Monday 30 December 2013

Women's Cycling News 29.12.2013-05.01.2014

Bronzini opens 2014 season - Van Paassen to Boels-DolmansBoels Qatar squadGunnewijk to ride in UK - Women's Tour of the Reservoir - World Cup jersey design contest won by rider - Shorts and Interesting Links - more to come...

Bronzini opens 2014 season
Read the Neutral Service "10 Minutes
With... Giorgia Bronzini" interview here
It isn't every day that Orica-AIS find themselves entirely outclassed and you can bet your packet of energy gel that the Australia-based team will make damn certain it doesn't happen again this year, but they were definitely playing second fiddle to Wiggle-Honda in the first round of the Mitchelton Bay Classic on the 2nd of January.

While Giorgia Bronzini - and Orica's Nettie Edmondson - kept themselves to themselves in the pack, the Italian's team mate Peta Mullens handed out punishment right from the start, attacking virtually non-stop and rapidly whittling down the field to just a handful of tough riders, then continued beating them into submission too while fellow Wiggle riders Linda Villumsen, Emilia Fahlin and Charlotte Becker kept the entire race under control. Orica's new recruit Valentina Scandolara was first to respond to most of Wiggle's attacks, chasing them down one after one, but it was Wiggle that controlled the race and by the time Tiffany Cromwell (Orica) launched her surprise attack coming into the final straight, Orica could not help her and she had to try to take on Bronzini unassisted.

Cromwell's attack, had events have played out only slightly differently, could well have won her the race; however, Bronzini and Edmondson had done such a fine job of conserving energy up until this point that it was clear they'd be the ones to take the top two places. Bronzini proved the strongest, generating the enormous amount of power that has rightly led to her being regarded one of the fastest sprinters in cycling history; Edmondson stayed close but could not find the extra burst she'd have needed to get past.

"It’s my first experience racing at this time of year, but maybe Geelong brings me luck,” Bronzini said afterwards. “I have some good memories of Geelong, so I’m happy to win again in this area."

Van Paassen to Boels-Dolmans
25-year-old Sanne van Paassen, who took second place in the Dutch National Cyclo Cross Championships, won the Heerlen CX and was second at Gent-Wevelgem in 2013, will move from Rabobank-Liv/Giant to Boels-Dolmans for the new season. Currently recovering from a knee injury, it is not yet known when she will make her debut for the team.

Boels reveal Qatar team
Meanwhile, Boels-Dolmans has already revealed its roster for Qatar. The team will be led by Ellen van Dijk, making her debut for the team after her switch from Gunnewijk's Orica, and will include Lizzie Armitstead, Marieke van Wanroij, Kasia Pawlowska, Christine Majerus and Romy Kasper.

Gunnewijk to ride Women's Tour
Orica-AIS rider Loes Gunnewijk has confirmed that she plans to ride the Women's Tour in 2014, making her the latest rider to confirm her interest in what is rapidly becoming the most talked-about race in women's cycling for years. She will also ride the Bay Classic, the Tour of Qatar and the Ronde van Overijssel.

Women's Tour of the Reservoir
Organisers of the Tour of the Reservoir, due to take place at Blanchland in Northumberland on the 12th of April, have announced that their event will include a women's race for the first time. Few details have yet been made public, but the race will be only 70km in length according to British Cycling - which may prove unpopular with riders, who have been calling for longer events.

World Cup jersey contest won by rider
You may remember that back in October the UCI announced a competition to design a new women's World Cup jersey. It's since been won by none other than Iris Slappendel, the Rabobank rider who won the Open de Suede Vargarda round of the World Cup in 2012. Slappendel left university after graduating in design and produces a range of fashion accessories created from recycled inner tubes.

Slappendel had initially designed three jerseys, once of which was chosen to be used; she then made some improvements and added a fourth, impressing judges so much that all four were chosen as winners. The UCI had expected the competition to be won by a fan and had offered an all-expenses-paid trip to a round of the World Cup as a prize; they'll now have to come up with an alternative as Slappendel is a member of favourite Marianne Vos' team and will be riding at most rounds of the Cup.

