It was the sight of Alberto Contador in a string vest that inspired me to write these few words of introduction as the women’s peloton moves eastwards into the German state of Thuringia. The history of Thuringia is long, complicated, and has something for everyone. As a concept it was broken down during the 15th to 19th centuries by inheritance laws and the rise of the Saxon duchies, the most well known of which in the English speaking world is the Saxe-Coburgs, who entered the British royal family through the marriage of Albert to Victoria, and have the odd, erm, distinction, of being the only European country to appoint a consul to the Confederate States of America. If you’d prefer a cultural history to a political one then let’s name a few of Thuringia’s famous sons: Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, Bach, Bauhaus. But above all nowadays, Thuringia is probably best known by the name of the town that was for may years the provincial capital: Weimar. It’s time to dig out those stockings and knickers and to start straddling. To showtunes. Hit it Liza.
Anyway, let’s get back to the cycling. There’s been one biggish one day race since the Giro ended, when Giorgia Bronzini outsprinted a pretty decent field at the Carnevale di Cento, while Mariane Vos and her DSB Bank team preferred to beat up the local teams in the Tour de Bretagne Feminin where they took the every stage, all the jersies and all the final podium places (and for those in the States, one of those trampled was US rider Megan Guarnier, currently following in the foorsteps of the great Joe Parkin). Now the big names all come back together for a six day, almost 600km race through southern Germany. Every stage is a circuit, some large to be ridden once, others smaller and repeated. There are no big mountains to climb, but apart from the first stage there is also very little flat. Stage 3 and 6 look to be the nastiest. The organisers have put together an excellent website for those who can read Germanwhich is still pretty useful (read “has lots of pictures”) if you can’t. Stage plans come as cute colour-coded graphics, detailed streetmaps and vicious looking profiles. Sadly the latter are missing those all important percentages. Wiki has some nice information on the geography, which I would steal but stylistically it’s all a bit much of "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres"
So who’s riding? Well according to the latest published startlist (pdf file) just about everyone. Columbia-whichever-jersey-they-are-wearing-this-week have yet to nominate a leader, but will be providing pretty strong support with Kim Andersen, Emilia Fahlin and Alex Wrubelski. Sadly they are missing current title holder Judith Arndt, out with a broken arm. Cervelo have left behind most of their A-team, but have Regina Bruins and Carla Ryan linig up behind their next big thing, Emilie Aubry. Nurnberger go for the double policewoman attack with Trixi Worrack and Charlotte Becker (or have I misunderstood something about the German police. I’d swear that I heard Tony Martin described as a policeman just the other day?), Bigla have Nicole Brandli and Jennifer Hohl flying the Swiss flag, and Flexpoint their usual Susanne Ljungskog/ Miriam Melchers-van Poppel leaders. And on the stars plus support side we have Vos and DSB Bank, Nicole Cooke and Vision 1, Emma Johanssen and Red Sun, Fabiana Luperini and Selle Italia and Marta Vilajosana and Cmax Dila.
There is a live ticker which should be up and running when the first stage starts at 16:00 local time, but may give all sorts of mildly rewarding returns during current testing. I would be surprised if there was no video, but I’ve not seen any links so far.