Saturday 29 December 2012

2013 Ladies' Tour of Qatar

29.01.2013 Official Site (more info available from Velofocus)
Qatar, Road Race, 392km
UCI 2.1

Stop Press! According to a press release published on the 28th of January, live coverage of the Tour will be broadcast live and worldwide by Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is available via satellite, cable and freeview.

Broadcasts will take place daily at 11:30 (14:30 East Africa Time, GMT+3 hours). For more details, see Al Jazeera's listing by clicking here.

Hurrah for the end of January! There's still at least a month of winter to go for those of us in much of North America, Asia and Europe, but the good news is that after several months of hibernation (and cyclo cross, so it's not all bad) the road racing calendar is coming back to life and heading south to the warmer climes of the Middle East for the Ladies' Tour of Qatar, promising three days of top quality racing and more roadside history than you could shake a stick at.

Oh, and wind. Lots of wind - Qatar is almost entirely flat and, being surrounded on three sides by the Persian Gulf, the wind blows straight in off the sea and continues over the land unabated, whipping up the sand as it goes. Imagine someone set fire to a huge pile of sandpaper and you had to ride through it - that's what the Tour of Qatar is like. It is not a race that eases the riders gently back into racing mode, as they found out just kilometres from the start of Stage 1 last year when they changing direction and a helpful tailwind that had seen them set off at high speed turned into a searing blast that fried them in their own sweat for the rest of the parcours. 2009/2010 overall winner Kirsten Wild, riding for the Dutch national team rather than her usual AA (this year, she's riding for Argos-Shimano), won that day and became the first to wear the golden jersey after a group of eleven riders (whittled down to seven by the time they reached the final sprint to the line) broke away; later she would win Stage 3 in similar circumstances. However, finishing 2'20" behind Specialized-Lululemon's Trixi Worrack on Stage 2 meant Wild was never again in contention for a third General Classification victory - GreenEDGE leader Judith Arndt (now retired) was with Worrack at the Stage 2 finish and took the same time, thus gaining a 2" lead in the GC, and from that point onwards the battle was between those two teams. When Arndt managed to stay with Wild (and several others) for fourth place in a bunch sprint to finish Stage 3, her overall advantage increased to 6" and she had the race in the bag. A lot of racing had been packed into three days and Arndt was probably glad it was all over, as were the several riders who uploaded photographs showing what human legs look like after they've been sandblasted for 307km.

Kendall Ryan
For many fans, one of the highlights of the Tour is that due it being the first race of the season, young and less-well-known riders are out to show their stuff in an attempt to please their sponsors and prove to their directeurs sportif that signing them or keeping on the team was a wise move - Kendall Ryan (then 19 years old and racing for the USA national team rather than Tibco) lit up Stage 3 with a superb solo break that saw her increase her advantage over the peloton from 25" 15km into the route to 3'25" only 5km later, a truly remarkable achievement considering the strong headwind that day. Keep an eye on similar riders this year to see the stars of the future: they're the ones that make this race what it is.

One excellent piece of news is that, in these times when women's races are feeling the economic pinch and having to make cuts (or, in all too many cases, disappearing altogether), Qatar has actually grown - this year, there will be four stages rather than three as in previous years. Once again, the parcours concentrates on the north of the country.

This year, Qatar also offers us our first chance to see the all-new Wiggle Honda/DTPC Honda team in stage racing action. Owned and managed by women's cycling legend and Commonwealth gold medal winner Rochelle Gilmore, the British-based team is partly financed by Bradley Wiggins' Wiggo Foundation and boasts the sort of line-up that even well-established teams dream about: in addition to Gilmore, the squad is home to Laura Trott, Jo Rowsell, Dani King, Amy Roberts, Elinor Barker, twice World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (an ace sprinter and very much worth watching if she rides this race), Lauren Kitchen, Beatrice BartellonEmily CollinsAna-Bianca Schnitzmeier and Mayuko Hagiwara- a talent pool that looks likely to do for British women's cycling what Sky has done for the men. They'll be wanting to make their mark; expect them to do precisely that.


