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Preview: Grand Prix de Dottignies

Ever had one of those Monday mornings when you wake up Kortrijk slightly hung over from all those beers you were drinking to warm yourself up after three hours camped out on the Muur. Well as the old saying goes, there’s no better cure than the hair of the dog that bit you, so what better way to pass the day than with a pilgrimage/recce to the Roubaix velodrome in the morning followed by a bike race in the afternoon. And if you thin that sounds tough then just remind yourself that most of the girls down on the start list for Monday’s Grand Prix de Dottignies rode up that very same Muur. Plus eight other hellingen. Plus several kilometers of cobbles. At racing speed. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out to support them.

To make it clear, that’s the Grand Prix de Dottignies, scheduled to start at 14:30 this Monday 5th April 2010 and finish about three hours later. The website is very informative (although be warned that "Histoire de Dottignies" comes with a musical accompaniment of the sort that you won’t want anyone to hear coming from your speakers), and includes good maps, profiles and timetables in a variety of languages. The race itself consists of one big 50km lap, followed by a shorter 10km lap repeated 7 times, which sounds just perfect for anyone wanting to see the start, have lunch, then settle down with a few beers by the side of the road to enjoy the finishing action. The start list has the sort of quality names that any organiser later in the season would sacrifice his first-born to attract. Missing from those due to start the RVV are HTC-Columbia, Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley, but that’s about it. Still don’t believe me, well here are the podiums from the last few editions:

2005 :    1. COOKE Nicole (GBR)            2. BROWN Katie (AUS)            3. WOOD Oenone (AUS)   
2006 :    1. WOOD Oenone (AUS)            2. GOLLAN Olivia (AUS)            3. DE GOEDE Suzanne (NED)   
2007 :    1. BRONZINI Giorgia (ITA)            2. GILMORE Rochelle (AUS)            3. SCHLEICHER Regina (GER)   
2008 :    1. VOS Marianne (NED)            2. WILD Kirsten (NED)            3. TREIER Grete (EST)   
2009 :    1. DÜSTER Sarah (GER)            2. WORRACK Trixi (GER)            3. BLAAK Chantal (NED)

It’s helped by the fact that a lot of the teams come on a field trip for the three rounds of the World Cup, the RVV, the Unive Ronde van Drenthe and the Flèche Wallonne Féminine. Don’t turn your nose up because it is a less important race. I wouldn’t mind betting that if you wanted to get a few autographs or photos or even to start up your own little fan club then this is the place to do it. Or why not collar one of the South Africans and try to get a few words on what they are working towards and how well they think things are developing. It looks like they will be one of the big stories in women’s cycling in the next couple of years, and I think that it’s SA champion Lynette Burger’s first race in Europe (if you’re stuck for an opening line then try telling her that you’ve got a friend who’s got an electric dryer that her friend can use).