Lagazzettadellabici's Blog

Giro Donne – Stage 9 – STELVIO!!!!

Posted in "Emma Pooley", Mara Abbott, Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on July 11, 2010

Oh, Stelvio!  It’s this huge, beautiful Alpine pass, the highest paved road in Italy, with 39 hairpin bends and views to die for.  It’s a beast of a climb, totally legendary among drivers and cyclists – where better to have the penultimate, definitive, stage of the Giro Donne?

In theory there was everything to play for in this stage – Mara Abbott, the super-climber from Team USA was only 19 seconds ahead of HTC’s Judith Arndt, 1’05” from World Champion Tatiana Guderzo, 1’38” from cycling genius Marianne Vos and 1’41” from last year’s winner Claudia Häusler.  But in reality, only Cervélo’s Emma Pooley can touch Mara in the mountains – and with Emma 6’22” down on GC, after various bits of bad luck, including crashing in Stage 2 and puncturing in Stage 7, it was pretty clear that barring some terrible luck of her own, Mara would end the day in the maglia rosa.

But there was still the stage to win – and with 2 “warm-up” climbs before they even hit the bottom of the Stelvio, this would be the toughest stage yet in a race that’s nothing if not hard.

The race started with 2 laps in Livigno, before hitting the climbs at Trepalle and Foscagno.  Pooley attacked on th climbs, to grab the remaining Mountains points (she’d started the day on equal points with Abbott, and wanted that green jersey, if not the stage) – but she was dropped on the descent out of Foscagno, and when the front group, with all the favourites, started the huge climb of the Stelvio, she was a few minutes back.

But this is Emma Pooley, and she is a huge climbing star.  With the help of team-mate Carla Ryan, she caught the group, and immediately attacked, taking off into the distance, with only Mara Abbott able to follow her.  Mara and Emms duelled all the way to the top, while behind them, Arndt and Guderzo fought hard for the 2nd place in the GC – until with 2km to go, Mara gave it her all and attacked one last time – and this time Emma couldn’t follow.

Mara solo-ed up to victory, and barring disasters on Stage 10, to win the overall race.  Arndt ended up in 3rd spot on the stage, with Guderzo only 7 seconds behind her (and that was a stallr performance from those two).  Vos ended up losing 7’44”, but she’s the first to admit she’s not a pure climber, and ended the day with the Points and the Best Young Rider jersey.

Stage 9 results
1. Mara Abbott (USA) Team USA
2. Emma Pooley (GBR) Cervélo, + 27″
3. Judith Arndt (GER) HTC, + 1’43”
4. Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) Valdarno, + 1’50”
5. Tatiana Antoshina (RUS) Valdarno, + 2’58”
6. Evgenya Vyotska (UKR) Valdarno, + 3’27”
7. Claudia Hausler (GER) Cervélo, + 3’38”
8. Edwige Pitel (FRA) SC Michela Fanini, + 5’55”
9. Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) Safi Pasta Zara, + 7’14”
10. Marianne Vos (NED) Netherlands, + 7’44”

So one more stage to go – a sprint stage – and it’ll be hard and fast, with all those teams that haven’t won a stage taking this one last chance – and chapeau to all the sprinters who got over the mountains!  This isn’t one of those racers like the Giro or the Vuelta, where the sprinters drop out once they start going uphill! These girls are hardcore!

Barring disasters, the GC will end up the same as it is now

GC after Stage 9
1. Mara Abbott (USA) Team USA
2. Judith Arndt (GER) HTC, +2’08”
3. Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) Valdarno, + 3’05”
4. Claudia Hausler (GER) Cervélo, +5’29”
5. Emma Pooley (GBR) Cervélo, + 6’23”
6. Evgenya Vyotska (UKR) Valdarno, + 8’26”
7. Marianne Vos (NED) Netherlands, + 9’32”
8. Tatiana Antoshina (RUS) Valdarno, + 12’05”
9. Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) Safi Pasta Zara, + 23’03”
10. Elena Berlato (ITA) Top Girls, + 25’47”

There’s a great profile of Mara Abbott here, by Cicloweb, who’ve been the best source of news for the whole race – and if you don’t beleive me that this is the most beautiful race out there, check out CJ Farquharson’s photos of the stage.  She takes the greatest photos of women’s racing (you’ll have seen them if you ever look at the women’s racing reports on the cycling websites, when they bother) – check out her site, and have the races come alive!

As ever, if you have any questions, you can ask me on twitter – and thanks again to Simon for blog-space – I appreciate it!


GIRO DONNE – Stage 8 – and everything changed….

