Oh, Drenthe! It's such a great week. Drenthe, so wikipedia tells me, is known as The Cycling Province of the Netherlands, and I can see why. We're in the North-East of the country, with national parks, forests, canals, and great riding through the little villages and towns. And, for the Spring Classics season, wind, corners and cobbles.... Emma Johansson wrote a superb preview of the first race, Drentse 8, on the ORICA-AIS website and this is how she described the cobbles we're talking about, and how the racing changes, as the peloton moves from Belgium to the Netherlands:
Both countries share certain elements when it comes to single day races. The racing in both Belgium and Holland is fast and hectic. The battle for good position is constant. Roads in both countries have cobblestones although the cobbles are different. Here in Drenthe, it looks like someone has just spread stones out at random on a forest road not meant for use by cars. In Belgium we race on roads where cars travel, so the cobbles are more uniform in size and are mostly quite organized. It’s a bit more difficult to navigate over the random cobble sections than the organized ones.
But don't take from that she doesn't enjoy the racing here - you definitely need to read that preview, because Johansson tells a really great story, and has a great turn of phrase. Down below, I'll give you more of the details of each race - and check out the excellent race website for the men's races and much more!
Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo - Thursday 7th March
The women's racing kicks off with a sprinty, flat race - the Drentse 8. The name of the race tells you a lot about the course - it's a figure of 8 around the town of Dwingeloo, famous for the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory, one of the biggest telescopes of the 1950s. It's flat, so the winds hit hard, and traditionally this is one for the sprinters. Here's the video from last year:
It's three laps of the course - it's flat, with cobbled sections, and passes through the Dwingeloo national park, but most of it is through farmland, with some technical sections through the village.
One of the interesting rivalries of the first week of the European season has been Emma Johansson (ORICA-AIS) and Shelley Olds (Tibco), with Olds coming second and Johansson third in the first two rounds of the Lotto Cycling Cup, Le Samyn and Tielt-Winge - Johansson having raced three European races and come third each time - so you can bet both of them are looking to move up the podium. Olds is more of a pure sprinter, and came second in 2011 - but Johansson has a huge tactical skill, and came third second in 2010 and third in 2011.
They won't have it all their own way, of course. As always, startlists are liable to change, and I look to Cycling Fever for the most accurate startlist. Specialized-lululemon have Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who proved she definitely hasn't retired after all by winning the Downtown Crit at the Merco Cycling Classic last week - but if she's not in the mood, Ellen van Dijk proved her superb form, winning Le Samyn solo. Wiggle Honda are packed with sprint talent - twice World Road Champion Giorgia Bronzini, team owner Rochelle Gilmore and young Kiwi talent Emily Collins, who outsprinted the bunch to win Tielt-Winge on Saturday. And of course, last year's winner, Chloe Hosking, will be wanting to retain her title for Hitec Products UCK. Then, there's Marianne Vos.... she's back from racing and winning her first MTB stage race, the Sunshine Cup in Cyprus. How does that affect her road form? We'll have to wait and see!
Following the race
To follow it live-ish, head over the twitter and check out the triumverate of women's cycling superstars - Tibco DS Manel Lacambra, Hitec manager Karl Lima and Boels mechanic Richie Steege. I've got a twitter list for other accounts that sometimes give real-time updates, and I'll edit that as I go. The race twitter is @RondevDrenthe, and they should be followed for all kinds of fun information. This goes for all three races, hope it helps you!
Find out more
Sean at Velofocus has a superb preview of the race with a lot more stats - and I always recommend Monty's previews - check out his from 2010, because the course is still the same. Velofocus is a pretty new women's cycling site, with lots of race previews - but what I really like are Sean's Social Startlists, where he links to riders' twitter accounts and websites - so handy! Here's the one for Drentse 8 - and have a look around the site, it's a lot of fun. And of course, more information on the race website.
Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe World Cup - Saturday 9th March 2013
This is the BIG race of the three... the World Cup! Here's a promo video of 2011 and 2012 winner, Marianne Vos, riding a recce over the "new" climb:
The race heads out over one climb, then hits the first big decider - two stretches of cobbles at 50km and 67km - with a sharp corner into the first stretch. And they're not just any cobbles! Here's former rider Vicki Whitelaw's quote about them:
The Dutch cobbles are sharper and more brutal than those in Ronde Van Vlanderen. Because many are within the forest tracks, they remain in the shade for a majority of the day so are usually mossy and lovely and slippery! Bring it on!
