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!

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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!





GIRO DONNE – Stage 7 – MOUNTAINS!!!

Posted in Evelyn Stevens, Giro Donne, Marina Romoli, Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on July 9, 2010

It’s Pigeons-mail update time!


While the boys were having one of those TdF days where you only need to turn on the coverage for the last 5 minutes (but you learn a lot about cheese, maize, belfries, ’80s hotel rooms and anything else the poor commentators can think of to pass the time), the girls were hitting the mountains and hoping the mountains wouldn’t hit back!

The route for Stage 7 was an almost-complete figure of 8, from Lake Como to Albese, with 2 huge climbs and tricky descending.  Absolutely beautiful scenery too – breathtaking views of Italian lakes – but I guess that’s less of a consolation when you’re pounding uphill in blistering heat.  For all those armchair warriors making jokes about how the TdF should be the Tour Feminine and the blokes are riding like a bunch of girls – have a look at what real women ride up – and know that the least of the sprinty domestiques at the back of the grupetto would destroy you on climbs like these!

I have to say, I’m in awe of these riders – especially riders like Vicki Whitelaw, who was badly hurt in the big crash on Stage 2, but is still riding, even though she’s lost the chance of the top 10 finish she was hoping for.  She’s one tough cookie.

The stage was dominated by American rider  Evelyn Stevens from HTC, who attacked at around km 50 and solo-ed her way for 70km home.  One of the interesting things about the women’s riding is there’s a lot more ambiguity about who the team leader is – there are often at least 2 candidates out of the road – Cervélo have Claudia Häusler and Emma Pooley, and at the start of the race, the Netherlands National Team could equally have been riding for Marianne Vos and Annemiek Van Vleuten.  It’s ususally sorted out mid-race – seeing who has the better results, or feels good on the day, so that’s why Stevens jumped, even though she was 8th in GC as opposed to team-mate Judith Arndt’s 2nd.


Arndt herself spent the day in the main chase group, with World Champion Tatiana Guderzo and Mara Abbott from Team USA.  They were joined by Marianne Vos, who rode a killer race, marking all moves and working hard to retain her maglia rosa, Claudia Häusler, Guderzo’s Valdarno team-mate Evgeniya Vyotskaya and USA’s Amber Neben.  Emma Pooley had been with that group, but punctured, losing 5’39” and potentially making the question of Cervélo’s leadership easier to answer. And to be fair to Emma, she’s said all along, and for weeks before, that she’s riding for Häusler this time… the only thing is, with the size of the mountains coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised if she could gain 6 minutes over the next two stages… we’ll see…

If you’re wondering about the “Forza Marina” banners on the edges of the roads in the videos, and mentioned by almost every rider when they’re interviewed, it’s thinking of Marina Romoli, the Italian Safi Pasta rider who had a horrific accident when she was training and a car pulled out in front of her.  She’s had major spinal surgery, and needed 500 stitches to put her face back together.  She’s recovering slowly, but we don’t yet know if she’s be able to walk again, let alone ride a bike.  Forza Marina!  All my thoughts and good vibes sent her way for a good, strong recovery

Stage 7 results


1. Evelyn Stevens, HTC
2. Marianne Vos, Netherlands, + 42″
3. Judith Arndt, HTC, + 42″
4. Tatiana Guderzo, Valdarno, + 42″
5. Claudia Häusler, Cervélo, + 42″
6. Mara Abbott, USA, + 42″
7. Evgeniya Vyotskaya, Valdarno, + 42″
8. Amber Neben, USA, + 42″
9. Olga Zabelinskaya, Safi-Pasta Zara, + 5’39”
10. Elena Berlato, Top Girls, + 5’39”


GC after Stage 7


1. Marianne Vos, Netherlands
2. Judith Arndt, HTC, + 27″
3. Tatiana Guderzo, Valdarno, + 1’09”
4. Evelyn Stevens, HTC, + 1’12”
5. Claudia Häusler, Cervélo, 1’29”
6. Mara Abbott, USA, + 1’54”
7. AmberNeben, USA, + 3’02”

8. Evgeniya Vyotskaya, Valdarno, + 3’11”
9. Olga Zabelinskya, Safi Pasta Zara, +6’34”
10. Emma Pooley, Cervélo, +6’45”

For Stage 8 they hit the Alps – and twitter this morning was full of pictures by riders of gorgeous mountain scenery – with messages about what a great place it is for a holiday, but perhaps less-so for a bike race!  Good luck girls!

