It was a huge three days of racing for women’s cycling with six UCI-ranked women’s races across five countries. Australians dominated the weekend with Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Hondo) winning out of a breakaway in France at La Classique Morbihan, Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) soloing to her first professional victory in Switzerland at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn and Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) taking her first UCI win in Belgium at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik. In this women’s racing round-up, we bring you updates from these three races as well as Boels Rental Hills Classic (Holland), Grand Prix de Plumelec (France) and Winston-Salem Cycling Classic (USA).
Winston-Salem Cycling Classic
Belarusian national road champion Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM) soloed to victory in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Sunday. Attacking just outside two laps (of eight) left to race, Amialiusik broke away from the peloton with Amber Neben (Visit Dallas).
“I am so happy to win this race,” said Amialiusik. “The break was hard, especially when it was so hot, but we worked well together. I knew that Amber was in good form, after her USA nationals road race, so when she was with me, I liked our chances to stay away. In last night’s criterium in Winston-Salem our team was racing strong, and Loren [Rowney] was second. When I was away today I knew that my teammates would be working behind me to make sure it stuck. I have to thank them for their job today too.”
— Loren rowney (@LorenRowney) May 31, 2015
Each lap of the 102 kilometre course featured one ascent of a punchy climb that served as a launching pad for Amialiusik’s race-winning move. The 26-year-old accelerated away from Neben near the bottom of the climb, the same spot at which she had broken away earlier in the race, and hung on to her advantage all the way to the finish line.
TWENTY16 presented by Sho-Air
Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) took her first European victory at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik on Sunday. The win was a long time coming for the Australian who has been on the cusp of a result in Europe all season long. The 26-year-old came to the line with Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) after initiating a late breakaway turned race-winning move.
“The best part was just being with the team,” Elvin told Ella CyclingTips. “They’ve believed in me for the last two-and-half-season. They knew I’ve had a win coming for a long time. As soon as the girls crossed the finish line after me, they just pelted toward me on their bikes for a massive hug, and they had these big smiles on their faces. All the staff did as well. That was pretty awesome to have that immediate happiness around.”
“My parents were in Europe as well,” Elvin continued. “They weren’t here today, but they’re in Italy, and I got to talk to them pretty soon after, which doesn’t normally happen because of time differences. I get to see them tomorrow and have a drink with them. It’s all pretty special.”
“There are a lot of people around me that have supported me for a long time now,” Elvin added. “It’s cool to pay them back a little bit and pay myself back, too. There are certainly times I’ve doubted if I can ever get to that level that I’ve dreamt about it. This helps the journey for sure.”
I'm the happiest female cyclist today! Thanks to my amazing team I earned my first European win at #Gooik. They've never doubted me. ??
— Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin) May 31, 2015
Elvin was on the right end of every split in a race that constantly fragmented and regrouped. Her teammate Johansson has won here in the past and offered the team an option that took the pressure off Elvin, whose job was to stay with Johansson over the cobbled climbs that featured in the second half of the classic-like race. A rider who thrives in the filthy conditions, Elvin embraced the rain and cold and was able to play of Johansson’s attacks that repeatedly reduced the size of the bunch.
The Belgian race concluded with three local laps in Gooik. Entering the circuit with a seven rider leading group, Elvin slipped in the final corner before the circuit and found herself on the ground.
“We had three laps to go at that point, so I was pretty pissed at myself for crashing,” Elvin noted. “I think I hit a bit of oil in the road. We weren’t going that fast. I was only following a wheel and before I knew it, I was sliding across the road. I think I said ‘sorry’ before I even had a chance to jump up. Ellen and Emma were behind me, and I really didn’t want to take them out, too. Luckily I was the only one that went down.”
“I had to do a bike change, and it was a little bit slower than it needed to be,” Elvin added. “We had a little bit of trouble with the car and the bikes. It was a bit of a fiasco. I was lucky to make it back through the cars and get back into the group. That’s when the second group had joined our first group. It wasn’t too bad of a situation once I had calmed down.”
With the merger of the two front groups on the road, Elvin benefitted from the presence of two teammates, Johansson and Melissa Hoskins, in the 23-rider move. Johansson attacked shortly after Elvin rejoined the frontrunners, which gave Elvin a chance to recover from the chase.
“Emma was gone for a lap, and when she was brought back, I went immediately,” said Elvin. “There was about a lap-and-a-half to go. I had a gap on my own and then Ellen jumped across to me within the kilometre. We worked together for a lap. Mayuko Hagiwara from Wiggle – I think she tried to jump across earlier, but it took her a whole lap to get across to us.”
The trio played cat and mouse in the final kilometre before Elvin ultimately outsmarted and outsprinted her breakaway companions to the line in Gooik.
“Mayuko ended up leading it out into the finish,” Elvin said. “I think Ellen got nervous because I was sitting in third wheel, which was prefect for me, and she went too early. It was a bit of an uphill drag. I sat on Ellen’s wheel in the sprint and then stepped off with probably a bit less than 100 metres. I opened up and fought hard to the line – and got it. I was pretty happy. I had to be patient and play it smart at the end.”
Orica - AIS
VAN DIJK Ellen
Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendron
It was a double day of celebrations for Orica-AIS. Before Elvin won in Belgium, Lizzie Williams soloed to victory in Switzerland. It was the first professional victory for Williams and the first European win of the year for the Australian-registered squad.
