After the great racing we saw on the slopes of the Izoard last year, I’m completely ignoring the shambles that was the second day of racing, La Course once again returns to the mountains this year.
In 2017 we saw Annemiek van Vleuten take a dominant win after putting three-quarters of a minute into second-placed finisher Lizzie Deignan on the ascent, with Elisa Longo Borghini rounding out the podium.
It was a case of what might have been for the Brit though as she did the majority of the pace setting early on, hoping to set up team-mate Guarnier. However, she turned out to be the strongest in the Boels camp. Would she have beaten van Vleuten had she sat in the wheels? Probably not, but it would have been a lot closer!
The reigning champion is here to defend her title and after just smashing the Giro Rosa to bits, she will be very confident of doing the double. First though, let’s have a look at what awaits the riders tomorrow.
With 2500m of climbing in only 112.5km of racing, this is going to be a tough day in the saddle for the peloton. Especially when you consider that the majority of the climbing comes in the last 40kms.
The two early climbs of Col de Bluffy and Côte de Saint-Jean-de-Sixt won’t be decisive in the outcome of the race but they might see some early attrition take place. Although I think this would be unlikely given they know what lies ahead. Instead, they might be a good place for the break to form and teams to send riders up the road so that they can work for their team leader on the two monster climbs to come.
Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière are two tough Cat-1 climbs when taken alone but given that they come back to back with only 5km of descent in between then they are going to be hellish – close to 1400m of elevation gain over 22kms.
Taking away the 5km of descent then it is really 1400m of gain over 17km, which makes the average gradient of the climbs roughly 8.2%.
Expect to see some big gaps tomorrow!
Once over the top of the Colombière the riders will have close to 12km of descent and 2kms of mainly flat roads between them and the finish line.
The descent itself will be fast as the average gradient for the 12km is close to -6%, with it being on a standard two-lane mountain road the riders should have plenty of room to judge their lines. There are quite a few hairpins littered throughout the descent and they mainly seem to come grouped together.
A sharp turn with 1.5km to go could see some mishaps as the riders will be carrying a lot of speed into it but they should be able to smooth out the corner by taking it wide. Nonetheless, we saw what happened in the men’s race when the peloton had to turn back on itself. Thankfully, I don’t think we’ll see a big group of riders arrive at this point together!
The final kilometre averages 1.2% but the final 200m of the day features an 8% ramp. A nice little finish for a sprint showdown, if we get a small group of riders arriving together.
Giro Legs vs Fresh Legs
In the male side of the sport we often see the benefit of riders who have been at the Tour de France with their results in San Sebastian the following weekend after the Tour is finished. Will those from the Giro Rosa see a similar trend in results?
I’m not sure and given that there has only been today in between the Giro finishing and La Course starting, I think some might struggle. Today can almost be viewed as a traditional Grand Tour rest day apart from some of them will have to travel the almost 700km from their bases in Italy to Annecy by car. Doesn’t sound like a great rest day to me! Some will have bitten the bullet and travelled straight away after yesterday’s Giro stage in the hope of a more chilled day today. Other teams with better budgets might even have flown their riders to Geneva and got a transfer from there.
Ultimately I’m not sure how the one-day turnaround will affect the riders and I don’t think many of them will know either. It could make for some unexpected results!
I say that but there are only a handful of riders who can actually win this race.
Contenders – Giro Rosa Riders
Annemiek van Vleuten.
A dominant display in the Giro Rosa saw her take home pink by over 4 minutes to her nearest rival, collecting 3 stage wins along the way. She comes into La Course as the red-hot favourite and you would be hard pressed to find many people thinking that this is not her race to lose. The mix of tough climbing and fast descent plays perfectly into her abilities as a rider. I would not be surprised to see her drop everyone on the Colombière and solo to the line. Have the past 10 days exertions taken a lot out of her legs though? That is the important question that we won’t find the answer to until during the stage.
If van Vleuten isn’t at the pointy end of the race then Mitchelton have a great second option in Spratt. The Aussie exceeded my expectations at the Giro where she finished the race third overall and managed to win a stage too. A versatile rider, the diminutive Spratt will relish the back to back climbs. If we see a tactical race unfold then she is the perfect rider to send on the attack while van Vleuten sits behind and marks everyone out of the race. Give her 30 seconds on the Colombière and she will be very hard to bring back.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio.
Forever the bridesmaid it seems, the Cervelo rider was unfortunate to just come up against a very strong Mitchelton Scott team at the Giro. However, I think she will ultimately be happy with a second place finish overall. On the two summit finishes in the race she was the only rider able to keep remotely close to the Mitchelton riders and she suffered on Zoncolan from having to make the pace. In a race where she can draft the wheels a bit more, then she has a good chance of sticking close to them. If she takes a few risks on the descent I would fancy her chances in a small sprint finish to the line. I think that is her best chance of winning – sounds easy, right?
Brand, Guarnier, Ludwig, Merino and Santesteban are all names to throw into the hat but I think they will fall short. They are top 5/10 candidates though.
Contender – The Fresh Rider
Anna van der Breggen.
The elephant in the room for this race, the Boels rider is one of only a few riders coming here who wasn’t at the Giro Rosa, the other notable rider being Ferrand Prevot. Van der Breggen has had another ridiculously strong season, winning 4 WWT events: Strade, Flanders, Liege and Fleche. Not a bad record! She arrives in France after taking a few weeks off of her road bike, competitively anyway, while she was instead taking part in the mountain bike world cup event in Val di Sole. That didn’t go spectacularly well for her as she finished over 8 minutes down on the winner. Nonetheless, back on the road she should be in her preferred terrain again. Her form is unknown but that hasn’t stopped her smashing it before, she won in Flanders for example after a few weeks away from racing. She is van Vleuten’s biggest challenger here.
I’m looking forward to seeing a very intense Dutch battle on the roads tomorrow with two of the biggest names in the sport going head to head. Giro legs vs fresh legs, who will come out on top?
I’ll go Giro legs and Van Vleuten to double up!
I think with van der Breggen not targeting the Giro, she thoroughly has her sights set on the latter part of the season so will be slightly undercooked here. I might be wrong, but she won’t be close to where van Vleuten is at the moment.
Despite ASO’s best intentions of not really giving us any information at all for the race, aside from some barebones stuff, the race is actually going to be shown live.
It is scheduled to be shown on Eurosport 1 (here in the UK) from 9:15 to 12 (BST). Not sure what the plans are for the rest of Europe but I assume it will be the same. If you can’t watch it at that time of day then I’ll be tweeting intermittently about it as it conveniently falls on my day off from work.
Thanks as always for reading and any RTs etc are much appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow and why? Anyway,
After a little time away from blog writing I’m back with a bang to preview the toughest women’s race on the calendar, the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile a.k.a The Giro Rosa. With last year’s success of the BFOG I thought I would do something similar for this season so here is your one stop for all of the coming 10 days of action!
In 2017 we saw what was really a three-horse race established after only the second day of racing when van Vleuten, van der Breggen and Longo Borghini stole a march on the rest of the GC favourites, coming home almost 2 minutes ahead of the next group.
Van Vleuten would lose almost 2 minutes on the rather innocuous stage 4 when Boels split the bunch in the crosswinds and it would be that day that consequently cost her the chance of winning the race overall, although she would get some consolation with a second stage win in the TT. In fact, the gaps after that TT on the 5th day pretty much remained the same throughout the remaining 5 stages so it was van der Breggen who ultimately took home the crown ahead of Longo Borghini and van Vleuten rounding out the podium in third.
With van der Breggen not here this year to defend the title, it opens up the race for a potential new winner. Can van Vleuten step up, or will we see a surprise rider take the crown?
First though, let’s look at what the riders will face over the 10 stages. Get comfortable though as this could be a long one!
The Route and Stage Contenders
The majority, if not all, of the profiles used will be from LaFlammeRouge so go and give them a follow. Otherwise, they’ll be ones that I’ve made on Strava etc.
Stage 1: Verbania -> Verbania (TTT)
Seemingly now a tradition, the race once again starts with a team time trial, this time around the streets and suburbs of Verbania. Pretty much pan flat with only 70m of elevation gain throughout the 16km course, there is no need for a profile here! It will be a course that suits the power teams but as you can see on the map there are a few tighter corners where organisation will be key. With the women getting little chance to do a full TTT in races, we could see a couple of surprise results.
Boels smashed the opposition over a similar course in the Healthy Ageing Tour where they took 52 seconds out of second place team Virtu. They will be up against much stronger opposition here and they certainly won’t have it all their own way but they do start out as favourites. We of course have current TTT World Champions Sunweb at the race and they will no doubt want to go out and show that result was not a one-off and looking at their team, they have plenty of power houses in there to challenge Boels again. Those two outfits should finish 1-2 but there are another couple of teams who I have my eye on for a strong result.
Cervelo Bigla were my team to upset the apple cart last year but they had a disaster with them losing two riders early on due to a crash. I think they’ll return this year even stronger and their squad looks strong for this discipline, with them putting three riders inside the top 10 in their most recent TT at Bira.
Mitchelton Scott have come on leaps and bounds in the TT discipline this year and like Cervelo, they also had three riders in the top 10 of that Bira effort. They haven’t actually competed in a team-version this year so it will be interesting to see how they gel together but given they spent a day on their TT bikes together at training camp, I would be surprised if they didn’t sneak in some practice. I genuinely think they could contend for the win, the top 4 will be covered by only 15 seconds or so.
