The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are really interesting for the women's cycling. They're every four years, a multi-sport event for 71 countries and territories that were formerly part of the British Empire, and while they're nowhere near as big as the Olympics, and miss out the mainland European countries, they are great for the cycling, with some true superstars of the peloton rocking up. Here's a nice WielerVideo interview with Lizzie Armitstead and Gracie Elvin, explaining what the Games mean to them.
The Individual Time Trial
This was going to be a fascinating ITT. We don't get to see that many long ITTs on the women's calendars, at least not in the biggest races, so a 30km course is pretty much luxury, especially when we get to see probably the last ever match-up between 2 ITT stars - Emma Pooley, who was World Champion in 2010 and Olympic silver medallist in 2008, and Linda Villumsen, who has been on the World ITT podium every year since 2009, but has always been beaten for the gold. Added to that, top international ITT riders like Shara Gillow and 2011 Junior World ITT Champion Elinor Barker, and exciting new rider Katie Archibald, who has been the break-through British star on the international track and domestic roads, and had the added incentive of racing on home soil in Scotland...
More (British-biased) video on the BBC sport website (you might need something like Hola to see it)
The race was super-exciting all the way through, and an early competition seemed to be between Gillow and Archibald - but it was Australian Katrin Garfoot who stomped a fantastic first time. Garfoot might be a surprise to the Euro fans, but she's having a fantastic year, and demonstrating how the Cycling Australia programme can work - Garfoot was super-strong in the Aussie National Road Series last year and this year's Aussie summer, so Cycling Australia brought her to Europe, where she was 16th in the Flèche Wallonne, and 2nd overall in the Gracia-Orlová, and ORICA-AIS were so impressed they signed her for the Giro Rosa... and beat a ton of strong riders to get the fastest time, obviously in the bronze position as Pooley and Villumsen were fighting the road.
At the first and second checkpoints they seemed incredibly evenly matched, Pooley a second up at the first checkpoint, 1.6 up at checkpoint 2 and then 8 seconds ahead at the 3rd checkpoint after the climb... but Villumsen was much stronger over the final downhill section, and she rode her heart out, winning gold by 5 seconds - finally, a major competition gold! If only we'll have a chance to see how she'll shape up against World Champion Ellen van Dijk before Worlds comes....
1. Linda Villumsen, New Zealand, 42:25
2. Emma Pooley, England, + 00:06
3. Katrin Garfoot, Australia, + 00:48
4. Jaime Nielsen, New Zealand, + 01:04
5. Katie Archibald, Scotland, + 01:05
6. Shara Gillow, Australia, + 01:08
7. Elinor Barker, Wales, + 01:31
8. Lucy Coldwell, Scotland, + 01:38
9. Anna Turvey, Scotland, + 01:43
10. Jasmin Glaesser, Canada, + 01:47
The Road Race
If you're new to the Commonwealths concept, you'll see that one of the features is that there's no Great Britain team, but the British riders race for their constituent countries - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of man and Guernsey/Jersey. This made the road race especially interesting - England had Road World Cup series leader Lizzie Armitstead, and racing as her super-domestique, in her last ever pro road race, Emma Pooley, with British road champion Laura Trott and her Wiggle team-mate Dani King in support - and that Armitstead/Pooley combo demonstrated over and over again in the Cervélo Test team days how lethal it can be, and Armitstead won
Then there are the Aussies. They have won road race gold three times with Kathy Watt, Natalie Bates and in 2010 Rochelle Gilmore, and won medals in each of the last five Games. This year's team was stacked with talent - Garfoot, Gillow, sprinter Melissa Hoskins, double-Aussie champion Gracie Elvin, and two riders who could definitely win - sprinter Chloe Hosking and opportunistic attack queen Tiffany Cromwell.
Starting alongside them more stars - Villumsen, who's been the highest-placed Commonwealth rider in the last two Road World Championships, and whose New Zealand team included pros Emily Collins, Jo Kiesanowski and Rushlee Buchanan; Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who last year was the first rider from the African continent to get onto the podium of the Road World Cup and the women's Giro; and Leah Kirchmann, the young Canadian who won the national Road, Crit and ITT Champs in the same week in June, and then had a career-high best sprinting to third on the Champs Elysées at La Course by Le Tour de France last week, with Jasmin Glaesser alongside her. And of course Katie Archibald, racing for Scotland, the wildcard who loves to race.
It was a short race, just 7 laps of a 14km city centre loop, 98k in total with some sharp hills and descents - and with Glasgow demonstrating what Scottish "summers" are all about, wet, wet roads!