And if you feel like you’ve got the hang of this race, put your skills to the test in the Cycling Fever game – it’s free to play, and you can set up teams for Stage 9 (VERY mountainous) and Stage 10 (flat).  Even if you don’t fancy playing the game, check the mini-site, because it’s full of great information about the race.

As ever, any questions, I’m @_pigeons_ on twitter – ask me there!

GIRO DONNE – Stage 3 – Ina-Yoko Teutenberg – three for three!

Posted in Giro Donne, Ina Teutenberg, Pigeons, Sharon Laws by lagazzettadellabici on July 4, 2010

Pigeons News

Yesterday I was predicting that today’s 17km Time Trial would be neatly divided between Cervélo and the Netherlands National Team, and that Ina-Yoko Teutenberg would be out of the maglia rosa…  Today shows me I shouldn’t say things like that as I’m instantly proved wrong!

The ITT was only 17km long, and it’s fair to say that no one predicted Teutenberg would win it, even her – but she rode an amazing race, and much to her surprise, ended in 1st place, keeping the overall GC lead.  Such a good ride by her – and barring something strange happening tomorrow, she’s pretty much guaranteed to keep it for another day.

All of her HTC team-mates rode well – 3 in the top 10, and the lowest-placed rider, Emilia Fahlin, in 17th.  Cervélo had Kirsten Wild and Iris Slappendal in the top 10 – but they’ve been hit by horribly bad luck – after yesterday’s crash, Lieselot Decroix was kept in hospital for observation, and British mountain domestique (and one of my very favourite riders) Sharon Laws has broken her collarboneDecroix was able to start today, but Laws is out – and I know the team will really miss her in mountains.


Stage 3 results
1. Ina Teutenberg, HTC, 21.50
2. Kisten Wild, Cervélo, 22.11
3. Judith Arndt, HTC, 22.12
4. Linda Villumsen, HTC, 22.13
5. Marianne Vos, Netherlands National Team, 22.14
6. Shelley Olds-Evans, USA National Team, 22.33
7. Annemiek Van Vleuten, Netherlands National Team, 22.41
8. Amber Neben, USA National Team, 22.42
9. Alison Starnes, USA National Team, 22.44
10. Iris Slappendel, Cervélo, 22.44

GC after Stage 3
1. Ina Teutenberg, HTC
2. Kirsten Wild, Cervélo, +36″
3. Marianne Vos, Netherlands National Team, +40″
4. Judith Arndt, HTC, +42″
5. Linda Villumsen, HTC, +43″
6. Shelley Olds-Evans, USA National Team, +1’03”
7. Annemiek Van Vleuten, Netherlands National Team, +1’11”
8. Alison Starnes, USA National Team, +1’14”
9. Iris Slappendal, Cervélo, +1’14”
10. Evelyn Stevens, HTC, +1’15”

Because it’s difficult to follow the race, I’m playing Make My Own Media, and have set up a women’s cycling Tumblr to bring things together.  You can see what I’ve collected under the Giro Donne tag.  One of the things will be this blog, which is a bit circular – but my aim is next year to set up some Unofficial Race Pages for the big stage races, as I can’t do much worse than a lot of the teams or race organisers….

And if you have any questions about all of this, you can always ask me on twitter, where I’m  http://twitter.com/_Pigeons_

GIRO DONNE – PIGEONS’ UPDATE – STAGE2!

Posted in Giorgia Bronzini, Giro Donne, Ina Teutenberg, Marianne Vos, Pigeons, Rochelle Gilmore by lagazzettadellabici on July 3, 2010

Day 2 at the Giro Donne, and another sprint stage.  This one included a climb in the first half, but although Grete Treier from SC Michela Fanini broke away and solo-ed off through the heat, the peloton weren’t going to let her get too far away, so once they were ready, they ate her up.

It was a hot, fast finish, marred by a huge crash – a motorbike pulled out in front of Cervélo’s Kirsten Wild, and although Wild avoided falling, she couldn’t contest the sprint – and a whole load of riders, including GC contenders Emma Pooley and Claudia Häusler from Cervélo, Tatiana Guderzo and Monia Baccaile (Valdarno)  and Team Australia’s Kirsty Broun.  Worst affected was Lotto’s sprinter Rochelle Gilmore, who was taken to hospital as a precaution after the stage – luckily she’s ok, just bruised and scratched.

