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Road World Cup 2011 - the story so far, part 2 - China, Spain & Sweden

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With the GP de Plouay, the final race in the Road World Cup taking place tomorrow, I've been recapping the 2011 competition so far.  Yesterday looked at the Spring Classics section, and this post updates on the races that make up the summer season - with videos from each race, in case you missed them.  The second half of the series is very different to the first - the first four are ridden over three weeks, and include two races on the same course and day as the men race, and are races for the tough Classics specialists - but the next four have opportunities for a different set of riders to shine, starting with the sprinters...  And while Marianne Vos of Nederland Bloeit was in the lead after the first four races, she was taking a mid-season break that meant she'd miss the fifth round...

If you want to follow the GP de Plouay, it should be streamed online by France 3 tv from 15:15 Saturday CEST - Gwéna, who runs a fantastic women's cycling site (and is THE expert on French races, teams and riders) has more information about it here.  (Gwéna herself will be at the race, possibly on the back of a press motorbike, so be sure to check her site for all kinds of post-race goodies!)

Race 5: Tour of ChongMing Island, China, 15th May

In the past, the World Cup series had rounds in Canada and Australia, but these days, there's only one race that takes place outside of Europe, and that's this one.  It takes place on an island in the Yangtze estuary that's just 80km long and 18km wide, and as flat as you can imagine.  The World Cup is preceded by a three-day stage race on the island, so the riders get to know the conditions well.  The 136.3km course took wide, straight roads to the "mountains" point up onto the spectacular Shanghai Yangstze Bridge - then up onto the bridge, out into the wind, to Changxing Island and back, then running along different long, straight roads, back to the start.  Definitely one for the sprint teams, as HTC-Highroad had demonstrated, when they won the stage race is fine style.  Monty's excellent race preview has maps, and is worth reading, just to see how ingenious the race organisers were to get four different parcours on the island. 

Hitec Products started with problems - Emma Johansson hit by food poisoning, and a really bizarre incident where the Ukrainian team staff were apparently discovered stealing Hitec's wheels the night before the raceApparently they apologised and claimed it was a joke...  and returned the wheels, of course, but still, totally strange....

With the course pretty much perfect for the big sprint teams, it looked inevitable that it would end in a bunch sprint - which didn't stop the attacks, and escape attempts. Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiano Solaristech) made an early escape attempt, gaining over four minutes, and winning the mountains points when she reached the "climbs" onto the bridge first - but she was caught, and although the Giant team made attempts too, it was HTC-Highroad who were perfectly in control of the race.  Their lead-out was exemplary - and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg took every advantage of it, winning beautifully ahead of Garmin-Cervélo's Lizzie Armitstead. Teutenberg's team-mate Charlotte Becker rounded off the podium - and Annemiek van Vleuten's fourth place meant she took the World Cup leader's jersey back from her team-mate Vos, wearing it for the third time this year.

1.   Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC Highroad, 03:36:34
2.   Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
3.   Charlotte Becker (Ger) HTC Highroad, s.t.
4.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, s.t.
5.   Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Vaiano Solaristech, s.t.
6.   Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
7.   Romy Kasper (Ger) Germany, s.t.
8.   Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Lotto Honda, s.t.
9.   Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Italy, s.t.
10. Isabelle Söderberg (Swe) Alriksson Go:Green, s.t.

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Race 6: GP Ciudad de Valladolid, Spain, 5th June

The Valladolid round is the start of the little Spanish section of the season.  It starts with a 90km loop, with some nice hills to attack on, before returning to Valladolid for five laps of a 6.6km town circuit - with has plenty of long, straight roads, and the race running on either side of the same road for stretches, so riders can see exactly where each other are.  The race organisers were fantastic - with a live ticker and a twitter feed - it can't be stressed how much this is appreciated!

