Saturday 31 August 2013

Women's Cycling News 01-08.09.2013

UCI races this week - Vos wins GP de Plouay and World Cup - Tour de l'Ardeche - Boels Rental Tour - Transfer News - Interesting Links - more to come...

UCI events this week: Tour de l'Ardeche (02-07.09); Boels Rental Ladies Tour (03-09.09)

Vos won Plouay for the second year
running. Ir's also the fifth time (though
not consecutively) she's won the
World Cup.
Vos wins Plouay and World Cup
Marianne Vos didn't need to win the GP de Plouay - as victory would only bring 75 points, she'd already won the World Cup when she finished the Open de Suède Vårgårda with an 84 point advantage over Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) last month. So nobody would have blamed her in the slightest if she'd taken it easy with a phalanx of her Rabobank-Liv/Giant lieutenants all around her, fending off anything and everything that could conceivably have left her in less-than-perfect condition for the World Championships in three weeks' time - especially since she's missing some races following her recent chronic back pain.

Did she do that? Did she hell. Marianne gives it 100% in every race she enters, as anyone who has ever seen her race knows (and anyone who thinks she wins "too easily" doesn't know, because they've never seen her race, nor watched her collapse exhausted over the handlebars after crossing the finish line - though of course, we shouldn't concern ourselves with the opinions of anybody who thinks anything at all comes easily in professional cycling). Plouay was no different.

Johansson was second
Numerous attacks went off early on in the race and continued through into the fourth of five laps as chancers tried their luck and teams sounded one another out. None of them got anywhere, but there some superb displays from, among others, Aude Biannic (France NT) who attacked three times.

Eventually, the pack split into two groups with one consisting of around forty risers, including all the favourites, a short way ahead of the rest while Jasmin Glaesser (Tibco-To The Top) managed a brief solo escape and seriously impressed when she managed to get away and then lead the race up the tough Cote de Ty-Marrec climb in the closing kilometres of the fourth lap   she might well have stayed away for longer, had fate not to seen to it that back down the road the winning break had escaped the lead group. And what a break it was: Vos, her main rival Johansson, Anna van der Breggen (currently with Sengers, but joining Vos at Rabo next season), Karol-Ann Canuel (Vienne Futuroscope) and Alena Amialiusik (BePink). Fans noticed that the peloton sat up moments later - for them, the competition was as good as over.

Amialiusik impressed
Amialiusik, perhaps aware that when it came to the crunch she'd be out-gunned, livened things up with a brave attempt to attack the group. It didn't work - how could it have done?; but although the effort caused her to drop more than a minute behind the leaders, she earned masses of respect (and, hopefully, a pay rise for 2014). The other escapees tried to provoke Vos into going early or catch her unawares by launching attacks whenever they could, but Vos' wits are as powerful as her muscles and she was on the ball each time, marking every attempt and keeping steady control of the proceedings.

Then, on the final ascent of Ty-Marrec, 5km from the finish line, she went.

Too far? Not all all - it was perfectly, impeccably planned, and she had precisely what she needed left in the tanks to keep up her spectacular sprint all the way to the end. Johansson, who had recently knocked Vos off the top sport of the UCI rankings (a position she'd occupied for seven years), didn't stand a chance - when Vos crossed the line, she did so a full 12" ahead. No guts, no glory!

Anton Vos' photos of the race

Van der Breggen, who will ride with Vos
next year, was third
Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 3h26'18"
2 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +12"
3 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) +17"
4 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) +01'27"
5 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) +01'35"
6 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +03'56"
7 Noemi CANTELE (BePink) ST
8 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
9 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST

10 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
Full result

Final World Cup Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 429
2 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) 302
3 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) 224
4 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) 158
5 Elisa LONGO BORGHINI (Hitec Products-UCK) 156
6 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 101
7 Amy PIETERS (Argos-Shimano) 80
8 Tetyana RIABCHENKO (Chirio Forno D'Asolo75
9 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) 69
10 Evelyn STEVENS (Specialized-Lululemon) 60
Full result

Tour de l'Ardeche
Race preview


Prologue Top Ten
1 Linda VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) 3'04"
2 Alexandra BURCHENKOVA (RusVelo) +02"
3 Lauren KITCHEN (Wiggle-Honda) +05"
4 Jade WILCOXSON (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
5 Janel HOLCOMB (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +06"
6 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) ST
7 Marijn DE VRIES (Lotto-Belisol) +07"
8 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) +08"
9 Tiffany CROMWELL (Australia NT) ST
10 Lauren HALL (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 1
Having already demonstrated excellent form with her historic six consecutive stage wins at the Route de France, Giorgia Bronzini confirmed she's got the legs to try to take back the rainbow jersey that was hers in 2010 and 2011 with another victory - one that she never even meant to win.

"It wasn’t in our plan to try for a bunch sprint, but to save Linda’s legs - to keep the jersey if we can," the Italian explained afterwards, referring to team mate and General Classification leader Linda Villumsen.

Meanwhile, fellow Wiggle riders Charlotte Becker, Mayuko Hagiwara and Emily Collins were keeping tabs on what was going on in the peloton, making sure that any attempts to get away were thwarted, and also providing protection to Lauren Kitchen, third in the GC.

"All the other girls worked from the long climb to the finish line so that the other teams didn’t try to get into breaks - it was really, really amazing work from Lotte, Emily and Mayuko," Bronzini continued. "I think that it’s not going to be the same way as the Route de France - from tomorrow there starts a lot of climbs, so it will be very hard for me. But I will try to work hard for Linda."

Villumsen came in 18th, recording an equal time to Bronzini, and retains the GC leadership.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) 3h09'33"
2 Tiffany CROMWELL (Australia NT) ST
3 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) ST
4 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
5 Katarzyna PAWLOWSKA (GSD Gestion-Kallisto) ST
6 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) ST
7 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) ST
8 Lauren HALL (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
9 Jacqueline KINSELLA (USA NT) ST
10 Yulia ILIYNIKH (Lointek) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 2
Having been National Time Trial Champion four times (of Denmark and New Zealand), Linda Villumsen looked well-placed to win on the short Stage 2 parcours. It's fair to say that Alena Amialiusik, despite having been TT champion of her native Belarus twice, isn't as good against the clock as Villumsen, but when a race is this short - just 3.5km - the outcome becomes hard to predict: Villumsen might be able to generate more watts for longer, but Amialiusik won with a short burst of power that got her round the course nine seconds faster than her BePink team mate Noemi Cantele and third-place Villumsen - enough to take the race leader's jersey.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) 05'15"
2 Noemi CANTELE (BePink) +09"
3 Linda VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) ST
4 Chloe MCCONVILLE (Australia NT) ST
5 Jade WILCOXSON (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
6 Andrea GRAUS (Bigla) +10"
7 Tiffany CROMWELL (Australia NT) ST
8 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +11"
10 Cecilie Gotaas JOHNSEN (Norway NT) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 3
Giorgia Bronzini
Remember what Giorgia Bronzini said after Stage 1 about how the hills were going to make things hard for her in the rest of this race? Well, there were plenty of hills in this stage - around 40km, half the parcours - was uphill, making it the sort of day that ends with most sprinters doing cut-off time arithmetic in the grupetto.