The sprint itself was hard and fast, and yet again won by HTC’s Ina-Yoko Teutenberg ahead of Giorgia Bronzini (Gauss) and Marianne Vos (Nederland National Team).  Ina has had an amazing season – this is her 17th win so far, and she’s looking incredibly hard to beat.  She starts tomorrow in the Maglia Rosa again, but I can’t see her finishing in it – it’s the Time Trial stage tomorrow, and we’ll see some small gaps open up.  It’s 17km, the longest ITT in the Giro Donne since 2003, and my bet for teams to watch are Cervélo and the Netherlands – I’m not sure it’s hilly enough for Pooley, but her team-mates excel at these flat races.  Amber Neben, of Team USA, could also be good – we’ll see what happens.   Stage 4 will be pancake flat again, so there’s a good chance of seeing Ina win again there, before we start getting lumpy, and the women who like the uphill will be more than ready to stretch their legs… 

Pigeons

Emma Pooley – and new national champions! by Pigeons

Posted in "National Championships", Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on June 24, 2010



Photo: © Women’s Giro Del Trentino

The Giro Trentino was a lot of fun, although after day 1, there was pretty much no chance of beating Emma Pooley.  She gained nearly 3 minutes on the monster first stage, after she attacked at 25km out – and in a three-stage race, that was going to be hard to get back. HTC played a strange race as well – they rode stage 2 (in the pouring rain) for sprinter Ina Teutenberg, and then stage 3 for GC star Judith Arndt – which meant Emma could just sit in the péloton and keep her time gains, while her Cervélo team-mate Claudia Häusler went on the attack (Why? To try to beat Emma off the péloton? To try to get 2nd place?  Because Cervélo don’t have team tactics as much as “everyone attack, we’ll see which of you wins, it doesn’t matter who, as long as it’s the team”?). The final podium was Pooley, Arndt and Häusler (you can see the full results here) – and if there was any doubt already, this confirms 2010 as Emma’s best season to date.

Emma’s always been a star, but she’s been a TT and climbing specialist up to now.  It’s fair to say that her descending wasn’t the best, and she definitely preferred riding solo to the peloton – and although this didn’t stop her gaining impressive palmares, including bronze in the 2008 Time Trial, I’d assumed it would be Häusler who would lead the team for 2010.  But whatever training Emma’s been doing in the off-season, it’s certainly paid off.

So what’s she won so far in 2010?

Well, she started at the end of April, winning La Flèche Wallonne (the most Classic of the Spring Classics for women – held on the same day and the same course as the men (well, without a stretch at the start), and a round of the UCI road World Cup, to boot) with an attack on the final climb of the Mur, ahead of Nicole Cooke  and all the stars of the péloton.  A week later, she won both the 1.1 rated GP Elsy Jacobs day-race in Luxembourg and then the GP de Suisse, a 1.1 rated Time Trial competition that’s held as part of the Tour of Romandie.  That was a pretty good week and a half, but then she went one better and won the Tour de l’Aude, a 10-day stage race with lots and lots of Pyrenean madness. It was a great win – she attacked all the way through the mountains, winning one of the toughest stage in a 2-woman breakaway with Mara Abbott, American mountain goat extraordinaire (only a few days before the same pair had escaped, where Emma had been 2nd to Mara).  She ended up over 4 minutes up on Abbott, and if she had ended the season there, it would have been impressive by anyone’s standards.  But no, there was Trentino – and after the GB National Road Race on Sunday (don’t you just love British Cycling, and the fact the women’s race starts at 8am? The women’s field is a lot stronger than the men’s, but it feels like they’re going out of their way to downplay it, and do what they can to stop people being able to actually watch the race) she heads over to Italy for the Giro Donne (and if you’re not sure why you should love the Giro Donne, check out this review of last year’s version, complete with videos and links and all sorts of things to whet your appetite… and remember that this year they go up the Stelvio…)

The other thing about Emma is that as well as being ridiculously talented, she’s also very clever indeed.  She’s fluent in at least 3 languages, and her off-season project is a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering…  She also has a reputation for being a great person – and one of my favourite things about her is her self-deprecating charm.  Don’t you hate people like that?  Here’s to her winning streak continuing all season, and out to the Worlds….

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Speaking of the GB National Champs, it’s National Championships Week for a lot of the cycling world.  Most of the road races happen at the weekend, but some key results:

ITALY  – National Road Race Champion – MONIA BACCAILLE
Monia, a 26-year old cyclist for the Valdarno team (how many other countries have a team sponsored by their national prison service?  I love Italy!) retains the national champs jersey ahead of Top Girls’ Alessandra d’Ettorre and Safi Pasta-Zara’s Lorena Foresi.  This was one of the toughest fields of the week – in my view the only one harder is the Netherlands – so a great result.