Stage 2: Ovada -> Ovada
One of those typical Italian rolling stages so the outcome of the day will all depend on how aggressively they opening 80km as the closing 30km are fairly easy. It should end in a sprint but again that all relies on teams having numbers to control things. The finish is a bit deceiving on the profile (shock), but the road rises ever so slightly before flattening out to the line.
The rise is only 600m at 3.4% but it might take the sting out of the sprinters kick and open it up for some of the puncheurs to go for the stage win. Not to mention that with around 300m to go the riders have to face this roundabout.
It will be a sketchy finish but at least the slight rise will have slowed them down to not make the roundabout too dangerous.
Three riders who to keep an eye out for here include Bastianelli, Ryan and Pieters, all of whom can cope with the short rise and pack a very fast sprint. I’ll go with the Ale rider to take the stage, the finish screams Bastianelli to me.
Stage 3: Corbetta -> Corbetta.
There seems to be a recurring theme here in these opening few stages where the same town is hosting the start and finish, with stage 3 a roughly 30km circuit around Corbetta. With a pan-flat route, this is definitely one for the fast women of the peloton and those who missed out the previous day will want to make amends.
Wild, Hosking, Lepistö and d’Hoore are the big names here in terms of pure, flat sprinting talent so it would be a surprise not to see one of them take home the win. There are plenty of others to watch out for though including Pieters, Buurman, Bronzini, Fournier and Vos to name a few.
Nonetheless, the last turn comes with around one kilometre to go and the straight road finish will see the strongest sprinter here win – steep up the Belgian Bullet a.k.a Jolien d’Hoore.
Stage 4: Piacenza -> Piacenza
The pattern continues onto stage 4 and we should see another sprint come the end of the day. There is a Cat-3 climb in the middle of the route to spice things up and tempt some teams to up the pace so we could see some sprinters dropped – women’s cycling is very unpredictable after all. However, I do think we’ll see a bunch sprint come the end of the day.
It is one tricky finish though, and it seems to be roundabout central: there are 6 of them in the last in closing 3km! Not entirely sure which genius thought this up and decided it was a great idea, but I guess that it is stereotypical Italian race design.
The last roundabout comes at roughly 200m to go, so whoever comes out of that in second wheel will probably win the day. I like the look of d’Hoore‘s lead out so I’ll go for her to double up.
Stage 5: Omegna -> Omegna
Another day, another same start and finish town!
With an uncategorised drag from the gun, we could see some riders in for a long day. The Cat-2 climb of Lesa – Fine Salita will see the first GC selection of the race. The climb can really be split into two parts with an “easier” opening section before they face the Muro di Comnago.
The opening 3.6km average roughly 6.4% but it is the steep ramps of Comnago that will really split things up as through the town a 730m section averages 12.5%. It is going to hurt!
It will also be spectacular though as the riders race through the narrow streets. Once over the top of the climb then there is a little plateau followed by a descent. That then leads into an uncategorised ascent which averages 4% for almost 6kms – classic Giro! A long but not very steep descent sees the riders to the final 9km of flat where a tactical battle might result in a surprise winner.
We had a similar finish to this on stage 2 last year and I thought it would be too early for a GC shake up and that we’d most likely see 12-16 riders come to the line together, or a late attack from a very reduced group. That didn’t happen though and the top 3 on GC just rode everyone off their wheels and worked well to get to the finish together. The one difference to this route is that it is that the main climb comes further out but given the follow-up climb, I think we’ll see a selective GC day. That might be a surprise to some.
It won’t be as selective as what we saw on Stage 2 in 2017 but I think there will only be a group of 8 riders who make it over the climb together – van Vleuten, Spratt, Kennedy (Mitchelton Scott), Guarnier (Boels), Niewiadoma (Canyon), Moolman Pasio (Cervelo), Stultiens (Waowdeals) and Longo Borghini (Wiggle).
Everyone will expect Mitchelton Scott to do all of the work given their numbers but instead of being shouldered with it, they will constantly attack and Spratt will eventually slip away, taking the day.
Stage 6: Sovico -> Gerola Alta.
We finally get the first point to point stage!
Any GC gaps that were made yesterday will pale into significance after this stage. Nothing to see, aside from a more than likely hectic and fast run in to the first summit finish of the race. This day is all about that finish climb of Gerola Alta.
A very consistent climb, riders who can maintain a steady rhythm will go well here. The race isn’t finished at the end of the strava segment above, as the riders still have another two kilometres of rolling terrain to contend with. Will we see a 2/3 rider sprint? It is hard to tell exactly what will happen as we don’t have a lot to go from in recent years, with only some of the finishes in the US and last year’s La Course to go by. I think we’ll once again see Mitchelton assert their dominance and put pressure on the other teams, hoping to crack another couple of riders and decrease their opposition.
This is Van Vleuten’s day.
Stage 7: Lanzada -> Alpe Gera di Campo Moro.
Mountain TT day!
1122m of altitude gain in only 15.36km, meaning the climb averages 7.3% for its entirety. It is not the worst the riders will face this Giro but given it is a completely solo effort, some might find it more challenging than it is on paper. Expect some sizeable GC gaps between the favourites.
Can new climbing sensation Kennedy take her first World Tour win here?
Stage 8: San Giorgio di Perlena – Fara Vicentino -> Breganze.
After the previous tough stages the riders have had to endure then most will be looking forward to a “rest-day” here. That means this is arguably the only stage in the whole race suited to a breakaway. Unfortunately for some, there will consequently be a big fight to get into the move and I fear quite a few riders will be dropped on the early climbs. It’s a long way to the finish but a group of them should make it home within the time limit.
The last climb of the day will be a decisive one and it is a little muro, averaging roughly 10% for a shade over a kilometre. Expect the break to be torn apart here and we’ll more than likely see a solo winner arrive into Breganze. Some of the GC contenders might even sense an opportunity to attack if one of their rivals looks to be on an off day.
As for the stage winner, names in a hat time, so I’ll go with Cecchini, Beggin and Rowe.
Stage 9: Tricesimo -> Ovaro (Monte Zoncolan).
The one everyone has been waiting for.
Much like stage 6, there is nothing much to report until the famous last climb.
I don’t need to describe the climb, it is just brutal, end of. Expect some big gaps here and the GC winner should be crowned.
Stage 10: Cividale del Friuli -> Cividale del Friuli
What better way to round out the race than with yet another same town start/finish. No processional stage here though!
With a rather nasty sting in the tail, some things could still be up for grabs so the GC riders will need to be attentive and still fighting fit on the final climb of the race: San Leonardo.
5km at 8.1% is tough enough for a shake up, especially with the steeper opening 3km that the riders will have to contend with. A descent all the way to the finish means that whoever crests the climb in first (if they’re alone) will most likely win.
Well, a few thousand words later that’s the route analysis finished, just the GC contenders to discuss, although I’ll be keeping this bit short and to the point as there are only a few riders who can win this race.
I named 8 riders before: van Vleuten, Spratt, Kennedy (Mitchelton Scott), Guarnier (Boels), Niewiadoma (Canyon), Moolman Pasio (Cervelo), Stultiens (Waowdeals) and Longo Borghini (Wiggle) as a potential group who might escape on stage 5 and they are the riders who I will ultimately finish in the top 8 of the race.
However, I don’t think all of them have a chance of winning so unfortunately for Niewiadoma and Stultiens, their journey ends here. Likewise, even though Mitchelton have named van Vleuten and Spratt as their leaders, I think that Kennedy is the stronger climber compared to Spratt. Consequently, she also falls by the wayside.
That leaves a top 5 of van Vleuten, Kennedy, Guarnier, Moolman Pasio and Longo Borghini.
Last year’s third placed finished, the Dutchwoman really should have won the race but it was a lapse of concentration and poor positioning that cost her on a rather innocuous stage as she lost time due to splits in the peloton caused by the wind and formation of echelons. Mitchelton bring a stupidly stacked squad with them that covers all terrain very well and van Vleuten will have a lot of support to go for a title bid this year. In 2017 we saw on the Izoard at La Course just how good she is on these mountains and I expect no different from her at this Giro.
A revelation since turning pro with Mitchelton at the start of the year, the Aussie has seriously impressed in her opening World Tour races. Unfortunately she crashed out of Amstel Gold Race while being in good shape so she hasn’t raced since then, instead focussing on recovering and getting some tough training and boy has she done that. She’s been on altitude camp with a few team-mates and has been setting some blistering times on the climbs around Livigno. Seemingly a naturally very strong climber, I am slightly concerned about her confidence after the crash. Her bike handling isn’t as great as some of the Europeans but that’s what you would expect when the majority of the bunch has grown up with aggressive and fast paced action in a peloton whereas Kennedy hasn’t. Thankfully for her, most of the mountains are at the end of the stages! I am intrigued to see how she copes in what is her first Giro but I haven’t seen any signs when she has been racing that suggest to me she will struggle. She could be the perfect 1-2 for Van Vleuten.
Elisa Longo Borghini.