Bronzini isn't like most sprinters, though, because she can climb remarkably well too. So, instead of sitting out the race in a group hanging off the back of the peloton, she joined one out in front instead and ended up winning for a second time.

Team mate Linda Villumsen had lost overall control of the race to Alena Amialiusik in the time trial that took place in the morning before the stage, but with only 3" between them Wiggle-Honda set out to win back the jersey, so Villumsen was in the break with Bronzini. It was the final descent rather than the final climb that swung things their way, the long and very technical stretch whittling the group down to seven riders. Wiggle had a stroke of luck when Amialiusik mixed up her directions and had to spend a few kilometres chasing; that she managed to catch up is testament to her skills.

"I stopped working with about five-k to go, and Linda tried to follow the attack," the Italian explained after the race. "In the final, Linda pulled me in the sprint. It was a technical final, and I was in the wheel until 200 metres to go, when I made my sprint."

Villumsen crossed the line 2" later in fourth place; Amialiusik was right behind her in fifth and took the same time; she thus retains the GC lead at +3". Sadly, the stage marks the end of Jennifer Fiori's 2014 campaign - the Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo rider fell and broke her collar bone.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) 2h19'32"
2 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) ST
3 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) ST
4 Linda VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) +02"
5 Alena AMIALIUSIK (BePink) ST
6 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) ST
7 Tiffany CROMWELL (Australia NT) ST
8 Elena KUCHINSKAYA (RusVelo) +43"
10 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 4
Joelle Numainville
Many fans will have been expecting Linda Villumsen to make up the 3" difference between herself and race leader Alena Amialiusik today in an effort to get back to the top place in the General Classification, but it wasn't to be - the Danish-born New Zealander suffered a bad crash early on in the stage and, while she was able to continue, was visibly in pain from a large swelling on her left arm. Nevertheless, she led the peloton over the three tough mountains, and thus gained what seems an insurmountable lead in the Mountains combination.

The race took another unexpected turn when the mountains proved insufficient to split the pack significantly - no fewer than 39 riders contested a final sprint to the finish. Optum powered by Kelly Benefit Strategies team mates Joelle Numainville and Lauren Hall had their work cut out for them in holding off some very strong competition, but they delivered the goods and took first and second places, with Australia's Tiffany Cromwell right behind for third - there is, apparently, something that Numainville finds very much to her liking in Cruas, because she also won when Stage 4 of the 2012 edition finished in the town.

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Joelle NUMAINVILLE (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) 3h08'15"
2 Lauren HALL (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
3 Tiffany CROMWELL (Australia NT) ST
4 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) ST
5 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
6 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) ST
7 Chiara PIEROBON (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ST
8 Elena VALENTINI (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ST
9 Céline VAN SEVEREN (Lotto-Belisol) ST
10 Charlotte BECKER (Wiggle-Honda) ST
Full result and GC

Karol-Ann Canuel
Stage 5
The Route de France was a very, very different race to the Tour de l'Ardeche (and some might say the organisers of the former could learn a lot from the latter, too), but the outcome of Stage 5 seems strangely familiar: Linda Villumsen, who led early on, has regained control now that the race is nearly over. Sadly, though, not purely through hard work and the efforts of her Wiggle-Honda team, as she'd have liked - previous leader Alena Amialiusik has had to abandon following a crash that left her with a suspected broken collar bone.

Villumsen, current New Zealand time trial champion, took fifth place after crossing the line in a group of five riders that finished one minute after stage winner Karol-Ann Canuel of Vienne Futuroscope, who was 2" faster than second place Tatiana Antoshina (Russia NT) and 59" faster than third place Joelle Numainville (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies).

Stage 5 Top Ten
1 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) 3h36'41"
2 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (Russia NT) +02"
3 Joelle NUMAINVILLE (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +59"
4 Carlee TAYLOR (Lotto-Belisol) +01'00"
5 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) ST
6 Linda VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) ST
7 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ST
8 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) ST
9 Denise RAMSDEN (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +01'37"
10 Lauren HALL (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +02'40"
Full result and GC

Stage 6
Right after Stage 1 Giorgia Bronzini said the Tour was "not going to be the same way as the Route de France - from tomorrow there starts a lot of climbs, so it will be very hard for me?" Then won Stage 2. Now she's won the final stage, too. It's the Italian's sixteenth victory this year - and with three of those in this race and six in August's Route de France, it seems she's timed her peak perfectly if she wants to go for a third spell in the World Champion's rainbow stripes this year.

Tatiana Antoshina
It's fortunate that she did, too, as it sugared a bitter pill for her Wiggle-Honda team - leader Linda Villumsen, who regained the lead in the General Classification yesterday but started the final stage with an advantage of just 1" over Tatiana Antoshina of the Russia National Team: Villumsen had started the day with a 3", finished in 61st place 1'59" behind Bronzini, while Antoshina was seventh and only 3" behind the Italian. The Russian ITT Champion therefore wins overall with an advantage of 13" over second place Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto-Belisol) and 17" over third place Karol-Ann Canuel, while Villumsen drops to eighth place at +1'55".

Stage 6 Top Ten
1 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) 1h57'41"
2 Joelle NUMAINVILLE (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
3 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) ST
4 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) ST
5 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) ST
6 Noemi CANTELE (BePink) +03"
7 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (Russia NT) ST
8 Doris SCHWEIZER (BePink) +06"
9 Carlee TAYLOR (Lotto-Belisol) +09"
10 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) ST
Full result

General Classification Top Ten
1 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (Russia NT) 14h21'16"
2 Ashleigh MOOLMAN (Lotto-Belisol) +13"
3 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) +17"
4 Rossella RATTO (Servetto-Footon/Mixed) +21"
5 Joelle NUMAINVILLE (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +52"
6 Carlee TAYLOR (Lotto-Belisol) +01'06"
7 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +01'48"
8 Linda VILLUMSEN (Wiggle-Honda) +01'55"
9 Noemi CANTELE (BePink) +04'25"
10 Denise RAMSDEN (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) +04'33"
Full result

Boels Rental Ladies Tour
Race preview

Stage 1
Kirsten Wild
Taking place on a parcours as flat as it did, Stage 1 was always likely to end with a bunch sprint - though with ten riders approaching the line together it was a smaller bunch than expected. That group then split, with the first seven riders recording the same time and the remaining three coming in 2" behind them. The next group, 28 strong, arrived 6" later.

