Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympics: FuckYeahWomensRoadRace

Ever since male cyclists stopped taking EPO and blood transfusions and bought SRM's instead, road racing has been a boring and predictable procession. My ill-informed and over-thought explanation is that the playing field's got so level that attacking is futile - for every minute a contender spends churning out 6.5w/kg, you know they'll have to repay it with a period at 5.5w/kg, giving the person who's steadily knocking out 6w/kg a chance to catch up. It happened all through the Tour: Nibali attacks, Wiggins and Froome slowly peg him back. Softly, softly, catchee monkey.
On Sunday morning I didn't have high hopes for an exciting Women's road race. I was however fully committed to some serious sofa time, but after an hour of 30kph gruppo compatto I was counting sheep and expecting to drift off any momen...

Then Ellen Van Dijk happened.

Fuck me, what a rider! Attack! Attack! And then attack some more in a style we've not seen in men's road racing for years. By about the fifth time she shot off the front, through a wall of wet road spray, on yet another suicide mission I was smitten. When you dream about bike racing, this is what it looks like - aggressive, assertive, passionate, hard, EPIC.

Then Emma Pooley got active too - rather than covering moves, she started countering them. Chase 'em down, sprint straight past, look back and watch the carnage unfold. The hammer had well and truly been dropped and I - and it seemed the whole of twitter - was loving it.

By the time they got to the top of Box Hill for the second time it was shaping up to be a classic, and then Vos attacked, her match-stick thin arms almost buckling under the violence her legs were wreaking on her bike. And who was that immediately on her wheel? Only bloody Lizzie Armitstead (Armitstead with a T, thankyou) - you beauty!

The only time I feel as nervous, as shiver shake adrenalised, as I felt through that final 30km to the line is when I'm approaching a sprint in a bike race myself. Your head clears, your heart rattles, your arms feel empty and you feel shaky, like you've had too much coffee.
I had drunk too much coffee, but that's besides the point - I was watching a race that made me feel like I was there. It was beyond enthralling.

As they came into the Mall you couldn't help pre-emptively hanging the gold round Vos' neck - let's face it, the woman's unbeatable on two wheels. Armitstead did a good sprint, but second is the best you're ever going to get against Vos, and that's what happened.
Was I disappointed that the Brit didn't get win? Not really, I'd just watched the best race I've seen in almost a decade, and was so fired up I chucked my kit on and gladly went riding in the rain, trying to emulate Ellen Van Dijk for 2hrs on the slick sodden roads of Essex. I don't remember ever trying to emulate a female sportsperson before, but yesterday I did, and when we go to Crystal Palace tomorrow night, I'm going to remind myself of Emma Pooley and the way she rode so aggressively for the team. How good is that? The Women's Road Race wasn't just a brilliant advert for Women's road racing, Women's cycling or Women's sport, it was a massive win for sport full-stop.


  1. Seem to recall Philippe Gilbert trying one or two suicide attacks too.

    Agreed, the women's race had more spirit than the over-tactical and political men's race but let's not forget many were just back from a gruelling three weeks in France. It wasn't THAT bad...

  2. Well said - even the piss poor coverage couldn't detract from an excellent race. It really emphasises how much more attention women's racing deserves.

  3. Women's racing is like the men was in the 70s and 80s. A few great riders, a few more good ones, and lots of pack fodder. (relatively speaking, that is).

    Given the overall professionalism, and peak performance parity of World Tour riders nowadays, it looks like the best way to get selective racing is to have courses like PR and Flanders that have multiple hard selection points all the way along the route. The first few start to wear down the domestiques, and then the later ones allow the real selection to be made.

  4. Spot on! The Dutch and our girls were willing to slug it plus the rain made it a great race to watch.

  5. BOOOM,when I saddle up for the ride home the streets of Surrey ain't gonna know what's hit 'em.


  6. What you just said, exactly. I was at Donkey Green watching on the big screen and the atmosphere was just astonishing.

  7. What a pity the women's RR had a limited field (only 66 riders) & a shorter course. Let's hope they make a proper event next time.

    1. I don't think the Women's race would have been more exciting if it was 100km longer though b0b0b0b. Would Van Dijk have been happy to start attacking with 200km to go rather than 90? I doubt it. In fact, I suspect it would have become a 150km ride followed by a slightly less aggressive 100km race than we saw yesterday. Another lap of Box Hill would have been good just to make it more of a spectacle for spectators, but I thought the length was fine - the best woman still won, and I don't think it could have been much more aggressive.

  8. Excellent bit of writing. I'm about to post a link to it up on Cadence Performance's Facebook Page - great race, really entertaining, inspiring. I hope clubs everywhere take advantage as the floodgates open when loads of kids wanna get into the best sport going.

  9. Great blog to read, thank you Andy :)

  10. Great post, totally agree with what you said. It was a really good race, just enjoyed watching it and shouting at screen, yes I got quite involved. Would of been a little better if the German Italian freight train, actually got organised and almost chased our brave trio down

  11. Ay up Waterrat. Just read this post and it's a good 'un. I totally agree, esp after watching the men's Olympic RR. Shows that without race radios, they're just as badly organised as the rest of us.

    Armitstead is Otley so of course she's aggressive and tenacious. Say no more.

    Credit to the men for making the Vuelta more exciting than the tour though. I'm not sure the top Spaniards ain't on drugs but it's fun to watch.

    Yours, Baddass

  12. Nice post.
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