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Fleche07: The Women Get Tough
On tap today in the Ardennes was double race watching with Velo Classic Tours – both the men and women raced Fleche-Wallone today under another sunny and hot sky, and PEZ is here…

After a leisurely 930am roll-out from our hotel in Durbuy, the VeloClassic van pulled into Huy by 1030 to see the pro ladies line up for their start and finish atop the Mur de Huy, plus spend the rest of the day seeing the men climb the Mur 3 times to their finish.

The medieval town of Durbuy makes a most picturesque base for the middle part of Velo Classic Tour’s Ardennes week.

Today is a World Cup for the women – and 24 teams, most with 6 riders, began arriving by 1100h. The atmosphere around the women is much more relaxed than the men’s teams, as fans and milled, asked for autographs, and generally gawked at some of the fittest women in the world.

• Veronica Andreasson of Team Bigla gives up a smile for PEZ-Fans everywhere. She’s Swedish, lives in Italy, speaks a bunch of languages – including perfect English… and she’ll be regaling us with her tales from the women’s pro peloton over the coming weeks. Her job today was to cover breaks on the first part of the race.

• Team USA takes the stage after sign-on, as one of several composite national teams here today. Kristin Armstrong flies the stars & stripes, while Brooke Miller cracks up at the announcer’s pronunciation.

• That Italian national champ’s kit looks darn sharp on Fabiana Lupirini.

• Team DSB Bank’s Marianne Vos is one of the last to the line… privilege of the World Champ’s jersey.

Ready, set… The women’s World Cup started today atop the Mur and runs over 104km, covering many of the same climbs as the men, including the finish. The ladies are all riding 39x25 climbing gears… which I can tell you is more than most of us could handle on this climb. Even her teammate Tanja Hennes agreed a 34t front ring would be better.

• Turns out that World Champs jersey doesn’t get quite the startline access you’d expect… as Vos rolls by at the back of the bunch.

People complain about the lack of coverage women’s pro racing gets – but when you’re in the press room, and the organizers don’t even have info on the race – like even when it’s about to finish… it’s no wonder it’s such a struggle being a female bike racer.

First to the top of the Mur is World Champ Marianne Vos – looks like being relaxed at the start may not be such a bad strategy…

• Veronica crossed the line some minutes behind the winner, as the tail end of the bunch was struggling in one by one. Look at her- she looks almost the same as before the race (I think she was just happy it was over...) The Mur had done it’s job and completely blown things apart. Her race went well - according to plan – marking breaks at the front. Even at the bottom of the Mur she said it was still pretty much together, and that she hit the climb near the sharp end of the stick… But that Mur is deadly.

Even after the super tough 3 hours of pro level bike racing, when other girls were rolling in with sunken eyes and sweat-caked stares, Veronica couldn’t help but smile for a few more shots - . And here I was looking for the ‘face of pain’… no such luck. She joked about an exploding gel that gooped up her jersey. She obviously loves racing her bike, and even the short time I talked with her today tells me we’re gonna like following the rest of her season.

PEZCYCLING is traveling with Velo Classic Tours through the Ardennes Classics - and you should too.


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