The SHEcret Pro: On Van Vleuten ‘the alien’ and Vos the incredible
The SHEcret Pro is back with a fresh helping of insider perspectives from the professional women’s peloton. In this edition, she takes us inside the bunch at the Giro Rosa and La Course and considers the upcoming transfer season.
Firstly, wow: Marianne Vos! Such an impressive victory at La Course after another edition of extremely exciting racing for the world to witness live on TV. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me it’s hard to get tired seeing Vos win. Especially when every time she just does it with so much emotion and panache. She’s just as pumped about her 200th career win as her first.
It’s easy to forget that Vos came to La Course after scoring a lazy four stage wins at the Giro Rosa. She’s definitely riding the highs at the moment. It will be interesting to see if she can maintain this winning form for the rest of the season (Worlds in Yorkshire, anyone?)
From the way she wins you’d expect Vos to be one of those cocky sprinter types, but in the bunch she’s super respectful. I’ve never witnessed her push anyone around. And she’s the same off the bike too; quiet and friendly.
Still on the topic of La Course, it was cool to see Mitchelton-Scott give Amanda Spratt some free reign with her solo attack in the final lap. She’s evidently very strong at the moment, but is always in the shadow of teammate Annemiek van Vleuten’s success. I think she had a lot of people hoping she’d hang on until the finish line, but the odds were stacked against her with the CCC chase coming hot from behind!
Spratt so heroic. But can't do anything when Marianne Vos unleashes the boss. Just in case anyone forgot she's still the 🐐 pic.twitter.com/QWTcgweKsK
— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) July 19, 2019
As expected, Annemiek Van Vleuten won the Giro Rosa again. I think there were a few hopeful competitors coming into this year’s tour with oodles of self belief and quality training. But after she took almost three minutes on the final climb of stage five and another minute during the following day’s ITT, that was that. Pretty demoralising for the leftover GC contenders who were resigned to race for the remaining podium spots.
I think Elisa Longo Borghini captured it perfectly when she explained Van Vleuten’s attack in her post race interview: “Ok, the alien has gone. Now the race for the human beings begins.”
Unfortunately in this sport with its tarnished history, it’s impossible to dominate without people questioning the methods.
There was definitely a feeling in the peloton that AvV was superhuman and unbeatable on the climbs. It was almost a bit boring and predictable until the penultimate stage where AvV attacked early on the steep final climb only to be pulled back inch by inch by her number-one rival Anna Van der Breggen, who passed her only a few hundred meters from the line.
That was nail-biting stuff! And in a strange way it was endearing to see AvV turn herself inside out in those closing kilometres, but still come up short. Maybe she is human after all.
AvV likes to be perceived as a laid-back, easy-going gal, but it was evident during the Giro that she was on edge, physically and mentally. Her team did a monster job controlling the last few stages, but sometimes it seemed like she didn’t have complete confidence in them. She definitely wasted energy jumping on attacks that her teammates were more than capable of covering.
Or maybe she was right to doubt her team … seeing Lucy Kennedy go oh-so-close to a win was as awful as it was amusing (for some). Hell of a way to make the global sporting highlight reel for the week, but Lucy will surely jag a win in the not-too-distant future.
To make matters more amusing, we saw another early celebration failure just the following day from the breakaway by Nadia Quagliotto. You’d think she would have learned something from Lucy’s poor fortune! That one was probably more embarrassing, but the peloton mostly just feels sorry for both the girls. It’s an easy mistake made in the excitement of the moment. It could have been any one of us.
This Giro was supposedly the hardest on record, but I guess that would depend on whether you’re actually fighting at the pointy end or not. Most of the stages finished uphill and also had big climbs early (or straight from the gun). So for a lot of the non-climbers, there was a lot of rolling-turns in the gruppetto just to make time cut. That’s not hard racing, but it’s also not very fun.
Of course, not everyone has the same experience. I’d say there were four distinct groups of riders this year. Firstly the GC or stage-win contenders, who conserved energy most of the race to go really really deep in the finish. Then there were the flat-land workers, who drove the front, covered breaks, protected their leaders from the wind and collected many bidons. Generally when these girls hit an incline the brakes went on and the task was to get up with the least amount of effort possible.
Some teams were lucky enough to have climber domestiques, who did less work early so they could make it to the final climbs only to sacrifice themselves for their leaders. And then there were all the riders from the wildcard Italian teams who hung on as long as possible and killed themselves to secure 70th place on GC. Most of us WorldTour riders found this both frustrating and amusing.
Whatever the experience, it was definitely another great edition of the Giro Rosa and it was really disappointing that there was no live coverage for spectators to watch the action.
It’s now that time of year where riders and teams start securing contracts for next season. So far there’s not been too many whispers of notable riders making moves, but sadly it seems the girls from Virtu will be on the lookout for new teams after it was announced that the team is likely to fold at the end of this season. I’m sure Marta Bastianelli will score a contract somewhere, but the rest of those girls will be feeling a little anxious about next year.
So far there’s no new teams popping up for 2020, but with current team budgets slowly increasing maybe some will be expanding their rosters. Of course none of us are ever 100% secure within our careers. Big sponsors are hard to come by and don’t always stick around. Every year there’s the same tension as we wait to hear if our team will continue for another season.
It’s often hard to tell outside your own team, but this year it seems like most riders are fairly settled and happy. I think this is likely a result of teams stepping up and providing more comprehensive support than ever before for riders and their needs. Trek-Segafredo has been a great example of this with their support for Lizzie Deignan through her maternity. And she’s done the effort justice with her incredible return to form, winning the OVO Energy Women’s Tour of Britain in June.
I know it’s not the first time a woman has come back after having a baby, but I love how she’s been so public about it and inspired us all to see that there’s more than one way to approach your career as a female professional cyclist if you’re motivated to do it. You don’t necessarily have to retire if you want to start a family.
That being said, not every female cyclist has such comfortable finances and an ex-pro husband at home to support such endeavours …
Until next time,
The SHEcret Pro