When there's a bunch sprint, it's usually safest to put your money on Argos-Shimano's Kirsten Wild, who'd be as famous for her sprinting as Mark Cavendish if there was any justice in the world. Today was no different; when it comes to the final dash to the line, nobody can rival her for sheer power.

Lizzie Armitstead was second, recording the same time. However, having got the better of the Dutch woman in the intermediate sprint during the stage, Armitstead picked up bonification seconds and thus leads the General Classification by 2".

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 2h42'5"
2 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
3 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
4 Annette EDMONDSON (Orica-AIS) ST
5 Eleonora VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
6 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
7 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
8 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) +02"
9 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
10 Amy PIETERS (Argos-Shimano) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 2
Team time trials have been rather predictable this season with Specialized-Lululemon and Orica-AIS more often than not taking first and second (and, usually, Rabobank in third) - and with good reason, too, because for anyone who understands the challenges faced in a race of this type, both teams are an absolute joy to watch: seeing how the riders time their duties on the front and switch positions perfectly brings to mind the workings of a Swiss clock. This time around, Lululemon were nothing less than perfect - they beat Orica by 1'15" and occupy the first six places in the GC.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Specialized-Lululemon 38'53
2 Orica-AIS +01'15"
3 Rabobank-Liv/Giant +01'37"
4 Boels-Dolmans +01'57"
5 Tibco-To The Top +02'18"
6 Sengers +02'21"
7 MCipollini-Giordana +02'22
8 Argos-Shimano +02'26"
9 Hitec Products-UCK +03'06"
10 RC Jan van Arckel +03'49"
Full result and GC

Stage 3
With prevailing weather conditions ensuring head or tail winds over the 71km circuit, Stage 3 was never going to be the most action-packed - much to the disappointment of some of the teams, who had hoped crosswinds would split the pack and give them opportunity to do some serious damage to their rivals today. Orica were responsible for what looked to be the most promising attempt with Gracie Elvin attacking roughly two-thirds of the way through the circuit and seemed for a few moments like she might escape, but she's too fast for the peloton not to have been concerned about her chances of staying away and she was soon caught. No sooner had she been, team mate Loes Gunnewijk had a go too, then once she'd also been caught Nettie Edmondson attacked as well. The wind, however, saw to it that their efforts were in vain and favoured the pack; there would be no more serious attempts.

Nettie Edmondson
Things changed on the 12.5km circuit. Rabobank's Annemiek van Vleuten, who began the race as many fan's favourite in the absence of Marianne Vos, began to attack right from the first passage of the finish line and got away, riding out in front for the first two of four laps until Specialized-Lululemon brought her back. Now, it became apparent that Orica were after a stage win: Elvin attacked again and, though she wasn't away for long, had found sufficient reserves of strength to give the peloton a run for its money so that the race was looking fractured as it came within 10km of the finish; since Orica hadn't used energy in chasing van Vleuten like their main rivals Lululemon they looked to be the strongest squad. Gunnewijk, their best bet for a good General Classification placing, was being protected, but as Elvin had led sprinter Edmondson up to the front of the peloton with 5km to go it was obvious what their plans were.

Then, disaster. "I didn’t hear [Edmondson] behind me and couldn’t look too much as I was just trying to stay safe in the washing machine feeling bunch. I just had to make the decision to keep at the front and hope that she was behind me," Elvin explained afterwards. "With less than 1km to go I surged again to the last corner and was the first rider through, and also to try and block [Kirsten] Wild and her team in the last 500m. Once I peeled off after the corner I could only see Loes and then shortly after Mel [Hosking]. Nettie was nowhere to be seen and I was worried. It wasn’t until after the finish line that Spratty [Amanda Spratt] told me she had been in a big crash with only about 2km to go."

Edmondson received treatment at the scene and it was initially thought that she might not need to be hospitalised. However, a cut to her thigh was deep enough to require stitches; since she was also experiencing severe pain in her ankle it was decided that she'd be given a proper check-up. X-rays subsequently revealed that she'd escaped serious injury, but the injury to her thigh has made it necessary for her to abandon the race.

Meanwhile, with the sprint now being all about sheer power rather than clever tactics, the inevitable happened - Kirsten Wild was fastest, and took her second stage win.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 3h01'38"
2 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
3 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
4 Monique VAN DE REE (Ronald McDonaldhuis Groningen) ST
5 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
6 Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Italy NT) ST
7 Liesbet DE VOCHT Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
8 Emilie MOBERG (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
9 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
10 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 4
As is likely to be the case tomorrow, the narrow roads shaped the racing - along some parts of the 23km circuit (which was to be lapped five times), there simply wasn't any room for anyone to move up or down the pack; a factor that allowed Elke Gebhardt (Argos-Shimano) and Vera Koedooder (Sengers) to get away after not much more than 5km and then stay out in front when rival teams were unable to get their chasers up to go after them. Another danger on narrow roads is that if a rider crashes, the riders around them go down like dominoes and, within seconds, a large part of the field can be lying on the tarmac assessing their injuries. With that scenario very likely on this stage, a collective decision was taken to let the break stay away for the time being and wait to see what happened - though the peloton nearly caught the escapees by accident when it sailed through a right turn and accidentally discovered a short-cut, bringing them much closer to their targets until the race officials stopped them and made them wait so as to preserve the break's advantage.

Elke Gebhardt
Finally, during the last lap when the break was 1'10" ahead, Specialised-Lululemon decided that enough was enough and it was time matters were dealt with. By this point, though, black clouds had rolled in; on the flat polders vast expanses of sky can be seen and the riders had spotted lightning not so far off. That created something of a dilemma - step up the pace in the hope of finishing the race before the rain struck (and, with a bit of luck, catch the break whilst doing so) but risk crashing due to increased speed or continue the steady progress and hope the rain didn't make the roads slippery in the meantime? Then, the rain started. Nobody cared about the stage win now, and they'd spent too long deliberating to stand any chance of catching the break - it was a matter of getting to the finish as quickly as possible, hopefully without crashing. Somehow, all but three riders finished the stage intact.

Gebhardt, who enjoyed plentiful victories on the track before opting to concentrate on road this year, took a silver medal in the German National Road Race Championships this summer when she came second to Trixi Worrack; this victory was her first of the 2013 season. Worrack, who is racing for Specialiised Lululemon, leads the General Classification with an advantage of 4". Tomorrow, the race remains on the polders (for a parcours that looks very similar to this year's Omloop van Aalburg; Stage 6 takes place in Limburg, where the hills are low but steep enough to have become some of the most notorious in cycling - so expect the sprinters to go all out for big time gains tomorrow in an attempt to retain good places in the General Classification.

