Sunday, 8 April 2012

Daily News Digest 08.04.2012

Energiewacht Tour Stage 5 - Paris-Roubaix

Stage 5 - click to enlarge
(image credit: Energiwacht Tour)
Energiewacht Tour Stage 5
Stage report and overall results
Unbelievably, the Energiewacht Tour 2012 is already at an end - which just goes to show that time really does fly when you're having fun, because it's been one of the most fun races in a long time with the short, flat circuits encouraging fast, furious and tactical racing that highlights the professionalism, competitiveness and athleticism of the riders perfectly. Are you listening, National Federations and UCI? This is how women's cycling needs to be done - Energiewacht Tour's organisers have done an admirable job here.

Stage 5 covers 103.3km in total with riders completing three laps of a parcours made up of numerous long, flat stretches with sharp bends between them - not dissimilar to an extended version of Stage 4b, in fact, and with that long stetch to the finish line almost certainly a stage for a sprinter.

The riders set out from the museum in Fraeylemaborg along a street lined with the sort of houses that in the USA are called Dutch Colonial (and here, presumably, "Dutch") and then almost immediately comes to a tight and, by the looks of it, potentially slippery left corner - with the peloton still closely packed just metres from the start, this is a point with an obvious likelihood of accidents. A road called Schlocterdiep leads to a village, Denemarken, and over a canal into a short twisty section before arriving at Eemskanaal (note: visible 60m away on the opposite side of the canal is Woltersum, a village that became subject to a mandatory evacuation in January this year when the dyke showed signs of breaching. A little coincidence, with today also being the day of Paris-Roubaix: the canal is the location of a rowing race known as De Hel van het Noorden - the Hell of the North).
From this point, the route is almost entirely arrow-straight and pancake flat (well, near enough - according to Aerodata International Surveys there are a number of "hills" as high as 80cm along the way!) - this is the sort of road where clever tactics make little difference and everything comes down to which rider, or more likely which team since this is ideal territory for drafting, can ride the fastest. With the left turn at the end out of the way, the remainder of the circuit is formed of a pair of long, fast U shaped roads leading through Harkstede and to the finish line, which is 16.6km away where the stage began.

The big question is, can Marianne Vos make up the 43" disadvantage she now faces after a less-than ideal performance by Rabobank in the team time trial, and by doing so regain the General Classification leadership and win the race? Those of us who have followed the Dutch woman's career for any length of time can be forgiven for sometimes thinking that Vos can do absolutely anything she chooses, and it does sometimes appear that she can. However, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Specialized-Lululemon) has been on incredibly good form throughout the race and is extremely fast in a sprint. She may prove more than a match for Marianne today. Though all eyes will be on those two, don't forget that Ellen van Dijk (Specialized Lululemon) is ahead of Vos and only 7" behind Teutenberg - there are an infinite number of situations in which overall control could go to her instead.

Follow the official race Twitter @ewachttour for details during each stage and information on the race. Local TV RTL7 is broadcasting a short highlights show daily - Stages 4b and 5 will be shown on Sunday at 14:30BST (15:30 local time/CEST)

Stage 1 (video) / 2 / 3 / 4a-4b / 5 / Guide / Video Vault

Paris-Roubaix 2012 - click to enlarge or,
for a full-size zoomable .pdf, click here
(image credit: ASO)
The three Grand Tours may last a total of nine weeks and cover around 9,000km between them each year, but even combined they come nowhere close to the sheer amount of spectacle, horror and beauty packed into a single day and 257.5km by the legendary Paris-Roubaix - the last of the insanely dangerous, heroic races from cycling's early history. The reason it earned the nickname The Hell of the North is what organisers found along the parcours when they mapped out the route for the first edition after the First World War, an apocalypse that can still be seen in the landscape almost a century later. There's a reason that the race is still known by that name, too.

"The last great madness of cycling." (Jacques Goddet)

Paris-Roubaix is all about pain, and the rider who can most withstand pain has the best chance of winning - unless, that is, fortune is not on his side; if it's not, he'll be just another victim of the cold cobbles of Arenberg or Le Carrefour de l'Arbre or Mons-en-Pévèle or any of the 27 notorious sections that make this race what it is, an event that somehow survived from the days before health and safety regulations. Make no mistake: people are going to be hurt, some of them seriously.

Guide to the Cobbles
Live on British Eurosport from 13:00
Guide to other channels
Online from 12:00BST (13:00 CEST) via Sports-Livez
Eurosport live ticker in English
Official live ticker in English

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