Women’s Cycling News Round-Up 28.07-03.08.2014

Pooley announces retirement — La Course — Specialized-Lululemon seek crowd-funding — Upcoming British and UCI Events — Interesting Links — More to come…

Pooley announces retirement


Emma Pooley, who has announced she will retire after the Commonwealth Games (image: Neutral Service CC BY-SA 3.0)

Emma Pooley, one of Britain’s most successful and popular cyclists, has announced her intention to retire from professional cycling after the Commonwealth Games.

Originally a runner, Pooley won a “Blue” for cross-country and triathlon whilst at Trinity, Cambridge. She began to concentrate on cycling while recovering from a running injury and, in 2005, took fourth place at the National Road Race Championships before going on to join Stef Wyman’s Fat Birds UK team for 2006. Her time there was sufficiently impressive to win her a place with Specialized Designs For Women; with them she came third at the now-defunct Tour de France Feminin (also, correctly, known as the Grande Boucle), second at the National Road Race Championships and won the prestigious Trofeo Binda and Tour de Bretagne races as well as taking second place behind Kristin Armstrong in the Individual Time Trial at the 2008 Olympics. In 2009 she won the Grande Boucle and as such is considered by some women’s cycling fans to be the second British rider to have won a Tour de France, Nicole Cooke having won in 2006 and 2007. 2010 brought even more victories – La Flèche Wallonne, Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs, Tour de l’Aude, Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Südtirol, GP de Plouay-Bretagne and first place at the National Road Race Championships, National Individual Time Trial Championships and World Individual Time Trial Championships. She continued winning throughout the remainder of her career.

In 2011, Pooley finished in second place behind Marianne Vos at the Giro Rosa with a time deficit of 3’16”. Always an excellent climber, due in part to her diminutive stature (“When she first came to Europe with my team, she rode on 650 wheels,” says Wyman), she was by her own admission a poor descender – which put her at a serious disadvantage to Vos who was almost able to match her on the ascents and benefited from far superior handling skills once over the summit. Pooley responded in the most simple and effective way: she learned to descend and, remarkably quickly, became rather good at it – her duels with in the mountains of the Giro Rosa are the stuff of legend, considered by women’s cycling fans to be on a parr with the classic battles between Bartali and Coppi.

“You have to go sometime,” the London-born athlete told Rouleur magazine. “I considered retiring after the London Olympics but I didn’t feel like I was ready. I’ve been mulling it over and came to the conclusion that the Commonwealth Games is the perfect opportunity. It’s a big event, it’s almost at home and I want to go out properly, when I’ve planned it, and have no regrets.” She is the current National Individual Time Trial Champion.

Pooley’s successes on the bike won her many admiring fans, but it was her loud advocacy for women’s cycling – and women’s sports in general – that earned her their love. She has been an instrumental part of Le Tour Entier, working alongside Vos,  Kathryn Bertine and the four-time World Ironman Champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington to encourage the Amaury Sports Organisation and UCI to create a new women’s Tour de France; their efforts led to La Course, a women’s race held on the final day of the Tour de France this year. She now plans to devote more time to running and triathlon: “I’m sure I can do better in triathlon if I focus on it,” she says.

Pooley maintained a lighter racing programme with Bigla during 2013 whilst completing her PhD in geotechnical engineering. Her retirement was widely believed imminent in the cycling world during that time.


La Course – Armitstead controversially crashes out, Vos wins


Marianne Vos, winner of the inaugural La Course (image: Neutral Service CC BY-SA 3.0)

The inaugural La Course women’s race at the Tour de France ended, just as so many predicted that it would, with a bunch sprint containing many the world’s finest cyclists; meaning that the crowd were treated to one of the most spectacular sights sport can offer – lightning-fast Marianne Vos of Rabo-Liv, the most successful cyclist in the world today, against Kirsten Wild of Giant-Shimano, who is to women’s cycling what Mark Cavendish is to men’s cycling. Vos is the ultimate all-rounder, able to hold her own up and down the mountains and in a sprint, but like most all-rounders is challenged when up against a specialist in that rider’s ideal conditions; beating Wild on the Champs-Élysées shows that at 27 years of age and having already won all the major competitions in women’s cycling, she’s still improving.

The riders demonstrated their appreciation of all those who made the race happen – which includes Vos who, along with Emma Pooley, Kathryn Bertine and Chrissie Wellington established Le Tour Entier, the organisation that spear-headed demands for a women’s race at the Tour and is still campaigning for a full women’s Tour stage race – by making sure it was an exciting and aggressive event with numerous attacks throughout, including several by Boels-Dolman’s British star Lizzie Armitstead, before Rabo reeled in Giant-Shimano to set up Vos. Despite the action, media coverage was largely disappointing: the race was not shown in its entirety, either on television or on the monitors in the pressroom – which brought scorn from The Guardian’s cycling correspondent William Fotheringham, one of the few sports journalists to give women’s cycling anything like the attention it deserves.

What this says about the Amaury Sport Organisation’s attitudes towards the race is a matter of opinion, with the majority of fans on Twitter viewing it in a less than favourable light. How3ever, race director Jean-Francois Pescheux seemed impressed after the race, giving hope that the organisers have learned from the event’s success: “The next step will be, first to consolidate as much as possible this race, to make it sustainable in the long run, and then to try and organize a race with different stages which would really respond to the demands of professional female cyclists,” he said.