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Elke GEBHARDT (Argos-Shimano) 2h50'00"
2 Vera KOEDOODER (Sengers) +03"
3 Emilie MOBERG (Hitec Products-UCK) +21"
4 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
5 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) ST
6 Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Italy NT) ST
7 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
8 Monique VAN DE REE (Ronald McDonaldhuis Groningen) ST
Chloe Hosking
9 Sabrina STULTIENS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
10 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
Full result and GC

Stage 5
Taking place on flat roads, Stage 5 was the sprinters' final chance to shine before the race finished on the hilly Limburg parcours of Stage 6 and, while several teams tried hard to split the bunch and numerous riders tried to attack, the peloton remained all together into the final 5km and set the scene for another mass sprint. Hosking will always do well in that situation, but would she be out of her depth going up against the likes of Shelley Olds, Lizzie Armitstead and - the strongest of them all - Kirsten Wild?

One thing we know about Chloe is she isn't easily intimidated - she took on and beat Giorgia Bronzini and Marianne Vos at the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo in 2012, when Bronzini was World Champion, Vos was the best rider in the world and she was only 21 years old (much of that confidence will have come from her rock climbing past, but two years riding with HTC-Highroad will have helped too). Quite a lot of cycling fans - and Les Deesses - have been predicting that Hosking will win the World Championships within a few years - she has, after all, taken on and beaten some of the best sprinters in the world. Beating Wild, a pure sprinter and the fastest of her breed, will convince even more that she's destined for the rainbow jersey.

Stage 5 Top Ten
1 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) 2h52'39"
2 Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano) ST
3 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
4 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
5 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
6 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
7 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
8 Evelyn ARYS (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
9 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
10 Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Italy NT) ST
Full result and GC

Transfer News
United Healthcare launch women's team
United Healthcare revealed that they would be putting together a women's team for the 2014 season earlier this summer - now, they've published a list of confirmed riders: Mara Abbott (Exergy Twenty16), Coryn Rivera (Breast Cancer Care), Alison Powers (Now & Novartis), Ruth Winder (Vanderkitten), Rushleigh Buchanan (Tibco-To The Top), Lauren Tamayo (Exergy Twenty16) and Alexis Ryan (Now & Novartis). The team's main objective for the new season is to propel Abbott to a third victory at the Giro Rosa (Donne), which she won in a remarkable comeback this year. However, riders of this calibre are evidence that the team has a very healthy budget; with more places to be filled it seems that the squad will have many strings to its bow and be able to go after numerous other goals too.

Christine Majerus is going to
Boels-Dolmans in 2014
Polish rider Katarzyna Pawlowska, currently with GSD Gestion-Kallisto, who has already enjoyed an impressive career on the track and has become a big name on the road this year with a gold at the National ITT Championships, a stage win at the Tour de Bretagne and two stage wins plus the overall General Classification at the Tour en Limousin, will be riding for Boels-Dolmans in 2014.

Christine Majerus, currently with Sengers, will also join Boels - the Luxembourgian, National ITT Champion for the last seven years and National Champion in both road racing and cyclo cross for the last four, scored an excellent win at the Sparkassen Giro and has recorded top ten finishes at numerous races this year. The team has confirmed that Nina Kessler, Adrie Visser, Romy Kasper, Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Trott and Jessie Daams will remain onboard.

Interesting Links
Sport Minister calls for a Tour de France race for women (ITV)
Women's cycling growing in the USA? (BikeBiz)
Lazer sponsors CrossVegas women's race with equal prize list (Bicycle Retailer)
Rachel Atherton wins women's downhill title at the Mountain Bike World Championships (SkySports)
Great Britain's Tahnee Seagrave clinches Junior Women's Downhill world title (British Cycling)
Victoria Pendleton says "inequality" kept her away from road racing (Road.CC)
Fastest woman to cycle the globe (Take A Challenge)

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Boels Rental Ladies Tour 2013

03-08.09.2013 Official Site
Netherlands, 6-stage Road Race, 611.3km
UCI 2.2

Inaugurated in 1998, this is a race that has been known by several names. Originally, it was the Holland Ladies Tour and remained so for the first 13 years, but a series of new sponsors has seen name changes every year since: in 2011 it was the Profile Ladies Tour, in 2012 the Brainwash Ladies Tour and now in 2013 it's the Boels Rental Ladies Tour.

Along with Lotto and Belisol (whose Belgium Tour took place late last month), Boels is a name that you'll see again and again in women's cycling: in addition to sponsoring a team (Boels-Dolmans), the DIY and plant machinery company has thrown its full weight into supporting the sport - in addition to the team and this race, it also sponsors the Boels Rental Hills Classic and the Ronde van Drenthe. Why? Well, they've obviously found that women's cycling offers sufficient returns to get approval from the bean counters, but it seems likely that some of the people at the top of the firm must be fans. So, if you happen to live near one of Boels' 300 outlets and find yourself needing to rent some DIY equipment or plant machinery, give them a call - and know that some of the money you pay them will go towards supporting and developing the sport you love.

The Ladies Tour has always been a very popular race that attracts the top riders in the world, as well as large numbers of fans. Oh - and make the most of this race. The end of the season is approaching fast.

Previous Winners
Elsbeth van Rooy-Vink, better known as a mountain biker won the first edition, then two more Dutch riders - Leontien van Moorsel and Mirjam Melchers - won in 1999 and 2000. There would be no further Dutch victories until 2009, when Marianne Vos won; she has won it every year since. However, despite having been favourite this year, she has decided to miss the race after receiving treatment for chronic back pain so that she'll have ideal form to defend her World Champion title later in the month.

1998 Elsbeth Vink
1999 Leontien van Moorsel
2000 Mirjam Melchers
2001 Petra Rossner
2002 Debby Mansveld
2003 Susanne Ljungskog
2004 Mirjam Melchers
2005 Tanja Schmidt-Hennes
2006 Susanne Ljungskog
2007 Kristin Armstrong
2008 Charlotte Becker
2009 Marianne Vos
2010 Marianne Vos
2011 Marianne Vos
2012 Marianne Vos

Stage 1 (03.09.2013; Roden-Roden, 109.9km)

View Boels Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 1 in a larger map

At first glance, Stage 1 looks as though it was designed to give the riders a nice and easy start so they could gradually get into the competitive spirit. If you've followed professional cycling for any length of time, you'll know that sort of thing never happens - look more closely at the parcours and, while there are no big climbs (hey, this is the Netherlands), there are several harsh cobbled sections that hurt everyone (and can end your race if you crash, which is all too easy to do on cobbles). Being located along narrow sections of road, these cobbled sections encourage breakaways because riders riding solo or in small groups stay clear of congestion and the majority of crashes (and have more room to avoid any that might take place in the break) whereas those trailing in the main group can topple like dominoes at any moment. So, expect a tough day of very technical racing.

