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Women's racing update - Gracia-Orlová, Elsy Jacobs and some bad news...

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It's been a big week for women's racing news - good and bad. We've seen some fantastic racing in Italy, with Rabobank and Specialized-lululemon dominating the competitions: Marianne Vos winning the Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs and Evelyn Stevens winning Gracia-Orlová in the Czech Republic - but there was a big crash in Luxembourg that left World Champion Giorgia Bronzini injured - and we've also seen the Tour of Languedoc-Roussillon cancelled. Then just today it's been announced that the Giro Trentino has been reduced from three to two dates. But, good, positive racing news first! Here's Noemi Cantele winning the GP Liberazione in Crema last week:

1. Noemi Cantele (Ita) Be Pink, 2:46:57
2. Inga Cilvinaite (Ltu) Diadora-Pasta Zara, s.t.
3. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Faren-Honda, s.t.
4. Alona Andruk (Ukr) Diadora-Pasta Zara, + 00:24
5. Simona Frapporti (Ita) Be Pink, s.t.
6. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo-Servetto, s.t.
7. Oxana Kozonchuk (Rus) Be Pink, s.t.
8. Chiara Vanni (Ita) Verinlegno – Fabiani, s.t
9. Martina Corazza (Ita) Kleo, s.t.
10. Eneritz Iturriagaetxebarria Mazaga, s.t


Gracia-Orlová - 25th-29th April - UCI 2.2

Then it was onto Gracia-Orlová - 5 stages in the Czech Republic with two ITTs and a lot of climbing. There was one team that jumped out of the startlist - Specialized-lululemon, who completely dominated the race from the beginning.

Ellen van Dijk started by winning the 2.2km ITT Prologue, ahead of Trixi Worrack and Team Australia's Melissa Hoskins - with fellow lululemons Evie Stevens in 4th and Katie Colclough in 6th. Video of the ITT - and a photo gallery.

Stage 1 had an uphill, cobbled finish. Australia's Gracie Elvin had attacked early on and spent a long time out by herself, but it was Evelyn Stevens who won, although that wasn't necessarily the team plan! After the stage, she talked about the team-work

"They worked like dogs," said Evie. "It was amazing. We went into the race in the perfect position and it all went to plan. Except at the end i wanted to try to lead out Trixi but i think i got a little over-excited and jumped too hard. I’ll have to make up for that."

I really recommend you click through and read the rest of that report, it's very funny! Photos here.

Stevens won with 2 seconds on AA Drink-Leontien's Sharon Laws and Be Pink's Alena Amialyusik - and the race for the GC was on!

Stage 2 was another ITT - 26km, on a course that was half a motorway shut off to the public - out and back, and out and back again. Ellen van Dijk has some excellent blogging about how dull it was to ride - but it didn't stop her winning, ahead of her team-mate Stevens by just 0.01 seconds, with Worrack and Colclough in 4th and 5th position. At least they left some room on the podium for Tatiana Antoshina (Russia), Laws ending up 6th, 1'32" behind Van Dijk. There's video of this ITT too - and photos - you'll soon get the picture of the course!

Stage 3 was the Queen Stage - four big climbs and descents and an uphill finish. Specialized-lululemon kept the pace high, and attacked hard on the first climb - Worrack and Stevens with Amialyusik and Laws. The Specialized pair dropped Laws on the descent, but not Amialysik, and the trio stayed together for 100km - then 2km before the finish, Worrack attacked for the win, with Amialyusik beating Stevens for second place; behind them, Laws had been chasing as hard as she could, with Antoshina for a while, and then solo, as the Russian couldn't match her on the climb. Laws ended the day fourth - and there are photos of her looking exhausted afterwards, in the gallery - and third in the GC behind the Worrack and Stevens - one more stage to go.

The final stage was 99km, 6 circuits of a course with little climbs. Somewhere along the road, a group of five escaped - queen of the bloggers Marijn de Vries (AA Gracie Elvin (Australia), Alessandra Borchi (MCipollini-Giambenini), Olena Pavlukhina (Ukraine) - and Katie Colclough from Specialized. The way this race had gone, there was only one way it could end - Katie Colclough took the sprint ahead of Elvin and De Vries, and more importantly, her first individual win in a UCI-ranked race! Colclough started off as another of the superb British track riders, and came second in the 2009 European u23 Road Race Championships. She's been riding her heart out as a domestique for HTC/Specialized - and it's fantastic to see the team continuing their run of developing young talent. She has said in an interview that her ambitions aren't just to win, but to enjoy winning - I hope she's doing that right now!

Laws had won the bunch sprint for sixth, but there were no changes to the GC - Stevens had won the Tour!

1. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon, 9:45:11
2. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, + 01:20
3. Sharon Laws (GBr) AA, + 03:36
4. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Rabobank, + 03:50
5. Alena Amialyusik (Blr) Be Pink, + 03:52
6. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, + 06:32
7. Olena Sharha (Ukr) Ukraine, + 06:51
8. Olena Pavlukhina (Ukr) Ukraine, + 08:17
9. Alexandra Burchenkova (Rus) Michela Fanini Rox, + 09:23
10. Audrey Cordon (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope, + 10:03

Full results

One of the best things about the Czech races are reading all about what it's like racing there - and this one is no different. Check out Marijn de Vries' blogs, with photos, on the Sanatorium the riders were staying in (and the treats they got in their rooms) and on the racing - and Trixi Worrack's blog on what Specialized-lululemon get up to on the way to races. There are photo galleries of the final podium in the Stage 4 gallery - I especially like the picture of the umbrellas for the Team Prize!


