Ride London Classique 2017 Preview

The “richest race in women’s cycling” returns for its 5th edition, but second at World Tour level.

Last year saw Kirsten Wild take home the big prize, winning a bunch sprint ahead of ahead of Kessler and Kirchmann.

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The race has a lot of positives going for it; big prize pool and live TV coverage are the main things.

However, the organisers can never seem to get the magical triple* just right, can they?

*Prize Money / Tv Coverage / Good Route

Which brings me onto another women’s preview where I annoyingly start by moaning and having a go at something, but after the nonsense TT (chase) we had last weekend, I’m past the point of caring!

Can we stop glorifying what are pretty much criterium races as progress for women’s cycling please? I’m not trying to be some internet white knight but they deserve better than this. Last week the opening “stage” of La Course was fantastic with the finish on the Izoard but making that only 67km was a little bit insulting. Having a criterium that is the same length and branding it as “spectacular” just takes the piss.

Why can the women not do the nearly the same route (the UCI limit of 155km will stop them doing it all) as the men, heck, they could even do the last 120km of it. I don’t understand why that is such a big issue for the organisers!

I miss the start of the season when we had races such as Strade Bianche etc, proper races that gave the women a chance to shine on a taxing course. Obviously, there needs to be a balance between having races for climbers and sprinters but I don’t see why races for the latter group have to be tamed down so much. Even at the recent Giro Rosa and Women’s Tour we had sprint stages of 100+km so there is no real reason why that couldn’t be the same here.

Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s getting me worked up.

The Route

A pretty much pan-flat 5.5km circuit around London taking in some famous sites. Maybe that’s what makes it “spectacular”?

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I was going to create a route profile on Strava but there is not much detail to know more than there are a few false flat sections!

I’m not entirely sure how many times they’ll be doing the circuit as there is no official information on the website as to the number of laps, but last year it was 12 x 5.5km laps so I imagine it will be the same this year.

The one positive from this route is that fans get to see their favourite female cyclists 12 times…

We should see a sprint at the end of the day, it has ended in that manner in each previous edition, but there is always that 5% chance that a strong group gets away and there is no co-operation behind. That is very unlikely though!

Sprint Contenders

Kirsten Wild.

The defending is champion is back here looking to take another victory. A little bit underwhelming so far this season, only taking two wins to her name. However, this type of racing suits her down to the ground and she can’t be ruled out. On form I would say it is hard for her to win, but given her nature I’d say it is very possible that she goes back to back!

Jolien d’Hoore.

The Belgian Bullet is arguably her biggest contender. The newly crowned Belgian champion got the better of Wild on two occasions in Chongming earlier this season. What’s even more impressive about that is that she was riding with an injury for the majority of the race! Having taken some more wins to her name since then, she has to start as the favourite in my opinion.

Chloe Hosking.

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After her breakthrough season last year, Hosking has continued her success in 2017; notching up a few wins, including a strong sprint victory at the Women’s Tour. All of this has resulted in her contract being extended with Alé Cipollini, the Italian team have a lot of faith in her. In last years race she was boxed in and never really got going so she’ll be hoping to go better this time. With a 1st and 2nd at La Course and Madrid Challenge respectively last season, it is clear Hosking goes well on these type of kermesse style races. Having a rider like Bastianelli to lead her out means she should begin her sprint from a good position. Will she be challenging for the win tomorrow?

Lotta Lepistö.

After a storming start to her season in the Spring, Lepistö returned to racing recently winning the National Championships double. More impressively though, she followed it up with a win and two second places at the tough Giro Rosa. A sign she is back up to race speed nicely! Her team support here isn’t great so she will have to go solo and jump onto another team’s lead-out but that is something she is capable of. She is a strong outside candidate for a good result.

Coryn Rivera.

