Marianne Vos favourite to take fifth victory in women’s Flèche Wallonne
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Marianne Vos favourite to take fifth victory in women’s Flèche Wallonne

by Ben Atkins at 12:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Flèche Wallonne
Longer course makes World Cup race a closer challenge to the men’s WorldTour race

marianne vosThe Women’s World Cup is set to continue in la Flèche Wallonne Femmes next Wednesday, April 18th, with Marianne Vos (Rabobank) aiming at an unprecedented fifth victory. The Dutch champion has won four out of the last five editions of the tough Ardennes race, which - like the men’s WorldTour race - is based on the precipitous climb to the Mur de Huy.

Vos’ victories have come, largely due to the fact that nobody has been able to match the World cyclocross champion’s speed up the final slopes, whose gradients touch an incredible 26% in places. With a longer course this year however, the rest of the peloton will have the chance to try and wear the 24-year-old down a little, before the final mano a mano struggle in the final kilometre.

The 2012 route rises, from the 109.5km of previous years, to 123km and - with the exception of the 70.5km leg from Charleroi - now follows the exact course of the men’s race. As before, the women’s race will start at the top of the Mur, and scale the fierce climb twice; this year however, there will be a total of seven further climbs to soften the legs before the final challenge.

After a long, hilly, 92km loop, the peloton will climb the Mur for the first time, before taking in the final short, sharp, 31km finishing circuit, but the race will no doubt be decided by a straight fight up the final climb.

Vos - as ever - will be the outstanding favourite for the race and, if she does win, will have won a third of all the editions of the women’s version of the Belgian Classic. Having missed the Ronde van Vlaanderen with a ‘flu virus and, uncharacteristically, failed to win a single stage at last week’s Energiewacht Tour, the World number one comes into the race with a possible question mark over her usually unbeatable form.

The Stichting Rabo team will doubtless arrive in Huy in its usual powerful state however. There are still some doubts over the condition of 2011 World Cup winner Annemiek van Vleuten - who underwent leg surgery in the winter - but French prodigy Pauline Ferrand-Prévot - who finished seventh in last year’s race - will doubtless be keen to step into her team captain’s shoes, should the need arise.

Aside from her first ever appearance in 2006, as an eighteen-year-old, the only rider to have taken the race away from Vos has been 2010 winner Emma Pooley (AA The British climber attacked just after the base of the Mur, and managed to hold off the rest of the field and win by an eight-second margin; she missed last year’s race with a broken collarbone, and will certainly be keen to make amends for that this time around.

The Faren-Honda team boasts six Flèche victories in its roster, with three each for Fabiana Luperini (1998, 2001 and 2002) and Nicole Cooke (2003, 2005 and 2006). While the former Italian champion, and five-time Giro Donne winner’s form is uncertain, Cooke - the Olympic champion - also has two second places in the race to her name, including in 2010 behind Pooley, and has seldom been outside the top eight.

The other contenders are headed by the similarly consistent Judith Arndt (GreenEdge-AIS), who is an almost permanent fixture on the Huy podium. The World time trial champion has already won the Ladies’ Tour of Qatar this season, as well as her second Ronde van Vlaanderen title, which was won in identical fashion to her first in 2008.

Swedish champion Emma Johansson (Hitec Products-Mistral Home) has taken two second places and one third in the last three editions, and has come the closest to challenging Vos on most terrains in recent years. There are a number of Italians in the list of likely challengers, including last year’s fourth place Elena Berlato, who will be riding for her national team this time, 2009 World champion Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini) Johansson’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini, former fifth place Italian champion Noemi Cantele (BePink); while Italian prodigy Rossella Callovi (Diadora-Pasta Zara) will be riding her first ever edition.

La Flèche Wallonne Femmes (CDM) Wednesday, April 18th

Teams (with leading riders)
AA Emma Pooley (GBr)
Be Pink: Alena Amialiusik (Blr), Noemi Cantele (Ita)
Bizkaia-Durango: Joanne Hogan (Aus)
Diadora-Pasta Zara: Rossella Callovi (Ita)
Dolmans-BoelsCyclingTeam: Martine Bras (Ned)
Faren Honda Team: Nicole Cooke (GBr), Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
France: Melodie Lesueur, Edwige Pitel (Fra)
Germany: Sarah-Lena Hofmann (Ger)
GreenEdge-AIS: Judith Arndt (Ger), Shara Gillow (Aus)
Hitec Products-Mistral Home: Emma Johansson (Swe), Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita)
Italy: Elena Berlato (Ita)
Kleo Ladies Team: Evelyn Arys (Bel)
Lotto Belisol Ladies: : Ludovine Henrion (Bel), Ashleigh Moolman (RSA)
MCipolliniGiambenini: Tatiana Guderzo, Monia Baccaille (Ita)
Netherlands: Sophie De Boer (Ned)
Russia: Larisa Pankova, Aizhan Zhaparova (Rus)
Rusvelo: Natalia Boyarskaya (Rus), Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger)
Sengers Ladies Cycling Team: Emma Silversides (GBr)
Skil: Adrie Visser (Ned)
StichtingRabo Women: Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned), Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra)
Team GSD Gestion: Christine Majerus (Lux)
Team Specialized Lululemon: Amber Neben (USA), Trixi Worrack (Ger)
Tibco-To the Top: Megan Guarnier (USA)
TopsportVlaanderen-Ridley 2012: Maaike Polspoel (Bel)
USA: Andrea Dvorak (USA)
VaianoTepso: Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu)
Vienne Futuroscope: Karol-Ann Canuel (Can)

The Climbs:
39.0km - Côte de Peu d'Eau - 2.7km at 3.9% average
44.5km - Côte de Haut-Bois - 1.6km at 4.8% average
69.5km - Côte de Groynne - 2.0km at 3.5% average
76.0km - Côte de Bohisseau - 1.3km at 7.6% average
79.0km - Côte de Bousalle - 1.7km at 4.9% average
92.0km - Mur de Huy (1st passage) - 1.3km at 9.3% average
108.0km - Côte d'Amay - 1.5km at 6.7% average
114.5km - Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet - 1.2km at 7.5% average
123.0km - HUY (Mur de Huy) - 1.3km at 9.3% average


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