Forever the bridesmaid it seems, ELB has struggled to this season a little and has failed to finish on the top step in 2018. However, this race is one of her big goals for the year and as a former winner of La Route de France she can never be discounted. Amazingly still only 26, the Wiggle rider has been already been around for a while and she should now be moving into her peak physical years. In 2017 she managed to follow van der Breggen and van Vleuten on the climbs, only losing time in the TT and TTT. Better efforts against the clock this year could see her be a real challenger for the title.
With no van der Breggen in their line-up, the 2016 winner of this race arrives as Boels’ main charge for the title. Since that victory in 2016 (which was an incredible year for her overall), Guarnier has struggled to get as many wins under her belt. However, she was exceptionally consistent in 2017 and acted as a great second in command for her leaders, even finishing 4th at this event herself. It will be interesting to see how she copes with the pressure of being the only leader but her palmares at the Giro would suggest she will be perfectly fine, having came home 4th (2017), 1st (2016) and 3rd (2015) in the past three editions. I think she’ll be ready.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio.
The Cervelo Bigla rider has been one of the most consistent this year, with her lowest finishing position in her 20 race days being 24th on stage 3 of the Bira. A truly remarkable stat. In fact, she’s only finished outside the top 10 on 4 occasions. A crash hampered her race here last season so she will no doubt be back with a hunger to succeed. I mentioned her team as dark horses for the TTT so she shouldn’t lose too much time, if any, in that discipline so it will be down to her ability on the climbs. Luckily for her, she is one of the best in the world and I think we’ll see a great race from her.
Having numbers at the head of the race will be crucial and will play a massive part in the outcome of the race.
After last year’s disappointment I think we’ll see van Vleuten take the step up and win the title. This is the race she has been preparing for all season and she’s not here to play any games!
Moolman and Guarnier to round out the podium.
There were hushed mumblings that we were going to get some live coverage of the race this year but it seems that has unfortunately fallen through. Instead, there will be daily highlights on the PMG Sport facebook and Youtube page at roughly 5pm. If they are like their Italian Cup highlights then they will be well worth a watch and we should get to see most of the action with pretty much the last 20km of each day shown “live”.
As for during the race, the best way to follow it is via the #GiroRosa hashtag.
Thanks as always for reading, I hope you come back to this daily to see how wrong I was! If you could do me a massive favour and RT this on Twitter or share elsewhere then that would mean a great deal to me, this race deserves a lot more coverage. Who do you think is going to win overall? Anyway,
The first round of the Women’s World Tour is upon is and we’re set for a cracking race. Now in its 4th edition, we’ve had some brutal races in the past and I expect that to be no different this year.
2017 saw home-favourite Elisa Longo Borghini take a stunning victory as she outmanoeuvred KasiaNiewiadoma coming into the Piazza del Campo, with Lizzie Deignan taking third.
It wasn’t easy for the trio even though they were the strongest on the day as their refusal to co-operate saw Brand and Gillow launch audacious late counter attacks. They were caught on the climb up to the Piazza in what was a gripping end to a great race and allowed for the spectacular picture above!
Will we see more of the same this year? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.
Longer than 2017, the riders will face just over 30kms worth of gravel along the 136km route.
The longest section they will traverse comes at around the half-way point in the race and this will be the place where the field starts to split up. I would imagine one or two teams will come to the front and push the pace on, reducing the group down to 50 or so riders.
From there it will be tough to control and we might see a counter attack and a new breakaway form but things will be brought to heel once we enter the closing stages.
The two gravel sections in the closing 20km are where ELB and co did the damage last year. After the first segment we did get a bit of a regrouping but it was just before the final Strade and once again the stronger riders made a difference there. As I mentioned above, it was only due to their lack of co-operation on the rolling 12kms that remained which resulted in Brand and Gillow coming from behind and straight over the top. If they had worked together then those dropped would have had no chance of getting back.
The climb into Siena is brutally steep but at only 500m the puncheurs can hang on with the proper climbers. It is important to be near the front at the crest though because positioning is vital thereafter.
As we saw last year leading through the narrow streets combined with good bike positioning means you can effectively block off anyone from passing, thus securing the win. It’s a tactically shrewd move but one that everyone should be aware of by now. Therefore the “real” finish line is with 200m to go!
Given the surprising amount of snow that Italy has received over the past week, I’m sure the riders will be glad to know that it will be “just” rain on Saturday.
Although the women look set to have the slightly better conditions with more rainfall expected later on in the day, they are more likely to be on the brunt of stronger winds. Making it six or half a dozen really!
Either way, whoever wins come the end of the race will certainly deserve it.
Elisa Longo Borghini.
The defending champion arrives here after a solid outing in Omloop where she was on the attack. A great climber and one-day racer, she is one of the many women who seem to have been around for a while but she is still only 26. Those years of experience started to shine through last year with the win in Strade and good performances elsewhere such as a second at the Giro Rosa. I think she’ll find it difficult to double up but given her consistency here (3rd, 4th, 1st) then I would struggle to argue against her going close. With Audrey Cordon-Ragot as a team-mate she has a someone who can go deep into the race with her and even act as an attacker to force other teams to chase.
With a stage-race already under her belt, the Canyon SRAM rider should be a little bit ahead of her rivals here in terms of racing miles. At that race she finished a fairly modest 7th but it was her performances on the climbs that impressed most, with only Moolman (who’s also here) being able to stick with her. Niewiadoma is another rider who is incredibly consistent at this race having finished 6th/2nd/2nd, she will be looking to finally get one-step higher this year. One massive advantage she will have compared to previous attempts is the strength of her team. Canyon should have both Cecchini and FerrandPrevot in or around the top 10 at this race which means that they should be able to control it due to the numbers they have. Then again, this is Strade and it will be absolutely horrendous out on the roads so “control” might not be the word! I wonder how essential PFP’s cyclocross and mountain bike experience will be.
The winner of the inaugural edition back in 2015, the American lines up here for her first race of the season. After an exceptional 2016 last year seemed like somewhat of a step back in terms of results, with only two wins to her name. She was exceptionally consistent but given the fighter she is I imagine that she will want to return to those previous levels this season. A strong climber with a fast sprint she has every chance of a win if she has the form. Boels also have the very luxury second option of the Queen of the Ardennes; Anna van der Breggen. She’s finished 5th on both occasions that she has raced here, but with the aim of peaking for the Ardennes again, will she have enough in the locker for a good result this year? Deignan is on one of the start lists that I have looked at but she is not in the official preview on the Boels website so she may or may not be here too! It certainly adds another dynamic if she is.
As already mentioned above, Moolman has some good racing in her legs at Setmana last week. Interestingly, she never finished outside the top 10 on any of the stages and managed to take home second on GC. There is clearly some form there! This is a race she has done in the past with a 4th place in 2015 but she was only capable of 18th last year. It should suit her punchy characteristics and given she has been involved in a few sprints, her power figures must be good for the short and sharp efforts. Such a classy rider, could she be described as a dark horse for this race?
With Garfoot no longer on the team and Van Vleuten competing in Apeldoorn the mantle of leading Mitchelton Scott is left with “Spratty”. Having won the Women’s Tour Down Under she has returned to racing in Europe in an attacking mood, having been off the front of both the Belgian races last weekend. Just missing out on the key move last year she finished strongly to come home in 8th place. She’s certainly capable of improving on that this season and a top 5 is possible. I’m intrigued to see how team-mate Kennedy goes in these conditions.
Full of confidence after winning Le Samyn des Dames on Tuesday the Ale Cipollini rider will be hoping to improve on a 13th place last year. She’s a solid climber although she isn’t up there with the best in the discipline. However, theoretically she should love the grim conditions that are forecast for Saturday given her background in speed skating. With an attacking attitude, she might be able to sneak away from the “major contenders” and just surprise everyone by holding on.
The second Australian in the list, she had to unfortunately cut short her racing time Down Under due to a crash. However, she returned at Setmana and finished a very respectable 8th on GC. Apparently attacking to bridge the gap to the leaders on the opening stage, she was closed down by their team-mates. Her form must be good and she is always a consistent performer in the hilly one-day races. I expect a top 10 and anything near the top of the order wouldn’t surprise me too much but it would be difficult to win as she is not the punchiest!
One other name that I want to throw out there (mainly because she is in my season-long fantasy team) is Pauliena Rooijakers.
I can’t imagine many of you will have heard of the WaowDeals rider but she is the former Dutch and European Beachrace champion. After competing in that discipline full time in past few years this season her focus will be more on the road. A capable climber on her day she won the Queen Stage of the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche last year, along with a few notable top 10’s in hilly one-day races. Her background in beach racing should see her at home on the Strade and I’m quietly hoping for a good result; a top 10 would be an incredible achievement.
Form, team, parcours and race history all point to one rider; Katarzyna Niewiadoma.
She is a truly incredible bike rider with a string of great results and it is amazing to think she is still only 23! Punchy enough to cope with the accelerations on the climbs, I have a feeling we didn’t see her go 100% in Setmana and she was holding something back for this race. The one big advantage she has compared to last year is the strength of her team which will be a big help; she shouldn’t have to chase every attack herself. On the sprint up to the Piazza no one will be able to follow her and she’ll take a great win.
I’m not someone to make outlandish, season-long claims…wait, no, I am, but I think she will be World Champion this year. No pressure Kasia!
