To The Top) deserves special recognition today - having been caught solo in between two groups following Guarnier's crash she rode alone for 40km and wasn't caught until the last 5km (she describes how in her excellent race report here), using the same kind of strength and determination that won her the Air Force (Crystal City) Classic's "Most Heroic" award back in June. Simply finishing a stage in the draining heat experienced this year at the race is an achievement; to ride without the benefits of drafting behind another rider for so much of the stage is heroic. Chapeau, Meredith.

Stage 4
Meredith Miller
Stage 4 results
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) 2h46'38"
2. Megan Guarnier (Tibco To The Top) ST
3. Elena Cecchini (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
4. Malgorzata Jasinska (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
5. Julia Martisova (Be Pink) ST
6. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) ST
7. Katarzyna Sosna (Vaiano Tepso) ST
8. Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
9. Sandrine Bideau (Vienne Futuroscope) ST
10. Lauren Hall (Tibco To The Top) ST
Full stage results

General Classification (after bonification)
1. Elena CECCHINI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 8h07'13"
2. Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +06"  
3. Anna VANDERBREGGEN (Sengers) +11"  
4. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) +12"  
5. Tatiana GUDERZO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +14" 
6. Malgorzta JASINSKA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST  
7. Valentina CARRETTA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +15" 
8. Amanda MILLER (Tibco To The Top) +18"
9. Anishka Vekemans (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley) +40"
10. Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diardora-Pasta Zara) +48"

Stage 5
Stage 5
At 118.3km, Stage 5 was the longest of the race, starting as a result at 14:50 - temperatures at the start line were, mercifully, slightly cooler than the last few days; though 36C is still uncomfortably hot and more than enough to get a rider into real difficulties if she fails to take in sufficient fluids. The first part was a flat, fast 59.9km circuit heading west out of Avord, then via Vornay, Crosses, Savigny-en-Septeaine, Osmoy, Nohant-en-Gout and Farges-en-Septaine before arriving back at Avord; a route that presented the riders with no problems. After an hour of riding, the group remained all together.

Once the riders had crossed the finish line for the first time, they begin the hillier second half of 58.4km. A seven-rider break had escaped the main group by this time; with some talented GC contenders such as Marta Tagliaferro, Malgorzata Jasinska (both Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss), Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) and Amanda Miller (Tibco To The Top) among them they'd soon created a gap of 35" and showed no sign of slowing - potentially a big problem for the rest of the field.

The first hill was an easy Cat 3 known as Cote du Combes at 68.3km (2km, 40m, 2%); the second  the more difficult Cat 2 Cote de Villequiers at 81.5km (0.4km, 25m, 6.2%) and the third wass Cat 3 Cote de la Vigne à Reinche at 88.7km (0.5km, 22m, 4.4%). By the time the climbs were over and done, the lead group's advantage had increased to 1'30; meaning that with 25km to go they'd either have to up their efforts to prevent the peloton catching them, or the peloton would have to do something to make sure it did - the latter proved to be the case and, as the race neared the second passage of the finish line at 114.1km, the break was caught. Almost immediately, Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) started attacking with four riders assisting but had not been allowed to get away by the time the computers on the bikes showed 114.1km, at which point the race arrived at the finish line for a second time.

Second consecutive stage win
for World Champ Bronzini
Once again the riders passed straight over, this time beginning a final 4.2km lap. A far simpler affair than yesterday's closing circuit, the sharp left 0.7km in and a fairly tight right with 3km to go were the only complications before a fairly straight section leading into an easy left to the 2km to go point, then a 90 degree left at 1.5km to go led through a pair of fast and easy left and right bends and into the straight, flat final kilometre punctuated by a single roundabout. Since the climbs were small this stage had always looked like the best chance the sprint specialists would have to show what they can do, a fact recognised by Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara), who repeated her simple and devastatingly effective tactic from yesterday by pointing herself at the line and applying the explosive power that has made her such a successful rider.

When the World Champion does that, there is almost invariably only one outcome and she took her second stage win of the race; also reducing her General Classification time by 10". However, she remains 38" behind race leader Elena Cecchini and with several other good riders so close, an overall Bronzini victory is anything but guaranteed. Meanwhile, Cecchini's already-precarious advantage has been shortened to only five seconds - far too little for any happy dreams this evening of success tomorrow. Just as the organisers planned, the outcome of tomorrow's final stage is impossible to predict.