The toughest section of all is the short Kampweg/Kerkpad/Brink stretch in Norg. Though less than 0.4km in length, the first 150m is extremely narrow and extremely rough. The section is ridden three times but, as there are still 22km to be raced after the final visit, it's unlikely to prove decisive; however, it's sufficiently technical, especially in the wet, that a few riders may find their race ends here.

Yes, a major, international bike race will be held on this narrow path!

Stage 2 (04.09.2013; Coevorden-Coevorden, 32.2km Team Time Trial)

View Boels Rental Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 2 in a larger map

The start of Stage 2 is going to feel distinctly familiar to some of the riders - they set off from the marketplace in Coevorden, just as they did back in March at the Novilon Euregio Cup. Then, they had 141km and an ascent of the VAMberg, a turfed-over rubbish dump with a maximum gradient of 16%, ahead of them; today, they'll only cover 32.2km and there are no hills to speak of (the bridge over the Stieltjeskanaal is the most challenging of the very small climbs along the way), but because it's a team time trial they'll be riding at full speed all the way.

The main issue along the parcours is the narrowness of some of the roads: while it'll be easier to negotiate them as individual teams rather than as a peloton, some stretches offer space sufficiently limited as to lead to difficulties when riders try to swap position at the front, and those who have spent the most time practicing their change-overs will benefit from this. Otherwise, Stage 2 ought to be a classic example of a team time trial, where the best tactic is quite simply to go as fast as possible.

Stage 3 (05.09.2013; Leerdam-Leerdam, 121.3km)

View Boels Rental Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 3 in a larger map

With its flat terrain (the greatest deviation between two points anywhere along the route is less than 10m) and lack of tight corners, Stage 3 looks easy enough at first glance. However, the nature of the competition will be decided by the wind: if it's a still day, expect a fast race with the peloton sailing through at high speed preventing breaks as slower riders drop off the back; if it's windy, expect the peloton to be broken up into numerous sub-groups with the stronger riders battling the weather and one another at the front and the rest battling for survival at varying distances back along the road.

One feature that might prove to have a major effect on the outcome is the railway crossings and swingbridges - the UCI rules state that, should a break reach such an obstruction and be held up, they will be given a time advantage equal to the advantage they had before stopping; however, if the break gets through and the peloton is held up, the time that the riders in the peloton have to wait will be added to their overall times. This can make the difference between a break succeeding or failing, and has led in the past to unexpected victories.

Stage 4 (06.09.2013; Papendrecht-Papendrecht, 116km)

View Boels Rental Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 4 in a larger map

Once again, the wind may be a deciding factor today - especially on the long, straight Tolsteeg-Wijngardsesteeg-Wijngardseweg and Abbekesdoel-Oosteinde-Noordzeijde-Dorpstraat-Westeinde sections, where powerful cross- or headwinds would permit a squad of evenly-matched riders to mount a team time trial-style assault on their rivals by working closely together and maintaining the maxium speed possible, thus gaining a big advantage over weaker teams.

It's another very flat stage: the highest point along the parcours, roughly halfway through the neutral zone, is just 4.8m above sea level; the lowest is 5.1, below sea level and comes around 9km later - there are many little dips and ramps all the way to the finish, but none of them are big enough to play a part in determining the stage winner.

Stage 5 (07.09.2013; Zaltbommel-Veen, 120.2km)

View Boels Rental Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 5 in a larger map

Marianne Vos, as already mentioned, isn't taking part in the Tour this year so that she can give her back a chance to recover fully in time for the World Championships - but there's a good chance she'll put in an appearance at some point today, because the route passes within a kilometre of her home village Meeuwen. Some of the roads featured in the second and third parts of the stage (one 52.2km loop and four 11.4km laps) will be familiar to the riders and fans from May's Omloop vanAalburg - in fact, the 11.4km circuit is identical to the finishing circuit that was completed three times in the Omloop.

As was the case in the Omloop (and the Rabobank 7-Dorpenomloop van Aalburg, which also takes place in the area), wind can be a deciding factor in this race - the terrain is pancake flat, permitting the wind to howl in from the North Sea, and there are few hedges or trees to impede it.

Being so flat and with a long, straight run to the finish, it seems highly likely that the race will finish with a bunch sprint today. How many riders are in that sprint - a few, or all of them - depends on what happens on the long sections on very narrow roads, especially during the 52.2km circuit: the combined length of the four final laps is 45.6km, offering plenty of time for riders who got stuck near the back on the narrow stretches earlier on to get to the front of the peloton, but some of those stretches are so narrow that a small,  strong break could potentially flee the pack at a point where it's impossible for chasers to get up to the front and begin pursuit. If so, the peloton will need to make sure it brings them back before it's too late.

Stage 6 (07.09.2013; Bunde-Berg Terblijt, 111.7km)

View Boels Ladies Tour 2013 Stage 6 in a larger map

Boels may be the main sponsor of this race, but team-sponsoring partner Dolmans Landscaping are involved too - and Stage 6 starts right outside their premises on Pasweg in Bunde. In this stage, the race changes character completely - the pancake-flat polders where the sprinters had it all their own way are no more now that the Tour enters Limburg, home to the highest hills in the Netherlands which, though not very high, are sometimes sufficiently steep to make things difficult for all but the pure climbers. It doesn't matter what the General Classification looks like at the start line, because it could be very, very different by the finish.

The two most daunting are the chalky hill known as Bemelerberg, usually seen from the Krekelenberg during the Amstel Gold Race, and the infamous Cauberg. Starting just as the race arrives at Bemelen, Bemelerberg climbs 39m in 1.26km; the average gradient is therefore 3%, but the maximum of 6% is enough for the pure sprinters to drop behind. Cauberg is something else entirely: its average gradient is 5.8% and its maximum 12%, sufficient to decide races - including the 2012 World Championships, which took place in this region. It's likely that it'll have some effect on the outcome of this race, too, because the riders will be going up it twice in the final 25km - once at 87.5km and then again at 107.4km. Bemelerberg is climbed early in the race at 6.9km, then again at 100.9km. There are numerous smaller climbs, some with similarly steep sections, along the way.

Start List

Saturday 24 August 2013

Women's Cycling News 25-31.08.2013

UCI races this week - Ellen van Dijk wins Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour - Vos wins Trophee d'Or ...but loses UCI Ranking lead to Johansson- New team Epic-Scott launched... and another one on the way - Transfer News - UCI Women's Cycling group - Shorts and Interesting Links - Tweets of the Week - more to come...

