Olympics: Women’s Road Race Preview

Saturday, 28 July 2012

If Box Hill was supposed to make the men’s course selective yesterday, the UCI have pre-empted this with some odd rules meaning the women’s race has only 66 starters and several of these are mountain bikers and track cyclists. But if the field is reduced, the quality isn’t and we can expect a battle royale to reach the finish outside Buckingham Palace.

The Route: the same course as the men except with only two laps of Box Hill making 140km. Therefore the race should be more suited towards a sprint finish as reduced climbing makes the route less selective.

Tactics: if Box Hill didn’t separate the men, it might not work for the women either. However the women’s race will be very different. We start with just 66 riders. Yes, that’s sixty-six, no typo, meaning the UCI is more selective than Box Hill (the full startlist is below). Given this we should see teams and riders willing to make moves because the race will be hard to control. Because within the 66, there are several mountain bikers and track riders included for reasons the UCI might be able to explain but I still can’t. Certainly imposing a quota on successful nations means several top riders are stuck at home, especially the Dutch and Germans.

But we are where we are. Marianne Vos seems to be unbeatable but every time she seems certain to win big, she and her team get outfoxed, see the worlds in Copenhagen last year. And given the course isn’t quite for her – it’s too flat – we could see other nations gang up to condemn the Dutch. The Italians, with world champion Bronzini, especially seem adept at teamwork and tactics. By contrast the British squad which seems to have some division between reigning Olympic champion Nicole Cooke and fast-improving Lizzie Armitstead but the rivalry might occupy the media but we’ll see what it does on the road.

Several teams have different cards to play, unlike Cavendish and Greipel in the men’s race, there’s no really obvious sprint contender in the race for opponents to define their tactics against. Instead the US, Germany, teams come with a “house” sprinter but also other riders capable of the win and a moment’s hesitation will see a move go clear. Vos is the bookmaker’s pick ahead of Bronzini but watch home GB sprinter Armitstead and America’s Shelley Olds whilst the German team come with veteran Judith Arndt and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, enough firepower to worry the Dutch.

Small teams mean a chase is going to be hard. Hopefully this makes for a lively race with the contenders fighting it out, trading attacks like boxers throw punchers… but the open nature can bring surprises too.

Weather: a sunny start but it’s going to rain, with showers and the chance of a heavy downpour during the race. Temperatures will peak at a cool 18°C in the countryside and maybe reach 20°C back in London.

TV: the race starts at midday London time and is expected to finish around 4.00pm. It’ll be screened live, up to you to find it it with your host broadcaster.

Local Food: after some criticism for struggling to identify true London cuisine, I’ll stick to the safer topic of wine. Britain is not an obvious choice but the chalky soils around Box Hill are similar to some of the Champagne area in France and so long as the weather is kind, the wine can be good.

Do: watch this race. Women’s cycling rarely gets the spotlight, in fact it’s rare on TV, so take a look.

Better, we’re promised the technical bungling that stopped GPS time gaps from appearing in yesterday’s race will be fixed.

Don’t: ask why women’s racing is shorter than the men’s. One significant but unmentioned factor is that the men can stop anywhere en route for a pee. The women can too but it’s not as easy; then again there’s perhaps extra in-built bias, see the velodrome where women will do a 3,000m pursuit when the men do 4,000m and there’s not a single reason for the distance to be shorter. Today’s race remains the longest duration event for any women’s event in the games.

