There is reason to celebrate in the world of Women's Cycling today -- well, maybe the world of women's cycling fans, at least, not so sure about the riders themselves. That's because the Golden Fox, Marianne Vos, turned some pedals today in, er, not anger, maybe relief? Yep, cycling's single most dominant rider is back in the saddle after breaking her collarbone May 25 in the Netherlands, and should resume her place atop the women's field in a reasonably short time, having been off the bike for all of ten days.
Just in time too, as far as the FSA Directeur Sportif is concerned. While the men's season is a more carefully balanced affair where points start raining from the sky in late March and don't ever really stop until November, the women's season is pretty heavily concentrated from the end of June to the middle of August. The three Grand Tours of Women's Cycling kick off June 29 (Giro Donne), July 17 (Thuringen Rundfahrt) and August 4 (La Route de France). In between the latter two are the two Olympic events (cat 2) and La Route de France rolls straight over into two more Cat 2 events in Sweden and Plouay. By the end of August we may not have settled the matter entirely, but the teams who can't keep up will be well off the back.
How's this all gonna shake out? To the flip!
We have a lot of other more qualified commenters on Women's Cycling around here than me, so take this for the superficial analysis it is, but I am happy to start the conversation.
What Will Marianne Do?
Vos is a three-peat winner at the Giro Donne, the sport's marquee event, and it was presumed she would stake her claim to glory here, then in London. With over three weeks to the start of the Giro Donne, there is time for Vos to perfect her form, assuming she hasn't really lost much. She is Marianne Vos, after all, so anywhere close to peak will put her in the conversation.
But the human body is a mysterious thing, at times, and exactly how that shoulder feels and what implications the injury has for her energy levels is hard to predict. Until she gets back to full fitness, then she hasn't done it, and with it being an Olympic year -- the biggest media platform in the sport, as well as everyone's dream -- Vos can't be expected to exhaust herself in Italy. My uneducated hunch is that she'll be good enough to carry on and do well (remember, Grand Tour placings are 20-deep), but any setbacks before the start could completely refigure her season. Thuringen and the Route de France aren't as well suited for Vos, which I assume is why she didn't ride Thuringen last year and why her last Route de France (2010) was unremarkable. But roughly one-quarter of the Earth's surface is considered Vos Territory, so if points don't happen in one place, they'll probably happen in the next.
If Not Marianne, Then Who?
Again, I will defer to the experts, but a peek at the FSA DS standings shows that Evie Stevens, Emma Johanssen, Trixi Worrack, Monia Baccaile, Judith Arndt and Annemiek Van Vleuten are the chasing group for the big prizes.
- Van Vleuten is the defending champ at the RdF (not run last year, so that's 2010), and will be called upon in any race where Vos isn't Rabo's best hope.
- Arndt was second in France and third in last year's Giro Donne, marking her as the next-most-consistent scorer through summer.
- Johanssen won Thuringen last year over Amber Neben, by all of six seconds. That race's top placings are often separated by seconds, not minutes, so that's a huge cache of points that could go in a lot of different directions. But the classics riders will be players there.
- Stevens is having a remarkable season, and her newness to the sport makes her a huge wild card, but I don't know where she's racing next. The North Americans have even less incentive than their European counterparts to blow their form on a grand tour prior to the Olympics.
- Emma Pooley would be the favorite in the Giro Donne if Vos isn't fit, and after a quiet start she will be on the upswing toward the Olympics by late June.
- Lizzie Armistead is good for some stages and a placing at the RdF, coming fourth overall two years ago.
- The Olympics has a good chance of seeing a sprint, which puts Baccaile, Giorgia Bronzini and Kirsten Wild in among the other big names.