As with a lot of things with women's cycling, I'd thought I'd known how National Champs Week would go, and who'd come out the other side wearing their national colours - but oh no! Yet again, riders have surprised me, and so for your delectation and delight, I present some random factoids and things I'm interested in from this week - and if you have some of your own, please add them in the comments.
First of all, I was surprised that this year was the first time Marianne Vos had won the Netherlands National TT Champs. I'm so used to her having won everything at some stage (or so it seems) that I had taken it for granted she'd won this one years ago. But no, it was her first time - and one of the endearing things about Marianne is how happy she was to have won it - she never seems to take anything for granted.
Another reason to love Marianne was her apparent gifting of the Netherlands Road Race to her team-mate Loes Gunnewijk. It seems like a win-win scenario for her - she gets to make a lovely gesture for a rider who's worked hard for her all year, and who'd done all the work in the race (and everyone knowing it was a gift doesn't hurt in any way) and Nederland Bloeit, who stepped up as main sponsor after DSB pulled out actually get her riding in the team strip at last (well, except for the World Cup races, while she's in Leader's Jersey.... and until she next wins some more rainbows/nationals...). The sponsorship was initially just for a year, so anything that keeps Nederland Bloeit happy, and looks good for other potential sponsors has to be A Good Thing.
Speaking of Nederland Bloeit, given that they only have one non-Dutch rider, having 2 National Road Race jerseys (Liesbet de Vocht won the Belgian RR back in May) is pretty impressive. They've been a stand-out team this year - everything's come together for them. They always make things so hard for the other teams - that choice between following an attack from Liesbet, or Gunnewijk, or Annemiek Van Vleuten just gives Marianne Vos an easy wheel to the finish - but let them go and they're likely to stay away. Given that half the women's péloton is Dutch, and their Nationals field is full of talent, their jersey means an awful lot more than that of most countries...
Another team enjoying a collection of Nationals jerseys is Cervélo. Emilie Aubrey won the classy Swiss jersey, Charlotte Becker won Germany's (I'd predicted HTC's Judith Arndt, but pretty much all my predictions failed horribly) and Emma Pooley won the GB jersey, breaking Nicole Cooke's 9-year unbeaten run of wins.
That race was a crazy one. It started at 8am, to help televise the men's race, then was marred by a huge crash - Emma Pooley had attacked on the climb in the first lap, splitting the field - so when a rider crashed out on the descent, the roads were so tight and twisty that the second group crashed into the back of team cars who'd been let onto the course. There were long delays as the roads were cleared, and then just minutes before the riders re-started, they were told the course would be halved to only 4 laps of the 7.5 mile course. I'm told this was so as to keep the men's race to schedule which is a shame if it's true.
There's a full report of the race here - but it was a battle between Cooke, Pooley and Pooley's Cervélo team-mates Sharon Laws and Lizzie Armitstead. I'd assumed the course was built for Cooke - and I would never have guessed Emma Pooley would attack on the flat and sprint for home... Emma's really grown as a rider this year, and ever since the Flèche Wallonne in April, she's been THE rider to beat. It'll be great to see her race in the National Champs stripes....
Well I'd always known Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli was a superb talent, but I hadn't looked in detail at her palmares for a while, and they're exceptionally impressive. By winning the French TT Champs, the 51-year old reached 57 National titles... This is on top of winning the Road Race World Champs 5 times, the TT 4 times, a gold and a silver at the Olympic RR, a silver and a bronze in the TT (that last bronze in 2000, when she was 41!), 4 World Champs golds on the track (and many other medals)... and more, much more. She "only" came 3rd in the RR (ESGL's Mélodie Lesueur came first) - the woman is incredible!
Another super-talent is Martina Sáblíková, who won the Czech TT and Road Race. Martina is better known as a speed skater, where she's the current World and Olympic Champion at the 3,000m and 5,000m, amongst many other palmares. There seems like a lot of cross-over between cycling and skating in the skating nations, and the Czech Republic's field isn't as strong as say, Italy, but that's still impressive.
I can't think of any interesting facts about Emma Johansson or Monia Baccaile (well, except that Emma was lucky enough to be interviewed by Gavia!) but they both
retain won their National Champions' jerseys for Sweden and Italy (edit - only Monia retained - it was Emma's first time - thanks Jens!).... Oh, and Mara Abbott, riding for Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY twelve (I love the team concept, but that name is hardly snappy!) looked very, very happy on the podium, winning the USA National RR Champs...
So what other interesting National Champs factoids have I missed?