Gold - overall race leader (General Classification)
Silver - points leader
White - leading young rider


Stage 1: Museum of Islamic Art - Mesaieed 97km 

Chloe Hosking gets things under way with a superb victory in the desert

Having set off from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (25°17'43.64"N 51°32'21.11") - among the most iconic modern buildings in a city full of iconic modern buildings and home to a world famous collection covering almost one and a half thousand years of artistic endeavour - Stage 1 headed south  past the airport out of the city for 11.5km to Al Wakra, then south-west for a further 14km before making a pass of the finish line at Mesaieed (Umm Sa'id) after 33km. Riders faced a strong headwind on this section, perhaps a contributing factor in the crash involving Charlotte Becker (Argos-Shimano), Anna-Bianca Schnitzmeier (Wiggle-Honda) and Jo Kiesanowksi (Tibco) at 14km; fortunately, none of the three suffered injury and were all back onboard within seconds.

The first pass of the finish line at 35.5km marked the beginning of the first sprint and 2009/2010 victor Kirsten Wilde took the top points closely followed by Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle-Honda) and Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giordana). Next, the riders turned north-west and headed out into the desert, heading across open country - a change of direction that turned the headwind into a tailwind with speeds increasing dramatically. Several teams took advantage of this, putting fast riders with useful domestiques out at the front; this rapidly led to the peloton breaking up into four groups with a lead group of fifty out in front.  29.5km later they arrived at Al Wukair for the second sprint, with Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Chloe Hosking (Hitec-UCK) and Tiffany Cromwell (Orica) first, second and third this time around.

Some 10km further on, now back at Al Wakra, the race followed the earlier route back toward the finish line - which brought an unwelcome return of the headwind, effectively finishing off any chance those riders who had failed to secure a place in the lead group had of winning the stage. Much of this final section was straight, culminating with a 1.8km along a wide road to the line, which always promised a high-speed bunch sprint. The leaders had an advantage of 2'30" going into the final 10km thanks largely to Trixi Worrack of Specialized-Lululemon taking control and driving it along at a high rate of knots. A little later, Gracie Elvin (Orica) launched an attack; a move that, had nobody have gone after her, might potentially have been a winning move. It was not to be, however - Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-Lululemon), Liebet de Vocht (Rabo-Liv-Giant) and, most crucially, Chloe Hosking (Hitec-UCK) went after her. Valentina Scandolara (Mcipollini-Giordana) broke away from the chase group for an impressive attempt at joining the leaders but, when nobody was willing to work with her, she faced the wind alone and was eventually reabsorbed by the second group.

Chloe Hosking
Elvin, Brennauer, de Vocht and Hosking had 45" with 2km to go. De Vocht was first to launch, but Elvin and Hosking overcame her rapidly and started their own private race; finally Hosking - an ex-rock climber who packs formidable ability in the mountains and the sprints into her 1.61m frame - got the upper hand, finding a last reserve of power that Elvin lacked to gain a fantastic start to the season for her team.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Chloe HOSKING HPU 2h23'51"
6 Kirsten WILD SKI +10"
7 Simona FRAPPORTI BPK +10"
8 Shelley OLDS TIB +10"
10 Eleonora VAN DIJK SLU +10"
(Full result here)

Chloe Hosking is on Twitter - follow her here.
Chloe's team manager Karl Lima is also on Twitter and provides live updates from the races his team enter.

Stage 2: Camel Race Track - Al Khor Corniche 96km

Hey, who needs a team? Kirsten Wild overpowers with old-fashioned superior strength

Don't like cycling in strong wind? Then you'd probably best not book any cycle tours of Qatar - Stage 2 was a carbon copy of 2012's Stage 1, right down to a powerful headwind that strained the leg muscles throughout much of the parcours. Setting off from Ash Shahaniyah camel racing track (25°24'22.20"N 51°12'37.42"E) some 34km north-west of capital city Doha (25°24'20.66"N 51°12'39.51"E), the riders headed south-east for 2.87km on a flat road before arriving at a junction where they turned north into the desert and the wind, passing a zoo and game reserve at Lekhraib after 4km. Xiu-Jie Jiang (Chongming-Giant) and Audrey Cordon (France) got tactics off to a fine start with an attack at 8km but, both of them too far behind Chloe Hosking yesterday, the peloton showed little concern and only Malgorzata Jasinska (Mcipollini-Giordana) responded, waiting for the gap to half a minute before she successfully bridged. This initial section rises no more than a few metres but is very exposed, possibly once again leading to a hard time for the riders if it's windy.