1 Great Britain COOKE Nicole
2 Great Britain ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth
3 Great Britain MARTIN Lucy
4 Great Britain POOLEY Emma
5 Netherlands GUNNEWIJK Loes
6 Netherlands van DIJK Ellen
7 Netherlands van VLEUTEN Annemiek
8 Netherlands VOS Marianne
9 Germany ARNDT Judith
10 Germany BECKER Charlotte
11 Germany TEUTENBERG Ina
12 Germany WORRACK Trixi
13 United States of America ARMSTRONG Kristin
14 United States of America NEBEN Amber
15 United States of America OLDS Shelley
16 United States of America STEVENS Evelyn
17 Italy BACCAILLE Monia
18 Italy BRONZINI Giorgia
19 Italy CANTELE Noemi
20 Italy GUDERZO Tatiana
21 Australia GILLOW Shara
22 Australia HOSKING Chloe
23 Australia SPRATT Amanda
24 Sweden FAHLIN Emilia
25 Sweden JOHANSSON Emma
26 Sweden SODERBERG Isabelle
27 Russian Federation ANTOSHINA Tatiana
28 Russian Federation PANKOVA Larisa
29 Russian Federation ZABELINSKAYA Olga
30 Canada HUGHES Clara
31 Canada NUMAINVILLE Joelle
32 Canada RAMSDEN Denise
33 Belgium de VOCHT Liesbet
34 Belgium HENRION Ludivine
35 Belgium POLSPOEL Maaike
36 France BIANNIC Aude
37 France CORDON Audrey
38 France FERRAND PREVOT Pauline
39 New Zealand VILLUMSEN Linda Melanie
40 Brazil da SILVA SOUZA Fernanda
41 Brazil FERNANDES SILVA Clemilda
42 Brazil FERNANDES SILVA Janildes
43 South Africa de GROOT Robyn
44 South Africa MOOLMAN Ashleigh
45 South Africa van de WINKEL Joanna
46 Cuba GONZALEZ VALDIVIESO Yumari
47 Venezuela GARCIA Danielys
48 Ukraine ANDRUK Alona
49 Belarus AMIALIUSIK Alena
50 People’s Republic of China LIU Xin
51 El Salvador GARCIA MARROQUIN Evelyn Yesenia
52 Norway MOBERG Emilie
53 Luxembourg MAJERUS Christine
54 Republic of Korea NA Ahreum
55 Mexico DREXEL Ingrid
56 Estonia TREIER Grete
57 Thailand MANEEPHAN Juthatip
58 Taipei (Chinese Taipei) HSIAO Mei Yu
59 Poland PAWLOWSKA Katarzyna
60 Azerbaijan TCHALYKH Elena
61 Finland SUNDSTEDT Pia
62 Hong Kong, China WONG Wan Yiu Jamie
63 Japan HAGIWARA Mayuko
64 Slovenia BATAGELJ Polona
65 Mauritius HALBWACHS Aurelie
66 Chile MUNOZ GRANDON Paola Andrea

Alex Simmons July 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Go girls!

Sam July 29, 2012 at 9:06 am

Hopefully the coverage will be better today, looking foward to it.

Watching/reading the British media shows that cycling might have more attention after the Tour win from Wiggins, but still shows a complete lack of understanding of the sport…

norbs July 29, 2012 at 9:35 am

I don’t think it is just the British. Australian mainstream media coverage last night was appalling.

MarkW July 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

I think peeing was a problem for the men yesterday. Most races, especially of that length, have quiet stretches without many fans.
Yesterday didn’t. Looked minimum 5 deep the entire course.

RogerH July 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

Spectators were excluded from parts of Box Hill for the benefit of the flora and fauna. I suspect the flora may also have benefitted from a sprinkling.

jkeltgv July 29, 2012 at 10:24 am

The women’s races, perhaps because of smaller teams and less specialisation of riders, are always great to watch with reasonably strong selections made a long way out. One of the best races I’ve ever seen was Cooke’s win in Varese a couple of months after the Olympics and I am expecting this to be something similar…..a big group of good riders going clear and no chase behind. I am really hoping Vos can do the job – second again might just be too much for her.

Sarah July 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

It’s not the peeing (and they do stop roadside, just like the men – Marijn de Vries wrote a guide for people who were confused about this) – it’s that the women are limited in how long they can race for by the UCI, because the poor little dears are delicate…

However, they quite like this – it means they have much more energy for attacking, and attacking, and attacking!

The Inner Ring July 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

See my reply to Grolby. It’s not really an issue for the riders, more one for the sport’s governing bodies and an excuse. What I don’t like is the track where women’s events are shorter, we don’t have this in athletics or swimming.

andrewp July 29, 2012 at 11:59 am

Where is this handful of riders only turning up to make up numbers, but are really here for track or MTB?
The Germans have brought a full road team, and substituted one of their TP track team (Becker no less, certainly no road novice) apparently due to injury – one sustained days ago presumably as that injured rider attending the opening ceremony unlike those riding today.
PF Prevot is riding two events, and is listed for both as an official entry in both, so is not taking up a place within the quotas, rather is counting double – a deliberate FFC choice.

A look down the MTB rankings compared to the entry list – sees practically every highest ranking rider(s) of each nation due to race MTB, and only one of them (PFP) turns up for the road race.
And very few first choice track riders racing. Not many Team Sprinters on the above start list.