Stage 5
Stage 5 result
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) 3h08'21"
2. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) ST
3. Anastasiya Chulkova (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) ST
4. Kelly Druyts (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) ST
5. Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
6. Christina Perchtold (Scappa Speed Queens) ST
7. Daniela Gass ST
8. Barbara Guarishi (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) ST
9. Roxane Fournier (BigMat-Auber 93) ST
10. Julia Martisova (Be Pink) ST
Full stage result

General Classification result (after bonification)
1. Elena CECCHINI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 11h15'34"
2. Anna VANDERBREGGEN (Sengers) +05"
3. Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +06"  
4. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) +12"
5. Tatiana GUDERZO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +14" 
6. Malgorzta JASINSKA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
7. Amanda MILLER (Tibco To The Top) +18"
8. Valentina CARRETTA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +25"
9. Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diardora-Pasta Zara) +38"
10. Anishka Vekemans (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley) +40"
Full GC

Stage 6
Stage 6
Beginning at 14:30, the final stage consisted of an 85.4km T-shaped loop that headed first south out of Saint-Amand-Montrond - famous for its many jewelry shops - to the Cat 2 Cote du Calvaire at 7.4km (0.7km, 39m, 5.6%), then turns north at La Celette before continuing west to Cat 1 Cote du Nozières at 27.4km (0.6km, 45m, 7.5%). A short while later it turned north again before arriving at Cat 2 Cote des Roches after 37.7km (1km, 40m, 4%), then began a long route east and finally heading south again to Cat 2 Côte des Massés at 68km (1.6km, 80m, 5%).

The group stayed together over the Calvaire, then Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) lauched an attack on Nozières but was followed by race leader Elena Cecchini of Mcipollini (who, apparently, was determined not to let go of the yellow jersey that she'd unexpectedly held since Stage 1), World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara), Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers), Nicole Cooke (Faren-Honda) and Tibco To The Top team mates Megan Guarnier and Amanda Miller. That was a tough break in two senses of the term:  the experience, strength and power of the riders around her and the awful decision she'd have to make should the group decide to go for it - either hang on for dear life and hope she could keep her slim 5" advantage or drop back to the peloton and pray they'd chase down the escapees later on. Fortunately, the Cote des Roches took the wind out of the breakaway's sails and by 45km the two groups had merged back together. Had it not have done, the outcome may have bee very different.

2012 winner Elena Cecchini
The peloton remained intact all the way to the final climb, then Katazyna Sosna (Vaiano Tepso) fired off an attack of her own. She'd started the day in 12th place overall, but with only 48" between her and Cecchini there was no way the riders in the top ten would let her go without a fight - Vanderbreggen, Guarnier and the rest of them were on her immediately, joined by an assortment of useful team mates who happened to be around to give support at the time (and Cantele again, who never gives up  even when she has little chance of winning). With less than 10km to go, Sosna had a 10" lead, but Mcipollini had arranged themselves at the head of the peloton and looked as though they were about to start driving the pace higher. They caught her within a few kilometres and the riders were all back together by they began the last of the three laps around a 3.6km circuit. This one bore even more of a resemblance to a criterium than the earlier stages due to its shorter length and roughly rectangular shape; and with a flat kilometre leading ti the finish line the race was obviously destined to end once again with a bunch sprint.

It was no real surprise that Bronzini won for the third consecutive day - she's a remarkable sprinter. Cecchini took second, recording the same time and thus keeping her 5" lead and winning overall, a superb victory for the 20-year-old who is in her second professional year. Anna Vanderbreggen was third over the line, also taking the same time, and thus retains second place overall.
Stage 6

Stage 6 result
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) 2h11'46"
2. Elena CECCHINI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) ST
3. Anna Vanderbreggen (Sengers) ST
4. Kelly Druyts (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) ST
5. Barbara Guarishi (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) ST
6. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) ST
7. Elke Gebhardt (Be Pink) ST
8. Julia Martisova (Be Pink) ST
9. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Faren-Honda) ST
10. Eneritz Iturriagaechevarria Mazaga (Lointek) ST

Overall General Classification (after bonification)
1. Elena CECCHINI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) 13h27'14"
2. Anna VANDERBREGGEN (Sengers) +7
3. Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +12
4. Megan GUARNIER (Tibco To The Top) +18
5. Tatiana GUDERZO (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +20
6. Malgorzta JASINSKA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +20 
7. Amanda MILLER (Tibco To The Top) +24 
8. Valentina CARRETTA (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +31 
9. Giorgia BRONZINI (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) +34
10. Anisha VEKEMANS (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) +46

