Saturday 30 November 2013

Women's Cycling News 01-08.12.2013

Vulpine Cyclogames - Qatar launches women's team - Shorts and Interesting Links - More as it happens...

In London this weekend...?
Then you really do need to get yourself to Hackney, otherwise you'll have missed your opportunity to be at the Vulpine Cyclogames - and one day, your grandchildren are going to want to know all about it.

More here.

Qatar launches women's team
The Qatar Cycling Federation has launched its first ever women's team - and has recruited Finnish cycling legend Pia Sundstedt to coach them towards the 2016 World Championships.

According to the Federation's General Secretary Majed al Naimi, there were moves to create a team as long ago as 2005 but at that time it was felt to be impossible due to the difficulty in locating a coach able to speak Arabic to the necessary standard. However, Qatar is one of the most open and free Arab states and as such the population have access to Western culture and the Internet; the 22 members of the team, who range from 13 to 17 years old, all speak English sufficiently well to understand and converse with English speaker Sundstedt - who won six National Championships, two European Championships and two editions of the Giro del Trentino.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Cycling revolution for sale at the paltry price of a few hundred thousand pounds
"Perhaps, though, the biggest draw in women's cycling is one single person: Marianne Vos. The Dutch rider is the greatest cyclist who has ever lived, man or woman. She has won two Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles in road and track racing and cyclocross. Still only 26, she is a phenomenon..." (Herald Scotland)

Lizzie Armitstead: The future looks brighter than ever for women’s cycling (Metro)

Jeannie Longo suing AFLD for more than one million euro (Velonation)

Katie Archibald's meteoric rise (Cycling Weekly)
Chloe Hosking ups tempo in pursuit of gold (Canberra Times)
SKCC Super Crit and the rise of women’s cycling (Roar)
How should bicyclists handle harassment? D.C. area groups teach empowerment tactics (Washington Post)

Monday 25 November 2013

Cheshire Classic

27.04.2014 Official Site
England, 77km (+2.41km neutral zone) Road Race
Women's National Series

Due to sponsorship issues and host of other problems faced by the people that run them, races in women's cycling tend not to last as long as in men's cycling - the fact that the Cheshire Classic has been in operation since 1980, and has been held every year with the exception of 2001 (when it had to be cancelled due to the BSE crisis) and has gone from strength to strength is therefore testament to the dedication of the organisers, Weaver Valley CC, and to their love for the sport - which is proved further on the official website by the presence of an excellent advice section for women taking up cycling.

Partly because it's so well organised, it's always been a very popular race among the riders and a list of winners reads like a list of the best British female riders of the last 33 years: a pair of Swinnertons (Catherine and Margaret), Mandy Jones, Judith Painter, Lisa Brambini, Maria Blower, Marie Purvis, Megan Hughes, Nicole Cooke, Rachel Heal, Lizzie Armitstead, Sharon Laws, Lucy Garner, Sarah Storey  and, last year, Karla Boddy,who told me afterwards that she liked my write-up of the race because it made her "sound better than I really am" - delightfully modest, considering she'd just won a race won in the past by some of the greatest cyclists Britain ever produced!

In addition to its official website, the Cheshire Classic has a Twitter that is active throughout the year, providing and forwarding women's cycling information, as well as supplying up-to-date details when the race in in progress. If you only follow one account today, make it theirs.

The Parcours

View Cheshire Classic 2014 in a larger map

The parcours begins at the race headquarters located at Grange School Sports Pavillion on Northwich Road (B5153), Hartfordbeach; the riders set out into a 2.41km neutralised zone runniong north-west along Northwich Road and through Weaverham to a junction, there they'll turn right onto Sandy Lane (B5142). Wide, fast and non-technical, it descends 30m in 1.19km at an average gradient of -2.5%, which is just sufficient to encourage high speeds as it curves gently west to arrive at a junction with the A49. Once there, the riders will turn left; since there is limited space immediately after the apex of the turn due to a central reservation and riders will enter the turn at speed, there is a chance of crashes here - especially in early laps before the field has been split.

Altitude profile. Following the neutralised zone, riders enter the circuit and head
towards the finish line at the top of Acton Lane Hill where they begin a new lap. Ten laps,
each 7.7km in length, will be completed.
Straight and 3.85km in length, the A49 Weaverham bypass section of the race is lightning-fast and can be used by time trial specialists to grab serious advantages - or in the case of a team that had spent a lot of time practicing team time trial tactics, a winning advantage (imagine what a team like Specialized-Lululemon would do here). It was on this section in 2012 that Natalie Cresswick tried to attack Sarah Storey and Molly Weaver, but was matched and overcome by both; Storey, the eventual victor, said after seeing the data downloaded from her computer "I had averaged somewhere not far off what I would expect to do in a time trial when there are no sudden changes of pace." It does, however, feature a climb - starting within 0.1km from the B5142/A49 junction, it gains 22m in 0.75km at an average gradient of only 2% but reaches 7.5% after around 200m.

If the ten separate climbs came together, they'd look
like this: 340m in 3.5km, with ten 12.5% sections along
the way. Brutal!
Passing by the B5142, the route continues for another 0.89km along a gentle descent with an average gradient of no more than -1% before coming to a left turn just tight enough to causes clashes if the entire peloton tries to get around it en masse. It leads onto Acton Lane and, 0.23km from the turn, the Acton Lane hill, which may decide the outcome of the race. The hill isn't very high and gains only around 34m but it does so in 0.337km, creating an average gradient of nearly 9.2%. That's steep, but on a hill this small not steep enough to bother a cyclist who is good enough to compete in a race such as this one. The thing is, a significant percentage of that gain comes in a short section halfway up, where the gradient rises to in excess of 12.5% - which is really steep, by anyone's standards. What counts for even more, of course, is that there are ten laps, and each one includes the climb. Multiply the effort and effect by ten, the number of laps, and the answer is "brutal" - expect to see riders in real pain as they force themselves up for the final time en route to the finish line.

