This week was the first women's stage race of the year in Europe, the first time we've seen all the big sprinters go head-to-head, and the first ever running of the Energiewacht Tour. Dutch-style sprinting can look pretty prosaic on paper, but in reality it's a lot of narrow roads, big winds, and attacks.
Here's the overall GC - and you can watch some really great video of the race - Dutch channel RTL 7 had daily updates and CJ Farquharson has also been posting daily mini-films, with interview-ettes with riders in English, on the womenscycling.net youtube channel.
1. Adrie Visser (Ned) HTC-Highroad, 09:48:18
2. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, + 0:10
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, + 0:38
4. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 0:39
5. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 0:59
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec UCK, + 1:00
7. Liesbet de Vocht (Bel) Belgium National Team, + 1:19
8. Sarah Düster (Ger) Nederland Bloeit, + 2:02
9. Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Diadora-Pasta-Zara, + 2:44
10. Monique van de Ree (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 7:58
Below the jump I'll give you some information about how the race played out, with links to things like photos and rider blogs, for a bit more of an idea about the race.
UPDATE: WVDS results after the weeks racing
Before the Tour started, we knew that this race was built around Stage 3, which is more or less last year's Omloop door middag Humsterland, and because it's pretty much 100% flat up in the far north-eastern province of Groningen, that the race would be decided by a combination of the time bonifications from the mid-race sprint-points and for the stage podium places.... and from any escapes. Riders were on the line over half an hour before the start at one point, as the short stages meant it would be racing from the gun...
Stage 1 was a 100km around the town of Sellingen, 2 countryside laps then 2 laps in the town. There were breaks and reformations throughout the race, with HTC and Nederland Bloeit dominating. Sarah Düster tried one of those suicidal attacks that will soon pay off, but was caught, and the end was all about sprint trains and technical corners on the final 2 laps. Marianne Vos made the final sprint look easy!
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 2:39:47
2. Ina Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC Highroad, s.t.
3. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink – Leontien.nl, s.t.
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Colavita Forno D’Asolo, s.t.
5. Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Lotto Honda, s.t.
Stage 2 was the shortest stage - 80km, five circuits of a giant lake, with lots of wind to spice things up. The big sprint teams kept the pace high, dropping riders off the back. Diadora-Pasta Zara's Alona Andruk had the longest break of the day (among many attempts), but inevitably she was caught, and despite other riders doing their best, it came down to a bunch sprint again.... this time won by Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who, with the points from the mid-race sprint, took the yellow jersy from Vos.
1. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 2:00:48
2. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
3. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Colavita Forno d’Asolo, s.t.
4. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, s.t.
5. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitc UCK, s.t.
Stage 3 always looked to be the decisive stage - 123km, through the countryside, with lots of narrow, twisty roads and opportunities to escape. Everyone knew this would be the big day for the GC, although perhaps they didn't expect the action to come quite so early. At 12 km there were already 3 groups, and by 25km, Nederland Bloeit used the wind to launch the decisive move of the day, with four of their riders jumping off ahead - and with the group of 11 made up of Vos, Van Vleuten, Gunnewijk & Düster from NB, Teutenberg & Visser of HTC, Wild & Van de Ree of AA Drink and Emma Johansson (Hitec), Olga Zabelinskaya (Diadora) & Liesbet de Vocht (Belgium), there weren't many big teams left to form a chase - and most of the remaining teams seemed too dispirited to work with the likes of Lotto and Dolmans to try to get them back. The peloton pretty much sat up and had a training ride, while the front group worked perfectly together until the sprint-point.... when they started attacking each other like lunatics. It was a continual game of jump-and-catch, with Loes Gunnewijk being especially feisty. She ended up in a break of three with Visser and Zabelinskaya, and despite Zabelinskaya trying to attack and go solo, it ended up with the two Dutch riders sprinting for the win - Visser triumphant! HTC with 2 rider in the top 3 of GC!
1. Adrie Visser (Ned) HTC-Highroad, 3:02:59
2. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, s.t.
3. Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Diadora-Pasta Zara, + 0:03
4. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec UCK, + 0:56
5. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, s.t.
Stage 4 was a town-based circuit race (ahem) 5 laps of a 12km circuit. Following it on twitter was amusing - attack after attack, but with HTC defending the jersey, it was always going to be hard to stay away. The racing was fast and furious, with Nederland Bloeit and AA Drink wanting to use their last chance for climbing up the rankings. It looks like HTC were happy for it to end in a bunch, as they didn't seem to contest the sprint... although everyone else did!
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 2:04:49
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Colavita-Fono d'Asolo, s.t.
3. Shelley Olds (USA) Diadora-Pasta-Zara, s.t.
4. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
5. Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Lotto Honda, s.t.
Vos' win and sprint points were enough to take her into 3rd overall - and congrats to Hitec's Emilie Moberg, who took mid-race sprint points to get herself the Best Young Rider jersey!
Blogs, pic and vids
If you want to know a bit more about what the race was like on a personal level, both Vicki Whitelaw (Lotto Honda) and Alison Tetrick Starnes (Team USA) were blogging throughout, from different perspectives. Whitelaw is an experienced racer (think Jens!) riding this one for her team leader, Rochelle Gilmore, while Starnes was racing in the Netherlands for the first time. Both tell a great story, I recommend them highly! Any other post-race blogs, we'll add to the comments.
There is a lot of video of this race, and likely to be more. RTL 7 has great race reports (stage 4 to follow, I'm sure) and apparently will be putting up an hour-long report. Nice pre-and post-race interviews, and visits to team buses etc. The stage 3 report is 27 minutes, and has summaries of 1 & 2 - check back on this page for more.
RTV Noord have shorter news reports up on youtube
CJ Farquharson provides great race coverage - you can see more in-depth race reports, with photos, on her womenscycling site - and different photos on her CJFoto site too - and race videos with interviews in English on the womenscycling youtube
And if THAT'S not enough, you can see all the other things we found during the Tour on the race thread right here
Anything fun you find? Add to the comments!
So what did we learn?
Marianne Vos may have started her season late, but she's demonstrating why she was by far the most expensive rider in the wvds game - even with the fact that this year's incarnation of Nederland Bloeit may be even stronger than last year's. Their tactics were masterful throughout the race, and they ended up with 3 riders in the top 10, even after Annemiek van Vleuten went home early after finishing stage 3 in the top 10.
Emma Johansson - who is NOT known as a sprinter - had a superb result in 6th. Her tactical sense was brilliant, she worked hard to chase down attacks, and she made all the right moves. I would never have expected her to finish 1 second off Kirsten Wild's time!
Garmin-Cervélo won't be able to reach the heights of their last two seasons, as their reduced numbers mean they really suffered from the loss of Lizzie Armitstead (who's not racing until Drenthe, after her gallbladder problems) and from Iris Slappendel's wrist injury, as they'll be the mainstays of the Garvélo sprint team. They've already proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in Trofeo Binda and Flanders - and they had some shocking luck this race, with Alexis Rhodes crashing hard in stage 2 and going home with concussion and rib injuries.
and finally..... HTC-Highroad's sprint side is just as strong as ever, and are going to have to be the team to beat in races like this. Adrie Visser was such a worthy winner - after the second stage, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg said that without Visser, she couldn't have won the stage, as Visser saved her from being blocked in, and lead her out perfectly - so it was even better to see her get her own chance to ride in Stage 3. The fact that there are so many teams with the ethos of "we don't care who wins, as long as it's one of us" is just one of the reasons I find women's racing so much fun.