It's been a really busy weekend - in Europe, starting in the rain for ITT and sprinting at Borsele and then moving south to Flanders for another bash at the cobbles of the Kemmelberg in the Prijs Stad Roeselare - while on the other side of the world, there's been stage racing in the sun of California for the American riders at the Sea Otter Classic - with a rare chance for European stars of the future to race each other, with the Junior EPZ Omloop van Borsele stage race.
There's loads there! And video for all of it too! Join me below the jump, after this report from Roeselare:
EPZ Omloop van Borsele is best known for the elite women's road race, but it's a lot more than that - a whole weekend of racing, with a junior women's stage race, and junior and u23 men's ITT. Borsele is in Zeeland - those flat, windy peninsulas and islands on the bottom corner of the Dutch coast, just above Belgium. They love their cycling in this area - in June, the RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden stage race takes place 15km away, around Middelberg - which you might remember from the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
EPZ Omloop van Borsele Time Trial - Friday 20th April - 19.5km
It was a dark and stormy night.... ok, ok, not stormy, but it was a freezing cold, rainy evening, and by the time the last riders came to the finish-line, it was definitely getting dark, with cars needing their lights on. Check it out in the video, in the top of this news article.
The flat, open parcours, with long straight roads, didn't provide any cover at all - but one team wasn't worried at all. The early leader, Rhae-Christie Shaw (Canadian National Team) was overtaken by her compatriot, Clara Hughes, starting Specialized-lululemon's run of success - Ina-Yoko Teutenberg finished just behind her - and then Ellen van Dijk had a brilliant ride, and despite Marianne Vos starting after Van Dijk, only GreenEdge-AIS's Linda Villumsen prevented it from being an all-lululemon podium!
1. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, 0:26:21.78
2. Linda Villumsen (NZl) GreenEdge-AIS, + 00:00.57
3. Clara Hughes (Can) Specialized-lululemon, + 00:27.17
4. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 00:42.88
5. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEdge-AIS, + 00:46.06
6. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, + 01:00.39
7. Rhae-Christie Shaw (Can) Canada + 01:04.40
8. Shara Gillow (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, + 01:18.26
9. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabobank, + 01:21.66
10. Thalita de Jong (Ned) Rabobank, + 01:40.94
The race wasn't UCI-listed - usually it isn't open to the elite riders, and it's not one that would have scored Virtual Directeurs Sportifs any points, but this year the KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation) asked them to run it as the first race in the new KNWU ITT league, and to promote Time Trialling ahead of the Olympics. And it's a good pre-Olympic chance to see riders' ITT form.... in cold, windy, torrential conditions...
EPZ Omloop van Borsele - UCI 1.2 - Saturday 21st April - 122km
It's the same parcours as the previous years - 5 laps of a flat, untechnical 24.5km circuit. It's sprinty, and generally full of attacking that whittles down the peloton lap by lap - and for the last four years has been won by Kirsten Wild of AA Drink-Leontien.nl - but this year, the women's peloton lived up to their reputation for being all about crazy attacks and the need for positioning, as a group jumped at just 15km out - and while you'd expect veterans of Dutch-style sprinting like Chantal Blaak (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon), Amy Pieters (Skil-Argos) and Iris Slappendel (Rabobank) to be ready for that kind of thing, hats off to Gracie Elvin (Australia), Melissa Hoskins (GreenEdge-AIS) and Megan Guarnier (USA) for spotting that move.
Here's Van Dijk, telling the story on the Specialized-luluemon website:
"It’s nice. Except for the rain and the cold. It’s really freezing here. At the beginning I was just happy I was in the break so I could warm up a bit. I think my teammates in the bunch were freezing all day.
"At 80k we almost got caught," Ellen explained. "We had Iris [Slappendel] from Rabobank in the break with us but I think she punctured so Rabobank started chasing and the gap came down to about 40 seconds. But then Sarah Düster bridged to the break so they were happy again and the gap opened up to about a minute.
"At the end there were a lot of attacks. People were looking at me a lot so I had to be pretty active but in the end it was a sprint and that went well."
And by "went well", she means, of course, that she won - two victories in two days! Behind her, with all the biggest teams represented in the escape group, no one else was allowed to get away - and while Wild may have broken her run of wins, she showed she still knows this race inside out, winning the bunch sprint from the peloton. For a more detailed view of the race, check out the live ticker
1. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, 3:03:18
2. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Australia, s.t.