Festival Luxembourgois Elsy Jacobs - 27th-29th April - UCI 2.1

While it was sunny in the Czech republic, over in Luxembourg, the Tour started wet. You can see the stage profiles in the race preview - starting with a cold and wet Prologue - a 1.7km evening ITT, won by Rabobank's Annemiek van Vleuten, 1 second ahead of Judith Arndt (GreenEdge-AIS) and Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo).

Stage 1, the GP Elsy Jacobs, started wet, and as predicted was horribly attritional. Here's a description of the race from GreenEdge-AIS:

Despite the continuous attacks, the bunch remained together 15 kilometers from the finish.

"With 1½ laps to race, Linda Villumsen attacked at the bottom of a climb," explained McPartland. "She went away with Elisa Longo Borghini [Hitec Products – Minstral Home) and Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon). Those three got a gap straightaway."

Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol Ladies) jumped from the bunch in an attempt to bridge, and Tiffany Cromwell grabbed her wheel.

"Tiff covered the move, and Marianne Vos and a couple others went with her," said McPartland. "The group ended up making it across to the three out front, so we had two riders in the group of 12."

The 12-rider lead group had a 20 second gap with one lap left to race.

According to the race report, Marianne Vos attacked at 130m to go, winning the sprint ahead of Skil-Argos' Adrie Visser and her own team-mate Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. Visser had had a whole load of bad luck throughout the race, with crashes and mechanicals, but had turned her frustrations into racing!

Stage 2, the GP Nicolas Frantz, was on a new, less hard course, and despite lots of attack attempts, the peloton stayed together to the end - until, in the final corner, at 300m to go, there was a huge crash, taking down a whole load of riders. Hanka Kupfernagel was leading, Van Vleuten and Vos had just come alongside, when someone crashed into the German rider, and a whole load of the peloton went down.

Van Vleuten won the stage, and Vos the General Classification - Rabobank crushing the Luxembourg race as Specialized-lululemon had the CzechRepublic.

1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, 5:14:56
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabobank, + 00:13
3. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil-Argos, + 00:17
4. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Homes, + 00:24
5. Linda Villumsen (NZl) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
6. Amber Neben (USA) Specialized-lululemon, + 00:25
7. Megan Guarnier (USA) Team USA, + 00:27
8. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) Rabobank, + 00:29
9. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, + 00:30
10. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.

Vos took the points jersey, and Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol) the Mountains jersey - full results here

There are lots of photos from the race - from CJ Farquharson and - and some nice 'backstage' ones from Specialized-lululemon


Giorgia Bronzini injured

While most riders came through the Luxembourg crash with bruises and road rash, World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora-Pasta Zara) looks like she has been more seriously hurt. CJ Farquharson tweeted that she thought it was a broken collarbone - and the photos (from CJ and from Sportfoto) certainly look that way. Bronzini has dropped the track this year, to focus on the Olympic road race - so here's hoping she's not too hurt, and can heal, and get back to form in time for July.

Update! Diadora-Pasta Zara have posted that it was a dislocated shoulder, and not a collarbone break, for Bronzini - they say she should be back on the bike in a fortnight - luckily there's not much racing in that time. Heal fast, Giorgia!


Tour de Languedoc-Roussillon and Giro Trentino problems

The other bad news this week has been about races in trouble. The Tour de Languedoc-Roussilon should have taken place 18th-23rd May, and had hopes of replacing the much-lamented Tour de l'Aude, the women's Grand Tour which was last raced in 2010.

CJ Farquharson has more details about the cancellation, which was caused by two towns pulling out - and about the implications. It's bad anyway, because we've been losing a lot of races in the last few years, and it leaves a big gap in the calendar - which is especially problematic for riders who are looking for UCI points to help them get to the Olympic Games. Some riders - like Emma Johansson - have got opportunities to ride in the Tour de Free State in South Africa - but they'll need to find a (relatively) big pile of new money to travel there, and lots of teams just won't be able to afford it. It had been perhaps unsurprising, but it's very sad news. (For some comic relief, see Lizzie Armitstead's reaction)

And just today, we've heard that another race is having problems. Hitec Products-Mistral Homes' Karl Lima tweeted that he's just heard that the Giro Trentino has been reduced from three stages days to two, because of financial issues. This has been a great mountain mini-Tour - I hope it can still survive next year

Update! Cicloweb report that Trentino is actually staying as three stages, but over two days - a 90km race "with some gentle ups and downs", then a flat-ish 60km RR and a short ITT. Good that it's still there, but a real shame that we lose another climbers' race.


In other news, Emilie Moberg (Hitec) won the first round of the Norwegian Cup, and Jade Wilcoxson (Optum Pro Cycling) won the Joe Martin Stage Race, ahead of Carmen Small (Optum) and Kathrun Donovan (FCS Rouse) - you can read all about that race on Podium Insight.

Next up for the women's peloton, it's the next round of the Lotto Cycling Cup at Knokke/Bredene on 5th May, and then it's off to China, for the Tour of ChongMing Island stage race and World Cup - and watch out in the comments for any more blogs, videos and the usual things we find on women's racing!