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Race Preview – Trofeo Costa Etrusca and Cholet Pays de Loire

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Sunday 20th March 2011

The women’s racing season may build up a bit more slowly than the men’s but we’re slowly getting there. Last weekend we had a couple National calendar races that sneaked on to our radar and coverage courtesy of WVDS, but on Sunday we have two full UCI races that have both been previously discussed at the Café. The Trofeo Costa Etrusca meanders through the hills of Tuscany, circling Pisa slowly from North to South, while Cholet Pays de Loire follows a circuit, albeit a large circuit, through and outside the town of Cholet (according to wiki probably from Latin cauletum, "cabbage") in the West of France.

The Trofeo Costa Etrusca was last run back in 2009 as a series of three hilly races won by Emma Pooley, Sarah Duester and Linda Villumsen. You can watch the highlights from then courtesy of VideoJenny. Then in 2010 it suffered the curse of an awful lot of races that Emma P wins, and was cancelled. This year, in a sign that gives us some hope for the Grande Boucle and the Tour de L’Aude, it is back again, although just as a one day race. And the map suggests that they stay a lot closer to the coastal plain this year, so things aren’t so hilly, with just two 250m climbs showing in the profile and a flat final 3km. Nevertheless Garmin-Cervelo have brought out Emma Pooley, plus what looks likely to be her main mountain support team of Sharon Laws and Carla Ryan. And with Diadora Pasta Zara bringing reigning Giro champ Mara Abbott that makes this their first head-to head of the year. There are lots of other big names on the startlist (that probably deserves a prize for the number of misspellings) including all the bigs from MCipollini, who along with Michela Fanini, Kleo and Lotto Honda have a team of eleven. Is there a message there somewhere? But for the spectacle I’d be very happy with Olga Zabelinskaya and Vicki Whitelaw making a suicide dash down that last hill and hoping to hold on to the end. Because is would look great on video, and we are promised video from this race. Toscana TV will be on the finish line filming a clip for their news bulletin that evening, while VideoJenny promise full highlights later in the week.

Meanwhile in Western France, Cholet Pays de Loire, continues its mini-Plouay weekend. Yesterday they put on a group of randonees ranging from 90 to 197km, and today the focus is on the professionals. At noon the men depart on the large circuit for the Challenge des 10 bosses. Twenty minutes later the women set off for four laps of the smaller 28km circuit which contains the final two of those "bosses", the Côte de la Tessoualle and the Côte de la Séguinière. They repeat this circuit four times, so have eight climbs to do in total, The organisers don’t seem to have published a separate profile, but it is equivalent to the final few cms at the end of the >a href=" http://www.cholet-pdl.com/images/stories/2011/profilcircuit.jpg">men’s race. The start list here is a lot more local in character, mostly being French teams, those Spanish teams that are always on the startline, but hardly seen at the end, the non-Italian non-US Colavita team (yes I’m biting my tongue here trying not to make more cheap snarky remarks about team sizes), and this season’s early season Hitec monster. You’d be a fool to bet on anyone other than Emma Johansson for the win, but the all the French teams will be out to do well as this is the opening round of the Capdet Raynal Coupe de France (and yes, I know I said that last week, but I was wrong – the GP de Chambery is on the French calendar but not a Coupe de France race). CyclismActu have a ticker running for the men’s race, so perhaps they will mention the women from time to time. According to Gwena there’s no TV coverage expected, except perhaps a report in the local evening news on France3. Otherwise Hitec themselves may come up with a few seconds from the finish line, as they have done a couple of times this season.

As always if you find something better then let us know about it.