THE NETHERLANDS – Time Trial Champion – MARIANNE VOS
This was the first time Marianne has won this, which given her insane list of palmares, seems bizarre – and she’s very happy to have won it.  Cervélo’s Regina Bruins and Kirsten Wild completed the podium.


FRANCE – Time Trial Champion – JEANNIE LONGO-CIPRELLI
Ah, Jeannie….  She’s 51 years old, and has won 57 national titles, gold and silver in the Olympic Road Race, silver and bronze in the Olympic Time Trial, been the road World Champion 5 times, TT Champ 4 times, won 4 World Championships on the track, and I could go on and on. She’s an incredible talent, and she doesn’t show any sign of stopping any time too.  She’s also got a degree in Maths, an MBA and all kinds of amazing achievements.  It always makes me happy, knowing she’s out there somewhere in the world.


CZECH REPUBLIC – Time Trial Champion – MARTINA SÁBLÍKOVÁ
Martina’s better known as a speed skater – she’s won a lot of things, but most recently the Winter Olympics golds in the 3,000m and 5,000m, and bronze in the 1,500m.  Lots of the skaters use cycling in their training – but they generally don’t win their national champs!

OTHER RESULTS:
HTC’s EMILIA FAHLIN won the Swedish Time Trial ahead of Emma Johansson
Track star LEIRE OLABERRIA won the Spanish Time Trial
and Valdarno’s TATIANA ANTOSHINA won the Russian Time Trial.

That’s a lot already – but watch out all weekend for more!  I’ll be looking on CQ Ranking’s results page for the latest updates, but because I’m lovely, I’ll update you on the important ones next week!

Pigeons

HOW TO FOLLOW WOMEN’S CYCLING by PIGEONS

Posted in Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on June 20, 2010

I don’t know why I do things like this, but I was pointed at this conversation on the Cycling News Forum about why women’s cycling isn’t shown enough.  I knew what I’d find there, but still I clicked!  What was I thinking??  There are some forums that will always have the same dull dismissals on them – women’s cycling is boring, it’s not shown because people don’t want to watch it, women aren’t fast, men are better…  you know the drill.  If I could be bothered to engage in that kind of thing (shoot me if I do) my stock reply would be “Which race in particular did you find boring, and why?” – because I’m intrigued as how these experts can have watched enough racing to inform such logical and well-thought-through opinions.

Yes, there’s no denying it, it can be hard to follow women’s cycling, especially if you’re used (as I am) to coming in and watching Eurosport, or maybe the catch-up Eurosport programmes, or if you miss those, checking out the racing reports and articles on sites like Cycling News.  But let Auntie Pigeons help you out here – take these easy steps, and you too will be following women’s cycling!

1. LEARN DUTCH OR ITALIAN
Or ideally both!  When I get the time, I’ll write my surefire bestseller, “Teach yourself Dutch with Sporza and cycling”…  but I guess until then, you can fire up Google Translate – and it does help to make online friends with actual real life Dutch or Belgian people, to help with the special words not in google’s vocabulary.


2. FIND A FORUM OR WEBSITE YOU LIKE
Although the Anglo mainstream cycling media don’t really care about women’s cycling, there’s a lot of people who do, and this means there’s a lot of home-made media out there, and people who are happy to share what they know.  And of course, there’s a lot of Dutch and Italian media that does love the women’s sport, and will be updating just as quickly as they can – my first stops are Wielerland and  Radsport.  I really like the women’s sites of CQ Ranking, which I use for the calendar, results, and finding out about riders, and Cycling Fever, which has great startlists, and collects interviews & videos that members have found, as well as running fantasy games (I love their World Cup game, and they’re just launched one for the Giro Donne – give them a go, they’re very simple indeed).

For more commentary, I like Cicloweb and Women’s Cycling and in terms of forums, I’m a huge fan of the Podium Café women’s section, especially Monty’s race previews and team profiles. The best thing about forums is the fact that other people post all the things *they* find – so any bits of tv, news, results and info are easy to find – plus in my experience, people are happy to share information about the women’s racing because they love it, and want to help other people love it as much as they do.  If your favourite forum doesn’t have articles about women’s cycling, the best thing to do is to start them yourself – you may find yourself talking to yourself, or to your 3 like-minded friends, but you’d be surprised how many people read without commenting. I did this myself on BBC 606, and it’s a great way of building your own knowledge.  If you want a forum in a particular language, or based in a specific country, CQ ranking has a good list here.