There's a race to be in a good position for the cobbles, which is always tough - and after that, the big race begins.
It's then all about the climb - the VAMberg, a man-made hill built over the site of a municipal dump. Apparently the hill has been changed this year, and has been made higher, with an extra corner, so we can't take previous races as a measure of it - but they ride it on the way out, then twice more, as they finish with small loops, and some technical corners and racing in the Hoogeveen loop. It's a crazy attritional race, and the fact that it's the first of the World Cups will mean the teams will make it even harder.
Well, it's the same set of riders, more or less, as the Drentse 8, but we turn our eyes to the Classics types, and the former palmares:
|2012||Marianne Vos||Kirsten Wild||Emma Johansson|
|2011||Marianne Vos||Kirsten Wild||Giorgia Bronzini|
|2010||Loes Gunnewijk||Annemiek van Vleuten||Giorgia Bronzini|
|2009||Emma Johansson||Loes Gunnewijk||Chantal Blaak|
|2008||Chantal Beltman||Marianne Vos||Ina-Yoko Teutenberg|
|2007||Adrie Visser||Élodie Touffet||Marianne Vos|
Well, it certainly is an advantage to be Dutch! But the names don't show the full story - when Vos won, it was from a sprint from a group of about 20 riders last year, and a big bunch sprint in 2011; Gunnewijk won attacking solo out of a small group (damn, that was a GREAT race! Cycling Fever has videos!); Johansson won out of a sprint of a group of 6; Beltman won solo by 6 seconds with around 25 chasers; and Visser won in a 2-woman escape - so the race can go different ways. Obviously, Vos, Johansson, Gunnewijk, Wild, Bronzini and Van Vleuten are riders to watch - but I'll also be looking for Elisa Longo Borghini of Hitec, Trixi Worrack of Specialized-lululemon, Martine Bras (Boels-Dolmans) and Chantal Blaak (Tibco) for attacks, and the same sprinters as Drentse 8 - Armitstead, Olds, Van Dijk and Visser.
Find out more
For more details, check out the Velofocus preview, my preview from last year (scroll down), and Monty's from 2011 - and of course, the race website. There is a LOT of video form last year's race - here's the David Harmon highlights, in English, but click through to the Cycling Fever video page to see a lot more, including everything that was shown on tv.
There reason there's so much video is that it's shown on tv, and this is one of the few women's races we might get to see live. I say "might" because last year it was shown on a delay, and it can be hard to find streams.... but let's be optimistic, and hope our Dutch-speaking friends can update us in the comments. RTV Drenthe says they're showing part of the race live from 15:00 CET - and that should be on their unrestricted pop-up site too. There will also be a summary at 20:10 CET on Saturday - huge thanks to Cycling Fever's Davey, aka CyclingFlash, for finding out that information! Here's the tv coverage video trailer - with RvD jingle!
Novilon EDRcup - Sunday 10th March
If riders failed to get their positioning right, or had bad luck with punctures - or if they had a great race and want more more - there's one more race to wind up the weekend. It's a brand-new route loop starting and finishing in Coevorden, with 1 ascent of the VAMberg at 26km - so I'd guess it's flat (unlike the old-school climbing route we used to see) - and Sean has mapped it for us on the Velofocus preview - head over and see! Here's the video of last year's race - but don't read too much into that, or the previous years' winners, I'm guessing it'll be bunchy-sprinty all the way.
The startlist is on CyclingFever - no Vos for this one, apparently, so look to the usual sprinters - Teutenberg, Van Dijk, Bronzini, Armitstead, Wild, Olds, and of course, as in every race, Emma Johansson.
No news on tv, but that'll follow in the comments
If you want to find out how the riders are living for this race, ORICA-AIS rider, and Australian National Champion, Gracie Elvin, shows us the team hotel in Dwingeloo:
On The Road - Hotel de Borken (via TheRookieRoadie)
Because it's the start of the season, there are all kinds of fun blogs from riders, showing us their European peloton life, and I'll add anything I see into the comments, as always, loving it if you do the same! ORICA-AIS have been getting different riders to preview each race, so keep an eye on their website and twitter for the RvDrenthe and EDRcup - and I've interviewed Loes Gunnewijk about the race, and more, and there'll be at least a live-ish, if not a live thread on Saturday! It's all go, around here!