At the top, the riders follow the road as it bends first right and then left to become Hill Top Road, beginning a straightforward and gentle 0.91km descent to a junction where they'll turn left to join Cliff Road, which runs straight and wide for the next 1.26km over rolling terrain (with two small rises) to a junction by the Hanging Gate pub. Here they turn left, arriving moments later at the point where they first left the neutralised zone and joined the circuit, thus beginning a second lap. The tenth and final lap finishes at the top of the Acton Lane hill, which is also the location of the intermediate sprint to be held at the end of the fifth lap.

Please note: there is very little space along the roadsides at the Hill Top Road/Station Road, StationRoad/Sandy Lane and Sandy Lane/A49 junctions and at the roundabout at the southernmost end of the A49 section. This means that race marshals may not be able to monitor the race or respond to accidents if spectators gather there; organisers would like to request therefore that spectators choose other points from which to watch the race.

Start List
Not yet available

Getting There
Weaverham lies only a short distance from Chester, Runcorn, Liverpool, Crewe and Macclesfield and as such is easily reached by motorway from anywhere in the United Kingdom. A much better way to get there is, of course, by bike - Google Maps' Get Directions function will work out routes suited to your abilities. If you can't cycle to the race, the train is the best option - Acton Bridge station lies just a few metres from the parcours and a pub, the Hazel Pear Inn, so fans arriving before the race begins can have a refreshing pint before heading out onto the parcours to find a vantage point. Finally, Liverpool John Lennon Airport receives flights from all over the world, making it possible to reach the race from Europe and elsewhere with ease.

There is one hotel, the Oaklands in Weaverham itself (some might be a little put off by the horrific abuse of apostrophes on the website), while Northwich has a Premier Inn. Due to the popularity of the race, rooms are likely to be limited - fortunately, the larger towns nearby have much more and are close enough to make getting to the race easy. There are several campsites in the area, including Woodbine Cottage right on the parcours. It has a small number of pitches but accepts caravans, campervans and tents (static caravans can be hired) and would also be a good place from which to watch the race, as well as being easy walking distance to anywhere on the parcours.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Women's Cycling News 24.11-01.12.2013

Compton conquers Koksijde - Photo of the Week - Wyman grabs glory at Gieten - Opinions sought on Otley Sportive - Boels confirms commitment - Shorts and Interesting Links - more as it happens

Katie Compton
Compton conquers Koksijde - again
For many fans it's the best round of the World Cyclo Cross Cup, simply because the sand dunes on which it's raced make it so very different to the usual mud and slippery wet grass, so while the weather in Flanders is completely unpredictable at this time of year (and at any other time of year, for that matter, though if you bet "rain" you'll generally get good odds) Koksijde is always guaranteed to get huge crowds. Which is good, because it means a huge number of people got to see a superb victory by Katie Compton.

Compton had won here three times before (2008, 2010, 2012) and, with Marianne Vos (who won in 2009) taking her customary end-of-road-racing-season break, was the easy favourite and started the race with 110 points in the rankings, but if you've ever tried to ride a bike in sand, you'll know it's not at all an easy thing to do and requires constant concentration - fail to get a turn just right and you're pitched headfirst into the terrain and even if you have the bike handling skills of a CX god, there's always the possibility that your tyres will keep sinking in, sucking every scrap of strength out of your legs before you can even finish the first lap. Compton dealt with it using a simple but highly effective tactic of running where others tried to ride and managed to beat her nearest rival by a huge margin of 1'08".

British rider Nikki Harris was just 15 points behind, causing many to wonder if she'd go all out for a win today - she certainly had a good go and for a time looked the strongest of the group of six that chased the American, but once the race neared its end it was clear she'd given too much to challenge: it was Sanne Cant who powered away from the group, presumably well aware that she wasn't going to catch Compton but going after as glorious a second as she could take. Thousands of adoring fans cheering you on does more for a rider's performance than the contents of Willy Voet's glovebox, which meant that Cant - who isn't quite a local, being from Ekeren around 150km away in Antwerp, but is undoubtedly a Flemish national hero - was also expected to do well (she's well-known for her ability on sand, too); she may have been outclassed by the victor, but she'll be happy to have finished 14" ahead of Harris.

Koksijde Top Ten
1 Katie COMPTON 43'32"
2 Sanne CANT 44'40"
3 Nikki HARRIS 44'54"
4 Sabrina STULTIENS 45'27"
5 Sophie DE BOER 45'28"
6 Helen WYMAN 46'03"
7 Pavla HAVLIKOVA 46'14"
8 Martina MIKULASKOVA 46'49"
9 Loes SELS 46'57"
10 Ellen VAN LOY 47'12"

Photo of the Week
Been a while since I last did one of these (sadly, the pressures of life require me to occasionally suspend my otherwise constant monitoring of Twitter in favour of, like, working and stuff), but "cyclist and wannabe photographer/designer" Jon Baines' shot of Gabby Durrin battling the strength-sucking sands of Koksijde deserves to make it into the eyeballs of as many people as possible. Gabby finished 13th at 47'39" (which she wasn't too pleased with, but just finishing on a parcours like Koksijde is an achievement); Jon says this is the only picture he took of the race using his mobile phone instead of his camera - if it's any indication of how good those will be, I think it's safe to say he's a "gonnabe" rather than a "wannabe!"

Koksijde by Jon Baines
(used with the kind permission of the photographer; please do not reuse with approval from him)

Wyman grabs glory at Gieten... with video!
European cyclo cross is looking rather like a battle between three riders at present with the Brits Helen Wyman and Nikki Harris and Belgian Sanne Cant dividing the spoils between them during the absence of Marianne Vos (who takes a short break from competition after the road season) and Katie Compton (who has been busy at home in the USA, but flew in to win Koksijde this week - see above): Harris won at Hamme-Zogge, Cant won Jaarmarktcross the following day, at Hasselt the next week then Gavere a day after that and now Wyman, who recently successfully defended her European CX title, won at Gieten on the 24th.