3. USE TWITTER
What?  You’re not on Twitter already?  I love Twitter, and so do a lot of pro-cyclists.  And better yet, so do other people at the races.  It’s not like men’s racing, where the results are pretty much instantaneous, so having someone who’s at the race share information is really helpful. Marianne’s brother Anton Vos generally tweets the results of any races she’s in – and at Tour de l’Aude, the DS of the USA National Team, Manel Lacambra, also tweeted what was going on.  Nederland Bloeit are good, and HTC posted tweets from Ina-Yoko Teutenberg all through the Emakumeen Bira.  Those lovely people at CQ ranking have helpfully put together a list of women cyclists who use twitter, so you can find riders you’ve heard of (this might help you out ;-))

4. RACE WEBSITES
There are some areas where the people running the sport just don’t make it easy for you.  Race websites vary from completely impossible to excellent – for example, the Omloop Van Borsele (which run an elite women;’s day race & a series of others, including a stage race for junior girls) had daily live tickers for each race, including the Juniors *and* video. They vary, basically, but it’s worth having a look.  I generally find them through Cycling Fever’s race calendar – click into the race you want, and there’s a link at the side.

So, that gives you a range of different resources to use….  you should be set up, so when a race starts, you’re ready to go.  So when you think a race is coming to a close…

5. REFRESH! REFRESH! REFRESH!
Heh!  You might just want to wait until the next day of course, but if you’re a bloodyminded soul like me, there’s something really satisfying in finding the information.  It can be a bit of a drip-drip process – someone will tweet that rider A came 2nd, then someone else will tell you that C and D in their team came 5th and 9th…..  but eventually you’ll find that info – and isn’t it so much more satisfying than just looking on one of those big websites?


6. DON’T FORGET TO SHARE!
If you’ve found out some information, the best thing to do is to share it around.  The lack of professional media taking an interest means we can fill the gaps in the market – and demonstrate that people really are interested in the sport.  Even if you only have 3 followers on twitter, and 1 of those is your at, the fact you’ve retweeted something shows the person who wrote it that you’re interested.  And you might think what you’ve found is obvious, but there’ll be other people reading forums who haven’t seen it yet, and who’ll be grateful, even if they don’t  sign up to let you know.  Plus I feel really strongly that if I want to complain about how rubbish (eg) Cycling News is at telling people about the sport, I should be making what efforts I can to do my part.  Don’t be embarrassed, get involved!

So now you’ve found the race results, and seen some reports of the race on the sites I’ve mentioned, but that might seem a little bit dry, and you want to know more about what it’s like to ride the races.  Or maybe you want to track down some actual footage – because it’s great to feel races come alive.


7. BLOGS AND TEAM SITES
There are plenty of riders who blog about their life on the roads, and these give a real insight into the differences between the men’s and women’s races.  My current top favourite is Leontien’s Marijn de Vries, an established cycling journalist who decided to see if she could take up the sport professionally 2 years ago.  She doesn’t pull any punches about how hard it is – and she’s very, very funny indeed.  I read her blog and am amazed she keeps doing it – I get the feeling she is, too!

I’m also liking the blogs by Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Vicki Whitelaw and Emma Silversides – and there are many more out there – again, this list can help you find them.  And some of the teams encourage riders to blog, and do a very good job of keeping us in touch – Tibco are good, and I may have mentioned how much I like Horizon‘s site too.  And team sites usually put up press releases and information – although again, this varies.

8. VIDEO
YouTube is your friend!  Clearly I’d never condone or link to videos pinched off some news report of a race, but it has been known to happen.  You can search by rider name or race name, and there are lots of little gems out there, especially from more enlightened countries than the UK.  Don’t forget to give them a good rating, to show the people who hunted them out that you care!

9. SHARE SOME MORE!
If you find things you like, tell other people.  If there’s a great piece of climbing, or an amusing blog about the joys of  riding up mountains in the rain, let other people know.  People won’t know they like the sport unless you give them a chance.  And don’t just stick to online life – there are plenty of times in men’s races on tv, when the commentators are wondering just how long they can spin out discussions about chainrings or the local cheese-makers as the big sprint teams boss the race for 100 more kilometres until the inevitable bunch sprint finish – take them up on their offers and email/tweet them with the results of the super-exciting stage where Emma Pooley broke away on the first HC climb with 6 other riders, and attacked on the final climb, shaking off Judith Arndt and Mara Abbott, to take the stage and the GC (or whatever local interest equivalent happened that weekend).  And when some magazine asks you to nominate your racing highlight or rider of the year, here’s your chance to raise some more awareness, and tell the world how Marianne Vos not only won the 2010 Cyclo-Cross World Championships, but is currently leading in the World Cup stakes!

