The women’s road racing season so far
Romping home to Tour de Yorkshire glory last week was birthday girl, Megan Guarnier, extending Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s run of imperious form and bringing the victory tally up to fourteen. The undisputed queens of the early season, Boels have crushed every race that has unfurled before them. With a small hiatus before the next big race, let’s take a trip down memory lane and reminisce on the women’s racing season so far.
Straight out of the blocks
The Eddy Merckx of women’s cycling, reigning Olympic champion and the uncontested ‘Queen of Spring’, Anna Van der Breggen, kicked off the WWT (Women’s World Tour) in the only way she knows how: by winning. Not only did she best the field in Strade Bianche by a sizeable 49 second gap, but she also did it in incredibly stylish fashion; attacking alone with 18km left to race.
Boels didn’t stop there. The next WWT race, the Ronde Van Drenthe, was taken out by their Dutch classics star, Amy Pieters. Pieters kept the Cobbled Classics ball rolling, taking a 5th place in Gent Wevelgem before two 2nd places in the Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Ronde Van Vlaanderen. Only her teammate, Van der Breggen, proving stronger in the latter event.
Underneath the muddy faces, it’s @amypieters outsprinting Alexis Ryan to take the WIN in the #UCIWWT @rondevdrenthe. Please join us in congratulating Amy in the comments below ⬇️. • • • Onder dat moddergezicht zit @amypieters, die in de @rondevdrenthe naar de WINST sprintte. Ze wint daarmee de tweede wedstrijd in de #UCIWWT, waarin @annavdbreggen leidster blijft. Stuur je felicitaties aan Amy in de comments ⬇️!
Despite her credentials and impressive palmarès, Van der Breggen’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen victory was only her first in the infamous Cobbled Classics; a crazy stat that may muster a few second glances. Nevertheless, she crushed the field, putting over a minute into the chasing pack in another seemingly effortless solo breakaway move.
Straight off the cobblestones and into the Ardennes, the women’s road season really kicked up a gear when the peloton descended on the Amstel Gold race. Met with some of the largest crowds the race has ever seen, for both the women’s and men’s events, the race blew up in a flurry of attacks and ‘on the rivet’ racing. The world champion, Chantal Blaak of Boels-Dolmans, proving herself worthy of the rainbow stripes by sprinting home first ahead of a handful of chasers left panting in her wake.
Picking up the winning baton in the next two Ardennes races was none other than the Queen of the Ardennes herself, Anna Van der Breggen, who took all three hilly classics last year in her first season with Boels-Dolmans. The Dutch star notched up a fourth historic victory in the event and for the second year in a row, she sustained her winning momentum to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege a few days later. It was yet another, characteristically solo, breakaway win, stealing the day for herself and the Boels-Dolmans squad.
What does the rest of the season hold?
With Guarnier topping the overall in the recent Tour de Yorkshire, the Dutch-based team are clearly carrying some incredible momentum and form. Their rivals are surely quaking in fear of the remainder of the season, with no signs of the winning trend letting up.
Next stop for the Women’s World Tour is the stage race with (probably) the longest name in pro cycling: the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM. Both Guarnier and Van der Breggen hold the overall titles for the previous two editions of this race. Trixi Worrack of Canyon SRAM Racing is the only rider to prevent a complete Boels-Dolmans sweep of the American stage race. Megan Guarnier makes a return this year where she will ride for the national team.
After some end-of-spring stage racing in California, the peloton will travel to Emakumeen XXXI. Bira for a testy four-stage affair before returning to British soil for the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, a race won by Boels’ Lizzie Deignan in 2016. With the British star expecting her first child, the mantle falls to one of Boels’ other stage racing talents to bring back the OVO title. Honestly, I don’t know how they choose from such an embarrassment of riches.
The Specialized setup
Rocking the Tarmac frame, proven in both the women’s and men’s pelotons, the Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team no doubt roll out for every race confident in their machines and tuned setups. Together with equivalent super-team Quick-Step Floors, they have notched up an incredible tally of wins for the Specialized camp. Almost 50 wins across both the men’s and women’s seasons so far is testament to the top-end performance S-Works engineering.
Kitted out with the latest tech and ground-breaking components, the S-Works Tarmac proves to be a bike that can conquer all manner of terrains. The Boels-Dolmans riders use it to dominate in the sprints, split the bunch in windy flat stages, and fly past the opposition on the steepest of climbs. For 2018, Specialized made extra efforts to make their women-specific Tarmac frame even more aero than before, claiming to have “added aero for free”. What that means is that the Tarmac has been given a revolutionary fork shape, dropped seatstays with aero tubes and a D-shaped seatpost, all ensuring that wind is guided around the frame in the most efficient way possible; the path of least resistance.
Keeping up the aero vein, Specialized also provide the Boels-Dolmans team with a newly designed S-Works Evade helmet. The engineers practically lived in the company’s own appropriately-named Win Tunnel before they cracked this new, aerodynamic formula. For longer, lumpier and more laboured stages, Specialized offer the S-Works Prevail II, a new model for 2018. Vents across the helmet and internal channels from front to back keep air constantly circulating, ensuring even the most hot-headed riders keep their cool in hectic race situations.
To make sure that feet stay firmly on the pedals throughout this cycling season, the Boels-Dolmans riders opt for S-Works women-specific shoes for the ultimate combination of super-stiff efficiency and supreme comfort.
Well on their way to the 50th victory of 2018, we’re delighted to see such power and promise fulfilled by our sponsored teams and riders. With the OVO Energy Women’s Tour and 10-day Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile just around the corner, we may just see that illustrious milestone toppled sooner rather than later.
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