As I said yesterday, one of the great things about this year's World Cup has been that there have been 15-minutes of coverage of each round, narrated by David Harmon and shown on British Eurosport and hosted for free on the Cervélo website.  Here's the programme covering ChongMing and Valladolid - the Valladolid coverage starts at the 12:50 point.

The race was a fast one, averaging 40kph at the half-way point - so fast that no one could get away - although Alna Burato from the French National Team managed stay away for 20km, and Noemi Cantele (Garmin-Cervélo) was especially active - but early attacks were eaten up, and it wasn't until the race hit Valladolid for the laps that escape action really started.  Ina-Yoko Teutenberg attacked hard and gained 10 seconds, but was caught - and Shara Gillow (Australia) and Fabiana Luperini (McIpollini-Giambenini) attacked together, getting 20 seconds, but only 2km before they were caught. 

All the attacks and catches meant that the race was ferocious, and for the last 25km of the race, there were three groups on the road, with around 20 riders staying up at

By the last 25km of the race, the peloton was split up into three groups that merged and separated all over the road.  On the penultimate lap, a crash had shaken everything up, taking down Marianne Vos and Annemiek van Vleuten - Van Vleuten describes it on her always-excellent blog - so at the final lap bell, the two Nederland Bloeit riders were chasing hard to reach a front group of around 30 riders, and crossed the line six seconds behind.  

It was so exciting, even following by twitter - but if anyone can come back from bad luck, it's Vos.  She caught the front group, and at 3km to go attacked as part of an 8-rider group...  then started to sprint unexpectedly early, and once again, made winning look easy!  Her win gave her back the World Cup leader's jersey - Van Vleuten had been hurt more badly in the crash, and finished 13th, in the first chase group.

1.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 3:16:17
2.   Rossella Callovi (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
3.   Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, s.t.
4.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
5.   Noemi Cantele (Ita) Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
6.   Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
7.   Elena Berlato (Ita) TopGirls Fassa Bortolo, + 0:07
8.   Maaike Polspoel (Bel) TopSport Vlaanderen, s.t.
9.   Linda Villumsen (NZl) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 0:16
10. Charlotte Becker (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 0:25

Full results

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Race 7: Open de Suède Vårgårda Team Time Trial, Sweden, 29th July

After two sprinter-friendly races, it was onwards to the Team Time Trial round of the World Cup.  For this race, four riders needed to finish, and there was a different scoring system.

The course ran out and back on the same road - 42.5km from Vårgårda to Herrljunga and back - with the wind hindering and helping - and then a loop around the town with a sharp climb.  This TTT has been raced three times - and each time, the Cervélo Test Team have won it.  A lot of their time trial experts had left this season - could Garmin-Cervélo keep up the tradition, or would HTC-Highroad continue their awesome 2011 domination of TTTs?

There's no UCI video of the TTT yet, but luckily there is the amazing team at WomensCycling.net, who this year have added video to their repertoire of photos, quotes and race reports - and I can't tell you how much I appreciate them!

There aren't many Team Time Trials for the women's peloton - but one of the teams to watch out for this year has been Team Australia, who have been fantastic in every incarnation.  They started early, and chalked up a time of 00:54:53, which stood as the fastest time for most of the evening, beating a lot of the big pro teams.  It was only when AA Drink-Leontien.nl hit the course that there was change at the top - and AA Drink's time of 00:54:06 was superb!  Behind them on the road, there was only Garmin-Cervélo, HTC-Highroad and Nederland Bloeit.  Garvélo raced hard, and it was clear they'd be on the podium...  but HTC were amazing, destroying every check-point time.  They were so fast that they rode the last part of the race with only four riders - but even that couldn't stop them gaining time - they were in a different class completely - a fabulous win!