The Australians started attacking early, dropping riders all over the place, and it seemed a little bit strange to see the English team playing a defensive game in the opening stages.... but then, once the Aussie had done all the whittling down, it was time for a sad, sad moment - Emma Pooley, attacking in her final pro race. She put in some serious digs, and then, with 30km to go, her work paid off, and a break was formed - Pooley and Armitstead, Villumsen, Moolman and Cromwell, with Archibald putting in a huge effort to get across and join then, towing Cromwell's team-mate Elvin.
Pooley was working super-hard as the rain started, until on the last lap, at 11k to go Pooley put in a final major effort, getting a small gap that grew on the Montrose Street climb. For a moment it looked as though maybe there would be a fairy-tale ending, Pooley solo-ing to victory, like we've seen so many times before - but it was Armitstead who changed the script when she attacked on that hill. I have to admit, I would have loved the sentimental finish of the pair of them working and crossing the line together, but Armitstead obviously wasn't as confident as fans at home were that this was the winning move, and really, really wanted the win - who can blame her? She was team-leader and she's nothing if not a bike racer, always exciting to watch, always chasing the win - she took a big risk when she attacked, but no one could follow her, and she blasted straight past Pooley, and pulled out her lead over the final 6km, winning solo, with Pooley crossing behind her for silver smiling through tears, overcome with the emotion that yes, this really was her final road race.
The chase behind had been too much for Elvin and Archibald, and the sprint for bronze was between Cromwell and Moolman. I was backing Cromwell, and I was wrong - with a final throw of her bike across the line, Moolman added another first to her list - first rider from Africa on the women's Commonwealth podium, by just a tyre width.
What was that moment like for Moolman? Read her brilliant blog and find out!
1. Lizzie Armitstead, England, 2:38:43
2. Emma Pooley, England, + 00:25
3. Ashleigh Mollman-Pasio, South Africa, + 01:11
4. Tiffany Cromwell, Australia, s.t.
5. Linda Villumsen, New Zealand, + 01:14
6. Gracie Elvin, Australia, + 02:19
7. Katie Archibald, Scotland, s.t.
8. Leah Kirchmann, Canada, + 05:29
9. Jo Kiesanowski, New Zealand, s.t.
10. Melissa Hoskins, Australia, s.t.
That was such a luxury, getting to watch the whole race from start to finish... but that was just the start of the women's racing day, as over in Germany it was round 6 of the World Cup.
Sparkassen Giro World Cup
This is a fun race, it's been around since 2004, part of a big festival of cycling. It's usually a sprinters' race, but has been won in the past by Commonwealth Champion Oenone Wood, ITT & multiple cyclocross World Champ, and the Vos-before-Vos, Hanka Kupfernagel, Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Ellen van Dijk and sprinter Rochelle Gilmore. The race is always fun, and looked a bit shaky for a while, as it dropped from UCI to national level in 2012, but was back to 1.1 last year, and it's great to have a World Cup back in Germany after five years sine the Rund um die Nürnberger Albstadt disappeared, adding balance to a World Cup that favours hilly Classics riders.
Like a lot of the World Cups, it's a lap race - 8 laps of a 15.5km circuit, 124 km in total, with a hill at the start of each lap - nothing as hard as in Glasgow, but still enough to hurt the legs. It wasn't just the Commonwealths riders missing - Rabo-Liv's stars Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Anna van der Breggen, and Hitec's Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon were taking a hard-earned break - but don't let that fool you into thinking the field was weak - it was stacked with sprinters looking for revenge on Marianne Vos for her victory at La Course - ChongMing Island World Cup winner Kirsten Wild (Liv Shimano), USA star Shelley Olds (Alé-Cipollini), and looking for a win on her 31t birthday, three-times World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda). And then, riders who would do all they could to disrupt the sprinters, lead by Trofeo Binda World Cup winner Emma Johansson (ORICA-AIS).
UCI highlights video:
Update! 26-minutes UCI video from the race, including profile of German rider Lisa Brennauer:
The first part of the race was relatively quiet, with a very high pace and nothing getting away, and Marianne Vos especially chasing things down, Rabo, ORICA and Wiggle on the front for the first 2 laps, and Boels pushing up the pace on lap 3, and dropping a lot of riders.
