The 2012 road-racing season has excited from the start, with standout performances from a number of female cyclists. With all eyes on the Olympic road race in London on 29 Jul, and the Time Trial on 1 Aug, performance over the next few months will be more important than ever.
Riding for Rabo, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands leads the UCI Women’s Elite table. Breathing heavily down her neck in a close second place is German Judith Arndt, who rides for GreenEdge-AIS. The top five places are filled by Swede Emma Johansson (Hitec), German Ina Teutenberg (Specialized – lululemon), and Annemiek van Vleuten, who is also from the Netherlands and riding for Stichting Rabo.
The highest placed American woman rider is Amber Neben. The 37-year-old is in seventh place after her strong performance in Grand Prix El Salvador in March, where she finished third. Evelyn Stevens showed she is one to watch when she came first in the La FlÃˆche Wallonne earlier this month, raising her UCI ranking to 17. It was her first World Cup win this year.
Neben received automatic nomination for the USA Olympics Women’s Road Long Team as she has a top 25 UCI ranking. Robin Farina, Megan Guarnier, and Evelyn Stevens also received automatic nomination due to their 2011 performances.
Despite her relatively low profile so far in 2012, Pascale Schnider should not be underestimated. The Swiss National Road and Time Trial Champion’s sights are firmly fixed on Olympic victory in London. Schnider’s coach is in Sacramento, and Schnider is using American races as preparation for her Olympic bid. It is likely Schnider will be based in California for some time, as she has said how much she enjoys the climate and the cycling.
30-year-old Kristen McGrath (Exergy-Twenty12) is another US Olympic hopeful. After being hit by a truck in 2009, she lost the 2010 season to recovery, but has been a consistent finisher in 2011 and 2012. Her races this year have included San Dimas and Redlands, and she is currently training in Europe.
39-year-old Canadian Clara Hughes, who rides for Specialized – lululemon, is proving that age is no barrier to success, after finishing eighth in La FlÃˆche Wallonne in Belgium this month. She was one place behind Megan Guarnier.
Marianne Vos is the rider to beat this year. She is leading the UCI and World Cup rankings, and is the 3/1 favourite to win the women’s road race in the Olympics. Vos has ridden for the Dutch Stichting Rabo team since 2006. Not only is she a champion road rider, Vos has been the reigning UCI Cyclo-cross champion since 2009. The Netherlands is impressively strong in terms of women’s cycling, topping the UCI individual, national and team leader boards.
Although it receives a lot less attention than men’s cycling, women’s road racing is gaining in popularity. Female cyclists don’t receive the same level of pay that men do, so there is an added element of passion their riding. They have chosen it because they love it so much, and not because it will make them rich. Hopefully attention from the public and sponsors will continue to grow in future years.