Feature: Women’s Tour of Flanders


Paul Burgoine writes about what it is like to cover the Women’s Tour of Flanders and talks to Lizzie Armitstead and Lucy Garner

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Paul Burgoine writes … Even in this day and age when thing are supposed to be improving, it’s hard, if not impossible to report on women’s racing. Once the race has started they are completely out of contact apart from over race radio which is not much use if you do not have one. You do however get some commentary at the finish line, but only briefly and usually while most people are watching the men’s race.

This is the problem with running the women’s race alongside the men’s. You may get the crowds but how many of them are actually paying any attention?


I did manage to get a pass for my car but as I would find out, unless you parked in the right place to escape and knew the roads, it would not be of any help, apart from making my tatty car look almost interesting and important. I opted to miss the start in Oudenaarde to go straight to the Molenburg climb. One advantage of that was that I was the only one there to watch the amateurs slipping around on a surface that could only be described as a cobbled speed bump running down the middle of the road and not across.

This combined with a greasy surface provided me with some entertainment at other peoples expense. The morning was bright and clear even the sun made a brief appearance, but it did not last and it was soon cloudy and cold as it has been since last July it seems. Being early, I had a prime location next to Emma Johansson (Orica AIS) neighbours from a town nearby ‘Zingem’.


The pressure was now on me to try and get some decent pics. The familiar sound of ‘Rodania, Rodania’ could be heard in the distance signalling the arrival of the race. The Molenburg was early on so there was no sign of a break but most of the favourites were on the front trying to stay out of trouble. They were right to do so as halfway down the peloton, girls were coming to a standstill or just riding into each other due to lack of room.

Once all the riders and cars had passed, I jogged back to the car to get to my next planned stop the Haaghoek a section of cobble’s that you descend into and climb out of. I soon realised that I hadn’t of rushed as they were now around ten minutes behind schedule. When they arrived, there was one lone rider about ten seconds ahead with all the main favourites at the front.


For some strange reason on both occasions, I never saw Marianne Vos (Rabo Women’s Team) as it was the gillet that threw me. After they had passed, it was my plan to get to the Kluisbergen but this is where my plan failed. I had parked too near to the junction and people had also parked in the middle of the road to completely block it and deny me access.

Also, by now there were a lot of girls being dropped from the main bunch so it took a long time to pass. The combination of those two things forced me to abandon my third destination. I headed back to Oudenaarde in plenty of time to get to the finish that was until I came up against the men’s race and was stuck although I did manage to get some pictures. Flanders is a long race but when it reaches the Oudenaarde area, it just winds itself around and around therefor making it difficult to drive from one place to another.



Lizzie (right) and teammate recover after the finish.

I did eventually make it back and parked up behind the museum in the main square nowhere near the finish. After being sent here there and everywhere, I finally got to the finish area. The race still had to go up the final climb and then it was ten kilometres or so to the finish, so ironically I watched the men’s race on TV that still had well over 100k to go.

This seems ridiculous if you have all the cameras in place and the men’s race is so far away why not show at least the final five kilometres of the women’s. We were however informed of the riders in the break. As they approached, it is only photographers with bibs allowed anywhere near the finish and we were herded into a tent where at least I could watch the men’s race (again).



A tired first year senior and twice world junior champion Lucy Garner finishes the race.

The first three riders over the line were quickly whisked away, I was waiting to try and catch up with some of the British girls Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans)) was first across the line and looked completely exhausted and next was Lucy Garner (Team Argos-Shimano) also looking pretty shattered. They went straight off to the buses so I had a choice.

Wait and have a chat with Emma Johansson(Orica AIS) and Marianne Vos (Rabo Women’s Team) or make the long walk to the team busses, they were miles away. I opted for the buses and there I caught up with Lizzie Armitstead still looking frozen and asked how she felt the race went for her “Yeah, it wasn’t too much of an aggressive race but we knew the race was going to go on the Oude Kwaremont so I tried to have good positioning at the top but I was just 50m or so short from the leaders”.

“There were five of us in our group, two from Boels Dolmans, one from Sengers and Van Vleuten (Rabo Womens Team) and Gunnerwijk (Orica AIS) and they wouldn’t work because they had riders in front.“



Lizzie centre of picture in Flanders.

I asked Lizzie if the weather in Europe had been affecting her she told me “It’s taking a lot longer to recover, you don’t get the same recovery rides after races because the weathers so cold. I prefer the cold rather than the hot but it takes a long time to get in your rhythm”.

What are your immediate plans now? “I am going to stay with a team mate in Holland and then we will be concentrating on energy work”.

I caught up with Lucy Garner (Argos-Shimano) after she had showered and got some warm clothes on. I asked Lucy to talk me through her race. “Well, I knew it was going to be a very tough race with all the top riders here. For me it was important to stay as near to the front as possible and for the first 70k or so I done that and was very pleased.”

“Getting near the front on every climb, the first few bergs were fine, it was more the long cobbled sections that really hit me then I just went backwards but found a little group to get in then we hit another long cobbled section then it split down again. I’m a little bit disappointed because my legs felt very good and when you feel good and still get dropped its disappointing. I’m very pleased to finish my first Flanders, that’s the positive”.

How have things been going with Argos Shimano? “Really good. It’s so nice, we all get a chance. I’ve got two weeks off no racing now so I will return to Holland then I will be going with the team to China to race so that will be interesting. So I’m travelling the world and doing what I love”

I think to follow a women’s properly you need to be either on a motor bike or with a team; you never know you might even be able to watch on TV one day.

1 VOS Marianne Rabobank-Liv Giant 03:33:21
2 VAN DIJK Ellen Team Specialized- Lululemon @ st
3 JOHANSSON Emma Orica – AIS @ st
4 LONGO BORGHINI Elisa Hitec Products UCK @ st
5 VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Rabobank-Liv Giant 02:37
6 VISSER Adrie Boels – Dolmans Cycling Team @ st
7 VAN DER BREGGEN Anna Sengers Ladies Cycling Team @ st
8 GUNNEWIJK Loes Orica – AIS @ st
9 ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth Boels – Dolmans Cycling Team 02:39
10 WILD Kirsten Argos – Shimano 04:33
11 MAJERUS Christine Sengers Ladies Cycling Team @ st
12 WORRACK Trixi Team Specialized- Lululemon @ st
13 BRONZINI Giorgia Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling @ st
14 CROMWELL Tiffany Orica – AIS @ st
15 BECKER Charlotte Argos – Shimano @ st
16 CILVINAITE Inga Pasta Zara – Cogeas @ st
17 BRULEE Latoya CyclelivePLUS-Zannata Ladies Team @ st
18 GUARNIER Megan Rabobank-Liv Giant @ st
19 DE VOCHT Liesbet Rabobank-Liv Giant @ st
20 D’HOORE Jolien Lotto Belisol Ladies @ st

97 GARNER Lucy Argos – Shimano


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