3. Sarah Düster (Ger) Rabobank, s.t.
4. Chantal Blaak (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
5. Amy Pieters (Ned) Skil-Argos, s.t.
6. Melissa Hoskins (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
7. Megan Guarnier (USA) USA, s.t.
8. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 00:46
9. Laura van der Kamp (Ned) Dolmans-Boels, s.t.
10. Anastasia Chulkova (Rus) Russia, s.t.
EPZ Omloop van Borsele is race 2 of the KNWU Topcompetitie Vrouwen, a series of five races, where riders' finishing places give them points towards the series. The first in the series was Ronde van Gelderland, and it continues with the weekend of Parkhotel Valkenburg Classic (aka Holland Hills) and Rabobank Dorpenomloop Aalburg on 25th and 26th May, before finishing with the RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden stage race on 16th-18th June. After two races, Chantal Blaak leads the standings:
1. Chantal Blaak (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, 140 points
2. Suzanne de Goede (Ned) Skil-Argos, 109
3. Megan Guarnier (USA) Tibco-To The Top, 106
4. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, 100
5. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Australia, 80
6. Sarah Düster (Ger) Rabobank 70
7. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, 68
8. Amanda Spratt (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, 60
9. Amy Pieters (Ned) Skil-Argos, 50
10. Jessica Glasbergen (Ned) Specialized-DPD 50
Prijs Stad Roeselare - UCI 1.1 - Sunday 22nd April - 129.5km
From the rain of the Netherlands to the rain and cobbles of Belgium, as the peloton moved south to Flanders. At least the rain decided to stop after the first 20km or so, which must have been a relief!
It's an interesting parcours - running out from Roeselare and into Gent-Wevelgem territory, with nine climbs including the Kemmelberg, before coming back for flat laps of Roeselare town.
After Gracie Elvin's podium spot yesterday, it was her Australian National team-mate Chloe McConville who made an early attack, joined by TopSport Vlaanderen's Latoya Brulée - but the pair were caught, and Lizzie Armitstead (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Emma Johansson (Hitec Products- Mistral Homes) and Marianne Vos & Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabobank) were among the group of 17 that went over the Kemmelberg first.
After that, attacks - Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon), Rhae-Christie Shaw, Vos and Johansson were involved in various groupings that tried and were caught - until Van Vleuten, Linda Villumsen and Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Hitec-Mistral) finally managed to get and stay away. The three worked well together, gaining over four minutes. In the final kilometres, Villumsen did everything she could to try to get away, but the other two were vigilant, on her every move, and it came down to a sprint - Annemiek van Vleuten starting early, and easily winning her first race of the season!
Once the chasing group had reached the town laps, and it was clear the front three were going to make it, Marianne Vos tried again and again to get away for 4th place, but couldn't manage it, and it was World Champion Giorgia Bronzini who won the bunch sprint for 4th
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabobank, 3:26:02
2. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Hitec Products-Mistral Homes, + 00:02
3. Linda Villumsen (NZl) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Diadora-Pasta Zara, + 02:51
5. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, s.t.
6. Alona Andruk (Ukr) Diadora-Pasta Zara, s.t.
7. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
8. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Homes, s.t.
10. Evelyn Arys (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team, s.t.
It's great to see Van Vleuten back on winning form again - she had another operation over winter, to deal with ongoing problems she has of scar tissue around her veins, so she started racing later than usual this year - and of course, the Olympics and the World Road Race will be her biggest goals of the season, but nevertheless, after a number of races where she's been playing faithful domestique, it made me smile to see that she won!
Sea Otter Classic, NE - 19th-22nd April
Over in the USA, it was stage race time - a packed 4 days of men's and women's road racing, mountain biking, cyclocross, Gran Fondos, kids' racing and all kinds of other events in Monterey, California.
There's an undisputed queen of North American race reporting, so rather than even try to come near her, I'm going to recommend you head over to Podium Insight, to read Lyne's proper reports and look at her photos of the women's stage race. Alison Powers of NOW and Novartis for MS started strong, winning the Stage 1 Crit ahead of antipodeans Loren Rowney (Specialized-lululemon) and Emily Collins (Vanderkitten-Focus) - Powers defended her leader's jersey by winning Stage 2 ahead of her team-mate Olivia Dillon and Rowney again, and the 8km ITT Stage 3, this time ahead of another team-mate, Anne Samplonius and Jessica Cutler (Peterson Racing p/b Spokeswomen).