Much like last year, I think we’re going to be able to watch the final 45 minutes of the race live on Eurosport player. I’m not 100% sure at the moment as it doesn’t specify on the schedule but that seems to be the case. It will more than likely be without commentary though so I’ll pester your Twitter timelines with updates instead!
Thanks as always for reading! I’m certainly looking forward to the Women’s World Tour starting again with this incredible race. Who do you think will win on Saturday? Will we see an upset? I don’t normally beg for anything but if you could please retweet the preview to share it around then that would be greatly appreciated; my women’s previews unfortunately don’t seem to get the same coverage as the men’s do. Anyway,
This edition of La Course is a special one for me as it marks a year of writing women’s previews! Last year saw a sprint finish in Paris, with Hosking taking the win, somehow managing to avoid the now famous #HaugheyCurse. Maybe it was beginners luck?!
After 3 years with a glorified criterium on the Champs-Élysées, the ASO have decided to mix things up this year with a move away from Paris, instead heading into the mountains with a change of format.
I’m pleased to see things get mixed up and for the race to provide an opportunity for different riders to shine on “the biggest stage in World cycling”. Yet, I can’t help but feel somewhat let down.
Obviously, I don’t know the intricacies of the financial aspect surrounding organising the race but given the infrastructure will be there for the men, how difficult is it for the women to have at least a 5-day stage race that coincides with the Tour? Heck, if organisers are worried about difference in speeds and the potential issues that might cause then let the women do 75% of the stage for example, and start them earlier. With the limit on the length of stages by the UCI (155km I think) we would still be treated to some very exciting racing throughout the final week and it would be a much better showcase for the sport than what we’re getting.
I also feel that the new format is a bit “gimmicky” and trivialises the women’s side of the sport a bit. If it is for only one year then that’s OK, but if it becomes a regular occurrence then I think it is more of a step sideways rather than a step forwards.
Let’s have a look at what’s getting me all worked up anyway!
La Course this year will be split into two “stages” with the first being a mountain top finish on the mythical Col d’Izoard. I say “stages” as it is not a stage race in the traditional sense, and it’s important to point that out but I’ll get into that in more detail later on.
The riders will head south from the start in Briançon, following the same opening 30km of the men’s race, before they cut across the valley and head towards Izoard.
From the halfway point in the race (it is a paltry 67.5km long stage after all which is pretty insulting), the road rises ever so slightly almost all the way home. For example, the section between La Chapelue and Ariveux is 7.5km at just over 4%.
The categorised climb of the Col d’Izoard itself starts a couple of kilometres before Ariveux.
At 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3% it is a brute, but is also fair to say that the first half of the climb starts off relatively “easy”. Well, when you look at the rest of it the climb that is!
The opening 7km average only 5.6%, whereas the second half is a much more painful sounding 9%. You better hold something back for the end of the day, that’s for sure.
Whoever wins on the day will certainly have deserved it!
Now, this is where things get weird / ever so slightly confusing / gimmicky.
The opening stage is the only one that counts towards UCI standings, with the winner being awarded 120 points, the same amount as they would in any other UCI World Tour race. So for the riders, the opening day is the only one that really matters to them in that sense.
Except, the racing doesn’t end after the first day though…
The first oddity is that there is essentially a rest day between the finish on Izoard and the following race day in Marseille.
The top 20 finishers on the previous stage (although this can apparently change depending on time gaps) will roll out on the same TT course that the men will be going around later that day.
However, instead of it being like a normal TT where the riders go out in reverse order GC wise, it will be whoever finishes at the head of the race on Izoard that leaves the start ramp first. The following 19 riders will then set off, chasing the leader, at the same time gap that they finished behind them on the mountain stage during the previous day of racing.
The “gimmicky” idea continues as the riders will all be on normal road-bikes (no TT machines allowed) and they will be allowed to draft and work with opposition riders or any team-mates that they may have.
This presents a conundrum for the riders going out early. Do they go full gas and replicate a TT effort, knowing they have a big enough gap to hold off any chasers. Or if their lead is minimal, do they sit up and wait?
We could end up seeing a bunch sprint in the velodrome if things get really tactical!
How will the “race” pan out?
Getting my poor prediction disclaimer in early but we hardly ever see the women compete on mountains such as the Izoard so I don’t think anyone has a real idea as to how well the riders will go.
At the recent Giro Rosa the defining GC climb of the race was 5.3km long at 7.6%. I guess the closest we’ve had to the Izoard is the climb of Daggett Summit in the Tour of California which was 12.6km at 6.1%.
With the day only being 67km long, I think the break will find it hard to get away but I’m sure there will be a lot of teams who will try. If they get riders up the road then they’ll be a great help to their team-mates later on.
However, I think we’ll see a race of attrition where riders go out of the back, rather than off the front.
The on the “TT” I have no idea! Will all depend on the gaps after Izoard but I think we could see the winner of that day hold on for the title too.
After her stellar performance at the Giro Rosa, a race which she could really have won, the Orica Scott rider will be coming here full of confidence. Arguably the in-form rider in the peloton she will certainly be hard to drop. Not the purest of climbers, more of a great all-rounder, I’m intrigued to see how she copes on a really long ascent. At the Giro she was the rider pushing the pace during the GC-day I mentioned above so it will be interesting to see how she approaches tomorrow. With a strong Spratt in her team, she will be able to rely on having someone for a long way up the climb which could be crucial.
Having had a quiet season by her standards, especially when considering her barnstroming 2016, the American showed signs of promise at the recent Giro. Working well for her team-leader she managed to finish 4th on GC, winning the final stage along the way. Possibly now riding into form, she is Boels best candidate for a race like this and having the help of Canuel and Deignan could be crucial.
The Italian champion finished second on GC at the Giro behind van der Breggen but never really looked like beating the Dutchwoman all race. However, with VDB not here, the race is certainly open for other riders to step up. Not a pure climber, she could struggle on the long climb but as one of the best riders in the women’s peloton then she will certainly be close to the head of the bunch. Lichtenberg will also be at the head of the race for Wiggle, with the German pure-climber really liking this type of ascent. Can they form a strong attacking duo?
Withdrawing from the Giro due illness wasn’t ideal for the Cervélo rider, especially considering she was flying before the race and could have been a proper GC player. A very strong climber, her mind will be fully focussed on this race and proving what could have been at the Giro. With UttrupLudwig on her team, she is another rider who could take advantage of a strong team-mate. I think she has a big chance!
One of the riders of the season, she has top-10’d in pretty much every race that she’s entered so far. At only 22 years old, it is scary to think what she’ll be able to do in the future. I’m not sure how she’ll cope on a long climb like this as the punchier 3-4km climbs seem to be her speciality but you never know!
Some outsiders to keep an eye on to possibly break into the top 10 are;
Gillow (FDJ), Nosková (Bepink), Ensing (Alé) and Nilsson (BTC).
I think the Izoard stage will become a Moolman v Van Vleuten show-down. With the Giro in her legs, VV will tire and leave the “fresher” Moolman to take victory!
As for who wins the TT/chase malarkey, then that depends on time gaps from the Izoard. Van Vleuten was flying in the TT at the Giro so I reckon she could catch Moolman and then win in a 2-up sprint!
So Moolman and Van Vleuten both win something, but who wins “La Course”? That depends on your interpretation whether you’re the UCI or the ASO!
All of the racing should be shown live by broadcasters throughout so check with your local provider. I’m pretty sure it is being shown pan-Europe on the Eurosport Player.
Hopefully the racing lives up to the billing tomorrow. I’m not too fussed about what we’ll see on Saturday though, but that’s just my opinion.
The only “Grand Tour” in the women’s peloton the Giro Rosa starts again this Friday for its 28th edition with a stacked peloton looking to make their mark on the race.
Last year’s GC was won by Boels’ MeganGuarnier, with team-mate Stevens coming home second and vanderBreggen in third.
Will we see a similar sort of dominance from the Dutch-team, who now of course have van der Breggen on board as well, or will some other riders be fighting for the overall victory?
First though, let’s have a look at what the riders will faced with over the coming 10 days.
All of the profiles used here are courtesy of @LasterketaBurua, so go and give them a follow on Twitter!
The questionable, poor quality route maps will be from the organisers website that I’ve screen shot. To be fair, the race is run on a shoe-string budget. Anyway…
A pan-flat late afternoon team time trial over 11km will set the early GC order. A discipline that is rarely practiced in the women’s peloton we could see some surprising time gaps.
With there being little in the way of technical difficulties, this TTT will all be about pure power. Although it is important to note that they pass over a causeway and the wind might play a part in the outcome depending on their start times. Looking at early forecasts it’s supposed to be a 16kmph cross headwind when the first team starts at 16:45, but it is meant to increase to around 18kmph by the time the final team leaves the start house. Furthermore, there is a higher chance of rain for the later starters. It could be a dicey opening day.
As far as stage contenders go though, Boels will no doubt start as the favourites. The current TTT World Champions are bringing a very strong team to the race and they’ve won the only TTT of the year so far at the Healthy Ageing Tour. However, they won’t have it all their own way with Canyon, Cervélo and possibly even Orica challenging for the win.
I particularly like the look of the Cérvelo team. They have a lot of strong time trial riders and will wan to put Moolman at an early advantage on GC over their opposition. I expect them to be Boels’ closest rivals.
