Ella Picks: a new world record, muddy finale to the UCI CX World Cup, para world champ announces retirement following concussion, and more

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Every week we scan the internet for interesting, funny, touching and/or inspiring stories related to women’s cycling and round them all up in a weekly news digest.

In this week’s edition, we catch up on race news from the road and cyclocross worlds, introduce you to a new women’s sports media platform, and talk about the biggest topics from last week: Zwift as a means to find new talent and the new UCI World Hour record.


Using technology to find the next cycling star

ZwiftAppDev 2016-01-20 09-48-59-796

Last week, the UCI Women’s World Tour team Canyon-SRAM announced  its partnership with the social fitness platform Zwift as a way to find a new member of their 2017 squad.

The search for a rider, labelled ‘The Canyon-SRAM Racing and Zwift Academy Project’, is set to start in March 2016 with riders who enter completing a series of tasks on Zwift to identify their physical attributes and potential. The field will be reduced through 2016 until only three riders are left. The final remaining female amateur athletes will then compete on virtual and real roads for the chance to become a professional.

What do you think? Innovative? Will you be taking part?


A new world record, how long will it stand?

UCI president Brian Cookson and vice president Tracey Gaudry congratulated the new record holder. Cookson sounded confident the record would fall even before O'Donnell ventured onto the track. “It’s a fantastic uplifting feat and I am sure we are going to see something very special this evening,” Cookson told the crowd in the run up to the attempt.
UCI president Brian Cookson and vice president Tracey Gaudry congratulated the new record holder.

Last week, on January 22, 41-year-old Australian Bridie O’Donnell set a new women’s UCI world hour record by riding a carefully paced 46.882 kilometres. In doing so, O’Donnell surpassed the four-month-old mark of American law professor Molly Shaffer van Houweling by just over 600 metres.

There have been a stream of attempts on the UCI world hour record since the rules were relaxed in 2014 to allow the use of more modern technology. We have seen a new men’s record set five times in the past 14 months, with Bradley Wiggins setting a high bar of 54.526 kilometres.

The women also took to velodromes around the world in an attempt to break the record of 46.065 kilometres set by Dutchwoman Leontien van Moorsel that stood untouched for 12 years.

Dame Sarah Storey of England fell just shy in February 2015, however set a new para-cycling and masters (35-39) record. Shaffer van Houweling worked up to her successful attempt of 46.273 kilometres in September, taking the U.S. record first.

Just after setting her record on Friday, O’Donnell stated that she could have ridden faster. That begs the question, how long before a new record is set and who’s going to be stepping forward? We will keep you posted.


Zela, a new online hub dedicated to putting women’s sport in the spotlight

Australia’s SBS has launched a new “online hub” dedicated to the world of women in sport.

Launched just a few days ago, Zela, is the brainchild of SBS’s The World Game host Lucy Zelic – the title an irreverent nod to her high school nickname.

“The name represents everything I want women in sport to be: strong, valued, opinionated, successful and worthy,” said Zelic.

Zela is an online community which will have a strong presence in social media feeds with the latest video, highlights, news and views delivered straight to followers.

Under the leadership of editor Zela editor Danielle Warby –founder of Sporting Sheilas – Zela aims to  profile the best established and up and coming female athletes across a range of women’s team and individual sports, as well as personalities in the sport industry. Zela will host stories celebrating achievement, delve into challenges female athletes face, and cover widespread topics in the sporting world from a female perspective.

Welcome Zela!


VoxWomen were at the Santos Ladies Tour and have been busy, cranking our video diaries, race highlights and more. Catch up on their videos, here. 


The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup ends in a muddy finale


The cyclocross season is wrapping up and the world’s best riders travelled to Hoogerheide for the final round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup and their last chance to prepare for the world championship, which will take place in Belgium’s Heusden-Zolder this coming weekend.

And what a finale it was! The conditions of the course in Hoogerheide changed daily. What was a fast and frozen course turned into a slow, tiring muddy mess within days.

And it was the Dutch riders who dominated the finale in front of their home crowd with impressive solo wins from World champion Mathieu van der Poel in the Elite Men category and Sophie de Boer in the Women’s category.

De Boer mastered the muddy course and moved to the front early in the first of four laps. With the top series contenders like Sanne Cant, Eva Lechner and Ellen van Loy, getting stuck in the mud, only the Dutch national champion Thalita de Jong and British champ Nikki Harris managed to stay with De Boer. But in the second lap, they too lost contact when De Boer opened up the gas and powered away for a solo ride to the line – her first ever World Cup victory.

A race for second was on between Harris and De Jong, and it was the latter who managed to create a small gap shortly before hitting the uphill finishing straight. De Jong would cross the line a mere three seconds ahead of Harris.

Despite finishing outside the podium, Cant’s overall World Cup victory was never in danger and takes the series jersey. Eva Lechner finished second in the series and Harris’ podium finish was enough to overtake Ellen Van Loy in the World Cup standings and nip a third finish in the series.


Following too many concussions, Para World Champion Greta Neimanas announces retirement


Para cycling star Greta Neimanas announced last week that she will retire from the sport following a sixth concussion. The 27-year-old track cyclist experienced a year of highs and lows in 2015.

It brought victory at the World Championships but also a season-ending crash.

After 11 years of racing and six concussions, the risks of the sport outweigh the rewards, penned Neimanas as she announced stepping back from racing.

“The chance of further brain injuries is too great. After careful consideration and a lot of reflection, I have decided to retire from the US Paracycling and TWENTY16 professional cycling teams. While my career may have been shorter than I would have liked, it is one I am completely satisfied with and, at 27, I still have a lifetime ahead of me,” she said.

Neimanas leaves quite the legacy. In 2011 Neimanas became the first American para-cyclist to be signed to a professional cycling team, and only the second female world wide to do so. Following early success in 2012, Neimanas won the UCI World Cup series Overall title after  winning all three time trials and finishing on the podium in all three road races. Other career highlights include:

  • 1st UCI Paracycling World Championships- Time Trial, 2013
  • 1st UCI Paracycling World Cup Overall Champion, 2012
  • 2 x Paralympian (Beijing, 2008; London, 2012)
  • First American paracyclist signed to a professional cycling team 2011-2016
  • First paracyclist to compete in the Amgen Tour of California


This week’s feature image, taken by Kristoff Ramon, is of the Hoogerheide course. THe muddy finale of the UCI Cyclo-cross Wolrd Cup took riders up these 44 steps.

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