Shorts and Interesting Links
Cant wins Diagem (Velonews)
Mullens gears up for hectic year of racing (Bendigo Advertiser, Australia)
Wiggle-Honda fields formidable line-up [for Bay Classic] (Bendigo Advertiser)
Calamity Jo out of World Track meet (Star Online, Malaysia)
White Spot Delta race gains UCI 1.2 status (Delta Optimist, Canada)

Sunday 22 December 2013

Women's Cycling News 22-29.12.2013

Energiewacht Tour remains five-dayer - more to come...

Energiewacht Tour to remain five day event
The UCI have denied organisers of the popular Dutch Energiewacht Tour permission to extend their race from five days to six, stating their reason as being the large number of races taking part in the same month.

The race committee had hoped to hold a night-time prologue in Appingedam and expressed disapproval at the UCI's refusal to let them go ahead. "This is very annoying, especially for anyone involved in the organisation at Appingedam," said race director Thijs Rondhuis. "We have no reason to suspect that this sixth day would pose a problem. There was no prior signal from the UCI, so their decision came as an unpleasant surprise."

Meanwhile, details of the six stages, to be run over five days in April, have been announced:
Stage 1 (09.04): Delfzijl-Delfzijl, 95.5km
Stage 2 (120.04): Westerwolde-Westerwolde, 117km
Stage 3 (11.04): Ploegentijdrit Oldambt, 16km
Stage 3b (11.04): Tynaarlo-Tynaarlo, 100km
Stage 4 (12.04): Eemsmond-Eemsmond, 143km
Stage 5 (13.04): Veendam-Veendam, 108km

Monday 16 December 2013

Hillingdon GP 2014

01.06.2014 Official Site
Hillingdon, London, England
61km (40 laps) closed-circuit race
Women's National Series
51°30'46.84"N 0°24'2.20"W

The Hillingdon GP is unique in the National Series in that it takes place on a 1.526km dedicated cycle racing circuit in North-West London. Some people, upon reading that, will think that any race on such a parcours couldn't possibly be interesting, but think about it for a moment - Hillingdon combines the mass-start excitement of a road race with the high-speed thrills of the velodrome.

And it is high-speed - not only is the track flat flat and smooth, it's six metres wide and has been deliberately to allow riders to continue pedaling around the seven bends. That makes it very fast indeed, and with little other than speed to act as a deciding factor it often results a big bunch sprint finish.

View Hillingdon GP in a larger map

In 2013, the race was particularly hard-fought due to the Series leaders Anne Ewing and Karla Boddy, who both had 87 points, staying away; this left ample opportunity for several riders just behind them in the standings to move up into top place, but the riders decided among themselves to ride together and without attacks through the first few laps. After 20 minutes, Emma Trott and Karen Poole decided the time was right for action, opening up a small gap that was rapidly shut down again by the MG-Maxifuel riders in an effort to make certain Charline Joiner remained in contention. When Clemence Copie of High Wycombe CC attacked a little later, they wasted no time in bringing her back too; they would keep a tight rein on the remainder of the race, also nipping in the bud attempted breaks by Louise Borthwick, Amy Hill, Tanya Griffiths and finally Sarah Byrne, who upped the pace and enlivened the race when she attacked in the final laps. Although they'd set out a textbook example of how to control a race, the MG squad were about to be reminded that sometimes you can do absolutely everything right and still be denied victory: having brought Joiner to the final corner, they set her up in the ideal position for a sprint that everyone knew she could win. But then, she didn't - Copie, despite having used energy in her attack earlier, was too fast for her and took second, while Emily Kay of Scott Contessa-Epic was faster still and beat them both to the line. 

2013 Top Ten
Emily Kay (Scott Contessa-Epic)
Clemence Copie (High Wycombe CC)
Charline Joiner (MG-Maxifuel)
4 Hayley Jones (Node 4-Giordana)
5 Francesca Morgans-Slader (Lee Valley Youth CC)
6 Sophie Faulkner (Solihull CC)
7 Coryn Rivera (Breast Cancer Care)
8 Abigail Dentus (De Vere Cycles)
9 Flora Gillies (Team ASL360)
10 Amy Hill (Abergavenny Road Club)

2014 Start List
Not yet available

Getting There and Staying There
Getting there: Being in one of the world's major cities, Hillingdon has numerous train (nearest: Southall, 2.7km) and underground stations within walking distance of the circuit as well as regular bus services. It can also be reached easily by car, but since parking is at a premium and public transport is so convenient there's really no need at all to drive there unless you're with a team and need to take bikes with you. Hillingdon can also be reached with ease from overseas due to being in the same borough as Heathrow Airport.