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A stand out performer in the Spring, the Sunweb rider picked up a couple of podium places at the Giro. Used to criterium style races thanks to her US up-bringing she will be strong on a course like this. With riders such as Brand, Kirchmann and Van Dijk on her team, I would argue that she has the strongest lead-out in the race. Can she finish it off?

Marianne Vos.

A preview isn’t complete without the best female rider of her generation. After crashing out of the Women’s Tour, Vos returned to racing at the BeNe Ladies Tour. It didn’t start off ideally for her when she crashed in the opening prologue, but from there it went exceptionally well! She picked up two second places and two wins to take the overall GC title. Is another win on the cards here?

Alice Barnes.

The young Brit will be full of confidence after recently taking her first win at the aforementioned BeNe Ladies Tour. She escaped with Vos on the opening stage and managed to beat her in a two-up sprint, not bad! I have been very impressed with her this season so far and I think she’s capable of another good result here.

Every team has a rider or two who could be involved at the pointy end of the day so some riders to keep a look out for are;

Pieters/Blaak (Boels)

Cucinotta/Confalonieri (Lensworld)

Barnes/Guarischi (Canyon)

Fournier (FDJ)

Elvin (Orica)

Kessler/Moberg (Hitec)

Prediction

There are too many teams interested in a sprint for us not to get a bunch gallop. With Bronzini leading her out, d’Hoore should be placed into a great position for the run to the line. These types of races are her bread and butter! She’s not let me down before, so I’ll go for her again, the Belgian Bullet to take the win!

The Ovo Energy Women's Tour of Britain Stage 5 - The London Stage

I think Alice Barnes might sneak onto the podium too.

Coverage

The last 40 minutes of the race are being shown live on BBC2 (from 6pm GMT), with the whole event being shown via the Red Button (from 5pm GMT).

As for international coverage I’m not too sure, but there are plenty of sites out there where you can stream BBC2! Maybe the BBC site itself will work via VPN?

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prudential Ride London Classique

Prudential Ride London Classique

Another weekend and another women’s one-day race preview! This time we have the sister event to the men’s Ride London Classic that takes place on Sunday. Following its inauguration in 2013 the race has had a talented list of riders claim the title with Trott (2013), Bronzini (2014) and Guarischi (2015) all coming out on top.

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Guarischi winning last year.

This year the race has taken a step up, and has been granted Women’s World Tour status. Furthermore, the organisers have taken great steps towards equality in cycling by offering the same prize-pool (€100,000) for the men and women. Making the event the most lucrative one-day race in the world!

Now let’s have a look at the course.

The Route

The actual course itself isn’t overly challenging, a 5.5km circuit around some of London’s most famous landmarks/tourist destinations.

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They complete 12 laps of the circuit, totalling 66km of fast racing. The race does gain some elevation. It’s nothing too worrying for the riders but it could be the springboard for some attacks.

How will the race pan out?

As we saw last weekend, these short and sharp women’s races are full gas from the gun! The wide streets of Paris made it difficult for riders to sneak away, however, the roads here give the opportunists more of a chance tomorrow. There are a few narrow, technical sections where gaps can be made. This is particularly evident at the section of the route near Trafalgar Square. You can be sure that Drops Cycling will be very attacking!

Conversely though, the long sections of straight roads do not lend itself to a breakaway sticking to the finish line, with the most likely outcome being some kind of punch sprint. The startlist is packed full of sprinters who will fancy their chances of taking the win. Nonetheless, we may see a break stick if a large proportion of the strong teams have representatives in it, as unlikely as this may be.

I say a sprint finish is 90% the most likely outcome.

The Sprint Contenders

We have our winner from last weekend here: Chloe Hosking.  As usual, the Wiggle High5 team look very strong and much like last weekend, I can imagine Pieters will be given a free role to mark moves in the final 15km. Hosking herself will be very hard to beat in a straight up sprint, she delivered a very impressive and long sprint last weekend. Can she double up here?

