7th - 10th July 2011
While the big cycling action is taking place in Italy, with the Giro Donne (and I hear there's some little men's race in France as well), there's another women's stage race this week. The Tour de Feminin is a four-stage race held over three days in the north-west of the Czech Republic - this is the 24th year of the race, and while the biggest hitters are in Italy, it still has a really interesting parcours, and a start-list with lots of big names.... including multiple world champion across the road, track and cyclo-cross, and six-time winner of the race, Hanka Kupfernagel...
There isn't much information up about each stage, but in general, it's a hilly race, taking place in an area known as "Bohemian Switzerland". That's Bohemian as in the area, not the lifestyle, so those hills should be very green, pretty, with some great views, if the cyclists have time to notice them.
The race stays in the same area, visiting Krásná Lípa every day, and covering the same roads and climbs on different stages (I hope it passes the town's webcam) and includes 7 times over what seems to be known as "the infamous Vápenka climb" - if you can find any information about it, add it in the comments, I'd love to know more! - and various cobbled sections. The profiles might look innocent, but apparently those gradients aren't. Natalie Creswick blogged about the race last year - you can read how she found stage 1 and stage 2.
Stage 1 is a 108.3 km circular race from Krásná Lípa to Krásná Lípa, with the biggest climb of about 200m, 2 steep sections and a technical-looking finish, with tight corners.
Stage 2 is shorter, 93.2km, Jiříkov - Jiříkov, hillier, with 3 laps of a finishing loop and a flat finish
Stage 3 is the first of Saturday's two stages - a 21km time trial in Bogatynia that looks more or less flat and straight-forward
Stage 4 starts at 16:10 the same day, and is 91.5km long, 4 laps of the same course around Rumburk
Stage 5 is 98.k km, starting in Varnsdorf and ending with 2 laps that finish where the race started, in Krásná Lípa
The big teams are at the Giro, but there's plenty of interest on the startlist. Wearing number 1 is Hanka Kupfernagel, on her first outing with Horizon Fitness, riding alongside Helen Wyman for a change - over winter they compete with each other on the European cycloscross courses. This is Kupfernagel's first big road race of the year, apart from the German National Championships, where she came third in the road race, and fifth in the ITT, despite having mechanical problems. It'll be interesting to see how she does - and it'll give us an idea of her form before Thüringen Rundfahrt. If you want to know more about her, check out the biography on her website and my Top Trumps post on World Champions in the peloton!
Other names you might have heard are Russian Team PCW, headed by Svetlana Bubnenkova, with Natalia Boyarskaya and Irina Molicheva in support - they'll definitely be big contenders. The Dutch Hegemony will be headed up by Vera Koedooder for Specialized DPD and Andrea Bosman for WV Eemland.
Luxembourg's Nathalie Lambourelle leads ABUS:Nutrixxion, Norway's national team has Emilie Moberg and Cecilie Johnasen (who both usually ride for Hitec Products), Alriksson GO:Green are racing and there are not one, but two Australian national teams - the Jayco Sqaud and a national team - look out for both of those teams to appear on the podium and at the top of the standings.
If you're a virtual Directeur Sportif, this race is vds level 3 - so scoring for the first 3 in each stage, the top 10 in GC and the top 3 in the other jersey competitions - full scoring details on the calendar.
Daily results and information will be added to the comments - please, please don't feel shy - if you see anything, add it in!