Oh yes, the opportunities are endless!  And then when people who know nothing about the sport tell you that it’s not shown because no one’s interested, you can very smugly point out to them how wrong they are!

And finally…


10. FEEDBACK
As I’ve shown, a lot of women’s cycling coverage is generated by individuals, who aren’t paid a thing to promote the sport.  Make them feel like it’s worth it by leaving comments, giving 5 star ratings, recommending them, and generally showing them they’re valued.  And when the mainstream media does pay attention to women’s cycling, give them a reward – click through to the story, even if you think it’ll just be the same press release you’ve seen 4 times, leave comments, give them positive feedback….  and eventually they’ll take notice and want to do it some more.

10 easy steps, and now you’re an expert!  And it’s just in time for the Giro Donne too!

I know I’ve missed off a lot of links and other things you can do, so if you think of anything I should have included, pop it in the comments – or you can always reach me on twitter

PIGEONS

Many thanks again to Simon, for letting me rant!

DOES SHE WIN EVERYTHING by Pigeons

Posted in Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on June 19, 2010

After my last rant on how women’s cycling works, I’d like to help you out.

Now I’m not assuming you don’t know *anything* about women’s cycling, but you might want to check out if you’re supporting the right riders. Or maybe you want to get into the sport, but don’t know you the best rider for you is. So, just for you, I’ve made a simple-to-follow diagram that’ll lead you the the rider of your choice

OK, OK, I’ve missed off a whole load – but I didn’t have a piece of paper big enough to include the entire péloton! For example – Kirsten Wild is the uber-sprinter who’s currently tearing up the Dutch road (and is a good choice for the World Championships) – and Sharon Laws may be my joint favourite rider, with one of the best stories around – but Cervélo have too many riders on there as it is!

“But Pigeons”, you may be asking “who is this Marianne Vos?”. And I’ll forgive you, if you’re asking that, as long as you promise to like her as much as I do.

Well, Marianne is a 23-year old Dutch woman who rides for Nederland Bloeit and who has already won the World Championships on the road, on the track and 3 times at cyclo-cross, and the Olympic gold in the Points race. She’s pretty bloody impressive by anyone’s standards, but she also seems like a really nice person as well. She describes herself as a “full-time-hobby-cyclist”, and whenever I’ve seen her interviewed, she comes across as having this genuine love of riding, who feels lucky to be able to do something she loves for a living. I am a bit of a rabid fangirl (you might not have noticed this), and one of the things that’s lovely about the women’s race is the way riders will take the time to reply to fans on twitter and the like – and having someone like Marianne, who’s won *everything* reply to my tweets, seems so unlikely, but is great.

Anyway, Marianne rides year-round, and I’ve read rumours her next goal is the omnium at 2012 – so hopefully she’ll be returning to the track – and doubly hopefully will be riding at the Manchester round of the Track World Cup in February…. If that happens, and you hear of someone cheering so hard their head explodes, that’s likely to be me, going crazy at a race with Giorgia Bronzini, Tara Whitten, Lizzie Armitstead, Yumari Gonzalez AND Marianne Vos in it!

OTHER NEWS THIS WEEK

RABOSTER ZEEUWSCHW EILANDEN
This week/end is amazing for cycling. If you like sprinting, your race is the RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden, a 3-day stage race in the Netherlands. It’s flat, but with a ridiculous amount of wind, and to say Cervélo is dominating it is a little bit of an understatement. Remember how women’s teams only have 6 riders? Well in the first stage, the Time Trial, ended with an all-Dutch, all-Cervélo podium of Kirsten Wild, Regina Bruins and Iris Slappendal, 5 riders in the top 6, and their 6th rider, Sarah Duester finishing 11th. That’s just crazy-strong! I’ll blog at a later date about how I’m conflicted about Cervélo, but they are seriously good. Yesterday’s stage was also a Cervélo-fest, with Kirsten winning again and Charlotte Becker 2nd – but this time at least, another team got third, in the shape of Martine Bras – today they only managed 1 on the podium, as Janneke Kanis won the stage for Nederland Bloeit, with Iris Slappendal 2nd and Annemiek Van Vleuten (who’s been one of my stand-out riders so far this year) in 3rd, also for Nederland Bloeit. Surprise, surprise, Wild won the overall race, with Slappendal 2nd in GC and Van Vleuten 3rd.

You can read how the race unfolded on the site’s fabulous ticker – we don’t often get this much news about women’s races, so make the most of this! There were are also a lot of British women riding – including Lizzie Armitstead for Cervélo, and Kate Cullen for MovingLadies, who’s in great form after wining a load of races on the Dutch domestic circuit. It’s a continual issue that the only way to make a living as a British female cyclist – or even race regularly – is to base yourself in the Netherlands or Belgium – but it’s great to see that so many are managing.