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Her biggest threat could be Lotta Lepistö, last weekend’s runner-up. They both produced a similar sprint in France, taking it up from far out. The Cervelo lead-out was a bit all over the place then but I expect it to be better here. The key for Lepistö will be Joëlle Numainville who will no doubt act as the final rider in the train. She finished 4th herself last weekend, but was sprinting behind the Finnish rider. If they get it right here, they could be tough to come round.

Hitec Products main sprinter Kirsten Wild chose not to race at La Course last weekend. On paper, she is probably the fastest rider here winning the Tour de Yorkshire earlier in the year. She will definitely be heavily marked in the sprint and I’d expect a fight for her wheel from some of the sprinters without strong teams.

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Canyon SRAM come here with only 4 riders but have 2 who can challenge on this type of course/finish: Hannah Barnes and Tiffany Cromwell. The latter managed to sprint to 7th last weekend and has been in good form lately, claiming a win at the Giro. Her young team-mate Barnes is British Champion and will want to go well on home roads. The criterium style racing will suit her.

Leah Kirchmann was left bitterly disappointed last weekend. Most of her team were unfortunately taken out in crashes so she was left to fly solo in the final sprint. She started too far back and could only manage 12th. Ably supported by an all-Dutch team, the Canadian will hope to right the wrongs here. A podium will be her minimum aim.

Other sprinters to look out for include Fournier, Rowney, Bastianelli & Confalonieri.

Who could spoil the sprinters party?

Some teams come here without any out and out sprinters so will hope to try and break the race up. The main team in this situation is Boels Dolmans. They have two very capable riders who can win from smaller groups or solo; Lucinda Brand Thalita de Jong. Brand is probably the stronger of the two in a sprint so I imagine she’ll be the more protected rider, but I expect De Jong to try and make the moves throughout the race.

Cylance Pro Cycling will also no doubt try something similar with Carmen Small and Alison Tetrick being the more aggressive riders.

One team I’m looking forward to watching in action is Drops Cycling. The self-proclaimed “most professional amateur team” are a mix of mainly British riders who have been given the opportunity to race on the international scene, competing at the Women’s Tour etc. Their forte however is criterium racing, with Alice Barnes (Hannah’s younger sister) being their key rider. They’ll be prominent towards the front of the field, always trying to be in the moves. I expect a very attacking race from them!

Prediction

As I’ve said above, I think we’ll get a sprint tomorrow. It may not be a full peloton, but it will be of at least 30 riders.

Cervélo (Lepistö) has the best leadout, Wiggle (Hosking) has the rider in form and Hitec (Wild) has the experienced sprinter. However, I think we’ll see a different rider win. Got to stick to blog tradition after all!

After a disappointing result last weekend, I think Liv-Plantur and Kirchmann turn it around here. An incredibly consistent rider, she’s really found her feet in Europe after her transition from American racing. Capable of climbing well, her main asset is her strong sprint. She took a strong sprint win earlier in March, but hasn’t taken a win since then, just numerous podium places and Top 10s. That changes here. Floorte Mackaij will deliver her perfectly within the final 200ms and no-one will catch her!

Drentse Acht van Westerveld 2016

 

Who do you think will win tomorrow? As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

La Course Preview

La Course Preview

In a slight change from normal, I’ll be giving women’s cycling the attention it deserves by having a look at the 3rd edition of “La Course”.

It may not be the most prestigious race in women’s cycling, but due to it being coupled with live broadcasts of the men’s Tour, it’s very important for the growth and exposure of the sport.

The first two editions of the race saw fast and aggressive action from the riders with the peloton splitting up around the streets of Paris. In 2014, the imperious Marianne Vos took a sprint victory out of a reduced group of around 20 riders. Last year saw the weather cause havoc out on the course, with there being numerous crashes and pile-ups. Anna van der Breggen seized her opportunity and time trialed away from the bunch on the final lap, winning with enough time to sit up for a victory salute as a chasing “peloton” of 10 riders finished one second behind.