Staying there: It's London, and just up the road from the third busiest airport in the world - there are hotels and bed and breakfasts all over the place, ranging from super-pricey to very cheap.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Women's Cycling News 15-22.12.2013

Giro Toscana protestors will not face action - 2014 Route de France under threat - Vos makes early return to 'Cross - Hanley's vision for women's cycling - Wiggle-Honda celebrate excellent year - Interesting Links

Giro della Toscana protest - case dismissed!
Giorgia Bronzini - and her team,
 Wiggle-Honda - are in the news
for all the right reasons this
Noemi Cantele, Giorgia Bronzini and Elisa Longo Borghini will not face disciplinary action after the Italian Cycling Federation found in their favour, ruling that they - and most of the other riders in the 2013 edition of the race, including General Classification leader Marianne Vos - had been justified in refusing to ride the final stage as a protest against dangerous conditions. The future of the race is uncertain after organiser Brunello Fanini stated that he would no longer hold the event. (Link)

No Route de France in 2014?
The future of the Route de France is uncertain, with director Hervé Gérardin stating that the 2014 edition may not go ahead due to difficulties in finding sufficient sponsorship.

The race, which was due to take place between the 9th and 17th of August next year, is one of the longest events on the women's calendar. However, the 2013 edition was not popular with fans, many of whom believed organisers' attempts to keep it interesting by omitting decisive features such as mountains in an effort to prevent any rider or group of riders gaining a big lead in the overall standings before the final stage made for a boring race, which has almost certainly contributed to the event's problems.

Vos makes early return to 'Cross
Marianne Vos likes to take a break at this time of year, proving that she is in fact human and not a machine sent from the future to win races. She had planned to return to competition at the Heusden-Zolder round of the World Cup on the 26th of December, but announced via Twitter on the 16th that she would come back earlier in order to take part in the Namur round taking place on the 22nd.
@marianne_vosSunday my cx (season)-comeback; earlier as planned, but don't want to miss WC Namur. Cool to go there with 3 @RaboLiv teamies! #NoMudNoGlory

Monique Hanley's Cycling Vision
"Women’s cycling needs to be treated as a product that needs investment for five to ten years before you start seeing the real returns." (Link)

Wiggle-Honda's first season
I said three race wins would be fantastic and five race wins would be an exceptional year... So once we got the first win, I was thinking 'at least we've won a race in our first season' and we went on to win 22 races" - Rochelle Gilmore (Link)

Interesting Links
Giorgia Bronzini - Sprinter of the Year! (Link)

Anna Meares praises Becky James for golden 2013 and admits she is daunted by Briton (Link)

"Like throwing a guy into the Tour de France!" - Tayler Wiles on the difficulties in moving up to the top level (Link)

Amy Cure and Georgia Baker aiming at inaugural Aussie Madison Championship (Link)

More coverage of women's cycling, demands Emma Pooley (Link)

Total Rush's topless models draw cyclists' ire; bike shop claims to have been inspired by other organisations including breast cancer charities (Link)

Old Mutual Namibia sponsors women's team - to the tune of N$20,000 (Link)

“I personally hope that it gets really rainy. The muddier the better,” says 'crosser Meghan Korol at the NC CX GP (Link)

Thursday 12 December 2013

North Norfolk 100

17.05.2014 Norfolk, UK
Individual Time Trial, 161km
Start: 52°50'32.07"N  0°48'37.15"E

Everyone knows that women's cycling hasn't been in a healthy state for several years, and has only started to show signs of recovery - thanks to the hard work of riders and fans alike, as well as the unsung believers who toiled under McQuaid and will now hopefully be able to make a real difference under the more favourable tenure of Brian Cookson - over the last couple of seasons. If you ask people what it is that needs to be done, you'll get a whole host of ideas and opinions, and one you'll hear again and again is "more effort at grassroots level, to encourage more women to get into racing in the first place."

So how do you do that? Well, the organisers of the North Norfolk 100 have a pretty good idea, and they've proved beyond reasonable doubt that they're fully committed and truly dedicated not just to the future of women's cycling, but to cycling in general - they've made it free for women and juniors to enter their event. This 100 mile (161km) individual time trial is not as widely known as it deserves to be despite having existed in some shape or form for more than decade, but with organisers that passionate about the sport it soon will be. Likewise, North Norfolk is not nearly as well-known as a cycling destination as it ought to be - a look at the parcours for this event demonstrates that the district is perfect for a short break.

