The difficulties which Emakumeen Bira went through last winter also affected its sister race, so UCI’s weird decisions were about to cause the disappearance of this event as well. The delayed answer from UCI regarding Bira’s World Tour category made most of the teams plan their calendar long before Basque races knew if they were even going to be held. This explains the absence of most of the top-teams this year. A real shame, as Bira is the oldest race of the women’s calendar (30 years with no interruption, a real performance in the sport) and very much loved by teams and riders.
Bira’s organizers have already asked for new dates in 2018 (plus access to World Tour status), a week after Tour of California so that all teams have time to come back from the US.
As usual, the Basque magic week starts on Tuesday with the classic Durango-Durango (UCI 1.2). The race, in its 16th edition, holds an impressive list of winners:
2001: Sara Felloni (ITA)
2002: Joane Somarriba (EUS)
2003: Joane Somarriba (EUS)
2004: Joane Somarriba (EUS)
2005: Mirjam Melchers (NED)
2006: Susanne Ljungskok (SWE)
2007: Edita Pucinskaite (LTU
2008: Noemi Cantele (ITA)
2010: Marianne Vos (NED)
2011: Marianne Vos (NED)
2012: Emma Pooley (GBR)
2013: Marianne Vos (NED)
2014: Marianne Vos (NED)
2015: Emma Johansson(AUS)
2016: Megan Guarnier (USA)
Durango is a hard 113 kilometre race where the best riders always take the win. Starting from last year, the race introduced a double ascent to Goiuria climb in the last 30 k, which has to be the judge of the race. Prior to that, the riders face the traditional 5 climbs to Miota.
Teams and favourite riders
20 teams are taking part, an interesting mix of top- ranked teams like Orica-Scott or Alé Cipollini and less powerful but always active like Drops, BePink, FDJ or Parkhotel Valkenburg. The Spanish squads will try to take advantage of the home soil factor and make a great racing, always extra-motivated to race in the Basque roads they know (and suffer) so well. Apart from the 2 UCI teams (Bizkaia-Durango– whose “mother” organization is responsible of the event- and Lointek Team) several Spanish junior and elite riders will hit the roads tomorrow with high spirits. Russian and Portugal national teams will be the 2 national squads on the start line.
As regards the favourites, Australian Orica-Scott has to be the team to beat. The Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten’s performance is a mistery, as she has been sick and unable to train last week. Nevertheless, she loves racing in the Basque country, she knows what is to win stages here and she is having a great season so far, so she has to be a wheel to follow. Her team-mate Amanda Spratt was 6th last year and this season she has proved to be an even better rider. Her sprinting abilities, if she gets to the final in a selected group, can be lethal. Another Orica who knows how to shine in Basque land is Katrin Garfoot, the all-rounder capable of anything.
Apart from them, keep an eye on Shara Gillow from FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope and Ann-Sophie Duyck, the Belgian from Drops Cycling Team.
The race starts at 15.00h. CiclismoFem will bring you all the action and fun if you follow the #Durango hashtag. Expect sunny and summerish temperatures tomorrow.
Shame on UCI. And aúpa Sarah, she will be racing at home (almost) :–)