• Elisa Balsamo of Valcar - Travel & Service celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 7th The Women's Tour 2021 - Stage 6 (Velo)Source: Velo
Christophe Mallet hosted a daily live show focused on the Women's Tour with Gracie Elvin and Kate Bates, the trio coming up with some interesting insights into the race and the current state of women's cycling.
SBS Cycling Central

10 Oct - 4:41 PM  UPDATED 10 Oct - 4:49 PM

On the roads of Felixstowe, the beachside destination for Stage 6 of the Women's Tour, it was Elisa Balsamo (Valcar - Travel and Service) claiming a memorable win in her recently acquired rainbow jersey. The world champion saluted in style, then celebrated with the team, who she will be leaving for WorldTour squad Trek-Segafredo in 2022, making the victory even more significant.

"I loved to see the emotion at the finish from the Italians," said Elvin, nominating the win as her favourite moment from the race. "It was a fairytale ending for Valcar at the end of this season. I don’t think they could have hoped for such great results with the world champions in their team right at the end and their stage win. I loved to see the tears at the end and it even made me well up a bit."

Kate Bates nominated the solo performance of Hayley Simmonds (CAMS-Tifosi) on Stage 5 as her standout, the audacious attempt that saw her in the virtual overall lead of the race eventually brought to heel by the chasing peloton.

"It’s hard to go past that but I will. Hayley Simmonds, British 10-mile record holder – and her epic breakaway," said Bates. ''She got most combative for the Tour overall and I think that’s a pretty special thing for a local rider to win.

"I also want to say a farewell to Trixi Worrack, who bows out of cycling now with 47 pro wins. She won junior worlds in 1999, the reason I know that is that my sister was second. So that was many a moon ago and she has had an incredible career."

Overall winner Demi Vollering (SD-Worx) took out the victory easily after opening up over a minute's lead following the Stage 3 time trial. The 24-year-old claimed her first stage race general classification win of her career, which already contains glittering successes at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Course, with a strong series of top results in the classics and the Giro Rosa. 

It continues a trend of Dutch riders as the dominant riders in the women's peloton, with Vollering shaping as the next generation as riders like Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak plan their retirements. Elvin put her finger on the reason that has made the Netherlands into such an impressive group of riders, with suggestions for how Australia might help support female riders development.

“We can use the Dutch as role models, but moreso in that grassroots and development level," said Elvin. "It’s just that culture coming through, that culture of bike riding. Road racing is the biggest there along with cross. Their track cycling does really well at competitions, but there’s certainly not been as much emphasis there as there is on cyclocross and the road, which I find really interesting as it’s the opposite in Australia.

"I’d love to see a bit more emphasis on our pathways for the road cyclists in Australia. There’s no perfect way to do it, but it certainly makes a big difference to get help to go overseas and race as a young person."

There used to be a team that promoted the development of female talent, known under various names but most often as the women's road development team that acted as bridge between national level racing and European events. The program was disbanded at the end of 2017, one of Simon Jones' actions as the head of performance for the Australian Cycling Team. 

Women's road development lost in Olympics shadow
Cycling Australia (CA) has shifted the priorities of its high-performance funding, moving away from established road development programs to keep the focus on track racing at the Olympics.
Kennedy stars for development team in Ardeche
Lucy Kennedy got the chance to show off her climbing ability in the mountainous UCI 2.2 Tour de l'Ardeche, taking the stage win and moving into the race lead. Her win made it two from two for the High5 Australian womens development squad after the previous stage had been won by Jessica Pratt.

The team played a formative role in the careers of most of the elite contingent of Australian riders plying their trade overseas, with only recent riders Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB), Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) and Nicole Frain (TIBCO-SVB) managing to garner overseas attention through impressive local results since.

“I think we can use the Dutch as motivation as I think the Australian contingent can easily best them," said Elvin of a possible future direction for Australian cycling. "We have the talent, we just need a bit better support.”