In 2013, the race was hit by torrential rain and only 36 riders finished. Five were female, in this order (numbers in brackets are their overall placings in the mixed result)...

1(26) Kathryn Smith (Sleaford Wheelers CC) 5h21'10"
2(28) Naomi Shinkins (Tri London) 5h27'40"
3(29) Roslyn McGinty (Tri London) 5h28'17"
4(34) Martina Geraghty (Penzance Wheelers) 6h02'56"
5(35) Maria Greaves (North Norfolk Wheelers) 6h05'16"

The race is also contested by tricycles as the Tricycle Association (East) 100, with five riders taking part last year - including one woman, Jane Swain (Willeden CC), who later in the summer became World Tricycle Criterium Champion!

The Parcours

View North Norfolk 100 in a larger map

Other than the fact that the county is home to Alan Partridge, a lot of ill-fated turkeys and Stephen Fry, the one thing that everyone knows about Norfolk is that it's very flat. This is indeed the case - the highest point in the county, Beacon Hill near West Runton, rises to just 103m above sea level and makes Norfolk the flattest British county (only the City of London, sometimes considered a county, is flatter - its highest point is High Holborne at 22m above sea level). However, cyclists who visit North Norfolk will find that it's flat in the same way that Flanders is flat: the hills are low and few and far between but some are surprisingly steep, and there are many dips (some of which drop below sea level) which have much the same effect on the legs when climbing out of them. This parcours, being a long time trial, avoids the worst of them but is still considerably more rolling than someone who has never been to the county might expect - the steepest section anywhere on the circuit is no more than 5.4%, but the total elevation gain in a complete lap is 234m. Over the course of three laps, that has an effect.

Altitude profile
The race starts at a large layby on the A148 just south of Sculthorpe and a few kilometres west of Fakenham with the riders setting out west past the operational airfield RAF Sculthorpe and the tiny villages of Coxford, Tattersett, East and West Rudham and Harpley (where there's a long barrow by the side of the road on the way to Little Massingham). This section, 18.9km in length upon arrival at Hillington, is on wide roads with several long, straight sections that permit high speed - a great opportunity to set pace and start working on a decent overall time, but also a place where early in the race an inexperienced rider could easily and unnecessarily expend energy he or she will need later.

At Hillington they'll turn left for the first time, taking the B1153 south - the corner isn't tight, but some care needs to be taken (especially if conditions are as slippery as in 2013, when the race was hit by torrential rain) due to a traffic island immediately upon entering the new road, and riders should be aware that there may be loose gravel on the road just before the church approximately 0.25km from the turn. 21.7km from the start and still on the B1153 is Congham which is probably a far more pleasant place without the oil mill that once stood in the village and processed dead whales brought from the docks at King's Lynn. There are a couple of rather awkward drain covers upon entering the village, just as the road bends slightly left and a likelihood of more loose gravel just ahead where it bends right again, then the buildings thin out before the race comes to Grimston - a tiny village today, Grimston was once an important producer of pottery and that is was once a wealthy town can be seen by its large and grand church. The road bends left and then right just past the church by a row of white cottages on the right, then left as it leaves the village behind before coming to a sharper left and right 23.1km from the start. It then enters a fast 2.45km section leading into Gayton where the section of the race heading south comes to an end at a crossroads near the windmill which no longer has its sails.

The left turn onto the B1145 heading east at Gayton is not technical, but it is essential that riders obey the rules of the road here and race organisers warn that marshalls will be in position and will disqualify any rider who does not check to the right for traffic.This is not a closed circuit; the penalty for failing to give way could be far worse than disqualification. The B1145 section is another fast road that climbs gently through the first half of its 12.7km length, with no villages or tight bends to distract riders from getting their heads down and pushing hard. The hedges along the road, however, are low in many parts; if the wind is blowing from the north (as is frequently the case) or the south, crosswinds may cause problems (if you're visiting the race with a bike, this would be a good place from which to spectate as it would be possible to ride along the pleasingly-named Drunken Drove 5.9km from Gayton, then to Great Massingham and north to the A418 at Harpley for the next lap. Presumably an old sheep drove - the economy of Norfolk was, in former times, based largely on sheep farming, rather than arable farming and tourism as it is today - Drunken Drove bears a slight resemblance to Koppenberg - but with a maximum gradient of 5.5% and asphalt rather than "children's heads" cobbles, you don't need to be a pro cyclist to get up it and will probably beat the riders who are taking a longer route in the race).