GIRO DEL TRENTINO

Cervélo also had an amazing day at the climbing race of the week – the Giro del Trentino in Italy. This is definitely one for the mountain goats – yesterday’s stage started at the bottom of an Alp, and continued for 43 solid uphill kilometres to the top, before a descent all the way down. I love this race – and this year it’s back to three days, after shrinking last year, which is great news. Emma Pooley completely owned the stage yesterday, solo-ing to a win nearly 3 minutes up on Top Girls Alessandra d’Ettorre and Safi-Pasta Zara’s Rasa Leleivyte. Two more stages to go – I recommend Podium Café’s preview for telling you more…. but Cervélo are super-strong here, with 4 riders in the top 20….

Oh, breaking news – Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won stage 2 of the race. I’m surprised by that, as she’s a super-sprinter, and the stage was very lumpy – but HTC-Columbia are very strong (although 2010 hasn’t been as good for them as I was expecting). Mind you, I was also surprised she was riding here in the first place, as RaboSter is much more suited to the sprinters, so what do I know?! Chapeau to Ina! Emma Pooley still in the overall lead – and by the time you read this, I’m sure all the results will be in.

HORIZON FITNESS GP

So you might be thinking Cervélo are the best team out there, but there’s one better this week! Thursday saw the first ever women’s race as part of the Tour Series of city-centre crits – the Horizon Fitness GP. I’ll fangirl on about the Horizon Team and how much I love them another time, but one of the things I like best about them is their ambition of increasing interest and participation in women’s cycling in the UK in more ways than just having a team. I don’t know how Stef Wyman does it, but he persuaded Horizon to sponsor, and the Tour Series to support this race, as hopefully just the beginning. Oh Horizon, how I love you!

And not only did Horizon’s Dani King win the race, with ‘Cross star Helen Wyman in 3rd, but all 6 of their riders came in the top 10. That’s better than Cervélo! Motorpoint’s Hannah Barnes came 2nd – she’s definitely a young talent to look out for in the future, so remember her name.

You can read a race report here – and I can’t recommend the Horizon website enough – they have regular blogs from riders, and it gives a real insight into what it’s like for young riders trying to make cycling their career.

THE HEAT IS ON

This looks interesting – a film about the women’s racing circuit in the USA

and finally…..

CONGRATULATIONS MIRJAM MELCHERS!
Mirjam Melchers and Cervélo DS Jean-Paul Van Poppel are expecting a baby! Mirjam is taking maternity leave – and isn’t it fun to imagine the future cycling career of that baby!

COMING UP NEXT!

Next weekend is a whole swathe of National Championships – and we’re getting closer and closer to the biggest and best stage race of the year, the Giro Donne…..

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH WOMEN’S CYCLING?

Posted in Pigeons by lagazzettadellabici on June 16, 2010

A new women’s cycling feature on Gazzetta from everybody’s favourite cycling fan PIGEONS

I know shit all about women’s cycling. But, I love watching it as much as the men’s stuff I bang on about on here so I wanted to include it on the pages of GAZZETTA. However instead of pretending I know what I’m talking about I’ve convinced my great friend PIGEONS to write a regular column instead. She will be filling us all in on everything from fangirl stuff to race reports and results. I hope you enjoy reading her articles as much as I enjoy talking to her about the sport.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH WOMEN’S CYCLING?

When the lovely Simon offered me some space on his blog to fangirl endlessly about women’s cycling, my mind went completely blank. Over the last year or so I’ve been teaching myself about women’s road racing, and I definitely class as a fangirl, rather than any kind of expert. There’s so much I love about the sport, and so much that drives me crazy about it, that it’s hard to know where to start. Plus if you’re reading this, you’re into cycling, and likely already know more than I do about the women’s side of things. But I guess the easiest place to start is at the beginning….

 Unlike in track cycling, there are some fairly major differences between women’s road cycling rules and those in place for the men’s races. There are all kinds of different rules for the girls, and this changes the tactics and the way the races pan out.