1.   HTC-Highroad, 00:53:02
2.   AA-Drink-Leontien.nl, + 01:47
3.   Garmin-Cervélo, + 01:49
4.   Australia, + 01:50
5.   Nederland Bloeit, + 02:01
6.   Russia, + 03:06
7.   Hitec Products UCK, + 03:19
8.   Germany, + 04:11
9.   Lotto Honda, + 04:19
10. MCipollini-Giambenini, +04:25

Full results

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Race 8: Open de Suède Vårgårda, Sweden, 31st July

This is a tough race - eleven laps of an 11km circuit that included a sharp climb and descent, and a technical finish through the town.  And with Podium Café's very own Jens and Figurehead on hand to cheer and report back, and the race organisers having radio coverage and a camera at the finish-line, we had some exceptional coverage!  Check out the photos from Jens and Figurehead - and a beautiful set of shots from Swedish photographer Christer Hedberg.

 

This is a hard race, shelling riders on every lap - the attacks started on lap two, with Garmin-Cervélo and Alriksson Go:Green pushing hard, and Madeleine Sandig (Germany) and Jessica Kihlbom (Alriksson) escaping on lap three.  It was crazy - crashes took riders down, groups formed, attacks went and were caught, and by the half-way point, only half the starting peloton were on the road.  Following it on the ticker and twitter, it felt like every single rider had attacked - especially Judith Arndt and Emilia Fahlin (HTC) and Emma Pooley (Garmin) - but with four laps to go, a dangerous group attacked that included most of the big teams - Annemiek van Vleuten (Nederland Bloeit), Ellen van Dijk (HTC), Iris Slappendel (Garmin), Irene van den Broek (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Nicole Cooke (MCipollini-Giambenini), Oxana Kozonchuk (Russia) and Regina Bruins (Netherlands).  Some were clearly there to work their legs off - others just as clearly there to work for team-mates behind them, but still, they gained well over four minutes on the chasers, lead by Hitec Products UCK, whose rider Emma Johansson attacked to try to catch the group.

Johansson was riding solo between the front and chase group on the penultimate climb - and of course, if Johansson attacks, it's a signal for action, as she's a threat to the race and the World Cup standings, so by the time Van Vleuten lead the escape group across the line into the last lap, the gap had dropped to 40 seconds.  By this time, it had started to rain, and the front group kept their lead, just.  Van Vleuten attacked on the final hill, with Van Dijk catching her but they were soon caught again by Slappendel, Van den Broek, Cooke and Bruins - Kozonchuk having dropped off the group. 

There were so many races-within-races - the attack group trying to escape from each other, Johansson trying to catch them, and being chased herself - and the finish-line getting closer and closer. At 2km to go the gap was down to 15 seconds, and falling fast - then in the final moments, the riders at the back of the escape group were caught - and at the same time, Van Vleuten attacked again on the front, sprinting for a fantastic victory!  Ellen van Dijk followed in second, and Nicole Cooke rounded off the podium - and Van Vleuten took back the World Cup jersey from Marianne Vos AGAIN!

1.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 3:19:49
2.   Ellen van Dijk (Ned) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
3.   Nicole Cooke (GBr) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
4.   Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
5.   Irene van den Broek (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
6.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
7.   Iris Slappendel (Ned) Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
8.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, s.t.
9.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, s.t.

Full results

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So as we approach the final race of the series, Nederland Bloeit have dominated this year's Road World Cup, and the standings look like this:

1.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 287 points
2.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 280
3.   Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, 212
4.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 163
5.   Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 143
6.   Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, 117
7.   Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo,  111
8.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, 108
9.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, 103
10. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) HTC-Highroad, 85

Full results

With 75 points for the winner of tomorrow's race, and scoring for the first 20 riders across the line, the big question is which of Vos and Van Vleuten will win?  If Van Vleuten finishes below 20th, and Johansson wins, they'll tie - but then, there's Vos...  The Nederland Bloeit ethos is that they don't mind who wins, as long as it's a rider from their team - and this World Cup has been spectacular for them.  It'll be exciting to see how it plays out, and which Bloesem ends up in the World Cup stripes....  tune in tomorrow, from 15:15!