After covering 38.5km from the start, riders come to the A1065 and turn left to head north. There may be loose gravel on the road immediately before the turn due to a parking area on the right. The turn is wide, but once again it's essential to check for traffic before joining the new road. Shortly after the turn, the road passes through woodland - something that isn't seen often in Norfolk - for 2.1km; there is an increased chance of punctures here. On the other side it reaches Weasenham All Saints, where the once very convivial Ostrich Inn has stood derelict for twelve years and looks ready to collapse; locals in search of a pint now have to go to Weavenham St. Peter, which the race passes through a kilometre further north. Wandering gradually to the east, the road continues to first South Raynham and then East Raynham, location of Raynham Hall where one of the most famous photographs purported to show a ghost - the Brown Lady - was taken. The Hall is not open to the public, but can be viewed from a circular walk that passes through the estate.

13.2km from the turning onto the A1065 and 51.7km from the start, the riders pass Shereford Road on the right. Just beyond it, separated from the road by a patch of grass with a red post box, is a area in front of a row of cottages; during the first and second laps the riders will continue straight past, while on the third lap they will arrive at the finish line here. Less than half a kilometre further ahead they cross a bridge which doesn't narrow sufficiently to be a hazard, then pass Fakenham on the left after another half a kilometre, then continue for another half a kilometre to a roundabout where they'll turn left to rejoin the A148 heading west. They pass a graveyard on the left then, 1.88km from the turn, arrive back at the layby from which the race began and start a new lap.

Start List
Not yet available

Getting There and Staying There
Fakenham has an undeserved reputation as a boring town, mostly as a result of a retracted comment on the Knowhere Guide website that was misconstrued in the press as stating that the town had been voted the most boring place in Britain. It isn't; it's probably not a bad place at all to live and most certainly a pleasant place to visit, and enough people are aware of that for there to be a good selection of small hotels nearby ranging from the expensive to cheap. TripAdvisor is a good place to find them. Cheaper still is Greenwoods Campsite, located just off the A148 at Tattersett some 5km west of the start. Do be aware that stays of one night at the site must be booked and paid seven days in advance.

The largely unspoiled North Norfolk coast is perfect for bike exploration if you plan to make your visit to the race part of a short tour. Hunstanton is worth a visit, but for what must be one of the best beaches in Britain head to Brancaster - which nearly became the rocket launch site for the British space programme in the 1950s. While you're in the area, why not make the 25km trip straight down the A1065 to Swaffham where you can pay your respects at the grave of one of Britain's first female cycling heroes, Evelyn Hamilton? Hamilton lived an amazing life, setting numerous cycling records in the 1930s and acting as Gracie Fields' body double in Sing As We Go before setting up a bike shop which might have in reality been a front for the Free French Forces and possibly employed one of the Pélissiers (the brothers of 1923 Tour de France winner Henri Pélissier) during the Second World War while she was away in France where she just might have been a secret agent. She died in 2005, and her gravestone bears the name Evelyn Alice Helsen - leave a bidon or something similar, like we do when we pass Tom Simpson's memorial on Ventoux, to show that a truly remarkable woman has not been forgotten.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Sheffield GP

23.07.2014 Official Site
England, 45 minutes + 3 laps
Women's National Series
Start: 53°22'47.32"N 1°28'13.11"W

When most people imagine a bike race, they picture a peloton crusing along a picturesque road surrounded by Alpine meadows with the lofty snow-capped peaks soaring far overhead. There are plenty of races in which that sort of thing can be seen, and they're one of the reasons that cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world. There are other kinds of racing too, of course, and if it's sheer eyeballs-out, high-speed, scrape-yer-knees-off-going-round-the-corners excitement you want then you can't beat a good city centre criterium style event - and the Sheffield GP is a very good example.