Continuing north, the race reached a junction and turned left to follow an arrow-straight road north-west for 13.6km to a sub-station (25°43'31.04"N 51°10'15.93"E) marking the stage's first intermediate sprint, where Jiang took the top points with Jasinska and Cordon second and third. This led to a situation - with the gap now at a massive nine minutes, Jiang's bonus three seconds made her virtual race leader; Orica-AIS got on the case with every member of the team driving the pace ever higher to ensure the peloton made up time. Five of them - Tiffany Cromwell, Gracie Elvin, Amanda Spratt, Loes Gunnewijk and Emma Johansson - were joined by Chloe Hosking (Hitec-UCK), Lululemon riders Trixi Worrack and Ellen van Dijk and Kirsten Wild of Argos-Shimano to form a nine-rider break that took advantage of a change in direction, got away and reduced the gap to a more manageable three minutes - however, they couldn't catch the leaders in time to prevent them passing through the second intermediate sprint in the same order as earlier.

Then, 63km in, the three were caught; having worked so hard for so long in the wind, Jiang and Cordon could stay at the front no longer and dropped away, drifting back to the peloton. Now ten riders vied with one another, aware that - as tends to the way in this race - the stage was going to come down to a sprint finish. The peloton tried catch up so that the teams could decide who'd be in pole position, but Orica kept pushing hard and, at 10km to go, the gap had actually increased slightly - testament to Orica's tactical skills.

At Simsima, the riders continued straight ahead towards Al Khawr, the leaders attacking and counter-attacking one another all the way as they passed under the hundreds of pylons carry power cables away over the desert but, knowing now that the peloton was too far behind, they allowed their speed to fall off a little so as to save energy for the last dash to the line. Cromwell tried to take advantage, attacking with 5km to go, but was immediately caught by Wild; it was Wild who brought in Spratt when she tried her own attack a short while later. Interesting - Wild, with no team mates to support her and surrounded by a gang of strong Orica riders, was doing nothing less than taking control, bossing the race. She's enjoyed enormous success in this race with two General Classification victories to her name; was she going to go for an heroic stage win today?

Trixi Worrack made a splendid attempt at wresting victory
from an unstoppable Kirsten Wild
Worrack attacked next and, now that the finish was dangerously close, the entire group were on her instantly. Then Johansson tried, laying down sufficient power for Spratt to be jettisoned off the back and right out of the group, but the rest wasted no more time than they had in chasing Worrack and entered the final 300m en masse. Without the luxury of a lead-out - or indeed, any sort of team tactics - Wild opted instead for sheer brute strength, a technique not seen so often as it once was on this sort of parcours but one which, when it works, leads to spectacular victories. This time, it worked perfectly: Worrack tried to match her, but Wild was simply too strong and took the stage. Chloe Hosking, crossing in fourth place, recorded the same time and thus retains her 6" lead in the General Classification.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD SKI 2h38'54"
10 Amanda SPRATT GEW +14"
(Full stage result)

General Classification after Stage 2
1 Chloe HOSKING HPU 5h02'33"
2 Gracie ELVIN GEW +06"
3 Kirsten WILD SKI +09"
4 Trixi WORRACK SLU +16"
5 Eleonora VAN DIJK SLU +18"
7 Tiffany CROMWELL GEW +21"
8 Lisa BRENNAUER SLU +1'38"
9 Rochelle GILMORE WHT +1'50"
10 Marta TAGLIAFERRO MCG +1'51"
(Full General Classification)

Stage winner Kirsten Wild is on Twitter, send her your congratulations and follow her by clicking here.
Race leader Chloe Hosking is also on Twitter, she can be found here.

Stage 3: Al Thakhira - Madinat Al Shamal 112.5km

Wild does it again!

After setting off from Al Thakhira (Al Dhakira on some maps; 25°44'9.50"N 51°32'6.92"E) on the eastern coast, the riders faced 60km of desert road crossing the entire country to the western coast at Al Zubara - this first section also formed the first section of Stage 2 in 2012, but this year is being raced in the opposite direction. Al Zubara is home to a famous fort which looks medieval but was in fact constructed in 1938 on the foundations of an earlier fort. It remained in military use until the 1980s, also serving as a coastguard station, before being restored as a museum - visitors are asked to make a donation on entry. It also marks the beginning of the first sprint (25°58'31.90"N 51° 2'42.01"E).

