The SHEcret Pro: Van Vleuten’s super July and that Wiggle High5 video

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Ok, so I’m back! I’ve been quiet lately as racing, not writing, has been the priority.

So, dear fans, after what one might definitely call a “solid block of racing”, I’m returning to satisfy your craving for some delish, freshly squeezed news from inside the Women’s WorldTour peloton.

It’s that time of the year again … although it always seems like “that time of the year” — when riders and teams are talking contracts. “That time of the year” just rolls on into the next, and if you’re one of the lucky ones you get to seal a deal in May/June, but if you’re not, you may be last night’s leftovers as late as September/November … or even later!

It’s stressful as there are teams going under, riders jumping ship, new teams are throwing out life rafts to save you the struggle, and meanwhile you have to put on a brave face and be all “yeah, I’m good” to the public, your family and current teammates while not always having the best (or any) deal on the table. Nice.

The “breaking” news on everyone’s Twitter feed is the rather long-awaited announcement that Wiggle High5 is bowing out after this season. This is something the entire peloton knew after a number of key riders signed to other teams. Team owner Rochelle Gilmore has been curiously quiet on social media of late, and we’ve all been sitting on the sidelines looking at our Twitter feeds with bags of popcorn at the ready, waiting for her to announce the news.

She finally made it official with that … interesting, but perfectly constructed and picturesque YouTube video that showed the journey of the team, their successes and ultimately displayed Rochelle’s attempt to convince everyone that she is stepping down so she can enjoy a “normal” life.

Ok, so straight up: I don’t buy that angle at all. What Rochelle rightly won’t mention was that there was a lot of drama surrounding the team (again) this year. If she wanted to take a step back, why not look for someone else to add to her 14 full time staff members (for 17 riders?!) I think there’s a lot more to it than simply “I want to live a normal life”. Maybe jump in one of the team’s 26 cars and enjoy a holiday somewhere?

Many/most/all of us thought her decisions around the video were odd to say the least. Maybe a team shirt back at HQ with a more serious tone? But that dress choice, while shooting the video on her “favourite island of Majorca”, while saying it was all too much to manage? It created a juxtaposition that was frankly mind-boggling. But that’s Rochelle to a ‘T’, so good luck to her.

Were Wiggle High5 alone, you’d wonder what went uniquely wrong there, but as Tolstoy said “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And we have a few unhappy families in the peloton with UnitedHealthcare, Hitec and Trek-Drops all said to be (or confirmed to be) in trouble. As for Trek-Drops – are they just “Drops” now that the bright new Trek-Segafredo women’s team has poached their title sponsor?

Speaking of Trek, boy do they have a stacked squad already! Lizzie Deignan, Ellen van Dijk and the two ex-Wiggle High5 riders Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon-Ragot. It will be interesting to see who they fill the rest of their roster with. It could be some neo-pros and they’ll still land a lot of wins in 2019!

Apparently (Sir) Brad Wiggins also wants a piece of the Women’s WorldTour action – there’s talk he will have a women’s pro team for 2019, so there’s plenty of spots for the taking.

But the latest and greatest news in the racing world is without a doubt Annemiek van Vleuten smashing the Giro Rosa and then preceding to (narrowly) win (but still frankly smash) La Course just a day after completing the gruelling 10-day Giro! Watching her fight all the way to the line at La Course gave me goosebumps … goosebumps made of a mix of “holy shit that was epic”, “holy shit how did she do that?” and “holy shit is that real?”

Unfortunately, there’s always that question circulating in the peloton, thanks to the convicted dopers who have made us eternal skeptics. Cheers Lance and co! When someone smashes the rest of us like that, are they clean?

I don’t know the answer for sure. But like everyone, I have an opinion. Maybe I’m naive, or maybe I’m just holding onto hope (like so many fans), but I think Annemiek worked really fuckin’ hard in training and was super professional in all aspects of the sport, and now she is at the top of her game mentally and physically.

She was the best bike rider on the day … and that’s how she did it. Maths, people.

What a heartbreak for van der Breggen though! To be so close then lose it 50m before the line after 3.5 hours of battling? She also sacrificed the Giro in order to be fresh for La Course, and van Vleuten still beat her. Ouch!

What does this mean for Worlds? Who will be the lead rider for the Dutch dominators? And what chance do other countries have trying to overcome that Dutch duo? Let’s all just hope they struggle to work as a team and somehow mess it up.

Til later,

The SHEcret Pro

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