While the men are all about the cobbles (except for the few ninnies who dally around in Pais Vasco and other assorted sideshows) the women have some big and diverse challenges coming up. Starting this Sunday the peloton will be split between two big races, the grandmother of them all, the World Cup Trofeo Alfredo Binda and in Flanders the Gent Wevelgem. Unlike the men's race the G-W isn't the main attraction of the day, Binda is the prestigious WC that will draw the majority of the big stars, especially the ones that can handle a climbier course. Binda, together with Plouay perhaps, offers the most challenging course on the women's circuit.
Binda as you can see offers a course that is pretty similar to a challenging World Championships course and looking at resultlists you can pretty clearly see this correlation. If you can't climb then obviously you need not bother to turn up for this and in that way the clash between this classic old race and the newly established women's version of Gent-Wevelgem becomes a little more bearable. Because Wevelgem is pretty much flat as a pannekoeken and reliant on weather, wind and general flandrian nastiness to make the race selective.
Otherwise it is a pity that the clash remains unsolved when the Flanders Classics organizers are making the effort to add a women's race. At this point they have women's versions of Het Nieuwsblad, G-W and Ronde van Vlaanderen which isn't bad at all considering that Belgian cycling doesn't have the best record of gender equality. The date is apparently very important to the Binda organizers and G-W, raced at the same time as the men, is obviously not moving as long as the World Tour calendar stays as it is. If neither of them are budging then we'll probably keep seeing a second tier (and sprinter dominated) field in Gent- Wevelgem. In some ways that is ok but it is missing out on an opportunity to display all of the stars of the women's peloton to the audience the men's race offers up. Future will tell where this goes.
Weekend after it's time for another World Cup and probably the most highly regarded of them all. As far as this website goes the Ronde van Vlaanderen is obviously going to count as the biggest of the year and most of the female riders probably agree, this is the one they most want on their palmares. With a start from the square in Oudenaarde that draws a huge crowd and a partially shared course with the men's Ronde it's probably the biggest crowd the peloton sees all year and that helps make it many rider's favorite race. Oh, that and the fact that the parcourse is hard as nails and awesome. There's that too. Four flat cobbles-section including Haaghoek and Paddestraat and ten hellingen, the final two being Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg makes this course brutal and selective. And this year we will be getting quality coverage of the highlights of the race via the UCI channel a few days after, so for once we will actually get a good idea how the race was won.
For those who struck out in De Ronde there's a chance of an immediate revenge already the day after in Dottignies just south of Kortrijk. GP Dottignies is another typical hard Belgian race that tends to be one for the sprinters but it is by no means an easy Monday spin for tired legs. It's usually hard-fought and competitive as the field is almost as stacked as it is on Sunday.
With the two World Cups in the bag the women's peloton then moves on to the windy echelonfest that is the six stage Energiewacht Tour in the Netherlands and after that..... Fleche Wallonne and the return of the
evil omnipotent fierce but still loved by all ,Marianne Vos. You have to love spring cycling, it's non-stop big races.