This week I’ve been playing my favourite game of giving people my guess at the women’s peloton equivalent of their favourite male riders, so if they’re new to women’s cycling, they have people to cheer for at the Worlds road race this afternoon. So far, Part 1 included equivalents for Jens Voigt, Cancellara, Boonen, Greipel and Contador, and Part 2 had Philippe Gilbert, Cav, Sagan and Phinney…. but you still have more! So, without further ado….
For his ITT and climbing ability, if you like Nibali, cheer for Tatiana Guderzo. Guderzo is an Italian climbing star, who you’ll always find in the GC of the mountainous stage races. She’s a former Road World Champion, too. I say this a lot, but look up the 2009 Worlds, for a masterclass in “how to beat Marianne Vos”, as Guderzo and Cantele took it in turns to attack poor Vos over and over again, until Guderzo escaped for the win, with Cantele frustrating any and every chase effort. Guderzo is supported by the Fiamme Azurre, the sporting arm of the Italian police and prison service, so you’ll see photos of her in her uniform, working for them in the off-season.
Guderzo’s not the only cyclist who works for and is supported by the Police – there are the Italians, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has a sports scholarship from the Gendarmerie, and there are the Germans, too. Including my Bernie Eisel equivalent, Charlotte Becker.
Like Eisel, Becker has been riding since she was a child, following her older sister Christina to races, and falling in love with the sport. And just as Eisel rode for HTC-Highroad, so did Becker. She now races for the descendant of that team, Specialized-lululemon (read the great profile of her on their site), where you’ll find her destroying the peloton as part of the sprint train, riding superb ITTs and TTTs. In 2010, riding for Cervélo, she won the GP Valladolid World Cup, from a killer breakaway, and the GC of the Holland Ladies Tour (aka Brainwash) – this year she was focusing on the track for the Olympics, but you’ll definitely see her in the Worlds road race!
Another Sky ITT expert has another Specialized-lululemon equivalant. Step forward, Emilia Fahlin!
Fahlin was the youngest Swedish woman cyclist to turn pro, and has spent all her career so far at HTC/Specialized. Another ITT expert, you can always spot her by her huge amount of blonde hair – and in the flatter races, as she leaps off the front of the peloton to chase down attacks. And she’s been responsible for two of my favourite moments this season: in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, she was trying to lead out her team-mate Loren Rowney for the win, but Rowney wanted Fahlin to win, and wouldn’t come round her, so they crossed the line in first and second with huge smiles, looking like they were both laughing. It was lovely! Then, at the Swedish national championships, Fahlin had been out all day with Emma Johansson, when a mechanical on the final climb put her out of contention, resulting in some spectacular bike tossing and Swedish swearing. Watch the video! She regained her composure, though, and was joking about it with Johansson on her twitter afterwards – probably not funny for her at the time, but very, very entertaining!
I was asked if there’s an equivalent of Cunego, for “his plucky nature – despite never reaching the GT heights of his Giro win he sticks in there as long as he can on mountain stages”, and two riders spring to mind – Noemi Cantele and Claudia Häusler.
Häusler was just 23, when she won 2009’s women’s Grand Tour equivalents – the fabulous Giro Donne, and the much-lamented Tour de l’Aude. Both of these needed her excellent climbing skills and tactical brains – and she made it look easy. The next year she shared the climbing races with British mountain goat, Emma Pooley, but still came 4th in l’Aude and won the Emakumeen Bira stage race in the Basque mountains. It was all looking great for the hilly Worlds course in Geelong… but a very nasty crash in the Giro Toscana left her with bad concussion, and she had to finish her season. Since then, she’s never found her previous form. She started this year, at Orica-AIS, with illness and problems, but she always battles though, and there are signs she may have turned the corner, winning a stage at the USA’s Exergy Tour, and coming 8th at the Giro. I really hope things get better for her, she seems such a smiley happy person. And super-intelligent, too – she’s completing a part-time degree in Mechanical Engineering, as well as cycling. Find out more about her – including her excellent animal/Leprechaun impressions – in the Orica rider interview videos – part 1 and part 2.
Noemi Cantele is another rider who I hope gets back to her previous form. She won the hilly GP Plouay World Cup in 2005 and 2007, and in 2009, came away from Worlds will a silver in the ITT and a bronze in the road race. She’s been integral to the Italian team winning Worlds for the last three years, and counts her team-mates wins as important as her own – but still, check out her palmares – I’d love to see her back to her former glory. She’s best on the short, tough climbs, prefers day races to stage races, and her nickname is ‘Little Crazy Horse” for her mad attacking. Off the bike, she has a degree in Economics, and apparently cooks a great pumpkin risotto, and you can find out more about her on her website A-Z.
I never thought I’d mention He Who Must Not Be Named on this blog, but I was asked… On the one hand, Jeannie Longo, except her palmares are much better than his! She occupies the same space, though – she was the über-dominant French cyclist for years, who has a huge fan-base…. and a lot of doping allegations…
But if you’re looking for an American former World Champion who came back to cycling after cancer, and raises a lot of money for charity, I give you Amber Neben! She has all that, a lot more, including a huge ton of integrity. I’m a fan of her for her Dare To Be Project, which provides bikes and aspiration-raising to homeless children in the USA, for her lovely twitter (quieter this year than last, but always very supportive of her team-mates) and of course, for her riding, giving everything to help the team.
Neben’s had a tough journey throughout her life. At 4 years old, she was in a coma with meningitis, and took up cycling after repeated stress fractures scuppered her high school running career. She was very successful, but then in 2003, she tested positive for 19-Norandrosterone. She immediately pulled herself out of competition, protesting her innocence – and unlike most doping cases we hear about, what able to categorically prove that it was a result of tainted supplements. The UCI and the North American Court of Arbitration of Sport agreed she had not been intentionally doping – and she successfully sued the supplement manufacturer for the damage to her career. On top of all that, she realised she had developed skin cancer in 2007, and had to undergo treatment, become vocal about the need for sun protection for cyclists.
Despite ALL that, she won the Tour de l’Aude in 2005 and 2006, any number of ITT victories, including the 2008 ITT World Championships, and has weathered storms of team collapse and really weird decision-making by USA Cycling with dignity and panache. She’s a real inspiration, and I hope she’s around for a long, long time.
While we’re on the subject of banned male riders, a couple of you have been asking re Ricco, and there’s only one answer – his girlfriend and the mother of his son, Vania Rossi. Remember how, when she was done for EPO, Riccò said he was leaving her and the baby, in disgust? Even though he’d only got a ride at Ceramica Flaminia through her brother Enrico? And how he told a doctor in the hospital that she’s been there when he gave himself that catastrophic blood transfusion? Yeah, that’s a match that doesn’t need much thinking about!
On that happy note….! Let me know if you agree, disagree, or have any more riders you’d like Equivalents for – in the comments, or to me at titter, where I’m @_pigeons_. Have a lovely Worlds!