Wyman used her usual tactic of taking the lead in the first lap but was not, for a change, fastest off the line - Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn literally catapulted herself onto the parcours and had the advantage for a short time before Cant took over, then Wyman powered into the lead and remained out in front for the remainder of the race, eventually coming in 16" ahead of Cant, who was five seconds ahead of 20-year-old Sabrina Stultiens, who fought her all the way in an attempt to grab second place but finally had to concede to the Belgian's greater experience on the tricky sandy parts of the track - but third when riding against athletes of Wyman and Cant's calibre is not a bad result at all for the Dutch rider, especially considering her recent knee problems.

Opinions sought on Otley Sportive
Organisers of the Otley Sportive say they want to "shape the event to be specific to women, provide value for money, encourage individuals into cycling, and benefit our community." To do that, they need to know how much riders would be willing to pay, what they'd like for their money, whether they'd wish to pay extra for a jersey and a few more things. You can help by sharing your opinions here.

Boels confirms commitment
If only every company was like Boels (well, shared its desire to get involved in women's cycling, anyway - you wouldn't want all companies to be exactly like the plant machinery hire firm, because sometimes you want to buy bikes, cakes, fish, duvets and, like, stuff, rather than hire plant machinery), which has just confirmed its outstanding commitment to women's cycling by signing new contracts in which it agrees to sponsor the Holland Hills Classic and the Holland Ladies' Tour until 2016. Boels also sponsors the successful Boels-Dolmans racing team (which also has secure backing until 2016) and provides money to a number of other women's cycling events.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Beryl Burton photo exhibition (Yorkshire Evening Post)

Saturday 16 November 2013

Women's Cycling News 17-24.11.2013

Latest: Bury St. Edmunds to host Women's Tour Stage 5 finish - On The Drops' new website - All UCI commissions to include "at least one woman" Trott says no to World's Sexiest Women Awards - Transfers and Team News - Shorts and Interesting Links: Binda confirmed for 2014 - more as it happens

Latest: Herts, Essex and Suffolk host Women's Tour stages 
Tendring, in Essex, made an impassioned bid in early October to host a stage of the inaugural Women's Tour, realising that the race was going to be big and would bring all sorts of benefits to the locale, and they'll be glad they did because, now when they've been confirmed as hosts of Stage 3, the race looks set to be even bigger than the most optimistic of women's cycling fans ever hoped. In fact, it's not at all far-fetched to say that after years of being a cycling backwater, Britain will from this point onward be the home of one of the most prestigious events on the women's calendar, a race that rivals even the Giro Rosa - the last Grand Tour in women's cycling.

Stage 4 will run through the neighboring county of Hertfordshire, beginning in Cheshunt (to pay homage to Laura Trott, who calls the town home) and ending in Welwyn Garden City.

Details of the fifth and final stage were revealed on the 21st and brought more good news for cycling fans in Essex - the stage will begin in Harwich (Tendring's efforts have been repaid twice) before snaking through the country and up into Suffolk, where it'll finish at Bury St. Edmunds (always a fitting place for a race as it was the birthplace of James Moore - who won what is often said to have been the world's first organised bike race). Bury St. Edmunds has hosted stages of the men's Tour of Britain in recent years and has put on a good show, attracting many thousands of people to Angel Hill in the city centre, which seems the most likely location for the finish.

Further details of the routes will be announced early in the new year.

Stage One: Oundle to Northampton
Stage Two: Hinckley to Bedford
Stage Three: Clacton-on-Sea
Stage Four: Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City
Stage Five: Harwich to Bury St. Edmunds

On The Drops launch new-look website
On The Drops - racing in 2014 as Matrix-Vulpine - has for many years now been much more than just a team dedicated to getting good results. From early on it was deliberately structured to act as a supportive home for young riders before propelling them onward and upward to the top Elite teams (and was remarkably successful in that role, as a look at the team's ex-members will show); now, as well as planning on moving its racing up a gear or two in the new season, the team has a redesigned website featuring the all-new Neutral Service.

The brainchild of team manager Stef Wyman, Neutral Service aims to address a need for a central point where people can find information on women’s racing. "We will look to provide that here on our site. This will be neutral, not Matrix Fitness news and we will be looking for contributors to become part of the OTD team," the introduction continues (before mentioning that some bloke called John Orbea will be writing race previews). To find out more about contributing, check the site or speak to Stef.

More on the new OTD sponsors from BikeBiz

All UCI commissions to include "at least one woman"
The Union Cycliste Internationale has announced that in future all of its commissions will include "at least one woman." Similar "positive discrimination," designed to increase involvement of women and ethnic minorities in politics and other fields, has met with some criticism; however, many examples have been successful in engaging groups that display high levels of disenfranchisement in the political process - which is the same result that new UCI president Brian Cookson is hoping to achieve: "I am delighted by this announcement, which helps reinforce the presence of women in cycling," he said in an official press release.

Most members have already been announced, and there are several figures known for their intelligent and passionate arguments in support of women's cycling. Multiple British and European Cyclo Cross Champion Helen Wyman has been appointed to the Cyclo Cross Commission, Catherine Gastou to the Paracycling Commission (with Sarah Storey as riders' representative), Yvonne Mattsson to the Road Commission (with Marianne Vos as riders' representative), Tanya Dubnicoff to the Track Commission, Georgia Gould as riders' representative (cross country) to the MTB Commission, Jolanda Polkamp to the BMX Commission, Karin Moor to the Trials Commission and Claudia Bee to the Indoor Cycling Commission. Cycling For All will henceforth be split into two separate commissions - Mass Participation, which governs sportives and suchlike, where Tone Lien is the female member; Advocacy and Cyclists' Rights has Pia Allerslev. Other commissions include Anti-Doping (Marjoline Viret), Medical (Katharina Grimm), Disciplinary and Arbitral (Norma Gimondi and Maria-Laura Guardamagna), the Athletes Commission (Marianne Vos, Anna Meares, Georgia Gould, Vilma Rimsaite), the Commissaire's Commission (to be announced), Ethics (Noemi Cantele), Licences (no female member announced) and Equipment (to be announced).

Three new commissions have been created and also have female members. They are the Constitutional Review Panel (members to be announced), the International Development and National Federations Panel (Tracey Gaudry) and, most notably, the Women's Commission, where Kristy Scrymgeour and Karen Bliss are on the panel and the riders' representatives are Emma Pooley and Katie Compton.