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Could we be in for a similar situation this year? Let’s take a look at the route.

The “La Course” course

A simple circuit around the Champs-Élysées, using the same roads that have become iconic in the men’s race as a traditional end to the Tour.

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The nature of the fast flowing circuit will ensure that the race will be covered at a remarkable pace, with it probably being completed in around 2 hours.

la-course-by-le-tour-de-france-2016-1469266780The circuit itself climbs a little bit here and there, but nothing too crazy, gaining around 50m in elevation. Completing it 12 times will drain some of the riders. Especially considering the aggressive racing that we so often see, and that I absolutely love, in women’s cycling.

One thing that the majority of the riders will be thankful for is that the weather forecast is much better this year. It looks set to be sunny all day, so they should have dry cobblestones and there hopefully should be fewer crashes.

How will the race pan out?

The aggressive tactics really opens the race up. With the most likely outcome being some kind of sprint by the end of the race.

In 2014 we had good conditions and 25 riders came home within 10 seconds of the winner (Vos) and oddly enough, during the tough conditions last year 25 riders also came home within the same amount of time. So we’ll get a peloton of 25 coming to the line together then…simple!

Yet, there’s a chance that might not happen.

Smaller teams (6 riders max) means that the races are quite tough to control, so the majority of the teams adopt the old adage of “attack is the best form of defence”. Therefore, we’ll see teams with very strong sprinters such as Wiggle High5 possibly send riders up the road, Dani King for example, to cover moves from other teams.

These attacks can often stick, which opens up the possibility of a whole host of riders who can win the race.

The Sprinters

2014 winner Marianne Vos has to come into this race as favourite. She’s had a great 2016 so far, after being out pretty much all of last year through injury. Winning 3 stages at the recent Thüringen Rundfahrt, she’s evidently in great form. Capable of winning a sprint from both small and large groups, she is a real danger!

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The team with the best lead-out in the race has to be Canyon SRAM. As reigning World TTT champions, they are a massively powerful unit. They’ll have a choice of two sprinters; Barbara Guarischi or Lisa Brennauer. The former will be there if there is a large bunch sprint of around 50 riders, whereas I suspect Brennauer will be their card to play in a reduced bunch gallop.

Chloe Hosking or Amy Pieters will be Wiggle High5s sprinters of choice, with Hosking probably getting the number 1 card. She took a great win at the Giro Rosa earlier in the year, and will get the chance to lead the team after working for D’hoore last year. Pieters will be the option if the race gets wild, she did finish 3rd last year after all!

Team Liv Plantur will look towards their Canadian sprinter, come all-rounder, Leah Kirchmann. She’s had a great maiden season in Europe, after joining from Optum at the start of the year. Capable of mixing it in big bunch kicks, but also smaller sprints, she’ll be aiming for a podium. After all, she finished 3rd in the inaugural edition of La Course.

Boels Dolmans have several cards to play like always, they are incredibly strong! I’d fancy Chantal Blaak or Christine Majerus to be their team leaders.

Other sprinters include; Coryn Rivera, Lotta Lepistö, Roxanne Fournier & Marta Bastianelli.

There are a whole host of riders who will fancy their chances if the favourites play games with each other. I’m not going to go through them all but some names to listen out for during the stage are; Brand, Van Dijk, Cromwell, Cucinotta & Zabelinskaya.

Prediction

The most likely outcome tomorrow is a sprint. In tradition of my previews, I’ll go for a bit of an outsider and say that the sprightly Aussie, Chloe Hosking, will take a memorable win! She’s done a lot of work for team-mates here in the past and will be duly rewarded tomorrow.

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Hope you enjoyed this preview! I want to focus on women’s cycling whenever I can, and when the races are broadcast. I find the racing more exciting than the mens at times, it’s a lot less predictable. Would you like to see more previews? As usual, any feedback is great 🙂 Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.