The 2013 edition was an absolute joy to watch with most of Britain's top female road racers fighting hard throughout the race and leaving the thousands of people that turned up to watch in no doubt whatsoever that women's cycling is every bit as tough, fast and exciting as men's cycling. The top five looked like this:

1 Helen Wyman (Kona)
2 Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel)
3 Eileen Roe (Breast Cancer Care)
4 Hannah Walker (Matrix Fitness)
5 Melissa Lowther (Matrix Fitness)

When Neutral Service asked for confirmation of the 2014 circuit, the race organisers sent a link to a Strava segment. Top female riders are Lauren Creamer (2'01"), Eleanor Jones (2'15"), Nicola Soden (2'21"), Keira McVitty (2'28") and Ruth Taylor (3'31").

What's a criterium...?
If you've never been to a bike race before, a criterium - or crit, as cyclists usually call them - is an ideal choice for your first. The riders race for a pre-set time rather than over a specified number of laps (usually; at some crits it's the other way round), completing many laps of a short circuit that will often be located in a city centre. This sometimes worries people who haven't seen one before, in case the riders take it easy right up until the last few minutes, but in fact the first third tends to be full of attacks as riders who don't have much chance of winning go on the attack in an attempt to wear down riders from other teams, thus heightening their own chances, while the final third is when the favourites start to pile on the pressure. There might be a quieter time during the middle third - but the lulls in a crit are the best time to make the sort of attack that sometimes results in victory. What's more, there will be a "prime" prize for the fastest rider every now and again during the race, encouraging them to ride hard.

With the races frequently taking place in the evening, as is the case with this one, they tend to attract large numbers of people and often generate a festival atmosphere that keeps the whole family enthralled - even those who don't have much of an interest in the sport. Another advantage is that spectators will see the riders pass by numerous times and can walk around the circuit to see it from different angles.

The Parcours

View Sheffield GP in a larger map

Taking place on the same short 1.374km circuit as used in 2013, the GP features a number of bends that, though wide, become challenging due to the sheer number of riders trying to get around them at the same time - with the high speeds on a parcours that demands sharp bursts of power (which is precisely how Helen Wyman, who specialises in sharp bursts of power combined with the sort of bike-handling skills that cyclo cross riders need in drives, won last year), this can easily lead to complications. The temptation is always to get out in front in an attempt to be well away from danger if anyone does go down and starts off a domino effect, but on a circuit this short there are very few opportunities to get away without everyone else going with you.

The start is on Pinstone Street by the Peace Gardens on a wide, smooth road that immediately travels downhill, encouraging high speed, then bends gradually to the right after approximately 50 metres and passes through a pinch point that will force the peloton to change shape. Another pinch point, caused by a traffic island at a T-junction, lies 500m ahead where the race turns left onto Furnival Gate and enters a 110m straight section that descends more steeply towards a roundabout whee the riders turn left again to join Arundel Gate - there is plenty of room going into the corner but less on the way out, and it'd be a good place to spectate.

After the roundabout is a 90m section that climbs very slightly to just past a crossroads, then flattens out for the remaining 470m to the end of the Arundel Gate section and the left turn onto Norfolk Street. The corner is sharp, but sufficiently wide for riders to get round en masse; however, the road narrows considerably as it enters the 0.2km cobbled section running between the rest of Norfolk Street (the cobbles are flatlook for the Coventry Building Society by the church to mark the start of the section) and Pinstone Street. 80m from the start of the cobbles lies the only right corner on the circuit, leading onto Surrey Street - and it's a tricky one due to a combination of the narrow roads, the cobbles and several drain covers lying right in the middle of the roads where they'll be a serious test of bike-handling skills if it rains at all on race day. The cobbles continue for another 120m after the corner and the road bends gradually left before arriving at a junction with Pinstone Street, where the riders turn left onto asphalt and begin a straight 100m sprint to the line.

Start List
Not yet available

Getting There and Accommodation
Sheffield will forever be associated with heavy industry, especially steel production, and for some reason a surprising number of people imagine that it's still the smoggy, noisy, grimy place that it was in late Victorian times. The reality is very different: today, it's a clean and modern city with much to offer to tourists, and is surprisingly and pleasantly green - 61% of the total area is green space, including 250 public parks and gardens, and it has the highest ratio of trees to humans of any city in Europe. Perhaps of even more interest to cyclists is the city's proximity to the Peak District (in fact, roughly a third lies within the Peak District): even before it became a National Park in 1951, this region was popular among cyclists who came for the stunning roads that wind through, up and down some of the most beautiful natural countryside in Britain. Come and see the race, then spend a few days on a bike tour - you will not be disappointed by either the southern part, known as the White Peak, or the more difficult and often stormy northern Dark Peak.

