With the Worlds Road Race nearly upon us, I’m playing my favourite game on Twitter again – if people tell me their favourite male riders, or types of riders, I’ll match them with a female pro cyclist, to cheer for on Saturday. I always love this – I did it for the Olympics, and it’s always a fun way of sharing stories about some of my favourite riders – and hopefully it gives people who want to know more about women’s cycling a jumping off point. So here are some of the riders I’ve matched up so far – if you want to play – or think you have better suggestions – tell me YOUR favourites in the comments, or tweet me at @_pigeons_ and you can get ready for Limburg!
So, who do I think is who? Here’s part 1 – more to follow before the Worlds.
Loads of people have asked who the female Jens Voigt is, and my equivalents are Sharon Laws and Ellen van Dijk. Both are riders who will turn themselves inside out and upside down for their team-mates – if you were watching the Olympic road race, you’ll have seen Van Dijk Voigting the hell out of the peloton, attacking over and over and over again before the race got anywhere near Box Hill. Wasn’t that race spectacular? I’m going to have to read Dan’s Post-Coital Race Recap all over again!
Sharon Laws is the super-tough domestique in the mountains, who used to ride adventure races, and won the first ever Cape Epic, a crazy MTB pairs race in South Africa that redefines tough. Read all about her in my interview with her from 2010 – and if you’re in the UK, you can see this video interview with her after the Worlds Team Time Trial, which she raced with only 2 days’ notice, and was one of the 4 riders who crossed the line for AA Drink-Leontien.nl‘s bronze medal. You might be able to tell that I’m a massive fan!
Finally, the superb (and Jens-y in her own right) Helen Wyman suggested that Hanka Kupfernagel was the perfect “Shut Up Legs!” Jens-esque rider – and while yes, absolutely, I had to disagree, because while Hanka has all of that, she also has the most incredible palmares, across road, track and Cyclocross. It’s no exaggeration that it’s thanks to Hanka that there are women’s CX World Cups and prize pots. I think Jens would wish he was Hanka! Check out her story on her website.
There are a lot of you Cance fans out there, and your female equivalent rider is the 2012 ITT World Champion Judith Arndt. This is Arndt’s second year in a row for ITT rainbows, to go with her World titles in the Road Race (2004) and in the Individual Pursuit on the track (1997). But it’s not just that she’s the most perfect ITT rider that makes her Cance-like, it’s also the way that although she’s an amazing rider who wins all over the ITTs and road races, she’s also a dedicated and devoted team-mate, who’ll work as hard for her team-mates as for herself. In fact, she’s said that the team aspect of cycling is her favourite part. She’s retiring after the road race, and I’ll miss her a lot. Here’s Arndt being interviewed on Orica-AIS’ youtube.
Virtkitty asked who the Cancellara-equivalent is in terms of “stylish with a kick-ass smile”! That’s down to personal taste, but my choice is 2010 and 2011 World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, who’s the rider I’d swoon over! I usually describe Bronzini as the equivalent of Óscar Freire, for her ability to don the invisibility cloak and being hidden from view in the peloton, before unleashing her explosive sprint. The 2010 World Champs was such a perfect example of this – far be it for me to encourage you to look up illegal videos of it online…. but do it now! It was beautiful racing
Another rider that people have been asking for is Tom Boonen, for his love of the toughest sprints and cobbley Classics. There’s only one answer – Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. She’s the absolute queen of the sprinters, who always pined for a women’s equivalent of Paris-Roubaix. She LOVES those cobbles and the tougher the race is, the better for her! I’m gutted she’s retiring at the end of the season – but did you see her insanely good Worlds ITT? She’s pretty much a pure sprinter, but she made the Cauberg look like a walk in the park. She’s so much fun – check out the Teute blogs on the Specialized-lululemon site and follow her twitter – she’s very funny, too.
Speaking of tough sprinters, my Greipel equivalent is Kirsten Wild. Not that I’m saying she’s gorilla-esque, but she’s always up there in the sprints, all over the podium and beating the likes of Teute and Vos. She’s the perfect example of a Dutch sprinter – about 7 foot tall, loving the cobbles, the wind and the rain. I interviewed her back in 2010 – and you can find out more about her on her website, and by following her twitter.
Samuel Sanchez/Alberto Contador
Fans of climbers asked about the Samu/Contador equivalents.
For Samu, and his combination of climbing and descending, I’d pick double Olympic bronze medallist Olga Zabelinskaya of RusVelo, because that’s where she excels – and, just as she forced the final break in the Olympic road race, she will always attack. She was a junior World ITT Champion, with a couple of gaps in her palmares where she took time out to have two children – and off the road, she likes photography, languages, fishing and motorcross. On the bike, she’s the type of rider who will always try to take the peloton by surprise – and they ALWAYS try to chase her down, because she’s a dangerous rider.
In terms of Contador‘s mountain attacking, ITT ability and being so exciting to watch, it’s got to be Emma Pooley - except Pooley would never have touched the clenbu. She’s ferociously intelligent, completing a PhD in geotechnical engineering, and very outspoken about the issues in women’s cycling, combining pithy dissection of the hypocrisies of the UCI, Team Sky and British Cycling with great wit and style. Here’s a typical interview, where she describes that PhD – and here’s one of the more recent, more angry ones. Pooley is well-known for her endless attacks – we joke that she’s allergic to peloton riding, which is why she’s always trying to get away, but she certainly knows how to invigorate a race.
Dave Smith asked who would be the Sean Kelly equivalent, hard as nails who wins the odd race. I say Trixi Worrack, who gets happier the colder, windier, rainier and generally tougher it is, and you can practically give her the “Most Aggressive” jersey before she’s even got on the bike! I’m a big fan of Worrack, she’s clearly very happy at Specialized-lululemon, and it shows in her results. She deserves it, too. Her 2010 was scuppered when Skyter Shipping, the Luxembourg-based yacht manufacturers (I know…) pulled their funding at the last minute, leaving Worrack, Nicole Cooke, Amber Neben and Tiffany Cromwell dependent on national teams if they wanted to race. She moved to AA Drink for 2011, but never seemed to click with the team…. this year, however, she’s been back to her exciting best, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the Worlds…
So, that’s my starting list – I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow! And if you think you have better matches, please please let me know – I really love this game!