Trott says no to World's Sexiest Women Awards
Laura Trott found millions of new fans when she was on screen during the Olympics, but not all of them were impressed by her athletic ability - some just liked the way she looks, which is why she was invited to attend a "Sexiest Women In The World Awards" event taking place in the 1970s... er, earlier this year.

Of course, she didn't let down her true fans. "That was just a no-go for me," she explained. "That whole other side of things just does not appeal to me. I do sport because I like being an athlete. I want to inspire young girls to get on their bikes, and I just believe there is a certain way of doing that, a certain way that I want to be seen."

Transfers and Team News
Widnes-born British rider Lucy Martin - who began as a  professional with Garmin-Cervelo in 2011, moved to AA Drink-Leontien in 2012 when sponsors pulled the rug from under Garmin's women's team and then went to Boels-Dolmans for 2013 - is moving on again, this time to Faren-Kuota. Martin looked set for a career on the track when she won bronze in the National Championships and a silver in the World Cup back in 2008, but has scored consistently good results on the road since, including two eighth place stage finishes at the 2011 Giro Donne. Fellow Brit Sharon Laws, who started with Halfords Bike Hut in 2008 before spending two years with Cervelo, then moved to AA Drink with Martin for 2012 and on to Lotto-Belisol for 2013, is going to American team United Healthcare, as is Hannah Barnes who steps up into the highest level of cycling.

Meanwhile, BePink has signed up Susanna Zorzi - with Faren-Kuota in 2013 - and Anna-Maria Stricker of MCipollini-Giordana. Zorzi has been a big-hitter since 2008 when she came third at the Novice's National Individual Time Trial Championship and is current Under-23 European Road Race Champion; Stricker was Junior National Road Race Champion in 2012.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Trofeo Binda confirmed for 2014
Organisers of the Trofeo Binda, who professed themselves very disappointed that the newly-upgraded Gent-Wevelgem would take place on the same day as their race in 2014 and even hinted that they might kill off their prestigious event, have announced that the Trofeo will go ahead as planned on the 30th of March.

What will the Women's Cycling Tour bring to Northamptonshire next year? (Northampton Herald&Post)

Monday 11 November 2013

Curlew Cup 2014

22.06.2014 Official Site
England, 103km Road Race
Women's National Series

Now in its third edition, the Curlew Cup has become one of the most popular National Series races among riders and fans alike for numerous reasons: the high-calibre field it attracts (Sarah Story won in 2012, then Hannah Barnes in 2013), the beautiful route running through the Northumberland countryside, a respectable prize fund (£2000 in 2014) and, perhaps most of all, a hard and testing parcours - while some races organisers, even to this day, seem to think that female cyclists can't cope with difficult roads, the Curlew organisers know they relish a challenge and appreciate an opportunity to show their athletic ability and technical skills, so they've come up with a testing 103km circuit that has much in common with the (in)famous Flemish Classics and promises some very exciting racing indeed. Two especially notable sections are the very narrow roads stretching between the points marked as the 14th and 15th corners and the 16th and 17th corners on our map. In addition to a variety of hazards caused by loose road surfaces and mud, both of these sections are sufficiently narrow that team cars may experience problems reaching a rider who finds herself in difficulties, which can easily result in loss of a significant amount of time.

The Parcours

View Curlew Cup 2014 in a larger map

Altitude profile
Something of a sprinters' race in previous editions, the Curlew Cup features more climbing this year - but not too much; the organisers seem to be aiming for a similar concept to Italy's Trofeo Binda, a race that takes place on a near-perfectly balanced parcours that does not allow either the sprinters or the climbers to gain a race-winning advantage until near the end. However, their bike-handling skills will be put to the test: in addition to the gravel and mud on those narrow roads, much of the parcours - especially the hilltops - are very exposed and subject to powerful crosswinds, another factor that riders with experience of the Flemish Classics will be best placed to deal with.

The Women's National Series race consists of three laps of the shorter 22.37km (13.9 miles) circuit depicted in blue on our map followed by one lap of the 35.89km (22.3 miles) circuit, depicted in red on our map. The official distance given is 62 miles, which is equal to 99.78km; I think it's more like 103km.

22.37km Circuit
A number of small climbs along the parcours seem, at first, to present little challenge; however, the effect of the brief steeper points on them will accumulate as the three laps progress. Although that seems to give climbers a small advantage, the heavier riders and sprinters have plenty of opportunity to take back time over the last half of the circuit as it's almost entirely downhill from the 7th Corner to Stamfordham - with a number of difficult corners where the lightweight climbers find it harder to maintain control at high speed still to come, there is little opportunity for anyone to gain an unassailable lead before starting the longer circuit.

Riders set out from Stamfordham's attractive village green near to the 18th Century market cross (which can be seen circa 1900 in this photo), on section of road sufficiently straight and wide for a fast start to the neutral zone.

1st Corner
In the first kilometre, a slight climb leads into the first corner, a wide left-hander to join the B6309 heading north, then up another short but steeper climb (maximum, though only briefly, 7.7%) and into a flat and exposed section through fields to Heugh, 1.25km from the start. Beginning at 2.2km, a little past Heugh, is another short climb nearing 4% at the steepest point. The top is marked by some farm buildings on the left and the descent isn't long enough to make much difference to anyone.

2nd and 3rd Corners 
1st lap: (2.98km, 4.44km)
2nd lap: 25.35km, 26.81km
3rd lap: 47.72km, 49.18
At 2.97km lies a relatively tight right-hand bend which, due to a wide gap in the left-side hedge at the apex, could prove technical if strong winds are blowing from the north-west. A short flat section follows, leading into a wide left-hand bend which marks the beginning of a gentle 1.7km climb carrying the race through Black Heddon and on towards the 173m summit 4.93km from the start - the road is protected by high hedges, but exposed sections may be subject to string crosswinds. The 3rd Corner at Black Heddon carries the race right and may be a hazardous spot - loose verges on both sides tend to lead to mud on the road, and the stone wall on the right is close enough at the apex on the right to catch elbows.

