The world's top women's racers showed off their incredible strength and skill at The Women's Tour last week, José Been and Sarah Connolly tell us all about the top riders in the peleton.
In part 1 of the review of The Women's Tour, women's cycling guru Sarah Connolly told us all about the impact the race will have on the women's professional scene. This time out, joined by José Been, Sarah helps us break down the big riders of the Tour and if anyone can match up with Marianne Vos.
"A man among the women"
It is impossible to talk about the pinnacle of women's cycling without mentioning the world's best. Rabo Liv rider Marianne Vos is arguably the best rider in the world, regardless of gender.
The Dutch-woman was ever-present in the Women's Tour (as she has been for most of the last 3 years), not finishing outside the top three in any of the five stages en-route to the Yellow Jersey. But how good is Marianne Vos?
"Marianne Vos is a man among the women. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. It you see her test results, maximum watts and that stuff, she was up there with the Rabobank men a few years back," José Been said. "She is a smart and tactical racer, has a great team with top athletes on their own right but most of all she is incredibly strong."
Connolly was equally praising of Vos' ability on the bike and character off it, "She is special on and off the bike. You genuinely cannot find a rider with a bad word to say about her. She just loves to ride. She is like some kind of centaur... Half woman, half bike."
"The thing that is so great about Vos she showed this week. One of the stages her team mate was out in the breakaway and Vos would have been genuinely happy if her team mate won and overtook her in the GC. That makes things difficult for other teams," Connolly continued.
Vos' cyclocross riding gives her excellent power and bike handling, as you can tell from the video below of the sprint during the 2013 Giro Rosa.
Where to start? The British girls definitely did themselves justice racing in their home country, giving the home crowds something to cheer. After taking home the "Best British rider" from the tour, Connolly told us all about how good a prospect 19-year-old Lucy Garner really is.
"Lucy is a two-time world champion, she has been learning from the world’s best in the last few years. All her results and her top 10 finish is amazing. The race on stage two went right past her house and everybody in her village was on the roadside cheering her."
Connolly continued her praise of Garner's ability to step up from junior level racing, "It is a very hard jump for women from juniors to senior racing. One day you are riding at junior level and the next season you are out there racing Marianne Vos and Emma Johansson. Lucy told me recently that she found it very hard to step up and found it quite mentally hard to step up. This result is going to give her such an ego boost. Now she knows she can do it against these superb riders."
Been was equally praising of Garner and her young compatriot Hannah Barnes, "Hannah Barnes and Lucy Garner are great riders and great ambassadors for the sport. The amount of attention they got from young British girls was great and bound to result in the buying of a race bike or two. Both have a very good bunch kick. Over the years their power will match the absolute top riders, no doubt"
Hannah Barnes set the British domestic Criterium circuit alight last year, seemingly winning every week, resulting in her being picked up by United Healthcare for the 2014 season. Barnes moved to America and has impressed in the USA Crit series. " She was a big surprise for the USA, because they didn’t realise what they were getting," Connolly said.
Elsewhere, Olympic heroes Laura Trott and Dani King put in good rides to help set up Wiggle Honda teammate Giorgia Bronzini to go for stage wins and Lizzie Armitstead unfortunately had to retire from the race because of illness.
One of the surprise British packages was Sharon Laws, who took home the Queen of the Mountains competition. "Sharon Laws winning Queen of the Mountains is my favourite result," Connolly said. "Last year, she had a hideous accident. She broke ribs, vertebrae. She broke hundreds of bones in this crash in March in South Africa. British Cycling wouldn’t take her to the worlds. She had a really bad year. She told me she kept going because she “didn’t want to give up with bad memories”.
Who can break the Vos dominance?
Marianne Vos is indisputable the strongest rider on the women's circuit right now. But who can challenge her dominance?
Both Been and Connolly mentioned stage one winner Emma Johannson as someone "closing in" on Vos. "It was so good for Emma Johansson to win stage 1. She is a couple of years older than Vos and everything she is best at, Vos is a little bit better than her. For Emma to out-sprint Marianne like that is a great confidence boost," Connolly analysed.
Elisa Longo Borghini is another name on the lips as a future star. The 22-year-old Italian has had some impressive results in her early career and would have been a favourite for last year's Giro Rosa, but for a crash that broke her hip at the National Championships.
With a number of young riders coming to the fore, including the likes of Rosella Ratto (20), Garner (19) and Armitstead (25), women's racing looks poised to be intriguing for years to come as the young guns try and knock Vos off the top spot.