As predicted, speeds were high with a tailwind blowing the peloton across the country from the south-east, driving the average speed during the first hour to a blistering 48kph and encouraging numerous riders to attempt to take advantage with attacks - however, with the peloton reaching top speeds of more than 60kph in places, nobody could get away. Several riders had punctures in the first stretch, including Kim de Baat (Netherlands) at 42km, Rochelle Gilmore at 40km and British rider Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) 5km before the first intermediate sprint, closely followed by riders from Be Pink and Chongming-Giant.

Argos-Shimano worked together to get their riders into an ideal position to grab points at the sprint and their efforts paid off: Stage 2 winner Kirsten Wild was the first one through, Charlotte Becker was third while Hitec-UCK's Chloe Hosking took second. Then, just as the race turned north a few kilometres up the road, a crash - a big one, splitting the peloton into pieces and allowing a group of 42 riders to get away on the 23.5km stretch to Abu Al Duloof. With this group counting numerous big-hitting favourites among its number, the pace stayed high and it wasn't long before some members found the going too tough and dropped away, reducing it down to 18 at the 75km point.

Wiggle-Honda rider/manager/owner Rochelle
Gilmore crashed hard and was disqualified
The leaders kept up a high pace, rapidly inserting a 35" gap between themselves and a second group that included devastatingly fast sprinter Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda). Bronzini has spent a lot of time in second groups in this race; now she and team leader (and manager and owner) Rochelle Gilmore enlisted other riders to help them try to give chase; bizarrely, riders from rival teams with riders well-placed in the lead group seemed willing to chip in - a fine example of the unpredictability that makes women's professional cycling so fascinating.

At Madinat Al Shamal the riders entered a circuit and, 13km later, crossed the finish line for the first time, also beginning the second intermediate sprint - Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-Lululemon) took the top points at the second intermediate sprint with Chantal Blaak (Tibco) and Kirsten Wild right behind her for second and third. Several riders went down in another crash as they went through; Gilmore hit the road hard and reported after the race that she may have broken a collarbone. To add to her woe the judges, having apparently decided that she and Xiu-Jie Jiang's riding was to blame for the crash, disqualified both of them.

The chasers turned up the pressure and most of the lead group were caught, though eight riders remained out in front - a dangerous situation for the rest because, if that group could get into the final part of the race with a decent advantage, they'd almost certainly be able to choose from among themselves who would win. Because of that, the pressure was turned up even higher; the last of the lead group were caught with 4km to go and the riders approached the finish together.

Poor Chloe Hosking had awful luck with a front wheel puncture 500m from the finish - fortunately, since she was within the final 3km, she was awarded the same time as the lead group, mitigating the damage; unfortunately, due to time bonuses, she loses her General Classification lead and is now trailing by 3". Meanwhile, out at the front of the race Kirsten Wild, who set a new record for Tour of Qatar stage victories with a fourth yesterday (and also holds the record for most General Classification victories in this race), covered every attack and beat it with a fifth today - another superb effort by a rider who combines intelligence and strength and is one of the finest sprinters in the world today. Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon), who had led until the Dutch superhero powered past her, was right behind her for second; Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) followed for third.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) 2h28'15"
2 Ellan van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
3 Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) +02"
4 Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giordana) ST
5 Shelley Olds (Tibco-To The Top) +04"
6 Simona Frapporti (Be Pink) +05"
7 Trixi Worrack (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
8 Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) ST
9 Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) ST
10 Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS) ST
(Full stage result when available)

General Classification after Stage 3
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 7h30'43"
2 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec-UCK) +03"
3 Gracie ELVIN (Orica-AIS) +16"
4 Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) +17"
5 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) +26"
6 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +29"
7 Tiffany CROMWELL (Orica-AIS) +31"
8 Lisa BRENNAUER (Specialized-Lululemon) +1'52"
9 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giordana) +1'58"
10 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) +2'02"
(Full GC when available)
Kelly Druyts (TopSport-Vlaanderen) did not start; Xiu-Jie Jiang, Lina Shi (both Chongming-Giant), Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle-Honda) and Liesbet de Vocht (Rabo-Liv-Giant) did not finish. Liesbet de Vocht's crash - image.

Stage 4: Sealine Beach Resort - Doha Corniche 86.5km

And the race goes Wild!