UCI events this week: Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour (23-26.08); Trophee d'Or (24-28.08); GP de Plouay-Bretagne (31.08)

Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour
Race preview here.

Stage 1 (Team Time Trial)
Specialized-Lululemon win the team time trial, placing Ellen van Dijk at the top of the General Classification with an advantage of 35" over her team mate Lisa Brennauer.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Specialized-Lululemon 25'39.72"
2 Orica-AIS 26'14.39"
3 Tibco-To The Top 27'01.89"
4 Hitec Products-UCK 27'08.63"
5 Argos-Shimano 27'10.94"
6 Sengers/Bizkaia (Mixed Team 1) 27'15.16"
7 Lotto-Belisol 27'23.70"
8 CycleLive Plus-Zannata 27'33.27"
9 Belgium NT 27'36.82
10 TopSport Vlaanderen-Biorace 27'50.53"
Full result

Stage 2 (Angreau)
Kirsten Wild
With breaks firing off throughout much of the stage, the shape of the end of Stage 2 remained uncertain right up until the final kilometres. However, Argos-Shimano kept a tight rein, ensuring that they had a rider in every break and that they were always around the front of the peloton, ready to get their team leaders into any break that looked as though it might stay away.

The last break was brought back with a little under 3km to go, at which point the team began to concentrate on getting Kirsten Wild into position for a bunch sprint. They did their jobs perfectly and, coming up the last climb to the finish, Wild was able to hang onto rival Emma Johansson's (Orica-AIS) back wheel before using her greater strength to power past and across the line.

Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) retains General Classification lead but has no time advantage over her team mate, second-place Lisa Brennauer. Carmen Small, also with Lululemon, is third overall, 20" down. Elise Delzenne (Rabo/Autoglas Wetteren/Group Solar/FCS Mixed) won the Combativity award.

  Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 2h55'48"
3 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
4 Kelly DRUYTS (TopSport Vlaanderen-Bioracer) ST
5 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
6 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
7 Liesbet DE VOCHT (Belgium NT) ST
8 Thalita DE JONG (Mixed Team Rabo/Autoglas Wetteren/Group Solar/FCS) ST
9 Lisa BRENNAUER (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
10 Christina SIGGAARD (Mixed Team Boretti/Matrix/Vanderkitten) ST
Full result and General Classification

Stage 3 (Niljen)
The Cote du Autreppe is neither high nor steep, but when it's climbed nine times (once on each lap of a 12.24km circuit) it was sure to have some effect on how the stage played out and it ensured that a sprint finish was far from guaranteed.

A strong break formed early on and kept going, though most of its members had been picked off by the final lap, mostly as a result of Argos-Shimano driving the pace and hunting them down. One rider remained out in front into the final 3km, but a last effort brought her back too and left the way clear for Amy Pieters to lead Kirsten Wild into the final straight, where she was once again able to overpower Orica-AIS for a second stage win in as many days.

Lisa Brennauer (Specialised-Lululemon) was second, followed by Orica's Nettie Edmondson and the next 117 riders to finish in the lead group (and all receive the same time as Wild; only eight riders finished later). Wild started and ended the day in seventh place overall; Ellen van Dijk (Specialised-Lululemon started in first place overall but crossed the line 18th and thus drops to second place overall. Van Dijk's team mate Brennauer started in second place overall but picked up bonus seconds for her placing on the stage and now leads the General Classification by 6". Marijn de Vries (Lotto-Belisol) won the Combativity award.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Argos-Shimano) 2h45'23"
2 Lisa BRENNAUER (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
3 Annette EDMONDSON (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Kelly DRUYTS (TopSport Vlaanderen-Bioracer) ST
5 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
6 Jolien D'HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
7 Liesbet DE VOCHT (Belgium NT) ST
8 Kim DE BAAT (Napoleon Games-St Martinus-Kerksken) ST
9 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products-UCK) ST
10 Kaat VAN DER MEULEN (Belgium NT) ST
Full result and General Classification

Stage 4 (Geraardsbergen)
Nettie Edmondson won the stage
Annette Edmondson (Orica-AIS) wins on the notorious 19.8% Kapelmuur; Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) was second and Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) third. Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS) won the Combativity award for the stage.

Van Dijk won sufficient bonus seconds to overtake Lisa Brennauer, making her the overall winner by 7". Brennauer is second and Johansson third. Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano) wins the Youth category. Jasmin Glaesser (Tibco-To The Top) wins the Sprints classification, Sofie de Vuyst (Sengers) wins the Mountains classification. Orica-AIS won in the Team classification; and overall Combativity award was not declared.

Annette Edmondson ‏@NettieEdmondson
Wowser! Wasn't expecting that!! Despite efforts 4 yellow it was mad to go 1,2 for the team. Great ride from the girls, esp Loes' solo break!

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Annette EDMONDSON (Orica-AIS) 2h20'05"
3 Eleonora VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
4 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) +03"
5 Amy PIETERS (Argos-Shimano) ST
6 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) ST
7 Kelly DRUYTS (TopSport Vlaanderen-Bioracer) +06"
8 Thalita DE JONG (Netherlands NT) ST
Ellen van Dijk wins overall
9 Kaat HANNES (Lotto-Belisol) ST
10 Sofie DE VUYST (Sengers) ST
Full result here

Final General Classification Top Ten
1 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) 8h26'51"
2 Lisa BRENNAUER (Specialized-Lululemon) +07"
3 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +27"
4 Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) +01'05"
5 Shelley OLDS (Tibco-To The Top) +01'29"
6 Amy PIETERS (Argos-Shimano) +01'38"
7 Sofie DE VUYST (Sengers) +01'46"
8 Rossella RATTO (Hitec Products-UCK) +01'47"
9 Chantal BLAAK (Tibco-To The Top) +01'55"
10 Céline VAN SEVEREN (Lotto-Belisol) +01'57"
Full result here

Trophee d'Or
Race preview here.

Stage 1 (St Amand Montrond-Graçay)
Vos (Rabo) wins three-up sprint to lead General Classification by 4". Elena Cecchini (Faren-Kuota) was sixth and leads the Youth category.

Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 3h08'02"
2 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
3 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
4 Valentina SCANDOLARA (MCipollini-Giordana) +02"
5 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) +05"
6 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) +56"
7 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
8 Amy CURE (Australia NT) ST
9 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
10 Dani KING (Wiggle-Honda) ST
Full result and General Classification

Stage 2 (Individual Time Trial)
Sometimes, it seems like Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) is good at everything - but she's the first to admit that she isn't an excellent time trial rider.

