Eking its way painfully up the mountain, this week’s Team of the Week arrives at the finish line hors délai but hopes for leniency from the commissaires.
Giro Rosa (WWT 14) stages 4-10, plus—for much of the peloton—its unofficial stage 11, aka La Course (WWT 15).
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (2): Crushed the Giro, winning a mountain TT by over two minutes, the queen stage on the Zoncolan by 40 seconds, and a final stage most people thought a break would win while the GC riders trundled home. Then came Tuesday. You remember Tuesday, right? Rider of the week. By about the same huge margin by which she won the pink jersey. 4 minutes and 12 seconds, to be precise.
2. Anna van der Breggen (4): Oh dear, second again. TotW can only apologise. Beaten at La Course by a brilliant moment of determination and a surprisingly tough kick in the road. But what a ride it was, attacks surgically shedding her rivals until she was first over the Colombière and off down the long descent to the finish. In truth, Annemiek managed to keep the gap on the climb just enough in check to give herself a fighting chance, but until the last few hundred metres it didn’t always look that way. ‘I guess it made the race beautiful,’ Anna said afterwards, not sounding entirely like she meant it. It did, though.
3. Ashleigh Moolman (4): Second in the Giro, third at La Course, second in the VDS rider rankings, four entries in Team of the Week. Two (relatively minor) wins all season. Ok, (by her own admission) she doesn’t win much, but everyone knows they have to beat her. Her attack at La Course, once her teammate Uttrup was caught, set off the chain of attacks that ultimately produced such a memorable finale.
4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: ‘On Col de Romme I saw the opportunity and thought, why not start the fireworks!’ A legendary escape followed by a joyous interview. All this on top of 6th at the Giro, after what had previously been a rather frustrating season. If you didn’t know Cille before, you do now.
5. Amanda Spratt (3): Top class climber, brilliant teammate to Van Vleuten both at the Giro and La Course, solo Giro stage winner at Gerola del Alto and well-deserved Queen of the Mountains. Job done. And some.
6. Lucinda Brand (2): Set up by Sunweb’s win in the Giro’s opening TTT, Brand spent a day in pink, had a great TT, climbed well and took time where she could, finishing 4th overall. A dashing downhill cameo at La Course was a great encore.
7. Eider Merino: Ruth Winder and Marianne Vos both won Giro stages, but TotW’s special Giro 7th spot goes to Eider Merino, 8th on GC, whose ride up the Zoncolan drew particular appreciation from fellow tiny climber Emma Pooley.
Team of the week
Not for the first time, TotW is torn. Sunweb dominated the first half of the Giro, won the team contest and forced what could’ve been a routine final stage into a flat-out contest between GC riders. Mitchelton-Scott won two stages on the flat then owned the mountains, winning a clean sweep of pink, green and ciclamina jerseys. The prize, though, goes to Cervélo-Biga, whose team tactics at La Course did so much to create a brilliant race, after Moolman and Uttrup had already finished 2nd and 6th at the Giro.
Not team of the week
Boels had a comparatively quiet Giro. Canyon-SRAM lost Amialiusik and Hannah Barnes to crashes, which left Kasia Niewiadoma minus a large chunk of her team (already missing Pauline Ferrand-Prévot). 7th on GC is decent enough but TotW had hoped for more.
Handwaving of the week
Ah, the Giro. With its lapses in organisation. Its obdurate lack of interest in niceties. Such as sensible scheduling, comprehensible highlights or accommodating foreign journalists. Indeed, it’s making itself pretty much irrelevant. Thank heavens for La Course! But what’s this? Pitiful prize money. No race radio in the press room. No press conference for the winner. Never mind, what with the men’s race and all that we don’t have time to cover it anyway. Why, even the French don’t write about it! (Though what do you expect when their first rider home is Edwige Pitel?) Not that anyone’s really interested in women’s pro cycling. Not really. Let’s face it, even the riders think on a three week tour their uteruses would fall out. So let’s cover some amateurs protesting about the lack of women’s pro cycling instead. Besides, who needs mountains when you can tootle round the lanes of Warwickshire? At least the hotels are decent and the prize money’s good.
Un po’ di più
Never mind all that. Mountains is the only thing TotW has to say right now about "the future of women’s cycling." Lots of them. Dolomites, Alps, Pyrenees. (The Tatras and the Urals if necessary.) Races that look like Will’s designed them, or better still, designed by Will. The famous climbs, the hair-raising descents. Mountains.
Ancora di più
Not many Italian successes at this Giro. Despite the dread presence of la nonna, Elisa Longo Borghini was predictably outsprinted in Breganze by Marianne Vos, leaving the host country without a stage win. ELB was top Italian on GC in 10th, followed by first year pro Erica Magnaldi in 13th. Alice Arzuffi rode con stile. Sofia Bertizzolo finished in 21st but won the (U23) white jersey. (Will something similar happen at the Tour?) The Giro peloton was dominated by Italian riders, but most of their best known young riders were in Brno at the Euro U23 championships, where they lost out to Aafke Soet and Nikola Nosková.
The comparative lack of Spanish riders has always mystified TotW. The last couple of years that’s started to change and Spain had a pretty good Giro. Eider Merino finished 8th overall, Alé Cipollini’s Ane Santesteban was 9th and Merino’s Movistar teammate Mavi Garcia came in 11th. Met initially with some scepticism, Movistar are making Spanish women’s cycling more visible.
Encore un peu
TotW wishes UHC had been at the Giro, and La Course showed us what we’d missed. Leah Thomas was the strongest and longest-surviving rider from the early break; Tour of Cali champ Katie Hall came in 8th alongside Guarnier, Niewiadoma and Spratt.
Alternative team of the week
Katie Hall, Katrine Aalerud, Nikola Nosková, Ruth Winder, Erica Magnaldi, Alice Arzuffi, Marianne Vos. (Swap in any other riders who particularly impressed you.)
A new leader, La Course victor mickeynz, in spite of his/her team name. Is it too late? No, it most certainly is not. Spratt, Moolman, Hall and Uttrup brought the points home. A cheer also for Giro winners itswells’ team #metoo. Van Vleuten, Moolman, Spratt and Winder did the job here.
Awaiting updates. Perhaps not the strongest week for the Zombie Kittens, though Katie Hall and Taylor Wiles might just keep them out in front.
Wannabe won the Giro with Spratt. Modesty forbids mentioning the winner—with Uttrup—of La Course. Mr Verbiage remains in the lead.