A tease of a stage, it’s a relatively straight forward day until we get to the one categorised climb of the day. The road rises very gradually from around 30kms in all the way until the foot slopes of the Forcella di pala Barzana at 93km. At 5.3km long and averaging 7.6% it is a tough climb and I’ll be interested to see how the peloton approaches it. There are still 24km to go from the summit, of which 12km are descent.
I think we’ll see a selection on the climb. How select? That I’m unsure of. It looks tough enough for the best climbers to properly drop everyone, but will they feel confident going solo to the line with ~10km to the line left once they reach the bottom?
Therefore, I think we’ll get a group of 10 riders or so crest the climb together. From there, it will be a case of numbers/luck/timing as to if we see a small bunch sprint or a successful late attack stick. VanVleuten and vanderBreggen are two ideal candidates to win from this situation, both are great climbers and they both have fast sprints.
A lesser known rider to watch out for though is ArlenisSierra. I have to admit, before this season I didn’t know much about he Cuban rider, but she has impressed me a lot so far this year. Second at Trofeo Binda and third on GC in California, she packs a great sprint and might just pick up her first World Tour win this week!
Stages 3 & 4.
Both are days for the sprinters so I thought I’d club them together.
Stage 3 is the more rolling of the two, with some short and steep climbs out on course. However, there is enough time for the sprint teams to bring everything back together after the Poggio.
Stage 4 is about as pan-flat as you can get – a definite sprint!
So who will contend on these days?
The Belgian Bullet (Joliend’Hoore) will arrive here confident after her victory on the final day of the Women’s Tour. I think she’s one of the fastest pure sprinters in the peloton and with Bronzini as lead-out rider, they will form a formidable pairing. The latter might even sprint on a few of the days.
KirstenWild might have something to say about the above statement though. The Dutch powerhouse is ever-present at the pointy end of sprint stages finishing on the podium 7 times so far this season, winning 3 times.
Canyon have the choice between Barnes and Guarischi. The former obviously had an, ahem, barnstorming Women’s Tour and she’ll probably be their go to on the tougher days like stage 3. Whereas, Guarischi, a former winner at the Giro Rosa prefers things a lot flatter so she might be given the nod for stage 4. Either way, the team will be disappointed not to make the podium.
ChloeHosking will be hoping to take a couple of wins for her Italian trade team Alé Cipollini who she has just signed a new contract for. After a great 2016, she’s really continued her upwards trajectory and is now much more than a good flat stage sprinter. She can manage the climbs well too, as was highlighted by her win in the Women’s Tour when she came home first in a peloton of only 45 riders.
CorynRivera was the sensation of the Spring, winning Binda and Flanders. Although that’s probably unfair as since the start of March she hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in any race/stage she’s competed in. A truly remarkable record! She hasn’t raced much such California but recently came second at the US National Championships. I expect her to get a few top 3s this week and possibly win a stage. Even the difficult stage 2 could be on her radar.
Lotta Lepistö made her return to racing at the Finnish national championships recently, managing to secure both the road and TT title. Having won Gent-Wevelgem in a sprint against the likes of d’Hoore and Rivera earlier in the year, she is no slouch either! Like a few others, I think she might be targeting a few of the harder days in the saddle.
Boels have a number of sprint options; newly crowned Dutch Champion ChantalBlaak, newly crowned UK Champion LizzieDeignan, or current World Champion AmelieDideriksen. Not a bad list that! I’m not sure based on pure speed if any of them are the best sprinter here but they will certainly benefit from the strongest lead-out.
As for others who could be in the top 10 on sprint stages, look out for Moberg (Hitec), Confalonieri (Lesnworld), Fidanza (Astana), Huang (Servetto) and Scandolara (WM3).
After a few days unlikely to cause a GC shake-up, stage 5 certainly will.
Out of interest and in TT tradition, I’ve actually made a Strava profile of the TT that you can view here.
A tough ITT of 13km, with the routes main focal points being two climbs. It is one of those typical Giro stages that doesn’t look too bad on the profile until you delve a little deeper.
The first climb of Santa Lucia is 1.2km long and averages 10%. Ouch! The road then continues to rise at 4% for the next kilometre or so before we get a flattening out and a descent.
Once the riders pass the 10km to go mark the road rises almost all the way to the finish with a notable 300m section at 20%! The preceding 1.8kms averages around 5.5% which will make the seep ramp even tougher.
It does turn into false flat for the final few hundred metres so the riders will need to keep something in reserve for one final push, and not blow up too early.
I’m intrigued to see if riders will use their TT bikes at all or just stick to road bikes with bars on. I would certainly be looking to take the latter option!
As for who could win this stage, newly crowned Italian TT Champ Longo Borghini has a great chance. She was 4 seconds off the win in last year’s TT and this route seems to suit her even more. A strong showing here will cement her GC challenge.
She won’t have it all her own way as usual suspects vanVleuten, Moolman and vanderBreggen.
A lap circuit without any real difficulties. There is one 1.4km climb (averaging 3.7%) that the riders will tackle once on each of their four laps. Normally this would be a day for the sprinters but with the summit of the last climb coming 4km from the top, it will certainly entice late attacks from the bunch. The sprinters really shouldn’t be dropped from the peloton, it is more a case of people escaping off the front. A technical descent could see a small group maintain their lead and fight it out for the win.
If that’s the case, look for opportunists such as Cecchini, Spratt and Brand.
However, if we do get a sprint win I’ll go for Hosking. She should be able to cope with the climb easily and her team is capable of monitoring attacks etc.
A classic breakaway day, with the race starting on a climb it will ensure only strong riders get into the move. Will anyone close on GC try to sneak away? I doubt it, but there is a chance they might throw a spanner into the works.
There is a possibility that sprint teams might try to bring it back but it is another one of the stages where there is a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the course. Therefore, I think they’ll be happy to keep their powder dry.
It’s hard to tell who’ll be far enough back to be given some freedom but I’ll go for young Italian talent Sofia Beggin to take the win. A rider to look out for the future, she’s already produced some good performances this season with a 12th place in Strade and a 5th at the recent Italian Road Nats so there is clearly some form there. Furthermore, she’s the Madcon mash-up inspired pun (Beggin, Beggin you) team-name for my Velogames squad, so I have to include her in this at some point!
Another name that could be there though is Sheyla Gutiérrez. In her second season with Cylance the newly crowned Spanish champion will want to show her stripes off in an aggressive manner this Giro. Having won Le Samyn from a break earlier in the year, she is also a good candidate for a stage like this.
The Queen Stage of the race? Yes, in terms of climbing. However, the gradients of the climbs aren’t too hard, with them barely touching over 5%. Therefore it will be difficult for the pure climbers to make their mark on the stage.
However, with that being said, I still think we’ll see a selection on the day with the overall contenders going clear. I say this because of how long the climbs are, if a tough pace is set at the bottom then riders will be slowly churned out of the back of the peloton. We might see a group of 10-20 riders crest the Cuccaro Vetere together. From there it will be a mix of being strong and lucky to make the winning counter-move that is bound to follow. Can Niewiadoma repeat her win in the Women’s Tour?
A fairly tough opening half to the stage, the riders will do a lot of climbing which could allow the break to get a large gap. However, as this is the last chance for the sprinters I expect co-operation from all the teams to bring back the escape and we’ll have a bunch sprint in Polla.
With a straightforward closing circuit, I’ll go for a d’Hoore win here.
The final stage of the Giro sees the riders take on a circuit around Torre del Greco with a little trip (around a third) up Mount Vesuvius. The lap circuit isn’t too difficult, there are a few short climbs but nothing too serious. However, one of the major difficulties they’ll face is this ridiculously narrow street…
Hopefully they’re well strung out as they enter it, if not, I fear we could see some crashes.
The stage will be decided on Vesuvius and it could well go to a breakaway or one of the GC contenders. The climb itself averages roughly 6% for 5.2km but the closing 1.2km average 9.5%. It is certainly steep enough for the best climbers to create gaps.
The riders will then face a fast and technical descent (passing through that narrow street at ~3km to go) all the way to the finish line.
Will the rider who wins the stage win the overall title too?
I guess I better start with the defending champion MeganGuarnier. She’s been a shadow of the rider she was last season and given recent form, it is hard to say she will be competing here. However, this may have been her main target all season and she is potentially quietly peaking to go well here. Yet, I can’t see it happening for her unfortunately.
Waiting in the wings though will be team-mate van der Breggen. After a slow start to the year, she went on to win a famous Ardennes triple with some truly incredible performances. Following on from that she was instrumental in helping Deignan win the Tour of Yorkshire, before going on to win the GC in California. This route suits the Olympic Champion down to the ground and given her achievements she has to start as the favourite. However, her results haven’t been that great recently so maybe she is on a mid-season lull before peaking again for the end of the year?
Moolman will no doubt be challenging for the overall win this year. After struggling with an injury that hampered her early Spring season, she shook that off by the time the Ardennes classics came around. Finishing in the top 10 in each race was a sign she was returning to her spectacular best. Since then she’s been in great form, notching up three victories. Has she managed to keep that form up?