The thing is, though, when Marianne says "not very good," it translates into "very, very good indeed." As a result, every once in a while she wins an individual time trial - sometimes in spectacular style, too, as was the case on Stage 2 when she recorded a time 17" faster than the second-placed rider Tatiana Antoshina, current Russian ITT Champion. The victory gives Vos an overall advantage of 52" over Anna van der Breggen (Sengers) who is second in the General Classification.

Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 23'13"
2 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (MCipollini-Giordana) +17"
3 Alexandra BURCHENKOVA (RusVelo) +34"
4 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) +38"
5 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +59"
6 Amy CURE (Australia NT) +01'03"
7 Grace SULZBERGER (Australia NT) +01'05"
8 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +01'09"
9 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +01'10"
10 Valentina SCANDOLARA (MCipollini-Giordana) +01'22"
Full result and General Classification

Stage 3 (La Chapelle St Ursin-La Chapelle St Ursin)
After the cold time trial in the morning, the weather turned rainy in the afternoon and remained so for the entirely of Stage 3, making the fast 26.1km circuit dangerous - two crashes took place during the first of three laps, while the riders were still getting a feel for the parcours.

Anastasiya Chulkova, riding for RusVelo, escaped in the final lap and worked hard to stay away, eventually taking a very deserved stage win with an impressive advantage of 1'10" over second place Marianne Vos, leading the chase group over the line. It was notable that Vos had only the tiniest advantage over Giorgia Bronzini, who has signaled her intention to try to take the Dutch rider's crown at the forthcoming World Championships.

Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Anastasiya CHULKOVA (RusVelo) 2h02'42"
2 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +01'10"
3 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
4 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
5 Pascale JEULAND (Vienne Futuroscope) ST
6 Barbara GUARISCHI (Vaiano Fondriest) ST
7 Yulia ILIYNIKH (Lointek) ST
8 Roxane FOURNIER (France NT) ST
9 Maria Giulia CONFALONIERI (Faren-Kuota) ST
10 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) ST
Full result and General Classification

Stage 4 (Cosne Cours Sur Loire-Cosne Cours Sur Loire)
The small but steep Category 1 climbs halfway through the parcours were expected to affect the outcome of Stage 4 and did so, splitting the riders into two groups - one that didn't have the strength to remain competitive (which can happen as much due to loss of will in wet conditions, as were experienced on this stage) going into the flatter final third and one that began to leave the other far behind as soon as the final categorised climb ended with 30km to go.

Before the competition, Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) termed Stage 4 "the toughest of the race" but said that she would be looking to pick up bonus seconds to secure a good General Classification placing. She was in the lead group and then stayed with Anna van der Breggen (Sengers) when she attacked with 3km to go - a promising sign of great things to come in 2014, when they'll be team mates. Valentina Scandolara, who shares Vos' ability to climb and sprint, went with them but was unable to match the World Champion's spectacular turn of speed; having won the stage, Vos leads the race overall by 1'02".

The unusually large gap between sixth and seventh place was caused partly the lead group's speed but by the chase group getting stuck at a railway crossing, where they had to wait for several minutes for a train to pass through. UCI rules state that if a break is halted and the main field catches up as a result, the break will be given an advantage equal to that before the crossing when the race restarts; if a break passes through and the main field is halted, the time the main field loses is included in the overall times recorded by its members.

Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 2h42'47"
2 Valentina SCANDOLARA (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
3 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) ST
4 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +02"
5 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
6 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) +38"
7 Francesca CAUZ (Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo) +07'27"
8 Amy CURE (Australia NT) +09'33"
9 Oxana KOZONCHUK (RusVelo) ST
10 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
Full result here

Stage 5  (Baugy-Baugy)
The largely flat parcours of Stage 5, with only three Category 3 climbs, will have come as welcome relief for the sprinters following yesterday's hilly route - a chance to rest weary legs ready for tomorrow's rolling toute with three Cat. 2s and couple of Cat. 3s.

Amy Cure (Australia NT) won a bunch sprint after escaping the peloton accompanied by Megan Guarnier (Rabobank-Liv/Giant), Anastasiya Chulkova (RusVelo), Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini-Giordana), Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano-Fondriest), Iris Slappendel (Rabo-Liv/Giant) and Karol-Ann Canuel (Vienne Futuroscope). The first six women crossed the line as a group and recorded the same time as Cure; Canuel dropped back slightly at the end and was 1" slower.

The next group, led by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv/Giant), arrived 48" later. Canuel had been the only rider close to Vos in the General Classification at the start of the stage, when she was in sixth place at +4'38" (Cure was next at +9'33"); she remains in sixth place with a smaller disadvantage of +3'51". Vos' overall advantage remains intact with a 1'02" lead over second-place Anna van der Breggen (Sengers). Rabo team mate Lucinda Brand is third at +1'31". Amy Cure remains best-placed Young rider in seventh place at +10'58".

Stage 5 Top Ten
1 Amy CURE (Australia NT) 2h32'22"
2 Megan GUARNIER (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
3 Anastasiya CHULKOVA (RusVelo) ST
4 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) ST
5 Barbara GUARISCHI (Vaiano-Fondriest) ST
6 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
7 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) +01"
8 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +48"
9 Leire OLABERRIA DORRONSORO (Bizkaia-Durango) ST
10 Laura TROTT (Wiggle-Honda) ST
Full result and General Classification

Stage 6 (Orval-St Amand Montrond)
Van Vleuten wins the stage
Marianne Vos started the day with an advantage big enough that she didn't need to go for a stage win today, which isn't usually her style, but she'd been advised by Rabobank-Liv/Giant's doctors not to push herself too hard in the run-up to the World Championships in order to give her back, which has been causing her chronic pain, chance to recover fully. That cleared the way for team mate Annemiek van Vleuten to go for some glory of her own, which she deservedly received when she crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of second-place Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini-Giordana).

Vos' General Classification victory and three stage wins is evidence that she's on the mend; as one of her principle lieutenants, van Vleuten's also bodes well for Rabo at the Worlds because she too is recovering from an injury to her arm: "At the beginning of the race, I had a lot of pain in my left arm," she explained. "The first day was a matter of surviving, but over the last few days I've really felt some progress - thanks to the great work of the doctors. These last two days, I was given the freedom to go for a win, but yesterday my opportunities were limited due to an attack. But today - it's so nice to finish with a stage victory and feeling my arm getting better."

"This has been a tough race," said Vos. "I'm very glad that I had no problems and my back didn't suffer. I went full-on over the first three days, including in the time trial; Monday was very tough, but my back's been fine - I'm just as happy with my victory!" Vos also won the Points and Mountains competitions.