Once the riders pass the summit 4.93km from the start, there is a 1.52km descent with a steepest section of -5.9% by the woods on the left. Loose, muddy verges and a slight left-hand bend make this section technical and it would be easy for tyres to lose their grip in wet conditions; there is also a lot of bramble growth, making punctures a possibility.

4th, 5th, 6th Corners
1st lap: 6.45km, 7.25km, 7.37km
2nd lap: 28.82km, 29.62km, 29.74km
3rd lap: 51.19km, 51.99km, 52.11km
The race reaches a junction and turns left to join a narrower road heading west towards Ingoe - once again, muddy verges may lead to slippery conditions, especially on the left at the apex of the corner. Immediately after the corner, the riders begin the most difficult climb of the lap, rising 54m in 1.58km - that's an average gradient of under 3.5%, but there a steeper sections. The steepest, just beyond the 5th Corner at 7.25km (the bend isn't technical, but is quite exposed and may be subject to crosswinds), is around 7%. The 6th Corner is wide and relatively non-technical, but crosswinds may be an issue.

7th Corner 
1st lap: 11.2km
2nd lap: 33.57km
3rd lap: 55.94km
From 8.9km, by a row of bungalow cottages on the right, the riders begin climbing towards the highest point (222m) on this circuit, marked by the 7th Corner. However, it is not a challenging climb: the vertical gain is 39m in 2.23km, giving an average gradient of less than 2% and even the steepest point at 10.2km is manageable at 4.5%. The 7th Corner has a drain cover near the left verge just beyond the apex; as water tends to collect along this side, it may be very slippery during and after wet weather.

The remainder of the parcours back into Stamfordham is downhill.

8th Corner 
1st lap: 12.42km
2nd lap: 34.79km
3rd lap: 57.16km
Coming immediately after one of the small climbs that punctuate the rest of the parcours, this is a wide, fast corner that may be subject to crosswinds.

9th Corner
1st lap: 13.5km
2nd lap: 35.87km
3rd lap: 58.24km
Potentially the most dangerous point on the parcours due to a combination of factors: it lies in between two fast, straight descents; the road surface on the approach is sufficiently poor as to cause split-second changes to a rider's chosen line around the corner (and thus collisions with other riders); there is loose gravel on the left coming into the apex and the exit from the corner is exposed and subject to crosswinds.

10th Corner 
1st lap: 13.8km
2nd lap: 36.17km
3rd lap: 58.54km
A fast and non-technical corner in the dry, but mud may collect on the road here at times. Marks the point at which the route of the 35.89km circuit converges with that of the 22.37km circuit on the final approach to the finish line.

There are two small climbs at 15.2km (37.57km and 59.95km on the 2nd and 3rd laps) and 16.7km (39.07km; 61.44km), neither long nor steep enough to have much of an effect.

11th Corner
1st lap: 16.3km
2nd lap: 38.67km
3rd lap: 61.04km
A wide left-hander with an excellent road surface. Caution is required due to the very fast approach.

12th Corner 
1st lap: 17.2km
2nd lap: 39.57km
3rd lap: 61.94km
The final corner on the small circuit, marking the beginning of the approach to the finish line. Fast, with caution required due to loose gravel on the left and muddy verges on both sides.

Further caution is required at 19.6km (41.97km; 64.34km) where two farm entrances (first on the right, then on the left) tend to result in mud on the road. A similar situation exists at 21.5km (43.87km; 66.24km).

End of Lap
From 21.7km (44.07km; 66.44km), a short but steep climb leads back into Stamfordham. On entering the village, the road forks three ways; the central road leads back to the start line to begin the next lap.

35.89km Circuit
The climbs play a larger part in deciding the outcome of the large circuit, especially the tough 1079m ascent between 89.71km and 92.21km (average gradient 4.5%; maximum, at 95.51km, painfully close to 13.5%). However, from Ryal at 92.81km, the parcours is downhill all the way to the finish - so, if the climbers are out in front, everybody else once again has opportunity to catch them.

As for the 22.37km circuit.

1st Corner 
As for the 22.37km circuit.

2nd Corner (70.9km)
As for the 22.37km circuit.

3rd Corner (71.55km)
As for the 22.37km. When the race arrives at the junction where riders turned left toward Ingoe, they now continue straight ahead remaining on the B6309.

4th Corner (74.56km)
Riders turn left to leave the B6309. A tight corner, made hazardous by the presence of a rough area of hardstanding on the right, used as a truckstop - there is as a result a likelihood of loose gravel and spilled diesel and/oil on the road. Keeping to the left should avoid the worst of it.

5th Corner (78.71km)
A difficult corner. made so by a combination of the poor road surface, muddy verge along the right and very narrow road after the turn.
Narrow Section
The next 1.48km descend quite steeply, encouraging high speed, and are potentially narrow enough to create problems and to prevent team cars getting to riders quickly. There are also a number of added hazards before the next corner: at 78.91km, loose and sharp stones on the left side of the road; at 79.41km there may be mud on the road; at 79.59km, at the bottom of the descent where riders will enter it at high speed, is a narrow bend; at 79.81km (on a small climb this time, and thus less dangerous) is a narrow left-hand bend with muddy verges along both sides.

6th Corner (80.11km)
Tight left-hand corner with muddy verges along both sides. marks the beginning of a relatively non-technical 5.5km section leading to the 7th Corner just beyond Little Bavington. There are a number of small but not especially difficult climbs (though some riders, having already experienced all the hills that came earlier, won't be finding the going easy by this point) leading to the highest point anywhere on the parcours at 83.61km, 217m above sea level. The next kilometre or so is simple enough; the remaining distance to Little Bavington and to the 7th Corner descends steeply enough to be a hazard, reaching -8% in places and once more allowing heavier riders to catch the climbers.