For a start, teams in most races have a maximum of 6 riders each, and this means riders can’t specialise as much as the men can. For example, Columbia men’s team can have 5 riders on the front of the péloton pulling back a break, with 3 riding around Mark Cavendish, protecting him from the wind and keeping him safe to only think about his one job of the day – that final sprint. It’s not that this can’t happen with 6 riders, it’s just that the sprinter also has to be alert for breaks, and be prepared to get into the breaks herself. The riders that are nearest to pure sprinters – Ina Teutenberg, Kirsten Wild and Giorgia Bronzini, for example – have to be able to get into those breaks, and get themselves over the hills. There are generally a lot more attacks in the women’s racing, and if 4 women are working together up the road, because 2 of them have a pretty good sprint themselves, it can be harder to bring them back, especially with their team-mates doing everything they can to keep the pace down.

Then there are the distances. Because we all know women are delicate little flowers, they’re limited to how much they can actually ride by the maximum 130-140km a day, against the men’s 240-280k, and no more than 6 stages, without special UCI permission. This means that although they ride demanding races, they’re actually capable of riding a lot further, and they don’t race every day for 3 weeks – so they can end up relatively fresher at the end of the day (not always, and not after eg riding the Stelvio). I have no idea why these limits are set where they are – it seems a bit random to me – but then I’ve never understood why I can run the same 1,500m or marathon as a bloke, but couldn’t ride a kilometre time trial.

“But Pigeons”, I can hear you thinking, “isn’t the answer ‘Because the UCI make no sense’?” – and of course, you’re absolutely right. Ranting about the UCI can take up hours, but it really does feel like Uncle Pat thinks a woman’s only place in cycling is in a low cut dress and high heels, handing the winner his cuddly toy – or maybe producing darling little kiddies who’ll look adorable in their mini polka-dot jersey on the podium with Papa.

You might be raising your eyebrows at this, but looking at how the UCI treats the sport, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion. Two examples – there used to be a really nice little set of races in North America and Canada, including the Montreal round of the road World Cup – but these vanished last year, after the UCI encouraged the organisers of the Canadian races to drop them in favour of a race for men. And then there’s the fact that the Track World Championships is scheduled to conflict with the early World Cup round/s, so riders like Lizzie Armitstead and Giorgia Bronzini have to decide between the two, and hope their road team doesn’t mind if they choose track.

And in the last few years, teams and races have been collapsing all over, and there are no obvious signs that the UCI even cares.

Sigh. It’s difficult times for the women’s sport indeed. There are fewer races to ride, and the ones left are struggling. Sponsors are collapsing – it’s insane that World Champions like Amber Neben and Nicole Cooke are without pro teams this year, after their team crumbled in December. Although the racing gets better and better, the sport is in real danger of extinction. Add to that the real difficulties of watching the sport, as channels like Eurosport will show 10-pin bowling and any number of non-sports, but won’t show even the World Cup rounds, and it’s no wonder people don’t know about it.

But it’s not all bad news. I’ve painted a bleak picture up there, but that’s just in the background of this amazing sport – and it makes what’s great about women’s cycling even more important. It’s a tactical, attacking sport – and with a mix of day races, short tours, 2 relatively long Tours, and the 9-round Road World cup series, there’s something for everyone, and all kinds of riders to love. And the upside of the lack of mainstream media is the homemade coverage – from websites like Cycling FeverCQ rankingPodium Cafe and Cicloweb to YouTube streams like Cycling Donne and especially twitter. There’s something really rewarding about hunting out the information about races, finding results, and sharing them with the superb people who follow women’s cycling and are generally really happy to share their knowledge. And the fact that absolute superstars like Marianne Vos will reply to the tweets of someone like me – it’s a real thrill.

And with Cervélo and HTC-Columbia supporting women’s teams, and the new British Horizon Fitness Team persuading the Tour Series to run a women’s race for the first time 17th June in Stoke – if you’re going, can you shriek for Horizon for me, and yell like a demented fangirl every time you see a Horizon rider, especially Sarah Storey? I’d appreciate it immensely!), there are good signs. Traditionally people pay more attention to womens’ cycling in the run up to the Olympics, so now’s a great time to brush up your knowledge, ready to sound unbearably smug, come 2012.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there…. for now! Next time, I’ll give you some pointers on who to support, if you haven’t already got 6 favourite riders! If you want me to hand-pick a rider for you, leave a comment and tell me what kind of riders you like, and why.

In the news this week:
Cervélo’s Claudia Häusler won the Iurreta-Emakumeen Bira (a mountainous mini-Tour in the Basque Country), and we’re still thinking about Marina Romoli after her really horrendous accident.

Coming up:
17th-18th June: Rabobank Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden, Netherlands: http://www.sterze.nl/ 
18th – 20th June – Giro del Trentino Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: http://www.girotrentinodonne.it/

PIGEONS
If you would like to talk to Pigeons further on not only cycling but anything else she is on twitter here.