Oh dear reader, sometimes you just find yourself caught up in the moment and transported away as a host of women from around the world conspire and cooperate to give you really good race. I mean really, really good race.
You may recall that I was awash in the afterglow of really good racing following the Olympics road race, and I find myself similarly disposed following this year’s world champs. So for better or worse, here are my musings and observations on one of the best one-day races of the year.
- The biggest distraction from how the race was won was the biggest incident on the day – Yes, I’m talking about the huge and rather nasty crash that split the race and generally stole a lot of the attention from everyone on the day. But spending a lot of time trying to dissect that is a massive distraction from how the race was really won and is also pretty fucking unproductive. The road was narrow, there were barriers, someone went down in the bunch, then the bunch went down. It happens. I’d say ‘thankfully nobody was seriously hurt’ but by now we’ve heard about riders finishing the race only to find out they’ve got broken ankles and shit like that. So you know, ouch and holy fuck that’s impressive and so on. But mostly, the crash was significant and large and messy and it happened early enough that it impacted the race but didn’t define it. Let’s move on.
2. I know at least one person (*cough* Sarah *cough*) who thinks the American team was crazy – Sarah is convinced that the Americans were riding the same tactic that they’ve ridden for the last few years which is basically characterised as “Ride on the front for ages and then kind of disappear”. I tend to disagree, giving the team the benefit of the doubt as pre-race tactics clearly didn’t get to evolve due to The Big Fucking Crash (henceforth the BFC). I’d have been very interested to see what that original plan was but we got a different race and I think we can all agree that Amber Neben did a great job making it into the break and staying in contention until the end.
3. The break wasn’t really a break until Vos bridged across – that sounds kind of obvious knowing the result, but the thing is that the break never really looked serious, just dangling around 35seconds out and waiting to be reeled in. And then Vos bridged, Longo Borghini chased (great effort right there, that was her race-defining moment) and the break started gaining time. One of the reasons Vos is so frightening is that she’ll make an effort like that, go right to the front and start taking pulls. The break had to start working hard or Vos was just going to keep riding and leave them all behind. Excellent stuff.
4. I’m sort of biased, even though I don’t want to be and we’re all just going to have to deal with it – Rachel Neylan fucking rocks. Seriously, the lady had a shit year last year, basically trying to set a record for how many times she could break all the bones in her body (<– possibly exaggerating). Then she had a really tough comeback, being told by the AIS here in Australia that they didn’t think she’d be able to seriously compete at the top level and so she’d need to make alternative arrangements. Then there was a tough year with her team, culminating in them taking their bike back so she wound up the year riding l’Ardeche in a mix-team and the worlds on a borrowed bike. Sarah has a great interview with Rachel over here. Anyway, I told Sarah after Vos had bridged that if Rach could stay with the next split in the group, she’d be a strong chance for a podium. Sarah laughed at me. This is my proudest moment in being a fan of women’s cycling.
[Ed: Sarah’s insisted that I note that she said that she thinks Rachel is awesome BUT that there was no chance of her making the podium. It’s true, that’s what Sarah said but she did also laugh at me. But I think we’re forgetting the most important thing, which is that I had the last laugh!]
5. Anna van der Breggen’s attack decided the race – Anna launched off the front, Marianne eased up and everyone else in the group exhaled “fuck”. The problem came down to a few simple, but brutal truths. Marianne wasn’t going to chase, she’s an incredibly selfless teammate and would happily see Anna win. But she also had the option to wait for Anna to get a good gap and then to power everyone off her wheel and roll across for a Dutch 1-2. It was perfect tactics for the Dutch. Of those left, the question was who would chase. Somebody had to, but whoever did would be risking EVERYTHING by burning matches to do it. I was seriously worried that they’d left it too long when Amber Neben made the decision to chase, and in doing so, I think that was the moment where Rachel and Elisa settled their podium placings.
6. Vos’ run to the line was fantastic – from the way she kept checking over her shoulder to make sure the chase wasn’t catching her, to being able grab the national flag and hold it aloft as she crossed the line. It was a great celebration. The last 1.7km that come after cresting the Cauberg look like some of the longest and most painful metres you can have in cycling.
7. The following buzz was great – there were all sorts of wonderful tweets and observations about the race, but my personal favourite was the tweet from Zak Dempster in which he stated that he and some Aussie teammates had been watching and they were all pretty sure that they wouldn’t have been able to win that race against Vos.
8. Broadcasters don’t understand shit about women’s cycling – I was fortunate enough to have the women’s race broadcast ‘live’ by the SBS channel here in Australia. They’re the spiritual home of cycling and have done fantastic work through three decades now in bringing cycling to the country, but fuck me I find their producing decisions infuriating sometimes. For a start the programming began with a half-hour recap of the TTT (Women and Men), then the ITT (Women and Men), which I wouldn’t mind so much except that the fucking race had already started, which meant I was missing live race pictures. I was sorely tempted to turn to my beloved internet to solve my problems, but I believe in supporting my broadcaster and castigating them using social media so I bitched about it on twitter instead. (Seriously SBS, it’s called Picture-in-Picture and it’s so standard that there’s a pre-set for it on the Grass Valley Mixer, just stick the race in one corner and keep talking but show the fucking pictures!) To add insult to injury, every fucking idiot kept referring to the allegations that last year’s race in Copenhagen was ‘boring’. Mercifully former world champ of everything and retired pro Kate Bates was on hand to set the guys straight and provide actual information about women’s cycling. She did a stellar job. It’s just such a shame that SBS didn’t think it was worth having a woman or even someone knowledgeable about women’s cycling as part of the actual commentary team. Anyway, it wasn’t just me. Apparently the BBC were also a pack of bastards and didn’t have much going on in terms of quality commentary. The award for best coverage must therefore be shared by NL1 who had Marijn de Vries to keep things in check and Eurosport who made use of Rochelle Gilmore‘s expertise. I’m reliably informed that both did a wonderful job.
Lastly, I saw some really weird comments from people during the race, but by far the best (worst?) has to go to the person who said that ‘at least in men’s racing the attacks are meaningful’. I don’t even know where to begin with this comment. What’s the difference between a meaningful attack and a meaningless attack? Is it whether or not it’s the winning move? Because, if so, every race can only ever have one meaningful attack. Or maybe it’s the attack that has your favourite rider in it? I don’t know. I can’t even tell if that comment is wrong or stupid or genius or insightful because I don’t understand it.
I find the comment about meaningful attacks to not be meaningful and it has confused and upset me. I now hate all comments that aren’t meaningful, I think. Or maybe I don’t mind as long as men make them?
Anyway, beloved reader, the point is that this was a fucking great race and I enjoyed it immensely. What did you think?