Let’s change women’s cycling – the 2017 Ardennes Week edition

The 2017 Women’s World Tour and season in general have already shown us an increase in live women’s racing – from streams from the Australian 2017 openers, the Mitchelton Bay Crits and Deakin Women’s Race at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, to the entirely live Omloop van het Hageland, and the live last parts of the WorldTour races Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Aldredo Binda, we’ve been able to watch some amazing racing.

But the season won’t continue like that.  There will be some fantastic live racing at the Healthy Ageing Tour and maybe at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but what about at the Ardennes Week?

Just having an Ardennes Week is fantastic.  The three races, Amstel Gold on 16th April, Flèche Wallonne Femmes on 19th, and the first ever Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes on 23rd, will each have a women’s race that’s part of the Women’s WorldTour – but as yet, we’ve had no news about whether we’ll be able to see them live, or even a good length of highlights, beyond 10 minutes on the UCI YouTube.

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Follow the 2017 women’s Gent-Wevelgem and junior race

Sunday 26th March 2017

So far, the 2017 Women’s WorldTour has been fantastic for fans, with the first three rounds, Strade Bianche, the Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda all being streamed live.   But all good things must come to an end, and the run of live racing stops here.  No stream for Gent-Wevelgem, I’m afraid.  But we can still follow the race live on twitter, and hopefully there will be highlights too.  I’ll tell you all about that, as well as how to follow the women’s Junior Nations Cup and U17 races as well.  But first, a little bit about the race.

Women’s WorldTour #4, Gent-Wevelgem

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The 2017 Absa Cape Epic – truly epic South African MTB – watch live!

19-26 March 2017

I try to avoid the word “epic”, as it’s so over-used in cycling…  but this time, it’s warranted!

The Absa Cape Epic is an 8-stage MTB race in South Africa, contested by teams of two riders in three categories: women’s and men’s teams, mixed pairs, Masters and Grand Masters.  The race is 691km in total, with 15,400m of climbing, in some of the most incredible landscapes.  Riders sleep in tent villages, provided for them, and have to contend with extreme conditions.  It’s glorious, and it’s especially great for fans of women’s cycling, because it’s exactly the same course for the women as for the men, and really shows up anyone who think women are physically lesser.  You can check out the route video, and on the website.  And the race is so supportive of women – they say they were the first major cycling race to offer equal prize money for the women and men.

We can follow the race live, and watch on the race livestream, as well as watch on TV!  You can find where and when it will be shown on TV here, and the details of the livestream timing here. The stream will be on the race homepage, and live timings are in South African SAST, which is 1 hour ahead of European CET, 2 hours ahead of UK GMT, 6 hours ahead of North American EDT, and 9 hours behind Australian AEDT – so a 9am start would be 08:00 CET, 7am GMT, 3am EDT and 6pm AEDT.  If you missed the stream live, you can also watch replays of each day on the race livestream and catch up on all the action.

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#WeWantRVVLive – telling the world how much we want to see the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen

Update!  Since we all started tweeting #WeWantRVVlive, there’s been a development, and it’s good news!

Now, it’s not perfect – this stream is for subscribers to Belgian TV/telecoms/internet company Proximus only… so far!  But maybe that will change too, if eg a company like Eurosport buys the rights, and we can always ask them!

Is it because of the hashtag campaign?  Very hard to tell.  We know even a few weeks ago, the Ronde van Vlaanderen organisers and Sporza were telling journalists and fans that no, there wouldn’t be a stream, because of budget issues.  So it could have been a coincidence, and they’d found the cash and this just brought the announcement forward, or it could have been a response to the campaign.

But you know what?  It doesn’t matter!  There is literally no downside to women’s cycling fans coming together and showing that hell yes, we want to see the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen live, and that there is a ton of demand for all women’s cycling races.

It sometimes doesn’t feel like much, to write a tweet, or a facebook message, or send an email – but together, our efforts combine, and we can change the sport!

So, please do tweet to the Ronde van Vlaanderen organisers, Sporza and Proximus, and thank them for putting on the stream, or contact them on facebook, instagram, or through whatever channels you prefer (find the links on their websites: the RvV, Sporza and Proximus – you may need to scroll right down) – and please do ask your local TV broadcaster if they’ll consider buying it too.  Use the #WeWantRVVLive hashtag, and #RvVwomen while you do it, and share and like other people’s social media, and who knows, maybe we’ll have more good news!

Now, for the original story…

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Watch and follow the 2017 Trofeo Alfredo Binda – & follow the Junior Trofeo da Moreno

Sunday 19th March 2017

Round 3 of the 2017 Women’s WorldTour, and we’re back in Italy, in one of the cycling heartlands – the Varese Province in Lombardy.  After the gravel roads of Strade Bianche, and the Dutch cobbles and man-made hill of Ronde van Drenthe, it’s a race for Classics riders with climbing skills – and even more importantly, descending abilities.  And one of the special things about this race is that the junior stars of the future also get to ride on some of the same roads as their elite heroines, before the WorldTour race.