“It just feels so good to get a win for the team,” said Williams, in a team-issued press release. “I guess it’s also a bit of a relief. It’s been a rocky first part of the season for me and for the team, and after a fantastic training camp, this is another big morale boost, and I really feel like this is the start of a winning roll for our team.”
— Valentina Scandolara (@ValeScandolara) May 31, 2015
Williams launched her race-winning attack 12 kilometres from the finish. It was part of her team’s aggressive approach to the Swiss one day race, which consisted of 11 laps around a 9.3km circuit. While the break attempts were plentiful, the launch by Williams was the first move to have staying power. The 31-year-old managed to hold off the chasing peloton to the line.
“We had someone in every move, and we were initiating pretty much every attack and every breakaway,” said Williams. “I took a moment when I knew there was a sharp corner into a descent with about 12 kilometres to go and gave it everything to stay away.”
“Once I got over the final climb, I knew the course has only one flat section and the rest was downhill and technical,” explained Wiliams. “I knew I could ride quicker than a large peloton. When I got to the corner I attacked on the previous lap, which was about two kilometres to go, and I couldn’t see the bunch, I knew I had it then.”
2015 Santos Tour Down Under winner Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) won the field sprint for second place ahead of Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia – Vaiano).
Orica - AIS
Orica - AIS
Aromitalia - Vaiano
Grand Prix de Plumelec
Sheyla Gutierrez (Lointek) won Grand Prix de Plumelec in Plumelec on Saturday. The Spaniard won a three-up sprint to take her first professional victory. The first to open her sprint, Gutierrez’s powerful kick was enough to hold off Sandrine Bideau and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) to the line.
The 108 kilometre race started aggressively with several teams looking to get into the early move. Eventually Pascale Jeuland (Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86) slipped away solo. She built up an advantage of around two minutes under the watch of Wiggle Honda and Lointek, who shared pace-making duties in the peloton.
Jeuland was caught on the finishing circuit, and a group of five countered the catch. The five became three before the finish, and Gutierrez proved strongest of the trio.
“This victory comes after a difficult period for me,” said Gutierrez in a team statement posted to Facebook. “It was previously unimaginable. I saw that I was strong on the climbs yesterday, so I knew I could be on the front today, but I didn’t think I would win.”
“I now have the Sopela, Bira, the Baku games and the national championships,” Gutierrez added. “This is a very important morale boost ahead of these races.”
Boels Rental Hills Classic
Lizzie Armitstead won the Boels Rental Hills Classic in Berg en Terblijit on Saturday. In her first race back following a short mid-season break, Armitstead proved quickest from a five rider breakaway that included Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Kasia Nieqiadoma (Rabo Liv), Sabrina Stultiens (Liv-Plantur) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda). The race winning move formed over the final ascent of the Cauberg climb inside the last ten kilometres of the 131 kilometre race.
“After all the work the team did today, I just had to win,” said Armitstead in a team statement posted to Facebook. “I would have felt guilty if I had ended up second here. It was my first race after a little break in the season, but I felt the legs were pretty good during the race, so I was confident I could win the sprint. It’s nice for the team sponsors that I won here in their region.”
A strong headwind and a heavy course made for a quiet start to the Dutch race. The first breakaway slipped away just inside the second hour of racing. With all the major teams represented, the bunch stopped chasing, and it looked like the seven riders up the road would contest the race over the hills and into the finish.
Eventually Boels-Dolmans gave chase, perhaps not confident that Chantal Blaak, their rider in the move, could pull off the win. Their work on the front split the peloton into three groups.
The early breakaway hit the Cauberg with a slim advantage, and a counter-attack formed up the infamous climb. Eight riders bridged across the early escape, and each of the major teams had numbers. The 15-rider moved included three riders from Boels-Dolmans and two each from Orica-AIS, Rabo Liv, Liv Plantur, Wiggle Honda and Lotto Soudal. Park Hotel Valkenburg had a lone representative.
— Lizzie Armitstead (@L_ArmiTstead) May 29, 2015
The group split over the second and final passage of the Cauberg, and the group from which Armitstead won took shape. Although Johansson and Longo Borghini attacked heading into the finale, their attempts were neutralised, setting up Armistead to sprint to victory in the finale.
Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
Orica - AIS
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
La Classique Morbihan
Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda) took her second win of the season at La Classique Morbihan in the cycling-crazed Bretagne region of France on Friday. The Australian sprinter edged out Pascale Jeuland (Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86) to the line to win from a four-rider breakaway.
“It wasn’t a huge race,” Hosking told Ella CyclingTips. “There weren’t many starters, but it’s a nice little confidence boost to win a race that isn’t from a sprint. There was a group of three for us going for it in the end up this one kilometre climb to the finish. It’s nice for me to win in a different way.”
Hosking’s presence is the race-winning move was unexpected. She had spent time up the road in an earlier move, and the finish better-suited her teammates Audrey Cordon and Mayuko Hagiwara. Hosking anticipated playing a support role.
“I randomly ended up in a break with just over ten kilometers, and I thought to myself: ‘No, no. This is not where I want to be.’,” Hosking explained. “The race ends with this steep one kilometre climb, and that’s why we had Audrey and Mayuko. I was a bit uncertain.”
“I waited and waited to see if my teammates would come back,” Hosking continued. “They never did. In the end, it was four of us, and the fourth girl kept getting dropped and coming back. It ended up sticking.”
“I was confident in my sprint,” Hosking added. “I wasn’t confident they wouldn’t drop me up the last climb. It was definitely an unexpected result. That seems to always be when I get my results – when I’m not riding for myself.”
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
MERINO CORTAZAR Eider