Posted in "Emma Pooley", Giro Donne, Mara Abbott, Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on July 10, 2010

There’s no video of Stage 8, as the Italian journalists were on strike, so instead I point you to the incredible photography of CJ Farquharson to illustrate this post in your mind’s eye. She’s an Australian photographer who takes all the ebst photos of the women’s racing, and to say I’m jealous as hell is to put it mildly…

So, stage 8 – check out the profile here.  For some reason, the official site draws these in a scale that doesn’t look too scary, but yes, that first climb is around 900m – and that’s just to warm up!  It was a brutal day, and right from the start, team USA were pushing it, wanting to shed as many riders as possible so that their mountain goat extraordinaire, Mara Abbott, could have as much of a chance as possible.  And it worked – on the first climb there were only about 30 riders keeping up, with ridings continually dropping off the back, until it was only Abbott and Cervélo’s Emma Pooley pushing on alone. 

The best way to describe the day is to quote from Team USA rider Alison Starnes’ blog:

The first part of the climb started relatively gradual, and the whole team needed to stay in the group as long as possible to help our climbers. It was brutal. The race started from the gun, and we were off. Up, up, up. At 20k of climbing, you are no longer thinking clearly, and you feel the burning in your legs and lungs as you begin to climb above 2300m. You are surrounded by jagged peaks covered in snow, pine tress, Swiss lodges, and then you look up. It looks like a game of chutes and ladders. Yes. The last part of the climg and its switchbacks. The groans are uttered loudly. Surely we don’t have to go up that!? Yes. Mara takes off, with Pooley on her wheel. Never to be seen again.

We take the fast road along the lake, blink through St. Moritz, then up the second climb, past the gondolas, past the tree line and feel the lack of oxygen. Then back down again, welcomed back into Italy, by another climb. This last climb was the shorter one, and the steeper one. This climb was not my favorite to say the least. It went up through the moon rocks. No trees. No life. No oxygen. Up up up. Before I could calm myself with the jingling cowbells and alpine meadows, but into the abyss of this climb, no life was present. There was nothing to do but grind up the beast. 

 Wow.  Those women are *tough*!

Eventually, even Emma couldn’t keep up with Mara – and Emma is one legendary climber herself – and Mara solo-ed home, pushing, pushing, pushing to gain as much time as possible – according to Cicloweb, who write the best race descriptions, she didn’t even slow down to throw her hands up for the traditional victory salute.

And she needed any extra seconds, because the GC has been blown wide open (at least on paper/computer screen/whatever).

First, Stage 8 results

1. Mara Abbott (USA) Team USA
2. Emma Pooley (GBR) Cervélo, + 1’27”
3. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC, + 1’40”
4. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Valdarno, + 1’40”
5. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Valdarno, + 1’56”
6. Claudia Häusler (Ger) Cervélo, + 1’56”
7. Marianne Vos (Ned) Netherlands, + 3’22”
8. Edwige Pitel (Fra) SC Michela Fanini, + 3’22”
9. Evgenya Vyotska (Ukr) Valdarno, + 3’22”
10. Amber Neben (USA) Team USA, + 4’00”

Yesterday’s winner, Evelyn Stevens, finished 20th, 14 minutes down – but after yesterday’s monster stage win, that’s to be expected.  Marianne Vos as probably the biggest loser of the stage, losing the maglia rosa – but as you can probaly tell from the fact she was top 5 in all the sprint stages, and won the tough stage full of short, sharp climbs, she’s not a pure climber by any stretch of the imagination, and she worked like ctazy yesterday to counter all the attacks and stay in pink.  Chapeau, Marianne!

So, who takes her maglia rosa?

GC after Stage 8

1. Mara Abbott (USA) Team USA
2. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC, + 19″
3. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Valdarno, + 1’05”
4. Marianne Vos (Ned) Netherlands, + 1’38”
5. Claudia Häusler (Ger) Cervélo, + 1’41”
6. Evgenya Vyotska (Ukr) Valdarno, + 4’49”
7. Amber Neben (USA) Team USA, + 5’41”
8. Emma Pooley (GBR) Cervélo, + 6’22”
9. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Valdarno, + 8’57”
10. Evelyn Stevens (USA) HTC, + 13’35”

Now, have a look at the Stage 9 profile and you’ll see how the GC is still very much up for grabs.  Abbott and Pooley are the strongest climers out there – but will Pooley jump, or will she stay to help Claudia?  And what happens if one of them punctures, dehydrates or is just worn out?  The Stelvio is a Pass where riders can gain or lose 2 minutes in a heartbeat.  So exciting!  

For the best preview of Stage 9, check Monty’s at Podium Café – and here’s the video he found of driving up the Stelvio – check out the corners to see exactly how steep it is.  Go girls!  Ride hard!  And next time you see someone talking aout how the TdF riders are “a bunch of girls” or whatever, make sure you tell them from me exactly how tough these women are!