As it takes place in one of Britain's major cities, it's easy to get to this race by road (whether by car or, as is always a better option, bike) or by public transport, from anywhere in Britain or overseas, and to find a place to stay once there. The M1 and M18 motorways connect the city to the rest of the country, while A, B and unclassified roads provide a choice of routes suited to bikes (Google Maps' route planner will come up with a few if plotting journey plans isn't your thing). There are rail links to all regions including to St. Pancras in London, making it possible to travel directly from Belgium and France; and an airport.

With literally hundreds of hotels, ranging from pricey luxury to bargain basic, it'll be easy to find accommodation to suit any budget. The Peak District has numerous campsites and Youth Hostels.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Women's Cycling News 08-15.12.2013

ASO discuss women's TdF with Le Tour Entier - Women's Tour sponsorship difficulties - Holland Hills moves finish - Good weekend for Compton - Boot Out Breast Cancer's new sponsor - New French superteam - Interesting Links - More to come...

Le Tour Entier and ASO discuss women's TdF
Le Tour Entier, which is campaigning for a women's Tour de France, has confirmed that it is in discussions with Tour organisers the Amaury Sport Organisation. Emma Pooley, one of the cyclists who set up the campaign, says that the ASO is "not ruling it out, a women's race of some kind."

Brian Cookson, who made his support a key part of his successful campaign to be elected UCI president, played a pivotal role in setting up the discussions.

Read more at The Guardian.

Women's Tour sponsorship difficulties
Organisers of the Women's Tour have told The Independent that despite huge public enthusiasm for the race, they're having difficulty in finding sponsors - depressing news when the race has already served to encourage a feeling of optimism among fans and riders.

SweetSpot, who are organising the race, have declined to publish a list of corporate sponsors who won't get involved but say they're usually told that the companies they approach "don't believe anyone is interested in women's sport."  Why, then, the difficulty in securing backing?

Most companies, SweetSpot say, claim to love the concept of the race with only a small number making what director Guy Elliott calls "'stereotypical' adverse comments." The reason, then, is surely risk adversity - companies are simply not willing to get involved in something new, despite the likelihood of it being a success.

That they are wrong is evident - the women's road race at the Olympics drew a larger audience than anyone had predicted, and the women's events at televised track meets continue to do well despite often being broadcast on the Red Button digital channel. Companies that do get involved will reap the benefits - let's just hope that a sufficient number of them have the foresight to do so, so that the Women's Tour can become everything it has the potential to be.

Holland Hills moves finish
Organisers of the ever-evolving Boels Holland Hills Classic have announced that the finish line of the 2014 edition will be moved from Sittard (which hosted the start and finish in 2013) to Geulhemmerberg in Valkenburg. The hill, which climbs 58m in 1km at an average gradient of 5.8%, reaches 9% at its steepest point. Rgularly featured in the Amstel Gold Race, it is also famous for the cottages built into caves in the rockface running alongside the road.

Good weekend for Compton
Katie Compton enjoyed a fine weekend with Belgian cyclo cross victories on Saturday and Sunday. The first of the two was at the Soudal Scheldecross and the second at the Vlaamse Druivencross; she beat Sanne Cant and Nikki Harris into second and third place at both races.

Boot Out Breast Cancer takes on new sponsor
Sports clothing manufacturer Pearl Izumi have extended their support of women's cycling by signing a sponsorship deal with Sarah Storey's Boot Out Breast Cancer team, which will now be known as Pearl Izumi Boot Out Breast Cancer.

New French superteam
The Fédération Francaise de Cyclisme is seeking new backers for a cross-disciplinary superteam that has distinct similarities to Britain's Team Sky. The new team would include road race, cyclo cross, mountain biking and BMX riders to be based at the new St-Quentin en Yvelines national cycling centre near Paris and would include women's squads in addition to men's.

Interesting Links
Cycling World Cup: GB women smash own pursuit record – twice (Independent)
Anna Meares breaks own 500m world record at world cup event in Mexico (Guardian)
Moolman Pasio ends successful year (SuperSport)
Becky James wins Young Sportsperson of the Year award (Cycling Weekly)

More to come...