UPDATE!  And the last 4 laps – 68km – will be LIVE, with the stream showing part of the race as well as  highlights of the Junior race before the elites go fully live.

I’ll tell you how to watch the WWT Trofeo Binda, and follow the Junior Nations Cup Trofeo da Moreno below, but first a bit more about the race…

Trofeo Alfredo Binda

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Watch the 2017 Ronde van Drenthe LIVE, and follow the Drentse 8

Ronde van Drenthe, Saturday 11th March 2017

Drentse Acht van Westerveld, Sunday 12th March 2017

After last weekend’s explosive start to the 2017 Women’s World Tour, at the Strade Bianche the peloton has moved to the Netherlands, and a very different type of Classic.

You all know I love the Ronde van Drenthe for the man-made climb, the VAM-berg, that grows every couple of years, as more landfill is added (it’s currently 44m tall, with an average gradient of 13%, max 21%, and if you want to know more, I love this piece about the climb on Rouleur).  Then there are the seven sections of  “cobbles”, 13.2km in total, including some infamous sections – rocks thrown off a truck to enable vehicles to travel down sandy paths through forests, that are known for sharp edges and the slippery, mossy surface.  But above all, its known as a race where positioning is the ultimate skill.  There are the open fields, where if it’s windy (and it usually is) echelons form and unwary riders are dropped out of contention – and there are the narrow lanes, with sharp corners into the climb and cobbles, that everyone wants to get to first.  On top of that, the town circuit in Hoogeveen has technical corners – around 8 in the last 3km, and 3 90º corners in the last kilometre.  I love this race because it’s been won in so many different ways, from solo attacks to a bunch gallop, or from a small group that gets away and then attacks each other like crazy.

But above all, I love it because it’s the women’s bike race we can reliably see live – the last hour and maybe more are streamed, free to air, on at least 2 local Dutch TV stations.

The Ronde van Drenthe starts on Saturday 11th March at 11:15 European CET (10:15am UK GMT; 9:15pm Australian AEST; 5:15am North American EDT) and is due to finish around 15:00 CET (2pm GMT; 1am AEST; 9am EDT).

The TV starts at 14:00 CET (1pm GMT; midnight AEST; 8am EDT) and the streams are on RTV Drenthe and RTV Oost.  They tend to get a little bit overloaded, so I start mine a bit early.  The commentary is in Dutch, but Dan and I will be doing our own commentary on Mixlr, if you want to hear that (it’s an audio stream that you can listen to alongside the video) – check out my twitter for the exact address.

How to follow the race before the stream starts

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Follow and watch the 2017 women’s Strade Bianche

Saturday 4th March

The 2017 Women’s WorldTour starts with Strade Bianche – only 2 years old, but an instant Classic, with the gorgeous short, sharp hills of Tuscany, and those white gravel sections, not only climbs but also descents, and that stunning finish up the steep, beautiful narrow streets of Siena.  It’s hard to believe this race hasn’t been around forever, because it made such a huge impression.

There’s rumours of the women’s finish being streamed during the men’s coverage – and Voxwomen says that the last hour of the women’s race will be streamed live on the pay-to-view Eurosport Player and other channels.  Or maybe after the men’s race has finished, there’ll apparently be a half hour highlights programme on Italian station RAI Sport, and on some forms of Eurosport, including the Eurosport Player. It’s all a bit confusing, and I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Check your local Eurosport schedule (eg here’s the UK) – it’s not obvious if it will be shown on British Eurosport, for example and of course, if you don’t have the channel, look for streams here, here and here – they’ll tell you where the men’s is shown.  Apparently there could also be something about the women from 13:45 CET (12:45pm UK GMT/8:45am EDT/11:45pm Aussie AEST) but I can’t promise.  (And yes, it would be massively helpful if the race or the UCI had a place where they shared this, wouldn’t it?).

The race starts at 9:30 European CET (8:30am UK GMT/3:30am USA EDT/00:30 PDT/ 7:30pm Australian AEST) and is due to finish around 13:00 CET (midday GMT, 8am EDT, 11pm AEST) – full timings here (make sure you click on women’s at top, before hitting the sub-menus).

The race twitter is here – it seems there’s no separate hashtag for the women, so there’s the general #StradeBianche or the WorldTour hashtag #UCIWWT – or my trusted way is following my list of women’s cycling live tweeters, who’ll certainly tell you if a new # pops up (follow Peter van der Veen, especially!).

Tons of information on the excellent race website – including the course details (click ‘women’ at top right) and the startlist.  And if you can’t wait for the race, check out all the videos and media from last year, and 2015 in here.