LongoBorghini comes to this race in a confident mood having won both national championship events. Suffering from illness earlier in the year, she missed some events and form for some of the key races in the calendar. However, he lighter schedule in theory should see her come here fresher than her opposition. Still only relatively young at 25 years old, she’s improving each and every year and I think she has a great chance of overall victory here.
Speaking of young riders, recent Women’s Tour winner Niewiadoma will be here looking to continue her incredible 2017. The WWT leader has been anything but exceptional this year, finishing in the top 10 in almost every race she’s entered! She only seems to race the big events and no doubt she’ll be looking to make it back-to-back GC wins at WT level. The TTT and ITT could hinder her chances but she can more than make up for it on her own on the climbs. I’ll be watching with interest!
VanVleuten is another rider in stellar form. The Orica star has a strong team here to support her, with Garfoot and Spratt expected to last the distance on a lot of the climbs. Maybe not as strong as some of the other women on the long climbs, she’ll be looking to attack at the end of stages where there are short ramps that act as launchpads. The Dutch TT champ will be looking to put in a good time in the individual effort and sees where that leaves her for the rest of the week.
I can’t really see anyone else challenging for the win but there are some outsiders who will be fighting for a top 5/10 and with a bit of luck, even better!
Sierra is an unkown quantity for this type of race. She really stepped up at the Tour of California finishing third on GC there. I’m not sure how she’ll cope with a longer stage race but a good performance here isn’t unlikely. If she manages another top 10, a move to a “bigger” WT team for next year could be on the cards.
Gillow comes here with a good chance of a top 10. A very consistent rider, the Aussie will be at the pointy end in most stages. If you watched any of the Women’s Tour, you’ll know she was off the front attacking in the final two stages, honing some form for this race.
I think not being on form for some of the Spring will be a blessing in disguise for LongoBorghini and she’ll take the crown here. She will lose some time in the opening TTT, but I think she has enough quality both on the climbs and the ITT to over-turn that.
Niewiadoma and Moolman to round out the podium, with the Boels riders shockingly falling by the wayside!
Unfortunately there is no live tv coverage of the race, but there will be daily highlights on RAI.
You should be able to access them via VPN I think but give Pam (@motorcycleMTNS) a follow on Twitter as she will no doubt have all the links or will record them and upload them to her Youtube channel.
Futhermore, we should expect highlights on the UCI Youtube Channel and the Giro Rosa has a YT Channel itself so we might see stuff there too.
During the stages themselves it will be a case of following on Twitter via the #GiroRosa hashtag. I would recommend following @richiesteege though (the Boels mechanic) who is one of the best sources for information during the race.
As the betting industry is in the dark ages and never offers odds on the races, I guess they’re just copying the coverage we get (I’ll stop before I get myself in trouble)…
I’ve set up a Velogames league for you all to join so that you can have an interest following the race.
Use the code “27002603” to join. I look forward to you all beating me 😳.
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal! I don’t usually beg for RTs etc on Twitter but if you can do to raise awareness of this exciting race that’s run on a shoe-string, then that would be fantastic. Also, from a selfish point of view too, I’d like this to reach as many people as possible. I’ve not wrote 3200 words for nothing! It is after all the most comprehensive Giro Rosa guide on the internet 😉.
I shall be back tomorrow for the Tour with my stage 1 preview. Anyway,
Gillow and UttrupLudwig did the blog some justice by getting in a mid-stage break but it was eventually clawed back by Sunweb who got a little bit of assistance from Boels.
We had a crash marred final 20km with several riders going down in various incidents, but the race ended in a relatively large bunch sprint.
Hosking took a great win, ahead of Barnes (Alice) and VanDijk. The latter justified her teams hard-work all day, picking up some bonus seconds and moving into 2nd on GC.
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.
The toughest stage of the race going off of elevation gain, the riders are set to face a lot of uncategorised climbs throughout the day.
Here’s a link to the interactive version of the profile.
Most of the climbs come early but that doesn’t mean they won’t be attacked and we could see a significantly reduced group by the time the riders pass the second categorised climb of the day in Crich.
From there the route does get easier in the second half of the stage, allowing for some regrouping if the pace up ahead doesn’t stay constant. With some sore bodies after today’s stage, it will be hard to keep everything together.
There is a relatively long uncategorised drag of 3.1km at 3% that crests with just 6km to go and this looks like a perfect launchpad for some riders to put in one last dig!
The finish into Chesterfield is quite technical with a few kinks in the road in the closing few hundred metres.
Will we see another sprint?
How will the stage pan out?
With this being the last stage where the GC order can really change, I expect a fast and attacking day throughout. The other teams will not want to admit it, but they’ll relish the fact that Vos has now unfortunately had to leave the race due to a broken collarbone that she suffered in a crash today. It means that Niewiadoma will be very exposed because as I said in my stage 2 preview; I’m not sure how long Kitchen and Koster will be able to hold onto the peloton for.
I think we’ll see strong teams such as Sunweb and Boels set a fierce pace early in the stage, looking to isolate the GC leader before the half-way point.
From there, I expect attacks to come thick and fast off the front of the peloton from several teams: forcing Niewiadoma to do a lot of the chasing.
Eventually, something will stick and as long as several of the main teams are represented, it won’t come back.
Will Niewiadoma make the split? Well, it all depends on where it goes. She’s clearly in stellar form at the moment and if they try to attack her on a climb she should be able to follow it. Whereas, if it goes on the flat then it reduces her chances. She may well adopt the adage of attack = best form of defense.
Depending on who makes the move will decide how important the final uncategorised climb will be. If there are a few strong climbers then they may want to try to distance others, not trusting their sprints.
The gap that they have will also be a factor. We might see them work together extremely well right until the end of the day to ensure they overhaul Niewiadoma’s GC lead.
Riding exceptionally well at the moment, my pre-race GC pick finds herself sitting 4th on GC but on the same time as her sister who is in third. Climbing well, she’s been prominent in all of the stages so far, with 14th being her worst result. A strong all-rounder with a fast sprint she will hope any group comes together to the line as that seems to be her best chance of winning. Nonetheless, the local rider isn’t afraid to attack either!
The South African is having a quiet but strong Women’s Tour so far, currently occupying 6th place on GC. She was one of the best on the climbs of stage 2, but it was a case of “too many cooks” that day. One of the only riders who I think can drop everyone on the rises tomorrow, she’ll co-operate with any group but hope to attack them on the final rise. I think she has a good chance of taking the win.
After her win on stage 2, Boels were intending to ride for the Dutchwoman today but unfortunately she was involved in a crash before the finish. Nothing too serious but a bit shaken up, she didn’t want to contend the sprint. If she has recovered from that then she has a good chance tomorrow. With 4 riders in the top 30, Boels will no doubt race the stage aggressively. Any of their riders could win, but Pieters seems to be climbing well and obviously sprinting well too so she covers both options!
Ellen van Dijk.
Second on GC and looking the most likely to usurp Niewiadoma, the Sunweb rider should like the look of tomorrow’s route. The climbs aren’t too tough and should suit her powerful riding style. Futhermore, if she makes it into a small group, she has the strength required to escape and TT her way to the line. I’m sure everyone will be very wary of her!
Of course, we could see plenty of other riders contend tomorrow’s stage. It could well be as we say in Scotland a “belter”! Just a shame it won’t be live…
I’ll go for one of the form riders in the peloton at the moment, AshleighMoolman to take the win.
No fancy hats as prizes here though! 😔
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Niewiadoma hold onto her lead? Anyway,
Back now for its 4th edition, the Women’s Tour now has a new headline sponsor – Drake! Joking aside, we should be in for a good week of racing with a whole host of talented riders here looking to take the crown.
Deignan is here to defend the title she took last year, but can she manage it?
I’m unsure if she will or not! On paper, the route looks a lot easier than the previous editions and some riders have highlighted that themselves. Nonetheless, it will all depend on how aggressively they attack the route and of course, the typically bad British weather might play its part too.
If we get a selective race then on form Moolman looks the rider to beat. She’s won the last three races that she has entered and seems to be fully recovered from her crash at the end of last year. Packing a solid sprint after a tough day, she can challenge in a lot of situations.
Deignan obviously will be expected to go well, and the same can be said for her team-mate vanderBreggen. There are many other names to consider as well such as LongoBorghini, Gillow and Vos. The latter is also in imperious form and seems back to her sublime best, winning the last three of her races!
However I am unsure if it will be as a selective race in comparison to last year’s edition. I’m really on the fence with this one!
We have some good climbing sprinters such as d’Hoore and Hoskingwho might fancy their chances of making it over some of the climbs towards the end of the stages. If they do, then they’ll be tough to beat.
Stages 2 and 4 look to be the most difficult with climbs coming in the final 20kms that could well be a launchpad for attacks.
Nonetheless, I’m going to go for a bit of an outsider to take the win…
I think Hannah Barnes has the credentials to step up here. I was very impressed with her climbing performance in the Tour of Yorkshire and the current British Champion seems to be coming of age this year at Canyon. A fast sprinter after a tough day, she should be there at the end of every stage and will be looking to use her local knowledge to gain an advantage over her competitors!
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day!
A relatively easy day out in the saddle that should end in a bunch sprint.
We have a few QOM points in the first half of the stage but nothing too severe, with the route being mostly flat throughout the day. Although with that said, the roads can be viewed as “grippy”!
