Friday 1 July 2011

Giro Donne: Stage 1

In a career spanning nine years, Vos
has excelled in road, track, MTB and
There were no huge surprises in today's Stage 1 of the Giro Donne with the Dutch and World champion Marianne Vos showing the skill and supremacy that have made her name, pacing herself with extreme precision and eventually crossing the line just a second before Ina Teutenberg and the group. The course itself threw up nothing unexpected either with riders taking it relatively easy for the earlier parts of the stage, no doubt sizing one another up and seeing who looks like they're on form and who isn't looking so good and concentrating on pacing themselves up the large climb to Castel Gandolfino, where Valentina Scandolara dominated and became the first to wear the green jersey.

Once up the climb - the altitude remained fairly constant thereafter - a few spats broke out with various teams and individuals making half-hearted attacks here and there. Scarlett Callovi made the best go, but the peloton hadn't yet got themselves in the mood for that sort of thing at this early point and refused to give her the space she needed. However, it would be completely wrong were we to give the impression that it was boring - when you have the likes of Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead and Marianne Vos all in the same race, the one it's never going to be is boring and the excellent form required of anyone who races at their level ensured that there was plenty of high-speed action through the beautiful countryside lying between Rome and Velletri. The area around Lago Albano being a particular highlight and not to be missed for anyone fortunate enough to visit the region.

Nicole Cooke, who has been having a difficult season since returning to the sport after illness, must have been having a bad day today as she finished in an uncharacteristic 50th place. Cooke has been striving to prove to the cycling press, much of which seems to have written her off forever, that she can return to the form that saw her win two Tours de France Féminin as well as the 2004 Giro Donne. Many fans will be hoping the Welsh star can do so, because at just 28 it would be a great pity were her career to come to an end now.

Things came to ahead in the final kilometres, which featured a small but definitely noticeable incline and where a sprint broke out with what looked to be most of the field involved. Armitstead, who powered past her team leader Pooley ( who came in 11th today) in a similar sprint to take the honours in the British Nationals last weekend, looked hopeful but in the end even she didn't have the strength required to best Vos and achieved fourth. With six major victories in the bag already this year, the 24-year-old Dutchwoman was always going to be a favourite in this race. Nothing is a foregone conclusion in a sport as dangerous and subject to unforeseen circumstances as cycling, however, and the close race today shows what an interesting race this is going to be.

Stage 1 results:

1. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) Nederland Bloeit, 02:11:56
2. Ina Teutenberg (Germany) HTC-Highroad, + 00:01
3. Emma Johansson (Sweden) Hitec Products (2-10 received same time)
4. Lizzie Armitstead (UK), Garmin-Cervélo
5. Judith Arndt (Germany) HTC-Highroad
6. Rossella Callovi (Italy) MCipollini-Giambenini
7. Elena Berlato (Italy) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo
8. Tatiana Guederzo (Italy) MCipollini-Giambenini
9. Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania) Vaiano Solaristech
10. Martine Bras (Netherlands) Netherlands National Team

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