While I'm getting over-excited about the Giro Rosa starting tomorrow, here's a selection of video from last week's National Championships. If you know of any more, add it to the comments and I'll edit it in!
First up is probably the biggest women's cycling nations, the Netherlands. There was no surprise when Ellen van Dijk won the ITT - she's on fantastic form this season, getting better and better every year.
Here's a video from NOS and another video:
The road race was an interesting one. By all rights, Marianne Vos should have been the favourite, but there's no advantage to Rabobank-Liv/Giant if she won, because she's already wearing the rainbow jersey - and it's a good reward for a hard-working team-mate. Lucinda Brand attacked in the second lap and solo-ed for 100km, while Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten and their team-mates enjoyed burnign off all the competition, attacking on the hills and frustrating the chase on the flat. Eventually, only Van Dijk could keep up with them, until a mechanical on the penultimate lap took her out of contention. My favourite parts were watching Vos and AvV soft-pedal when they realised Van Dijk was in trouble, and only race away when they realised she was out - and how they waited until it was clear Brand had won before attacking each other mercillessly!
NOS video of the Road Race highlights and the full final kilometres:
In Sweden, the ITT had been won by Emma Johansson, and she was out solo in the road race, before she was caught by a small but determined group. I did enjoy her quotes in the ORICA-AIS Nationals report, but she was saying that no one would work with her - that made me smile, because frustrating as that must have been, she was defending Champ, and that's bike racing! It came to a photo-finish, with Hitec's Emilia Fahlin beating Johansson on the line. Here's a photo gallery
Over in Norway, it was an all-Hitec podium, with Cecilie Gotaas Johansen winning the road race
It was all about Specialized-lululemon in Germany, with Lisa Brennauer winning the ITT and Trixi Worrack winning the road race - an especially happy result, given that she was just back after breaking her collarbone. I loved this tweet and photo:
In France, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot of Rabobank won the ITT:
Then in the road race, Elise Delzenne won the road race. She had been a Junior National Champion, but had given up racing to get an Engineering Degree, and her win throws into relief the huge probellems women in a lot of countries face - she could ride the World Champs now, but can't afford it. From the Cyclingnews race report:
Delzenne said she would like to go to the world championships at the end of the season, but may find it difficult to fit the race in with her career.
"The problem is that I'm an engineer responsible for quality in a large laundry at Soissons. I don't have many days off, and if I take leave without pay I earn no money, and in addition I get behind in my work. I like the bike, but it is not what earns my living."
So frustrating. France is at the top of cycling for women in disciplines like BMX, both cross-country and downhill MTB, and the track sprint, but why is their road programme so woeful? Poor Elise.
The British course in Glasgow was very interesting, because it's on the course that will be used for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Any judgements made about it come with caveats, because while both the women's and men's races were won by sprinters - Lizzie Armitstead and Mark Cavendish, they are known for being head and shoulders above their competition. Both of them, interestingly, were going up against practically full-strength pro teams - Sky for Cav and Wiggle Honda for Armitstead, who only had 1 Boels-Dolmans team-mate with her, Emma Trott. But while Armitstead managed her race beautifully, solo-ing to her win, Wigggle had some consolation, with Olympic and World track champion Jo Rowsell winning the ITT.
Finally, the National Championship race that weighs heaviest on my heart. It's probably the hardest of all the women's road races - when Monia Baccaille won it two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010, she was the first to do so for over twenty years. It's always a tough race, and always have surprises - but this year the biggest surprise was a horrible one. Towards the end of the race, Elisa Longo Borghini of Hitec, one of the big favourites for the race and for the Giro, crashed on the wet roads, falling under a road barrier that ripped open her stomach, and fracturing her hip. A horrible thing to happen to any one, at any time, but especially unfair when she's been having such a great season, and was in with a great chance for the Giro. Our thoughts to her for a full recovery - come back stronger, Elisa!
and for anyone interested in talent for the future, here's Arianna Fidanza winning the Junior women's race (I do love how Italy loves cycling so much that they show the junior races on tv too)
Thanks to everyone who pointed out video for me, and especially to CyclingFlash at Cycling Fever - his video page is one of my favourite resources! If there's anything we've missed, add it to the comments!