7th Corner (85.61km)
The approach is wide, but a poor road surface may prove slippery - which, combined with the narrowness of the road the riders are now joining, makes this potentially a very hazardous corner; especially since it lies on a fast descent.
Narrow Section
The road becomes much narrower just a few metres after the corner and remains narrow for 4.2km, sufficiently so that team cars may not be able to reach riders experiencing problems rapidly enough to prevent them losing significant time - any rider, even a favourite, suffering a mechanical problem here might see any chance she had of finishing well vanish right before her eyes here. In addition, several other hazards are encountered: muddy verges through the forested sections from 86.61km, which also marks the beginning of a steep descent; loose gravel at 87.61km; more muddy verges in the forested section from 87.91km; mud on the road at 88.31km; cobbles along the left verge at 88.41km and two final points where the road is often muddy at 89.01km and 89.41km. The final part of  this section, leading to the 8th Corner, descends steeply.

8th Corner (89.91km)
Tight, at the bottom of a fast descent and complicated by the presence of a gap in the hedge where farm vehicles enter and exit the fields right on the apex, the 8th Corner is a technical part of the race and requires caution.

The corner marks the beginning of the biggest - and, in all likelihood, the most decisive climb anywhere on the parcours: the Ryals, which due to looking like a vertical wall on the approach has as devastating an effect on the psyche as it does on the calf muscles when encountered for the first time. Over the next 2.5km, the road will gain 109m at an average gradient of nearly 4.5%, but much of that gain takes place in a section starting at 91.31km, where for a short time the gradient tops 13% - a serious challenge coming so late in the race, and one that will put some riders out of contention. The summit is at 92.21km and is followed by a short flat section leading to Ryal. A 1.1km section starting at the crossroads in the village leads to the junction termed the 10th Corner on the 22.37km circuit, where the two routes reconverge. The remainder of the 35.89km circuit is, therefore, identical to the 22.37km from this point to the finish line at Stamfordham, and offers the same opportunities for heavier riders to catch the climbers.

Finish (103km)
From 101.61km, a short but steep climb leads back into Stamfordham and provides the climbers with one last chance to kick for the finish. On entering the village, the road forks three ways; the central road leads to the finish line.

Start List
Not yet available.

Other events
In addition to the Curlew Cup, a number of other races take place throughout the weekend including the men's Premier Calendar UCI 1.2 Beaumont Trophy. There are also various races for non-professional riders and two non-competitive sportives. More details here.

Getting There
Stamfordham is only 22km from the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne which, as a city and port, has links to the rest of Britain and beyond, making this an exceptionally easy race to reach. The best way to get to the race itself is, of course, by bike; spending half an hour with a map (or Google) will reveal numerous quiet routes linking different points along the parcours and making it possible to zip from one to another and see the riders go by more times than would be the case if you remained in one place.

Newcastle can be reached by road (A1 from the south, A68/A696 from the north, A69 from the west), by rail (details here), by air (regular flights from 84 cities in Europe and elsewhere) and by sea (regular sailings to IJmuiden and Amsterdam in the Netherlands).


Rooms in the local hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns will soon be taken up. However, there are many hotels from the basic to the luxurious in Newcastle. There is a very reasonably-priced campsite (campervans, caravans and tents) at Hexham; places are limited to 45 so book in advance.

Local Attractions

If you'd like to visit the race as part of a family weekend away but can't persuade your nearest and dearest that standing by a roadside is a fun way to spend the day, there's plenty for them to go and do in the local area.


As a large city, there's plenty in Newcastle to keep people from any age range happy. The official tourism site and Trip Advisor both have plenty of details.

There's not much to see at Matfen (well, apart from four passages of a bike race), but the village is an interesting example of a planned estate village, laid out and built by an 18th Century landowner for the benefit of his workers. 


For the incurably boring, there's a large and apparently very popular golf range open to visitors (by prior arrangement) at Matfen, right on the parcours.

Belsay Castle

Located just off the parcours, the medieval Belsay Castle - and the 19th Century Belsay Hall, into which the castle's inhabitants moved after abandoning the older structure - are an ideal destination for bored family members while you watch the race. Universal Paintball, which is on the parcours close to Belsay, offers a range of activities including various paintball games and quad bikes.

Food and Drink

The Swinburne Arms and Bay Horse pubs in Stamfordham both offer food and both have decent reputations.


If your family want to drop you off and then go off for a drive, this is the idea place to do it - the countryside is beautiful, every village has a unique church and attractive cottages, and there are numerous cafes, restaurants and tea shops.

Women's Cycling News 10-17.11.2013

Harris wins Hamme-Zogge - more as it happens

Harris wins Hamme-Zogge
Harris in her incarnation as road racer
Despite the widespread unawareness of cyclo cross among the general public back in their home nation, the British women continued the domination of the new season at Hamme (birthplace of Ferdinand Bracke and home to Greg van Avermaet of BMC, fact fans!) in Belgium on Sunday when Derbyshire-born Nikki Harris beat four-time Belgian National Champion Sanne Cant and star Dutch rider Sophie de Boer (Harris' Telenet-Fidea team mate) to the podium's top step.

Following heavy rain in the locale over the last few days, the parcours had classically Flanders feel: thick, deep, sticky mud that coated everyone and everything, and sucked the strength right out of the riders' legs - conditions that might have suited European Champion and fellow Brit Helen Wyman, going by her recent performances, had she have been there. In fact, Harris nearly wasn't either as the exhaust pipe fell off her car en route to the race - "Now I sound like some boy racer in my little Peugeot," she said.

Harris and De Boer led the race through the first half. Cant, who worked supremely hard in her efforts to catch them, made contact with De Boer just as they began the last half - but, moments before, Harris had powered off on her own. A combination of strength through the most difficult bits and a knack of spotting the best lines enabled her to stay out in front for the remainder, and she crossed the finish line alone with an advantage of six seconds.

"This is my least favorite race," Harris explained afterwards. "I really thought I was going to finish second or third but I won. I am really happy with how things go at the moment and hope to continue my good form in the next two weeks."