After some more attack attempts, the pace seemed to ease up a little bit they entered lap 4, until they hit the UCI GPM point, won by Alena Amialiusik (Astana-BePink) and then the Lap 5 sprint point - and then it was all action, Boels-Dolmans trying to get away and failing, ORICA especially pushing hard and Vos trying to escape – 2 bunches on the road, but all back together for the start of laps. Attacks, attacks - Boels' Megan Guarnier, and then a pair of Aussies, Amanda Spratt (ORICA) and Loren Rowney (Specialized-lululemon) - but always caught.... On lap 7 Vos attacked on the penultimate descent and was joined by Vale Scandolara (ORICA) and Shelley Olds, a really scary trio – then joined by Julia Soek (Liv) and Rowney again, getting 15 seconds - but they were caught, and it was Mayuko Hagiwara's turn coming into the final lap for Wiggle, a great move – if she stayed away, a win, if not, the chase would tire teams out and give her sprinter, Bronzini, an advantage. She got 14 seconds and was caught by Nina Kessler (Boels), and Aussies again - Jessie Maclean (ORICA) and Lauren Rowney again, clearly recovered from her glandular fever (hooray!). They were caught by 3 more, then 2 more, but they only had around 50 metres, and the peloton caught them….
The sprint trains definitely didn’t want anything to go, chasing everything back, until after the last climb of the day, Emma Johansson attacked solo, and got away for a while, but was chased down by Liv-Shimano, with Marijn de Vries doing a lot of work on the front, the bunch split into 5 groups on the road. Johansson gave it all, but was caught with 5k to go, the chase whittling the bunch to around 25 riders.
At the last turn, around 300m from the line, Ellen van Dijk and Vos were first – and there's a great quote from Bronzini in the Wiggle race report:
"I took Vos’ wheel in the last kilometres, and she led into the first corner," the Italian continued. "It was a kind of crazy corner, of about 90 degrees, so it was hard and she never used her brakes! If I was crazy I would have followed her, but a few years ago I broke my shoulder so…"
Vos started her sprint early, and just like at La Course, Vos won, this time with Bronzini second, and Bigla’s Lotta Lepistö, in the result of her life in third. - a fantastic result for the 25-year-old Finn, who joined the team last year as a guest rider, and took the step up with them as they went from national-level to pro team.
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, 2:59:48
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle Honda, s.t.
3. Lotta Lepistö (Fin) Bigla, s.t.
4. Jolien D’hoore (Bel) Lotto-Belisol, s.t.
5. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
6. Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
7. Kelly Druyts (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, s.t.
8. Emma Johansson (Swe) ORICA-AIS, s.t.
9. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, s.t.
10. Shelley Olds (USA) Alé-Cipollini, s.t.
World Cup standings after 6 rounds
1. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels Dolmans, 420 points
2. Emma Johansson (Swe) ORICA-AIS, 295
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, 240
4. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabo, 238
5. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle Honda, 225
6. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Liv-Shimano, 216
7. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec Products, 215
8. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) Rabo, 200
9. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo, 170
10. Shelley Olds (USA) Alé-Cipollini, 160
It's not all Euro, all the time - over in Australia, it was the latest race in the National Road Series - watch these great videos, where the riders tell the story so well
The next World Cups are the Open de Suede Vårgårda Team Time Trail on 22nd August, and then the Vårgårda Road Race, one of the most exciting races of last year - and this year, definitely shown live on Swedish tv, and promised by the UCI (I know, I know) to be streamed live on their Youtube - watch this space, we'll tell you more as soon as we see it!
One more thing for you to watch, because this is fantastic. I'm pretty obsessed with helmetcam and on-bike cameras, but this is incredibly good - Red Bull Bike video from the top two women in the Mont-Sainte-Anne Downhill MTB World Cup, Manon Carpenter and Rachel Atherton, as they went down their final run, put side-by-side, so we could see who was strongest where. SO GOOD! If you want more video from that World Cup, or to find out where to watch this week's MTB World Cup action in Windham, as well as to hear omne and I talk in more detail about the week's racing, and find more videos and links we loved, head over to our most recent women's cycling podcast.
And there'll be more live women's racing this weekend - on Saturday 9th August, the Prudential Ride London GP in London will be shown from the start, 5pm UK BST (18:00 Euro CEST, 12pm USA EST, 9am USA PST and 2am Sunday Aus AEST) on BBC2 and streamed on the BBC Cycling page. OK, it's a city-centre crit, but it's on The Mall, and it'll have Marianne Vos, Giorgia Bronzini, Lizzie Armitstead and last year's winner Laura Trott, and it's LIVE! We'll have a livethread, come and join us - and in the meantime, add any videos, photos, articles and stuff you like into the comments.