The run in to the line isn’t too bad but there are a few 90-degree turns in the closing 5km.
The major danger is a very tight right hand turn at ~2km to go. It’s more than a 90-degree turn and could be a real choke point if teams are starting their lead-outs.
Interestingly, the road does kick up ever so slightly before the final corner, so the sprint might not be as straight-forward as it initially seems. Furthermore, there is some road furniture before the road goes up.
As crazy as it sounds, maybe the riders will bunny hop the middle section? Either way, I hope it is properly marshalled as it could become very dangerous. I imagine they’ll be sent around the left-hand side of the traffic island, that looks the quickest way to me!
You can see the road rising in the distance. How selective that rise will be depends on how much speed the riders can carry through the tricky section highlighted above.
We then have a left hand turn at roughly 150m to go. Exit that corner in first place and you have a great chance of winning.
The finish reminds me a lot of Liege, just not as severe a rise before hand!
Where else to start than with my winner of this race overall; Barnes. As I’ve mentioned above, she has a fast kick after a tough day and this finish should put her on a more equal footing with some of the faster riders in the peloton so she certainly has a chance.
d’Hoore – The Belgian sprinter is more than just one of the fastest riders in the peloton, she can also climb well. A classics specialist, the strong Wiggle rider should be able to make it over the rise to the line. Winning several stages in Chongming while injured highlights her strength and if she’s maintained that form then she is one of the main riders to beat!
Wild – Another strong sprinter, the Cylance rider failed to take a win in the Tour of California but she never finished lower than second in Chongming. Her sprinting legs are clearly there, it’s just a question if her climbing legs are too. She’ll be expecting to fight for the win and nothing less.
Hosking – One of my favourite sprinters, the Australian has continued on from her great 2016 season with a very solid start to the 2017 season. In the early races she was climbing the best that I have ever seen from her and I see no reason why that will have changed by now. Having not raced for a month she might be lacking a little kick, but the same can be said for the majority of the peloton.
Blaak/Pieters/Deignan – I’m not sure who Boels will be pulling for in this stage, maybe Deignan will be given home bias? Either way, they should have someone in the top 5 at the end of the stage.
Elvin, Mackaij and Vos will all be in the mix as well.
I’ll go for an impressive win from Hosking!
Climbing better than ever and sprinting better than ever, the Aussie will take care of business and steal the headlines! Channeling her inner Drake…
Unfortunately there’s no live coverage but you can follow the race on twitter via the #OVOWT. However, there will be a daily highlights show on ITV4 during the evening (I’m not sure where else it is shown worldwide).
I’ll re-plug my Velogames.com league again for this race. Join using the following code: 05185053.
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win GC and stage 1? Anyway,
The much more exciting race tomorrow, the women’s edition of La Fleche is often an attacking day in the saddle with the peloton blown to bits over the closing climbs.
Last year saw the peloton split from far out and we only had around 30 riders left in contention with 40km left. There were a flurry of attacks throughout the afternoon but a group of favourites managed to break clear on the penultimate climb of the day (Côte de Cherave). Before VanderBreggen made the most of the Rabobank numbers at the head of the race, escaping at just over 2.5km left only being followed by Stevens. Those two held on and it was the Dutch rider who took the win for the second year in a row.
Behind, Guarnier rounded out the podium.
Will we see another attacking race this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
Similar to 2016 apart from the organisers have decreased the length by 17km which makes it one of the shortest events on the calendar at only 120km in total.
We could see the race split up from far out again if the pace is increased over the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet. Not a long climb, it was enough to do the damage last year when Deignan pulled at the front all the way up.
From there, we have one passage of the Mur de Huy, before the same closing circuit we see in the men’s race.
The Côte d’Ereffe comes at an awkward time in terms of race placement but it does have the potential to be a springboard for a move. However, I think the day will once again be decided on the Cherave and the run in to Huy. Boels will use their strength in numbers and hope to isolate some of the other favourites, leaving the door open for a similar attack to last year.
The small group of escapees will then tackle the Mur and the strongest woman on the day will win! Well, the strongest from that group so they’ll also have to be tactically astute too.
It seems Boels plan of taking it easier in the first month of racing so that they can peak for this week is going to plan. After landing a 1-2 in Amstel, they arrive at this race as hot favourites to take another win. They’ll be thankful to have AnnavanderBreggen on their team this time as she looks like the rider to beat. I did say in my Amstel preview that she looked good at the Healthy Ageing Tour and she did not let me down, taking a superb victory on Sunday! This type of finish suits her perfectly and she has a good chance of taking a third win in a row.
If not, team-mate Deignan certainly has the abilities to be a great second option for Boels. She was strong in Amstel and rode a perfect, tactical race to help set VDB up for the win. The short punchy climb is on the limit for the Brit but in her current form, I wouldn’t bet against her!
WM3’s KasiaNiewiadoma looks to be the biggest threat to Boels here. The Polish rider was impressive in Amstel, like she’s been all season but struggled due to the lack of team support as she can’t be expected to cover every move. Unfortunately, the same could well happen here but she has a very good chance if she comes to the bottom of the Mur with someone. A rider from Rabobank has won this race the past 4 years and as WM3 is the next incarnation of that team, can they make it 5 in a row?
Orica have a few riders who could go well here and they will hope to have numbers in the front group towards the end of the race. Van Vleuten was up there in Amstel on Sunday and will look to challenge here again. She seems to be in great form at the moment and the punchy climb will suit her. Team-mate Garfoot would probably prefer a longer, more gradual climb, but the Aussie champ can’t be discounted.
Ferrand-Prevot hinted at a return to form with her 8th in Amstel and as a former winner of the race, she knows what it takes to be successful here. The 2014 World Champion has struggled to replicate that year but she has every chance in the right group. However, I think that there will always be someone just better than her. I’m happy to be proved wrong though!
Van Dijk could win for Sunweb but I think she might have to attack solo before they get to the Mur as the climb is on the limit for her. Nonetheless, she has been exceptional this season and the form is certainly there for her to spring a relative surprise. As for her team-mate Rivera, she’s improved massively on the climbs this season but this will be too hard for her. We saw her get dropped on the Cauberg in Amstel so you wouldn’t expect her to cope any better here!
Aside from those riders, I can’t really see anyone else take the victory but honourable mentions go to Lichtenberg (Wiggle), Gillow (FDJ), Beggin (Astana), Moolman (Cervelo) and Ensing (Alé).
Van der Breggen and Boels to win again this week, with the Dutchwomen taking her third title at this race and setting up the potential Ardennes triple nicely for Liege this Sunday!
I’ll go with VanVleuten and Niewiadoma to come home second and third.
Thanks as always for reading and as usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Will Boels continue their Ardennes superiority, or will another rider knock them off top spot? Anyway,
Only having been ran as a race three times in 2001-2003, the Amstel Gold race for women returns this year after a long hiatus. Defending champion Nicole Cooke is obviously no longer here (like the other previous winners), so we’ll have a new champion come Sunday afternoon!
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
At only 121km its shorter than several of the World Tour events we’ve had so far this year. However, don’t let its short nature fool you, the organisers have still managed to incorporate 17 ascents throughout the day.
Three climbs form the focus of the event; the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg.
The Geulhemmerberg comes furtherst away from the finish on the last lap, at roughly 16km to go. Not an overly tough climb, it does have some steeper ramps of 8%, but it should be a big ring climb for most of the bunch. The false flat drag over the top can certainly cause some gaps, especially if those behind are on the limit and the pace is on at the front of the peloton.
We then have a fast descent and some flat before reaching the penultimate climb of the day, the Bemelerberg.
Like the Geulhemmerberg it does have some steepish ramps, but it is not a tough climb. What will make it tough is it’s position in the race and how aggressively the day has been ridden beforehand. It does present a springboard for an attack because there are only 5km from the peak to the bottom of the Cauberg. Speaking of which…
A climb that does have some properly steep gradients, the natural climbers of the peloton will hope to use them to their advantage to break the will of the all-rounders. There is a chance for a regrouping over the top, with 1.5km of false flat before the line.
Is a sprint on the cards…
How will the race pan out?
It’s difficult to say really. Covering my back here!
The route is obviously similar to that which we’ve seen in the men’s edition over the past few years, with the Cauberg coming so close to the finish line. Will that mean a conservative race where the peloton is kept together until then?
If this was last year I’d say no, due to how attacking the races were, with a lot of favourites making race-winning moves from relatively far out. However, things this year have changed. Teams and riders seem to be on a more level playing field. We’ve had 4 different riders (teams) win the 5 World Tour events so far, with only Coryn Rivera being the repeat winner. Compare that to last year where Boels had won all 5 races, with Deginan and Blaak sharing the spoils.
So there is a chance that the teams cancel each other out and we do get a sprint up the Cauberg for the final time.
Yet, I think we’ll see the women’s peloton return to the incredibly hectic racing from last season, with attacks all day. On a wearing course like Amstel, domestiques will get tired from having to chase which I think will lead to an open race on the final 20km lap, and a strong group will get away before the final time up the Cauberg.
Even with their remarkably less dominant start to the season, you can’t start anywhere other than with Boels Dolmans for this race. The team wanted a slower start to the year, with more of a focus on this coming week than the opening few spring races, which they’ve certainly managed. They have a few riders who could win in certain scenarios, but Deignan and VanderBreggen look to be their best options.
