Germany, 7-stage Road Race, 637km
There have been many great cyclists from Germany - Judith Arndt, Rolf Aldag, Charlotte Becker, Rudi Altig, Claudia Hausler, Jens Voigt, John Degenkolb, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Marcel Kittel and Trixi Worrak, along with many others, spring to mind, and it was a German band that provided cycling with its greatest anthem (Kraftwerk's Tour de France, of course). But, it's probably fair to say that the Germans never "got" road cycling in the same way that the French, the Spanish, the Italians, the Belgians and the Dutch and, later, the British did (though they do seem very keen on track cycling). Yet, Germany is the home of one of the greatest women's races of them all, the Women's Tour of Thuringia (to give it its English name in full; most fans refer to it simply as "the Rundfahrt" or "Thüringen"), an event that by the standards of women's cycling has serious pedigree, having existed since 1986 and having taken place almost every year since.
The first edition went to Hanna Chmelrova of Czechoslovakia, the second to East Germany's Petra Rossner, the third to the Finnish Tea Vikstedt Nymann and the fourth to Vanessa van Dijk of the Netherlands. With Germany undergoing reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the race was not held in 1990 or 1991, but it returned in 1992 when it went to another Czech, Alena Barillova. Lenka Illavska of Slovakia won in 1993, followed by the first American winner Alison Dunlop in 1994 and the last, Laura Charameda, in 1995. In 1996 it was won by a rider whose name is still familiar to new fans today, the near-legendary Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, then Alessandra Cappellotto was the first Italian winner a year later followed by the first Lithuanian, Edita Pučinskaitė (who seemed to win just about everything in the late 1990s) a year after that. Hanka Kupfernagel, who is still racing today, won the longest ever edition (664km) in 1999, then the Ukrainian Valentyna Karpenko became the first from her country to win with her 2000 victory. Mirjam Melchers, better known as a one-day-race specialist, took the honours in 2001; Zoulfia Zabirova became the first Russian winner in 2002 and then in 2004, after Valentyna Karpenko took another win for Russia in 2003, Zabirova won again and became the first rider to have won two editions. German Theresa Senff won in 2005, the year that Amy Gillett was killed by a car during a training ride on the parcours - since 2006, a special Amy Gillett award, similar to the Tour de France's Combativity prize, has been awarded in her honour. Nicole Cooke of Wales was the first (and to date the only) British winner a year later; Judith Arndt, another German (and, for a while, partner of 1987 winner Petra Rossner), was the first rider to win two consecutive editions with her 2007 and 2008 victories; Linda Villumsen, who then raced for Denmark, won in 2009 - and soon after, became the holder of a New Zealand licence; the country for which still races. Russian Olga Zabalinskaya won in 2010 and Emma Johansson was the first Swede to win in 2011, then Judith Arndt won a record third time in 2012.
Stage 1 - Rund um Schleusingen, 15.07.2013, 64km
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Stage 2 - Rund um Hermsdorf, 16.07.2013, 119km
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Stage 3 - Rund um Schleiz, 17.07.2013, 117km
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Stage 4 - Einzelzeitfahren um Gera, 18.07.2013, 21km
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With the major part of the stage taking the form of a long, straight run up and down the wide L1079 road, this is a parcours very suited to the time trial specialists: once out of town, they can get into their aerodynamic positions and keep on turning a big gear all the way - unless the weather turns out to be horrendous, we'll see some blisteringly fast times. However, it's not all plain sailing - the first and last sections in Gera feature some very sharp turns on urban streets that are frequently made hazardous by oil patches, litter blowing in the wind and so on.
Stage 5 - Rund um Altenburg, 19.07.2013, 100km
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Stage 6 - Rund um Schmolln, 20.07.2013, 102km
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This will be the stage that many riders fear most due to the Wall of Meerane: though only around 400m in length, the Wall is one of the steepest climbs in professional cycling and reaches a gradient of 23% at one point.
Stage 7 - Rund um Zeulenroda-Triebes, 21.07.2013, 110km
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Women Cycling Fever has a provisional start list and regularly update it to keep abreast of changes.
Koga Ladies-Central Rhede-Fachklinik Dr. Herzog
Slovenian National Team
Australian National Team
German National Team
How to follow the race
Unusually for a women's race, the Rundfahrt offers a live ticker making it easy for fans to keep up-to-date. Hitec-UCK's manager Karl Lima is, as ever, well worth a follow on Twitter for his regular updates on the action, so too is Boels-Dolmans' mechanic Richie Steege.