Peloton Watch
 
  10 Observations From Opening Women's Classics  
 
  March 10th 2014  
     
  With the first week of the classics season underway and the first World Cup fast approaching here are 10 observations after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Le Samyn des Dames and Omloop van het Hageland.

10 Observations

Emma Johansson shows why she is World Number 1

She might not always win but is she is always there. Took 2nd at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, won Le Samyn des Dames and backed up with another second at Omloop van het Hageland. Was third at all three races last year and despite her already excellent record has improved in each. Her team was left outnumbered at times which is very unusual but the individual strength of Johansson cannot be avoided. Has arguably one of the strongest teams in the world to support her, it will take something very special to stop Johansson taking out the first World Cup round of Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe on Saturday.

Amy Pieters breaks through

Had a strong 2013 with 3rd at Tour of Chongming Island World Cup and Open de Sude Vargarda but Pieters has been the biggest revelation so far this year. Took a stage and 2nd overall at the Tour of Qatar and her strong form has continued in to the opening classics. Made the move at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and outsprinted Johansson and Armitstead to take the win. Followed up four days later taking 7th at Le Samyn des Dames. On a team with Wild means she will not necessarily be the protected rider but has already proved can podium in World Cups.

Lizzie Armitstead is back on top

After a hard 2013 Armitstead took her second podium of the year with a 3rd place finish at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after instigating the race winning move. Sat out Le Samyn but returned with another dominant performance at Omloop van het Hageland again making the main move of the day with Emma Johansson. Armitstead bested Johansson to take the win. Incredibly other than her National Championship victory last year it was her first UCI victory in two years where she had won here. After over 20 top 10 finishes last year the pressure is now off, expect Armitstead to continue to perform well.

Sofie de Vuyst surprises with three top 10 finishes

Spent four years with the Lotto-Belisol squad and last year with Sengers Ladies Team during which time she was consistently present in the classics normally in or around 20th, with several top 10s. Now on the smaller Futurumshop.nl-Zannata she has had more of a chance to step up and step up she has. De Vuyst has been another revelation of the first week of racing in Belgium. Made the main move but missed the final split at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but finished a strong 6th. Again making the main selection at Le Samyn taking the final spot on the podium in the uphill sprint. De Vuyst then wrapped up the week of racing with 5th at Omloop van het Hageland. With the only rider to have a better record across all three races Emma Johansson de Vuyst has made herself a real outsider for Ronde van Drenthe this coming weekend.

Wiggle Honda absent

The 5th ranked women's team has been largely absent in the opening three races. Their best result came at Le Samyn with Emilia Fahlin sprinting to 9th. The teams top finisher at Het Nieuwsblad was Charlotte Becker in 56th over six minutes back. Defending champion Emily Collins took 25th at Omloop van het Hageland but the team was again far from being involved in the action. The teams star rider Giorgia Bronzini sat out all three races and nobody else really stepped up to fill the void. Unlucky in some places with crashes but the other big teams managed to have some riders avoid the damage and involved in the final stages of racing.

Boels Dolmans dominant

Boels-Dolmans recruitment drive over the off season and the performance of existing riders has paid dividends. The team has been in the action in all three races. Armitstead took 3rd at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and they put six in the top 20. Van Dijk finished 4th at Le Samyn and Armitstead took the win at Omloop van het Hageland and they finished with Daams and Kessler also in the top 20. With multiple riders performing will be a big threat at Ronde van Drenthe with multiple cards to play.

Rabo

A team that counts World Champion Marianne Vos is always going to be expected to perform well especially when they also have names like former World Cup winner Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen on the team. The team hasn't disappointed with Van Vleuten taking 9th and two others making the main chase group at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Had Niewiadoma, Knetemann and Slappendel in finish in the main bunch at Le Samyn. Might have missed the podium but with three riders in the top 10 at Omloop van het Hageland the signs heading in to Ronde van Drenthe are promising.

Hitec's new recruits shine

South African Champion Ashleigh Moolman started her European campaign with 8th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and finished 2nd behind Johansson in the uphill sprint at Le Samyn des Dames. After giving the team a strong start Moolman was unfortunately taken out of contention in Omloop van het Hageland by a crash. The depth of talent in the team ensured they were still involved, with Audrey Cordon winning the sprint from a chase group for third after finishing in the main chase group of bunch in the previous two races. Elisa Longo Borghini has also given the team something to smile about with 8th and 10th at Le Samyn and Omloop van het Hageland respectively.

UCI Points Dilemma

Despite attracting the world's biggest teams and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad being run along side the men's race all three are rated 1.2. In comparison the three one day races in El Salvador the past week Grand Prix GSB, Grand Prix de Oriente and Grand Prix el Salvador are all rated 1.1. In itself the difference may seem unimportant but the UCI points on offer are double and are awarded to the top 18 riders instead of just the top 10 riders. Globalisation of the sport is important and having .1 races allows riders from American nations to chase points to qualify spots for World Championships. But when you look at the results many of the top 10 places are filled with riders from Rusvelo, Astana BePink and UnitedHealthCare. All teams with extensive European programs.

Crashes

As is traditional with many one day races organisers invite club and mix teams allowing riders to gain experience and race against some of the best. As has become common the first three races saw a number of crashes in the early stages including in the neutral zone. The fast pace and often narrow roads sees close to 200 riders fighting for position with everyone wanting to be at the front. While there is no question smaller club and mix teams should continue to be invited the safety aspect is something that may need to be looked at.
 
 
       
 © 2016 PelotonWatch.com