Stage 4 begans at the Sealine Beach Resort (24°51'37.76"N 51°30'53.00"E), a modern tourist site a few kilometres south-west of Mesaieed, then reversed the first section of Stage 1 to head through Al Wakra, location of the first sprint (25°10'43.96"N 51°36'12.82"E) and back into Doha for the grand finish at Doha Corniche. When the riders arrived at the Museum of Islamic Art roundabout, they continued straight ahead rather than turning right to return to the museum and crossed the finish line for the first time after 1km; this also marked the entry into a 6km circuit about which riders completed five laps. The second sprint began on the second passing of the finish line.

Unusually for Qatar at this time of year, the wind dropped considerably today, making the stage a different sort of race to the previous three - in an attempt to make the most of it, several riders and groups began their attacks within the first kilometres. Hitec-UCK put an enormous amount of effort into their attempt, hoping no doubt to help Chloe Hosking win back the three seconds she needed to retake the General Classification lead, but as the race left Mesiaeed behind and struck out across the desert for the coast the peloton was simply too fast and the riders remained together.

Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) began the day with a 3" advantage over Hosking, but being a rider as wise as she is strong she knew that she should take any opportunity that came her way to win more time - and so a battle began on the way to the first sprint, with Hosking ducking into the Dutch rider's slipstream in the hope of slingshotting past for the points. Hosking has, on countless occasions, shown herself to be a remarkable sprinter; however, at 22 years of age, she doesn't yet have the experience or physical power of 30-year-old Wild and found herself simply unable to get past. Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) was on their tail and took third. With victory now looking more certain, Wild's Argos-Shimano team concentrated on providing protection rather than keeping breaks in check, showing no concern at all when a group of nine split off and headed away up the road - with best-placed rider Carmen Small (Specialized-Lululemon) setting off this morning with a disadvantage of almost four minutes to Wild, there was really no need to expend energy pulling them back at this point. Other teams followed suit; it was only when the gap reached 1'25" that Wiggle-Honda (presumably seeking to mitigate damages following the loss of team owner and leader Rochelle Gilmore yesterday) and the Italian national squad (presumably happy to grant a request for help from Wiggle's Italian superstar Giorgia Bronzini) combined forces and chased them down, chopping almost half a minute off the gap by the time the race entered the first of the five circuits.

By the beginning of the second lap, the gap was down to 45" and rapidly diminishing - though it still left Jasmin Glaesser (Tibco), Audrey Cordon (France) and Shelley Olds (Tibco), as the fastest in the break, to take the points on offer at the second intermediate sprint. The break's time out in front was almost over by the start of lap three with their advantage slashed to only 20"; when it fell to 15" Cordon launched a fine and picturesque solo attack, but was quickly caught by the super-fast Small. Jessie MacLean bridged and looked capable of overtaking, but as her Orica-AIS team mates were driving the peloton after Small and Cordon she then declined to go in case they went with her - probably a wise move, because Cordon had the strength to mount another attack towards the end of the third lap, though she couldn't fend off a counter attack by Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv-Giant).

As the penultimate lap loomed, Argos-Shimano decided the time was right to seize full control of the race - but Orica-AIS weren't about to let them have it all their own way and revealed themselves to have plans of domination too, as was seen when British rider Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) to have a go at a solo break of her own and found she had both Orica's Emma Johansson and Argos in its entirety on her back. Needless to say, she didn't get far. Lululemon now resorted to trickery, sending Small on another attack which then turned out to be a smokescreen intended to divert attention from an attack by her team mate Lauren Rowney over on the other side of the road. It didn't work: Argos and Orica were on Small the moment she made her move but were sufficiently alert to spot what was going on and stopped Rowney in her tracks too.

Kirsten Wild wins for a record third time
As the final lap began Kirsten Wild sat behind an Argos plalanx - and right behind her sat Hosking, whose Hitec-UCK sent Elisa Longo-Borghini on an attack in an attempt to tie up a few Argos riders, hoping to force them to expend energy they'd need to keep their leader safe as the finish approached. This tactic worked no better than Lululemon's tricks: Argos simply cranked up the pace and pulled the entire peloton with them as they chased and caught her, at which point her team mate Emilia Fahlin took over. This time it was Orica who responded, dealing with her as effortlessly as Argos had dealt with Longo-Borghini.