The former World Champion has had a lighter race schedule this year, after suffering from illness which saw her withdraw from a few events. However, she’s looked strong when racing so far and a 3rd place in Strade highlights that she can cope on the climbs with the best. I’m sure the Brit will fancy her chances in a sprint! As for her team-mate, I was very impressed with Van der Breggen in the Healthy Ageing Tour and she seems to be peaking very well for this week. A better climber than Deignan, the Olympic champion has all the credentials to take victory tomorrow afternoon. Numbers will be key for the Dutch team and if Guarnier is back to full fitness they even have a third great option to play.
Boels main threat could be Strade winner ElisaLongoBorghini. The Italian started the season in scintillating form and has top 10’d in four out of the 5 World Tour events so far. An aggressive rider, she’ll hope to force a selection earlier in the race to eliminate as many riders from other teams as possible, relying on climbing super-domestique Claudia Lichtenberg to stay with her for most of the day. Like a few others, she packs a handy sprint after a tough day.
Sunweb will be hoping to continue their great start to the year with another win here. I’m not sure who their main card will be on the day but you would think VanDijk has the best chance. She’s been very consistent this year so far, taking her first win in the recent Healthy Ageing Tour. Her lack of a really good sprint will mean that she’ll more than likely have to solo to the line. I think Kirchmann will also go better here than she has done throughout this season so far. The Canadian really burst onto the scene last year with a great debut on the European circuit. She trains in the Limburg area so will know the roads off by heart and is my dark horse for the race. I’m also intrigued to see how current WWT leader Rivera does. Transforming into much more than a sprinter, I would think the climbs here would be too tough for her, but you never know, especially when she has the leader’s jersey on her back!
You would expect Niewiadoma to be WM3’s leader as Vos has been out of action for a little while and still recovering. The Pole has continued on from where she left off in 2016 with a string of great performances in 2017 so far. She is still missing that elusive victory this year, but that may well change tomorrow with a bit of luck on he side. As much as I don’t think Vos will be up there at the end of the race, you can never discount her because she is Marianne Vos after all. Furthermore, the finish of the Cauberg was the scene of her World Championship win in 2012 and as a Dutch rider she’ll be fired up for this race!
Orica once again arrive with their crack squad of riders who will no doubt animate the race. Garfoot or VanVleuten have the best chance of winning the race but they do have strenght in numbers and will hope to use that to their advantage. However, I have said this in the past few previews, that I think they have “too many cooks” and will once again miss out on victory.
Canyon will hope to be up there at the pointy end of the race with Ferrand–Prevot or Cecchini. Likewise, so will Cervelo duo Moolman and young Danish sensation UttrupLudwig.
One rider I am keen to see go well is FDJ’s SharaGillow (there may be some bias here as she is in my season long fantasy team). She crashed in Gent Wevelgem but bounced back with a 25th place in Flanders, coming home in the second group. An under-rated climber, she was very attacking Strade, eventually finishing 6th. Without a great sprint, she’ll more than likely need to come to the line alone, but given her TT credentials that is certainly a possibility!
The race will be broken up going into the final lap of the race and Boels will play the numbers game excellently. I’ll go for their rider who has shown to be in form just now; AnnavanderBreggen to take the win and possibly the start of an Ardennes triple!
Thanks for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how will they do it?! I’ll have Tour of the Alps (Trentino) daily stage previews over the next few days (no time for GC) along with men and women’s Fleche on Tuesday. Anyway,
On the same day as the men’s event, the women’s Ronde may be 100km shorter but that doesn’t make it any less exciting!
Last year saw the race split up on the Kwaremont and Paterberg, and like most races in the spring of 2016, was dominated by Boels Dolmans. They had 4 riders in the front group of 10, and in the end it was Deignan (then Armitstead) and Johansson who gapped the rest on the run in. They duked it out for the sprint and it was Deignan who just pipped the Swede on the line, taking a great win!
Blaak won the sprint behind (ahead of team-mate Guarnier), to give Boels a 1-3-4-6 on the day!
Will the Dutch super team have it all their way this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
An “easy” opening 50km that only contains three cobble sections, before we get an action packed section of several hills and cobbled climbs.
That section is rounded off by the Muur at 60km to go. Although there isn’t any major obstacle for the following 20km almost, the famous climb might play more of a decisive role than it will in the men’s race!
The race finishes off with the same Kwaremont and Paterberg double and it surely will see some action as the stronger climbers and classics riders try to make their mark before the 13km to the finish line.
Will we see a reduced sprint or a solo rider make into Oudenaarde alone?
This is quite a tough race to predict as the balance between climbers and strong one-day racers is very fine. Also, this year of women’s racing has been the most open in recent years, with no repeat winners or even riders from the same teams in the World Tour!
Elisa Longo Borghini has been in exceptional form so far this year, winning Strade and finishing in the top 10 on two other occasions in the World Tour and currently leads the standings. She’s won this race in the past and is clearly suited to the terrain, coming 4th/4th/1st/5th in the recent 4 editions of the race. Not bad eh! You would expect her to be there or thereabouts again come the end of the race tomorrow.
She won’t be the only card Wiggle High 5 have though, as they can also rely on Belgian one-day expert, Joliend’Hoore. More of a sprinter than climber, that doesn’t take anything away from her ability to crush the short, cobbled climbs in this race. If the race is taken at a bit more of a mundane pace or there is a regrouping late on then she has a chance. However, with the chaotic day I can see playing out, unfortunately she might have to settle with sprinter for a top 10 from the third group.
Boels once again arrive with a very strong team to support last year’s winner Deignan. Or will they? Forced to miss Gent Wevelgem due to illness, i don’t think she’ll be back to 100% yet for this race and if she’s not at full fitness, she won’t win. They do have numerous other cards to play but VanderBreggen and Blaak look the best options. The European champion has had a slow start to the season but with her trying to peak more for the Ardennes, you would expect her to be going well just now. Blaak on the other hand has had a very good, consistent start to her season. Third here last year, she has a good chance of repeating that this time round.
In form LottaLepsito arrives with her Cervelo Bigla team. She is clearly climbing and riding better than ever, but this will be a completely different test for her. Like d’Hoore, it will be too fast up the climbs for her to cope, but if we do get a slowing of the pace and a bigger regrouping, she certainly would have a chance in the sprint.
Instead, I would be looking towards team-mates Moolman and UttrupLudwig for a course like this.
Team Sunweb arrive here with options to animate this race like they have down in others over the past month or so. Van Dijk is bound to try a solo attack from far out and she is probably one of the only women in the peloton who could pull it off! In Rivera they have a fast finisher who is climbing the best I’ve ever seen from her and she certainly can’t be discounted. I would have her as more of a favourite than d’Hoore and Lepisto for example. Then in Brand, Kirchmann and Mackaij they have great options to pepper the front of the race with attacks or cover the moves of dangerous opponents. If this was at the start of March then I’d have Brand as one of the favourites for the race, but after doing a season of cyclocross during the winter, her form seems to have waned a bit.
Niewiadoma will lead the charge for WM3 who are missing Marianne Vos. It will be hard for the Polish rider to win with a lack of team support in the closing kilometres of the race but she will certainly feature in the top 10. Her best chance is to infiltrate a small group of 4 or 5 that escapes on the Kwaremont/Paterberg or even on the flat run in to the finish.
Orica arrive with a good team, but they’re not as strong as they’ve been in the past few weeks. I imagine that Spratt and VanVleuten will be co-leaders and they certainly have a chance if both of them make the front group. If not, the sole rider will be in a similar situation to Niewiadoma, where you have to be on a good day, but also get lucky.
Other riders to keep an eye out for include;
Cecchini (Canyon SRAM),
The latter on that list has a very good chance if she’s climbing as well as she was in Strade!
The race will be determined by the tactics and numbers of Boels and Sunweb.
After a relatively poor season so far, by their standards, I fancy Boels to get it right this race. They’re likely to have more numbers in the front group than any other team and they’ll use it to their advantage. I’ll hedge my bets a bit and go for a ChantalBlaak win!
She has the abilities to attack from far out and hold the gap to the line, or as we saw last year, she has a great sprint from a reduced group.
We’ll get similar coverage to last year, where you can watch an unrestricted live stream of the race here. Or on the Flanders Classics facebook page.
Let’s just hope the quality is better than the 144p stream we had in 2016!
As I mentioned in the men’s preview, as a thanks for your continued support and to celebrate one year of blogging, I’ll be giving away one of the Handmade Cyclist’s pieces of artwork. More specifically, the Ronde one, duh!
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is comment on this post with who you think the winner of the Women’s RVV will be and make sure to leave your Twitter handle as this is how I’ll be contacting the winners.
If no one predicts the winner then it will go to second place and so on. Likewise, if we get more than one person who gets it correct, I’ll put the Twitter handles into a list on random.org and randomise three times to get our winner.
If you’re struggling to find the place to leave a comment, it should be at the end of this post and look like below
*Also, depending on how the men’s race goes, I might be in a buoyant enough mood to upgrade it to a framed version!*
Thanks once again for reading and as always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Next for the blog will be daily Pais Vasco previews (starting tomorrow), although I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to do a full GC one. That might just be an after thought at the end of the stage 1 preview. Anyway,