12. Katarzyna SOSNA (Be Pink) ST
13. Julia MARTISOVA (Be Pink) +56"
14. Fabiana LUPERINI (Faren-Honda) +59"
15. Noemi CANTELE (Be Pink) +1'06"
16. Tetyana RIABCHENKO (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) +1'08"
17. Andrea GRAUS (Vienne Futuroscope) +1'09"
18. Mélodie LESUEUR +1'19"
19. Sandrine BIDEAU (Vienne Futuroscope) +1'28"
20. Anna SANCHIS CHAFER (Bizkaia-Durango) +1'34"
21. Ane SANTESTEBAN GONZALEZ (Bizkaia-Durango) ST
22. Jennifer FIORI (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) ST
23. Luisa TAMANINI (Faren-Honda) +1'39"
24. Martina RITTER +1'58"
25. Susanna ZORZI (Mcipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) +2'01"
26. Rachel NEYLAN (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) +2'02"
27. Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +2'16"
28. Valentina BASTIANELLI (Vaiano Tepso) +2'22"
29. Patricia SCHWAGER (GSD Gestion) +2'29"
30. Flavia OLIVEIRA (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) +3'13"
31. Lauren HALL (Tibco To The Top) +4'40"
32. Nicole COOKE (Faren-Honda) +8'49"
33. Kelly DRUYTS (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) +12'47"
34. Latoya BRULEE (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) ST
35. Aleksandra SOSENKO (Vaiano Tepso) +12'54"
36. Elke GEBHARDT (Be Pink) +12'56"
37. Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Faren-Honda) +12'59"
38. Anastasiya CHULKOVA (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara) +13'04"
39. Manon SOUYRIS (Vienne Futuroscope) +13'09"
40. Anna POTOKINA RUS (Lointek) +13'10"
41. Els BELMANS (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012) +13'12"
42. Jenifer LETUE (Vienne Futuroscope) +13'19"
43. Barbara GUARISCHI (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) +13'34"
44. Joanne HOGAN (Bizkaia-Durango) ST
45. Jacqueline HAHN (Scappa Speed Queens) +13'38"
46. Giulia DONATO (Be Pink) +13'42"
47. Gracie ELVIN (Faren-Honda) +13'45"
48. Daniela PINTARELLI (Scappa Speed Queens) +13'48"
49. Elena BERLATO (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) ST
50. Elodie HEGOBURU ST
51. Sarah-Lena HOFMANN +13'58"
52. Cristina ALCALDE HUERTANOS (Bizkaia-Durango) +14'03"
53. Viviana GATTO (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) +14'07"
54. Alexandra TONDEUR (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne) +14'34"
55. Dorleta ESKAMENDI GIL (Bizkaia-Durango) +14'37"
56. Roxane FOURNIER (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne) +16'18"
57. Christina PERCHTOLD (Scappa Speed Queens) +16'37"
58. Birgit LAVRIJSSEN (Sengers) +17'08"
59. Emmanuelle MERLOT (Vienne Futuroscope) +17'18"
60. Ann-Sofie DUYCK (Lotto-Belisol0 +17'29"
61. Daniela GASS +17'55"
62. Meredith MILLER (Tibco To The Top) +18'35"
63. Alice ALGISI (Be Pink) +18'43"
64. Vera KOEDOODER (Sengers) +18'55"
65. Joanne DUVAL (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne) +19'12"
66. Yulia ILIYNIKH (Lointek) +23'36"
67. Irene BITTO (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto) +23'50"
68. Béatrice THOMAS (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne) +30'27"
69. Samantha SCHNEIDER (Tibco To The Top) +31'31"
70. Alna BURATO +46'31"
71. Evelyn ARYS (Kleo) +49'16"
72. Geerike SCHREURS (Sengers) +50'33"
73. Cristina NAVARRO TAPIA +52'44"
74. Steffi JAMONEAU +1h03'46"
75. Rimma LUCHSHENKO (Be Pink) +1h04'23"
76. Heike NOEVER +1h05'22"
77. María CASANOVA +1h24'51"
78. Elena BUCHLER +1h32'56"
Did Not Finish
Audrey CORDON (Vienne Futuroscope)
Robyn DE GROOT (Lotto-Belisol)
Nathalie NIJNS (Lotto-Belisol)
Lise OLIVIER (Lotto-Belisol)
Joanna VAN DE WINKEL (Lotto-Belisol)
Elisabeth REINER
Chiara NADALUTTI (Faren-Honda)
Emma CRUM (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne)
Céline ONDET (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne)
Genevieve WHITSON (ASPTT Dijon-Bourgogne)
Fanny RIBEROT (Lointek)
Mireia EPELDE BIKENDI (Lointek)
Belen LOPEZ (Lointek)
Leslie Ana REKON
Francesca CAUZ (Fasso Bortolo-Servetto)
Maaike POLSPOEL (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012)
Ine BEYEN (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012)
Whitney GAGGIOLI (Forno d'Asolo/Diadora-Pasta Zara)
Alona ANDRUK (Vaiano Tepso)


The 2012 Trophée d'Or Féminin has been a superb race, not least of all for the organisers' successful efforts to keep us guessing right until the very end. The level of competition has been first-rate, just as anyone who knows anything at all about women's cycling would have expected (know what I mean, McQuaid?), and Elena Cecchini is a deserving winner who will surely go on to great things.

As was the case with the Route de France, race coverage has been exceptionally bad. We expect this in the mainstream media, of course, because the majority of the bike magazines and websites devote at best only a few lines of text to women's races. However, the organisers could also do with learning a lesson or two here - they've provided very little information on how the race has panned out. Yes they're running on a tight budget, but providing Twitter updates and a brief report on each stage every day would have cost very little; a local fan probably would have done it for them in exchange for a few free keepsakes. If fans - who have, as always, risen to the occasion and swapped as much news as they can - can't get the news without making an effort to do so (and believe me, covering this race has been a real headache and wouldn't have been at all possible without Tweets from Bart Hazen and Fabrice Germes) then race organisers can't really complain that their race is overlooked. An overlooked race will soon find its sponsors backing out - and we've already lost far too many women's race in the last few years.