Third place went to Leah Kirchmann of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies; also among the 21 riders to equal Vos’ winning time was British rider Hannah Barnes of United Healthcare who was 21st. Absent, however, was Armitstead, who has arisen over the last couple of years as a serious rival to Vos and leads the World Cup standings by a large margin, Having been plagued by mechanical problems and had two bike changes as a result, Lizzie launched a final attack in the last lap, then got onto Vos’ back wheel ready to try for a podium place before falling victim to a controversial right-turn by Vos’ team-mate Annemiek van Vleuten on the Rue de Rivoli in the final kilometre which the Yorkshire-born rider into the barriers and which might have been met with more opprobrium from fans, especially so soon after tactics many considered questionable at the Giro Rosa when Rabo apparently “blocked” other riders to protect Vos, had it not have also have put Rabo’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who alongside Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano) had led the race on the final approach to the Champs-Élysées, out of contention. She left the race with stitches to her elbow and what Boels-Dolmans have described as “nerve problems” in her back, which means she will miss the time trial at the Commonwealth Games; she plans to compete in the road race a few days later.

WFTBarnes’ team mate Sharon Laws was the second-fastest British rider, taking 24th place; Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol) was 84th. Armistead was 94th, finishing 50″ behind Ferrand-Prevot but 59″ ahead of last-to-finish Anastasiya Chulkova (RusVelo).

On-bike footage from Rabo-Liv

Top Ten & British Results
1 Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) 2h00’41”
2 Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano) +0″
3 Leah Kirchmann (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) ST
4 Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
5 Shelley Olds (Ale-Cipollini) ST
6 Coryn Rivera (United Healthcare) ST
7 Jolien D’Hoore (Lotto-Belisol) ST
8 Emma Johansson (Orica-GreenEDGE) ST
9 Simona Frapporti (Astana-BePink) ST
10 Roxane Fournier (Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86) ST
21 Hannah Barnes (United Healthcare) ST
24 Sharon Laws (United Healthcare) +10″
84 Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol) +1’16”
94 Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) +3’11”
Full result


Specialized-Lululemon seek crowd-funding


Specialized-Lululemon sign on at The Women’s Tour

With both title sponsors’ contracts due to expire at the end of this season, Velocio Sports – better known as Specialized-Lululemon – are experimenting with crowd-funding as a means to guarantee their future.

“We have corporate interest for part of our budget and we’ve decided to add to that by trying something a little different – it’s a way for us to invite people to be a part of the team and vote for women’s cycling at the same time. It starts with supporting our team, but if we can create a buzz around this campaign, it will reach the eyes of potential sponsors for both the team and other aspects of our sport ,” says team owner Kristy Scrimgeour, giving no further information on whether Specialized and Lululemon plan to renew their backing, with a reduced budget or otherwise.

“Women’s cycling needs two things: exposure and a growing the fan base. This weekend’s La Course at the Tour de France is a great opportunity to get that exposure and we need more and more of that. By growing our women’s cycling community and building a bigger fan base, we increase the demand for more exposure,” she adds.

Sponsorship packages begin at US$10, but any amount can be donated. More details here.


Upcoming Events

Upcoming British Events
More details and entry at British Cycling
28.07.2014 Army Cycling Union Ludgershall Summer Series #9
28.07.2014 Rider Development Sessions Bournemouth Cycling Centre #6 Cancelled
29.07.2014 Crystal Palace Crits #13
29.07.2014 Behind The Bikeshed Summer Series #10
29.07.2014 Total Cycle Coach Womens Series #16
29.07.2014 York Sport Circuit Races #2
30.07.2014 Cycling Legacy Supporters League #4
30.07.2014 Pedal Heaven Eelmore Circuit Series #8
30.07.2014 Lotus Cars Cycle Race League #13
31.07-01.08.2014 Castle Combe Summer Series #13
02.08.2014 Staffordshire Cycling Festival GP & Kermesse (British Women’s Road Series)
03.08.2014 Team PH-MAS Cycling Races
03.08.2014 Susie’s Circuits
03.08.2014 Darley Moor Circuit
03.08.2014 Okehampton CC Brentor Road Races

Upcoming UCI Events
02.08.2014 Erondegemse Pijl (Erpe-Mere)
03.08.2014 Sparkassen Giro (World Cup)


Interesting Links

La Course can lead on to a women’s world tour, says Marianne Vos (The Guardian)

Sir Dave Brailsford wants women’s Team Sky following success of La Course (Independent) – Note: Brailsford doesn’t actually say anything about wanting a women’s Team Sky, but according to the BBC it’s “something we’ve been talking about a lot.”

Why professional women’s sport is less popular than men’s (Economist)

Road Trip to Paris: Women’s cycling challenge with a message (Boxscore)

Road Trip To Paris Blog (Marianne Vos Official)

Glasgow 2014: Laura Trott wins gold for England (BBC)

Catharine Pendel wins women’s mountain bike title at Commonwealth Games (Cycling Weekly)

Does women’s cycling really need podium boys? (Daily Life)