Top Ten
1 Nikki HARRIS 44'40"
2 Sanne CANT 44'46"
3 Sophie DE BOER 44'46"
4 Ellen VAN LOY 46'33 
5 Pavla HAVLIKOVA 46'49"
6 Annefleur KALVENHAAR 48'38"
7 Monique VAN DE REE 48'43"
8 Loes SELS 49'47"
9 Margriet KLOPPENBURG 50'11"
Full result

Monday 4 November 2013

Women's Cycling News 03-10.11.2013

Wyman wins Euro 'Cross Champs - Van Dijk victory in Curaçao - Annie Simpson wins Round 2, National 'Cross Trophy - Successful surgery for Vos - Bruins is back - Free intro to Paracycling in Worcester - Transfers and Team News: Stradalli to supply Colavita bikes, Argos-Shimano complete 2014 roster - Shorts and Interesting Links - more as it happens

Wyman wins European Cross Championships
Wyman is Euro 'Cross Champ
for the second year in a row
Until very recently, cycling was a niche sport in Britain. It used to be huge here - in fact, when the 19th Century "bicycle craze" died in France, it thrived on this side of the Channel, and races (both in velodromes and on road - on actual roads at first, later on airfields and similar places when the National Cycling Union's ban on racing on public roads came into force) drew big crowds. Then, for whatever reasons, it disappeared from the mainstream and didn't reappear until the British track team started beating everyone else and Millar, Cooke, Cav, Pooley, Wiggins, Froome and the rest won some big road races: suddenly the nation fell in love with cycling in a way it hadn't done for decades.

Cyclo cross used to be a big thing here too. Speak to veteran cyclists who remember the 1930s (and you should, because before long there won't be any of them left) and they'll tell you that local 'cross races could pull in large numbers of spectators once upon a time - but talk to the general public and a high percentage of them don't even know what 'cross is. With British domination of the European Championships, that could change and 'cross could go mainstream - but only if British Cycling put the same effort into promoting it as they've put into track and road.

Helen Wyman - who, if  the popularity of her sport does take off, might become the household name she's long deserved to be - opeted for her standard tactic: a fast get-away from the start line. This time, however, she wasn't the fastest and when she got caught in an especially stick section was overtaken several times; but then she identified a line nobody else spotted and started to gain time - by the end of the first lap, half a minute. Then, she brought her wealth of experience into play and simply kept going too fast for anyone to catch her, so that by the final lap she had comfortably over a minute in the bag and was able to ride the rest of the race without taking risks. That doesn't equal "boring," though: when the seven-time National Champion blasted solo over the finish, she clocked 39'33" - one minute and eleven seconds faster than fellow British rider Nikki Harris, who finished in 40'33" and 1'24" faster than third place Lucie Chainel-Lefevre of France.

The Netherlands, being the top country in the UCI 'cross rankings (Britain is second, by only 15 points, incidentally), was no doubt hoping and expecting a podium place; Sophie de Boer rode typically well and looked to be in with a good chance at a medal but began to tire in the final lap; her time of 40'58" left her fourth. Belgium, where 'cross is massive and even the little-known village races have the atmosphere of a British cup final football match, probably also expected a rider in the top three; Ellen van Loy, who has found superb form this season, was fifth at 41'03" and Sanne Cant, current National Champion, was sixth at 41'07". Some way back but, crucially, far ahead of the rest was another British rider, Gabby Durrin, taking seventh place at 42'54".

Helen, Nikki and Gabby are excellent, highly accomplished riders and all extremely likable people too, ready-made ambassadors for cyclo cross; if British Cycling were to use their success to promote the sport (BC's report, which appeared on their website on the 5th, consists of just five sentences), the 2013 Championships could well be the last with no British riders in the Women Youth category.

A Magic Week - Helen's own account of the Euros
Stefan Wyman ‏@ds_stef 
Just about to head over to @BBCSport to read their full report from the DOUBLE MEDAL BY GB at the European Championships ........ Oh hang on
Gabby Durrin
Elite Top Ten
1 Helen WYMAN (Great Britain) 39'22"
2 Nikki HARRIS  (Great Britain) 40'33"
3 Lucie CHAINEL-LEFEVRE (France) 40'46"
4 Sophie DE BOER (Netherlands) 40'58"
5 Ellen VAN LOY (Belgium) 41'03"
6 Sanne CANT (Belgium) 41'07"
7 Gabby DURRIN (Great Britain) 42'54"
8 Pavla HAVLÍKOVÁ (Czech Republic) 45'32"
9 Karla ŠTĚPÁNOVÁ (Czech Republic) 46'55"
10 Lisa HECKMANN (Germany) 48'01"
Full result

Youth Top Ten
1 Anne KALVENHAAR (Netherlands) 37'24"
2 Sabrina STULTIENS (Netherlands) 37'38"
3 Alice-Maria ARZUFFI (Italy) 38'10"
4 Elena VALENTINI (Italy) 39'03"
5 Martina MIKULÁŠKOVÁ (Czech Republic) 39'39"
6 Yara KASTELIJN Yara (Netherlands) 40'10"
7 Laura VERDONSCHOT (Belgium) 40'11"
8 Chiara TEOCCHI (Italy) 40'49"
9 Nikola NOSKOVÁ (Czech Republic) 40'50"
10 Lotte EIKELENBOOM (Netherlands) 40'52"
Full result

Van Dijk victory in Curaçao
Top Ten
1 Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) 2h10'10"
2 Lisa Groothuesheidkamp (P.P.C.C.) ST
3 Ines Klok (Rockanje) ST
4 Maaike Boogaard (HRTC Hoorn) ST
5 Joukje Braam +15'23"
6 Hannah Welter (Parkhotel Rooding) ST
7 Leonie Dingemans (KLM Wings Of Support) ST
8 Amanda Tuttle (Girdwood) ST
9 Yvonne Baltus (Den Bosch) +23'53"
10 Kathie Sanderson Morgan (Rif. St.Marie) +24'33"
Full result

Annie Simpson wins in Southampton
Annie Simpson (Team Hope Factory), who is much better known as a road racer (and as a mountain biker, for that matter - she was Under-23 National Champion in 2012), took just ten minutes to stamp her authority on the Southampton round of the National Cyclo Cross Trophy Series. Hannah Payton (Morvelo Kinesis) was the only rider able to stay with her when she did so and the pair soon had a 10" advantage over their nearest rivals.