Vera July 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’m hoping NBC will show at least most of the race here in the states. I expect that they will cut into it with other sports, commercials, updates, etc., but I’ll take what I can get. I’ve never watched a women’s cycling race, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Jan July 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for the intro to Women’s Cycling. I’ve never seen it on tv, and I always find your pre-race info helpful.

Rider Council July 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

ok the food went down the wrong way but I think it’s safe to say the wine can be left of the menu. You have a tough job, so we shouldn’t complain so much.

whaleoilbeefhooked July 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Finale of Women’s 2008 World Champs in Varese is still one of the most compelling ends to a road race. Even now it’s almost as if the result could be in doubt! (see youtube) Let’s hope today’s is as exciting…

Sam July 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Think I found the womens race better to watch than the mens :s

Larry T. July 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I’m happy for Vos to win, confused as to what happened to the Italian squad? NBC here in the ‘states broadcast the race, sort of. The one word description of their coverage is INCOHERENT. Two so-called PRO cycling commentators called this race like they were at the bottom of the sea receiving race reports via telegram. Women’s cycling deserved much better than this pathetic effort.

Cat4Fodder July 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Well
At least they showed the entire race. The fact is, cycling is one of the few events where the physical differences between men and women are not a factor (see women’s basketball). The racing is relative to the competitors within the rave. Same reason a Category 4 race can be exciting to watch…it is all abou the relative strengths of the riders actually in the race. Other sports where the sport requires certain physical and athletic abilities such as jumping clearly can result in a noticeable difference between a men’s vs women’s competition. But cycling does not cause this.

It is why women’s cycling is such a blast to watch as well….and by I wish NBC would devote more time to it.

grolby July 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Sorry, I don’t think the reduced distance has anything to do with pee breaks, which the women still need to take in many races. It’s just the IOC’s and UCI’s Old World sexism, complete with “medical” reasons to fear that the poor delicate ladies will hurt themselves.

But that’s not to take anything away from the athletes, who are incredible and dedicated. And today’s race was amazing. As Larry T. said, the only thing lacking was quality production and coverage, with the women’s race suffering even more from the former than the men’s.

The Inner Ring July 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I’ve heard it direct from a senior official. Like me you might not agree with it but it is the excuse deployed.

It was enough for today but it is a joke on the track where the women to 500m time trial compared to 1km for the men and 3km for the pursuit compared to the men’s 4km.

jkeltgv July 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm

and the “team” sprint actually a pair.

grolby July 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I think calling it an excuse makes the situation more clear, though. The fact remains that the the UCI maintains, via policy, that there is some inherently female reason that women racers can’t race at the same distances as men. It is certainly more obviously stupid in track cycling events. I continue to hope that we will someday see real moves toward parity in this regard.

But it is what it is, and I don’t mean to suggest that racing all out for 150 km is anything but a massive athletic challenge, no matter who is doing it.

The Inner Ring July 30, 2012 at 10:33 am

Yes, we still get selective racing with these distances, only with fresher riders more able to attack. It’s something those in charge of the men’s sport are learning as they try to sell the sport to TV executives.

Amy July 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I was told that road race lengths were shorter because of smaller fields

ak July 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

The distances are just details. I think the real sexism is in having separate races for men and women. But in sports that’s fairly accepted for some reason.
Btw, speed skating has different distances for men and women too, athletics has (had? I’m not so up to date) men-only events as well.

milton July 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

It’s not really sexist though, is it. The women wouldn’t feature in the results if the races were mixed. Do a bit of homework and check the average race speeds of men and women.

ak July 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Of course. That was kind of the point. I found it a bit strange that people agree the women are so much weaker that it warrants the ultimate inequality, separate races, and then get upset by the fact the distances are not the same.
Anyway, I think the Olympics have shown women’s cycling how to get more attention: piggy-back onto the men’s events. Imagine if during the Tour and Giro the women would ride the same course as the men’s, each stage a bit shorter, starting earlier on the day. That would increase women’s cycling’s exposure immensely. Haven’t quite figured out how to fit it in with the advertisement caravan etc, but that’s not up to me anyway.

Rider Council July 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I agree, the track effort is specific but the road has it’s own way of working out the distance and I would not point a finger at those 3 letters, UCI, yet again. Women race very differently to men on the road so what is the point in trying to compare them. However if you want to really see something hard core, go see the women race Cross this winter! Anyway if you want to see equality in sport, tune into the Equestrian events at the Olympics. Go Tina!

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