It had been burning hot all race, but Stage 4 started out foggy - and with Powers GC lead of 2 minutes 3 seconds and Dillon in second place, NOW and Novartis had everything under control. Powers won the final stage and the GC, Dillon in second place behind her and Cutler rounding out the podium.
It's crazy to think that Powers was considering retiring from cycling last year, after breaking her elbow in the Redlands Classic - I bet she's glad she didn't, now!
Full results to follow in the comments
Omloop van Borsele Junior Stage Race - 20th - 22nd April
Finally, the junior girls' stage race!
There aren't many opportunities to see the junior girls race each other, so Borsele has a special place in my heart - all the more because the girls get to ride the same roads, on the same days, as the elite women. It must be super-inspiring for them - but it's also a great place to talent-spot stars of the future, as riders who've ended up on the podium include Suzanne de Goede (who won in 2002), World Omnium Champion Laura Trott (winner in 2010), Chantal Blaak, Roxane Knetemann, Amy Pieters, Monique van der Ree and current Belgian Champion Evelyn Arys.
It's 3 stages - an ITT, and two road races - all flat, and all the perfect opportunity for riders to learn the art of attacking, what Dutch wind and rain feel like to ride in, and how important positioning is - all key skills for a future in the women's peloton!
The ITT was won by 2011 World Junior ITT silver medallist, Elinor Barker, riding for the Welsh National Team, ahead of Nicky Zijlaard, whose surname turns up a lot in Dutch cycling lore - her grandfather is Joop Zijlaard, derny champion who you might know from seeing him at all the biggest 6-day track races; her uncle is Michael Zijlaard, who's the manager of the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team, but just as well-known for being the husband and former manager of Dutch road and track cycling legend Leontien van Moorsel. Nicky is just 16 years old, and the junior Dutch champion in pursuit, IP, scratch and keirin on the track - and looks like she has a bright future on the roads as well.
Stage 2 was on the same day and course as the elite women, and was won by Dutch 2011 Junior Road Champion Ashlynn van Baarle (Jonge Renner/Restore Cycling) ahead of Nelleke Blaak (Chantal's little sister) - the pair had attacked together, and managed to gain some distance on the peloton, who very nearly caught them - Junior Road Cycling Champion Lucy Garner (Great Britain) winning the bunch sprint for third.
Garner took her revenge, winning Stage 3, a bunch sprint, ahead of Van Baarle and Jessy Druyts of the Belgium National Team. You might remember Jessy came second in the World Junior Road Race last year, and Druyts is a name you should always watch out for - big sister Kelly rides for Belgium on the track and TopSport Vlaanderen on the road, their brother Gerry is a cyclist, and little sisters Lenny and Demmy have been spotted in the novice classes... in another 5 or so years, they'll be all over the place!
As is often the case in these flat races, the ITT had a big impact on the standings, and the final GC looked like this:
1. Elinor Barker (GBr) Wales National Team, 4:18:16
2. Nicky Zijlaard (Ned) RWC Ahoy-Dorien, + 00:18
3. Ashlynn van Baarle (Ned) Jonge Renner/Restore Cycling, + 00:20
4. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium, + 00:22
5. Lucy Garner (GBr) Great Britain, + 00:34
6. Corine van der Zijden (Ned) ZRTC Theo Middelkamp, + 00:48
7. Louise Olsen (Den) Denmark National Team, + 00:50
8. Stefanie Bochsler (Swi) Bigla Mix Junior Team, + 00:58
9. Kaat van der Meulen (Bel) Belgium, + 01:09
10. Amy Roberts (GBr) Wales, + 01:10
Van Baarle won the sprint jersey, Zijlaard the young rider classification, and Belgium the team prize - lots of promise all around - and nice to see the junior Brits challenging the Dutch hegemony at a young age!
Tonnes of racing! It's exhausting just trying to follow it all, let alone race it! But if you want even more, on the UK domestic scene, Sarah Storey won the Cheshire Classic (Report on VeloUK) and in France, Audrey Cordon won at Calan and Amélie Rivat won at Pélussin - reports via the inestimable Gwéna.
Next up, the peloton split, with some heading of to the Czech Republic for the Gracia-Orlová stage race, while others enjoy Italian sprinting at the GP Liberazione and what used to be three separate races, but now is a three-day stage race, the Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs and possibly another ITT at the GP de Suisse...
As ever, any more videos, blogs and descriptions of riding in torrential downpours you find, but them in the comments! That's where mine will go!