Van Vleuten took tenth overall, 11'43" behind Vos. Meanwhile, two other Rabo riders made sure the team was the best-represented in the top ten: Lucinda Brand was third at +1'31" and Iris Slappendel was eighth at +11'. In second place was Anna van der Breggen at _1'02"; currently riding for Sengers, van der Breggen will join forces with Vos and the rest for 2014 - meaning that it ought to be another year at he very pinnacle of the sport for the already enormously powerful Rabobank-Liv/Giant team.

Vos wins overall
Stage 6 Top Ten
1 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 2h18'56"
2 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) +07"
3 Laura TROTT (Wiggle-Honda) ST
4 Alexandra BURCHENKOVA (RusVelo) ST
5 Christel FERRIER-BRUNEAU (Faren-Kuota) ST
6 Daniela PINTARELLI (Austria NT) +09"
7 Fiona DUTRIAUX (Vienne Futuroscope) +01'26"
8 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) ST
9 Barbara GUARISCHI (Vaino-Fondriest) ST
10 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) ST
Full result

General Classification Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 13h11'02"
2 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Sengers) +01'02"
3 Lucinda BRAND (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +01'31"
4 Valentina SCANDOLARA (MCipollini-Giordana) +01'39"
5 Tatiana ANTOSHINA (MCipollini-Giordana) +02'53"
6 Karol-Ann CANUEL (Vienne Futuroscope) +03'51"
7 Amy CURE (Australia NT) +10'58"
8 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +11'
9 Alexandra BURCHENKOVA (RusVelo) +11'24"
10 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) +11'43"
Full result

Points: 1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 86; 2 Marta TAGLIAFERRO (MCipollini-Giordana) 54; 3 Anastasiya CHULKOVA (RusVelo) 41. Mountains: 1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 41; 2 Valentina Scandolara  (MCipollini-Giordana) 39; 3 Christel FERRIER-BRUNEAU (Faren-Kuota) 31. Youth: 1 Amy CURE (Australia NT) 13h22'; 2 Elena CECCHINI (Faren-Kuota) +02'15"; 3 Aude Biannic (S.C. Michela Fanini-ROX) +03'14". 

...but loses UCI Rankings lead 
For the first time in six years, Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) isn't at the top of the UCI Elite Women's Rankings - her 1,181.25 points put her in second place behind Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), who has emerged as her strongest rival this year and has amasses 1,211.75 points. The situation may be temporary, though - Vos is currently leading the Trophee d'Or and, if she wins overall, will take sufficient points to return her to the top spot.

There have been concerns that the pressure of racing mountain bikes as well as taking part in road races might be too strenuous even for Marianne and she has had to cross a few races off her calendar recently due to chronic back ache; fans will be eagerly waiting to see how she'll respond to this latest challenge and whether she can win enough points with a victory at the World Championships to get back to the top position. However, it seems likely that the change is as much a result of the was that the rankings are determined, by adding results over a twelve-month period (meaning results from last year's GP de Plouay are no longer counted), not that Vos is no longer as good as she once was, and because Johannson, through a combination of natural talent, hard work and excellent team support, has developed and improved - and serves as proof that by encouraging rivals to strive to match her, Vos' six-year domination strengthened women's cycling rather than weakened it as some suggested it might.

New team launched
Perhaps the most important news this week has been the unveiling of a major new British team: Epic Cycles-Scott Contessa. born from Scott Contessa-Epic. The team's aims are listed as "creating the leading domestic UK road team and providing an environment in which talented and ambitious senior riders can develop and progress their cycling careers," according to the official Facebook page.

The team also used Facebook to publish a manifesto, which can be read on their page or by clicking here.

You can also follow Epic-Scott on Twitter.

...and another on the way
Meanwhile, former Scottish Cycling head coach Graeme Herd, has revealed his plans to unveil a Scottish-based Elite Women's team by the end of 2013.

Herd was encouraged to go ahead with his plans after witnessing the enormous support enjoyed by the women's race at the National Road Race Championships. "I've never seen anything like that in the 30 years I've been involved in cycling," he told the Herald Scotland newspaper, going on to explain that he is still seeking sponsorship: "Historically, women's racing suffer from a lack of profile but that's changing; they are getting more equal coverage to the men. But in a set-up like this, women's cycling offers better value for money. To invest in a team at UCI level, for a top men's squad you are talking about £18m but for a women's that figure would be closer to £1m. In terms of return, it's a no-brainer as the profile will explode."

In addition to racing UCI events, Herd would use the team to develop new talents in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Olympics.

Transfers: Fahlin to Wiggle-Honda and more
Fahlin to Wiggle in 2014
Emilia Fahlin will move from Hitec Products-UCK to the British-registered Wiggle-Honda, where she'll ride with owner/manager Rochelle Gilmore, twice World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, Olympic Champions Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell and others.

A space was made on the team by Lauren Kitchen, who will swap places with Fahlin at Hitec - which has also signed ace climber Ashleigh Moolman, previously with Lotto-Belisol, as revealed last week.

Meanwhile, Anna van der Breggen, who has ridden for Sengers for the last two seasons, will move to Rabobank-Liv/Giant - due in no small part to her sterling performance in assisting Rabo's leader Marianne Vos to take the rainbow jersey at the World Championships in 2012.

Meredith Miller, who is retiring from road racing but will continue in cyclo cross, will leave Tibco-To The Top.

UCI to create Women's Cycling group
Following a meeting of the UCI Road Commission, to which Marianne Vos and Tracey Gaudry were invited, cycling's governing body has pledged to create a new working group dedicated solely to women's cycling. The group will meet regularly to discuss "the possibility of changing the format of the UCI Women Road World Cup, of creating a first division of women’s teams and long term considerations, such as introducing minimum wages for team members."

For many fans, this will seem like a last-ditch attempt by embattled president Pat McQuaid to look as though he's willing to do something for the sport. However, McQuaid recently lost the support of the Swiss Federation, leaving him with only two backers, Morocco and Thailand, as the presidential election nears; under UCI rules (which are somewhat vague), it seems likely that a candidate must be backed by at least three federations. His only opponent, current British Cycling boss Brian Cookson, looks set to take his position and is, notably, a long-term supporter of women's cycling.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Interesting Links
Trophee d'Or injects 35,000 euros into local economy (LeBerry) (in French)
Intro to Women's Cycling and Racing Series (Seattle PI)
SA women strike gold at World Masters Champs (SuperSport)
Is Orica-GreenEdge Cycling's YouTube video sexist? (Bustle)

Tweets of the Week
Fabian cancellara ‏@f_cancellara
Almost in the hotel... Long day is ending. 150km to the start. 180km race, 200km to the hotel.looking foward to the massage

Martine Bras ‏@martinebras
@f_cancellara that sounds like a normal day @ Giro Donne. Only the race is 130 km and the drive to the hotel 500km ;) Good luck tomorrow

More to come...