Payton is a strong and technically very gifted rider, but at 19 years of age to Simpson's 23 she ultimately lacked the experience to gain an upper hand and, going into the final lap, Simpson had edged ahead. By the finish, she'd built that into a 16" advantage, further extending her lead in the Series standings with 70 points to Payton's 68.

Round 2 Nat. CX Trophy Series Top 3
1 Annabel Simpson (Team Hope Factory Racing)
2 Hannah Payton (Morvelo Kinesis Project)
3 Merce Pacios Pujado (Blue Motors)

Successful surgery for Vos
Marianne Vos, who suffered back pain for much of the 2013 season (her results didn't suffer, though), has undergone successful surgery to remove an abdominal cyst that she believed might be the cause of the pain. The operation was carried out at the Medisch Centrum Haaglanden Antoniushoeven in Leidschendam and was performed using "keyhole" techniques, which permit a faster recovery.

"The recovery is going very well and the wound is much less painful than I'd been expecting," said Vos from her home in Meeuwen. She will now continue with her usual rest period before picking up her training regime prior to returning to racing at Heusden Zolder on the 26th of December; then go on to the National and World Cyclo Cross Championships which she states are her main goals this winter.

Bruins is back
Regina Bruins, who was forced to take a hiatus from cycling due to a pulmonary embolism, will return to the sport in the new season.

Bruins began her professiona career in 2007 with Tom van Bemmelen-Odysis and won races right from the start. She is especially known for being a valuable addition to a time trial team, riding with the victorious squad at the 2008 Nationals, but is also a talented individual time trial rider and won the National Championships in 2009 and the Prologue at the Tour de l'Aude the following year; however, unusually for a time trial rider she can also hold her own in a sprint, as was memorably the case when she recorded the same time as Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Julia Martisova and Annemiek van Vleuten (beating Marianne Vos, Brooke Miller and Emma Johansson by 1'28") at the finish of Stage 6 in the 2010 Tour de l'Aude.

From 2011, when she rode for Skil-Koga, Bruin's results suffered, her best placing all year being a ninth-place stage finish at the Thuringen Rundfahrt; diagnosis of pulmonary embolism in 2012, in which a substance travels via the bloodstream into the lungs, where it blocks the main artery, explained this - but required a period of rest and treatment with blood-thinning drugs, which limit the blood's ability to transport oxygen to muscles and thus dramatically reduce athletic ability. Now 26, Bruins will make her return with the Swabo team.

WCA invites public to CA event
“Establishing Equity in Women’s Professional Cycling” is the theme of an event due to take place at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in California (303 3rd Street, Davis, CA 95616) on the 16th of November.

Participants in the open forum questions and answers session will include Robin Farina, Alison Tetrick, Olivia Dillon, Tayler Wiles, Emily Kachorek, Jono Coulter, Kurt Stockton, Craih Roemer, Lisa Hunt, Stacy Sims and Dave Verrecchia.

The event is open to the public, ought to be fascinating and might well lead to big, positive changes in the sport. If you can get there, it'd be worth doing so. More information here.

Want to give paracycling a go in the UK?
Paralympics GB's SportsFest, taking place at the University of Worcester Area this month, is free to attend and, in addition to cycling, offers a range of other sports including triathlon, archery, shooting and hockey (full list here).

The event takes place on the 24th and 25th and is free. More info here.

Transfers and Team News
Stradalli to supply Colavita bikes
Stradalli, the Florida-based firm that has produced carbon racing bikes since 2009, will supply bikes to the Colavita-Fine Cooking team in 2014. The team will ride the new RP-14 road bike and the Phanton II time trial machine, and the deal marks Stradalli's debut as a team sponsor.

Stradalli's philosophy is to produce the best possible bikes for the best possible price, and the "Red-Pro" Ultegra-equipped bike is an example of this - retailing at less than $3,000, it looks to be one of best bargains in road cycling. The Phantom II, designed from the ground up, is the most aerodynamic bike Stradalli have ever produced.

All the latest moves at Women Cycling Fever
Argos-Shimano, which will race under a new name in 2014, has revealed its finalised new roster. Kelly Markus, who has ridden for Argos-Shimano for the last two seasons but was not offered an extended contract with the team despite good results at the Belgian Open track event in 2013, will  move to the new Rytger team. Claudia Hausler, who won the Giro Donne in 2009 and in 2013 the controversial Giro della Toscana, will also join Argos after a year with Tibco-To The Top. The team's full roster is Kyara Stijns, Marijn De Vries, Claudia Hausler, Sara Mustonen, Kirsten Wild, Lucy Garner, Floortje Mackaij, Maaike Polspoel, Julia Soek, Willeke Knol

Rytger is also taking Nina Krebs Ovesen, Elinor Huusko, Pernille Mathieson and Simone Eg.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Maxxis Babes
Like Maxxis tyres? I did, too - the Courchevel is a damn fine touring tyre. So it's a shame they've done this.
(As spotted by @_Blixa_)

Interesting Links
GB women's team pursuit quartet can catch men, says Shane Sutton (Sky)
Videos from the 2013 Manchester Track World Cup (Unofficial Unsenctioned Women's UCI Cycling Blog)
Olympic cycling heroes to race along Hinckley’s streets when The Women's Tour comes to town (Hinckley Times)
It’s silver medal for Welsh ace Becky James in her World Cup bid (Wales Online)
‘Our day will come’ says world champion James (Yahoo)
Laura Trott ends Manchester World Cup on a golden note (Cycling Weekly)
Silver and bronze for Katie Archibald (Edinburgh News)
GB win double Team Pursuit gold (BBC)
Scottish records fall at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (BBC)
Chloe McIntosh [and Chloe McGonville] in gruelling AIS cycling selection camp (The Courier)
Van Gilder wins Cycle-Smart day two (Cycling News)
Interview with Jo Rowsell (The Tour)
These ugly high heels are specifically designed for cycling (GristList)