Sunday 13th March
Last weekend saw the first races in 2011 on the Belgian domestic calendar, now this weekend the French and Italian circuits get going with a WVDS double country double header on Sunday, the Grand Prix de Chambéry, the opening round of the Capdet Raynal Coupe de France, and the 9th Trofeo Vannucci Alberto - GP Valbisenzio, the first in a random, but always fun, collection of races that serendipitiously meet up on the calendar of the Italian Cycling Federation. And here you get a chance to see the seemingly random way races attract fields, and the even more random way that both these got dumped into VDS category 6. Some races are clearly more equal than others.
Chambery is at the base of the French Alps, but despite that the organisers have managed to come up with a fairly flat course, a loop of 8.4km to the north of Chambery-le-Vieux that is repeated 9 times for a race of just over 75km. Information on this race is pretty minimal. There is an organisers’ website that you can visit to see the race poster and download a pdf of the course, and Gwena has a start-list which looks pretty patchy until you see that the race numbers are sequential. I’ve copied the map onto Bikemap.net to get the profile.
The starters seem to be exclusively French, and only ASPTT Dijon Bourgogne have managed to get out what looks like a full team, presumably in support of Beatrice Thomas. Of the other French UCI teams, Vienne-Futuroscope have just two riders in Edwige Pitel and Sophie Creux, and GSD Gestion are represented only by Mireille Robin. Will they be embarrasses to be outnumbered by their once teammates in ES Gervais Lilas, among whose five are French champion Melodie Lesueur. Any coverage we get from here is a bonus, so don’t sit up late waiting for the results.
At first glance The GP Val Bisenzio a very similar race. It takes place in Vaiano, just to the north of Florence and follows a 4km circuit up and down the banks of the river Bisenzio 17 times before nipping off onto a slightly different circuit for three final laps. No maps this time, although I’ve taken the information in this press release and plotted an approximation at Bikemap to see that there don’t seem to be any climbs in that final circuit. Or I’ve plotted the wrong roads.
But then take a look at the start-list and it’s got all the big names that we expect to be dominating the top races later this season, and because they’ve been allowed to bring up to ten riders each there are some ridiculously strong line-ups. Colavita Forno d’Asolo even have a sprint train ready to support last year’s winner and World Champ Giorgia Bronzini. Alessandra d’Ettore, Barbara Guarischi, Rosane Kirch and Modesta Vzesniauskaite looks positively Cipollini-like for a women’s team. Speaking of whom, MCipollini-Giambenini bring their full line of champions, Nicole Cooke, Tatiana Guderzo, Marta Bastianelli, Rossella Callovi, Monia Baccaille and Jennifer Hohl (2008 and 2009 Swiss Champ). How do you counter that? Diadora-Pasta Zara bring out Mara Abbott, Shelley Olds, Inga Cilvinaite, Alona Andruk and Rachel Neylan (but apparently not Claudia Hausler who is sitting an exam back in Germany). VDS points for the first five only, remember.
The race organisers are VC Vaiano otherwise noted for having the team kit that most looks like pyjamas, and they have worked with the local mayor to build up interest, including holding a bicycle-art contest for local schoolkids, and all who enter get given a blue and white balloon on Sunday to wave as they watch the race pass. This one is also a good bet for some decent video coverage. Manel Lacambra, Diadora DS will be there, complete with his piggy assistant, and VideoJenny profiled VC Vaiano a couple of days ago, witht the assistance of Edita Pucinskaite, and may also be covering the race if no-one bigger steps in. As ever, tell us if you find something we’ve not mentioned.
As you can see, in VDS terms thay are very different races. Those who picked some French riders may have a chance to do very well, while there are a lot of big names fighting it out in Italy. Is that a hint as to what tactics you should try next year? And if your VDS team is led by Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley, well we're enjoying mocking you while we've got the chance.