When the race entered the final 500m, the front of the peloton turned orange as riders from the Netherlands national team swarmed up, apparently wanting to assist Wild. This almost proved her undoing for, realising that the sudden increase in numbers would make it harder for any rider to get through, Hosking decided the time was right to begin what she hoped would be her winning move. Once again, however, Wild's greater experience and strength gave her the upper hand - while Hosking had needed to move to the other side of the road to select a clear path for her final sprint, Wild was able to muscle her way through along the centre of the road before fending off Brand and Marta Tagliaferro (Mcipollini-Giordana) as she sprinted away to a record third General Classification victory. Hosking took the same time in eighth place, but is second overall at +14".

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 2h09'38"
2 Lucinda BRAND (Rabo-Liv-Giant) ST
3 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giordana) ST
4 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
5 Simona FRAPPORTI (Be Pink) ST
6 Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Italy) ST
7 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
8 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec-UCK) ST
9 Barbara GUARISCHI (Italy) ST
10 Pascale JEULAND (France) ST
(Full stage result)

Final General Classification
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 9h40'08"
2 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec-UCK) +14"
3 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) +29"
4 Gracie ELVIN (Orica-AIS) +29"
5 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) +39"
6 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +42"
7 Tiffany CROMWELL (Orica-AIS) +44"
8 Lisa BRENNAUER GER (Specialized-Lululemon) +2'05"
9 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (Mcipollini-Giordana) +2'07"
10 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) +2'15"
(Full General Classification)

Friday 21 December 2012

Equal prizes to be awarded at UCI World Champs

Women's cycling has been riding a wave ever since the women's road race unexpectedly became one of the most-watched events at the London Olympics - so much so that, after years of calls from riders and fans alike, the UCI today approved a proposal to award equal prizes at almost all men's and women's World Championships.

With races vanishing for lack of sponsorship while the sport's governing body does little to save them, the UCI has repeatedly been accused of not caring a hoot about women's cycling. That may or may not be true; either way, the new equal prizes prove that, when women's races are given the coverage they need, the sport gains strength and moves a little closer to getting the respect and being taken as seriously as it deserves.

The new rules will be in place for the start of 2013, meaning that riders at February's World Cyclo Cross Championships will be first to benefit. They do not apply to the Team Time Trial World Championships where prizes are funded differently.

Monday 10 December 2012

Women's Tour of NZ cancelled

2012 Tour of New Zealand winner
Evelyn Stevens
Thanks to the cost of new drugs testing procedures required by the UCI as it desperately tries to hang on to some shred of credibility following the investigation into Lance Armstrong and US Postal, the Women's Tour of New Zealand has been cancelled for next year as organisers are unable to find the estimated figure needed to comply with the new rules.

"The UCI won't allow Drug Free Sport New Zealand to conduct tests in UCI events in New Zealand, this means they will send a UCI drugs inspector to New Zealand, we will have to import all testing devices from overseas, do at least 20 tests during the five days of racing, get a license to export human samples overseas, send all samples to a laboratory in Sydney to be tested all at our cost, this is approximately $30,000 per event," race director Jorge Sandoval told the Manawatu Standard, adding that he understands the need for the new measures.

$30,000? That's a lot of money in women's cycling, with most organisers spending much of the year grubbing around for tiny sponsorship deals and trying their hardest to persuade new backers to come on board when they could have been developing and improving their races, which are then run on budgets that don't resemble shoestrings so much as frayed bits of cotton thread. In UCI terms, however, it's nothing - it'd probably just about cover the average professional men's team's annual laundry bill. There's probably more than thirty grand in small change down the back of the comfy sofas littered about the UCI's swanky HQ in Aigle.

Get your wallet out, Pat!
Following years of criticism, the UCI has declared itself serious about securing the future of women's cycling and helping it to grow and develop. It would be, surely, in their interest to do so - viewing figures for the women's road race at the Olympics killed off the misconception that there's no sizable audience for women's cycling forever; promoting and developing the sport would surely make it profitable and bring even more funds into the UCI's coffers. The Tour of New Zealand is a major, five-day, international event that attracts the finest athletes cycling has to offer and it's followed by huge numbers of fans around the world - are the UCI willing to step in and save it, either by stumping up funds to cover the cost drugs testing or by introducing a scheme to help races that can't come up with an extra $30,000?

We shall see. What's more, the outcome will let us know if Pat and pals really meant it when they said they wanted to help women's cycling. If not, they can wave goodbye to another chunk of credibility as we wave goodbye to another race.