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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, August 11, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Storms can't stop Cooke's single-minded focus

Britain's Nicole Cooke lived up to her favorite status
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

It was a moment of unbridled emotion for Great Britain's Nicole Cooke as she crossed the line in Beijing on Sunday. The Welsh rider let out a primal roar after out-sprinting Sweden's Emma Johansson and Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) to achieve her one and only goal for the season: an Olympic gold medal.

Her war cry might have been the release of tension built up during years of preparation for this moment, and many disappointments along the way which included a knee injury at the end of the 2007 which dashed her hopes of winning the UCI World Cup. She had pinned all of her efforts on one race – the Olympic road race – and came through with the goods on a day where extreme weather could have easily ruined any of the best plans with a crash or ill-timed puncture.

Cooke's final kilometre looked like it had the makings of disaster when she momentarily lost contact with the group of five other riders who held a solid 20 second lead over the peloton. But what appeared to be a possible mechanical or fearful braking in a sodden downhill turn was actually a calculated easing up in case a rider in front fell down.

"Coming into the finish, we told her to lay off before the bend and stay on the inside, in case anyone fell," said Team GB manager Julian Winn, according Cycling Weekly. "That was the only thing we were nervous about."

On the morning of Sunday's road race in Beijing, the skies were gloomy and a light rain began to fall – perfect conditions for a rider who hails from a country which sees its fair share of wet days.

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But by the time the race entered the final circuit, the skies had opened up into a full on downpour, making for a dangerous trip down the fast descent. Cooke and her selfless British team-mates, Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley, hatched a plan early in the year to win the race, and as is evident by the results sheet, it worked to perfection, despite Laws going down in a crash earlier in the race.

"Before the race we had a plan – a plan that went back twelve months – in terms of what we wanted to do today," she explained. "Sharon, Emma and I all knew we were good riders but our best chance of success was to ride as a team; it's an important part of the race. When Emma attacked she was going for her own glory, but it also allowed me to ride defensively, it allowed me to save myself and to put the other teams on the back foot and me in a good position.

"So I blocked for her and then she blocked for me in the end, I think as a team we rode a fantastic race."

Cooke will now get a chance at a second gold medal, as she and Pooley will take on Wednesday's time trial.

Favourites miss the move

Pre-race favorite Judith Arndt
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

The group of five which fought out the battle for the medals in the women's Olympic road race was lacking a few big names: notably former world champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands who took sixth a dozen seconds behind the three medalists, Christiane Soeder (Austria) and Linda Villumsen Serup (Denmark). The 21-year-old was a favourite for medals in both the road race, points race and time trial but missed out on the move that went in the final lap.

"It's not fun, but it's no disaster. There are two more opportunities," Vos said on rabosport.nl. "At the moment the decisive attack came I was not in a good way. It was not a mistake, but simply a bad moment. The five in front were the best on the course. On this course and under these conditions nobody can steal a medal. The best automatically rise above."

Athens gold medalist Sara Carrigan of Australia was disappointed to add "former" to her title. "Former Olympic champion – it's a little bit sad (to hear)," Carrigan said to AFP. "I felt good on the first climb but on the second climb I just didn't quite have it to go with the leaders, and that was my race over."

2004 silver medalist Judith Arndt did her part to try to bring back the escape group in the final kilometres, then trailed in more than a minute behind. Trixi Worrack was Germany's top finisher in 20th. Arndt said the deluge made the race more difficult. "I felt like I was a paddleboat," said the German. "I'm very disappointed. We wanted a medal."

The Americans had a strong team on paper, with Kristin Armstrong, a former world time trial champion, Amber Neben, the winner of last year's Route de France Feminine and Christine Thorburn. But bad luck plagued the red, white and blue clad squad throughout the race.

Armstrong was one of many to crash as the race entered the two hilly circuits, but got up and rode to her country's top finish in 25th. Neben was the best placed of the team in the finale, but dropped her chain just before the winning move went clear.

"The race was just starting to go hard," said Neben of the ill-timed mishap. "It was about time to set off the fireworks. Unfortunately, I wasn't there. It was hard to just watch the race roll away. I fought to try and get back, but when it goes hard and you miss it by that many seconds it's just too much. That's bike racing."

Amber Neben (USA) finishes
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The Americans were expecting conditions similar to what the men experienced on Saturday, but when cold, rainy weather took hold it did not work to their advantage.

"Our team is the best with attrition," Armstrong explained. "I think with hot, humid weather making the race hard from the beginning, it would have been the Americans' race. It's not very often we're in rain this hard and there were a lot of puddles on the road, so we were going through a lot of dangerous conditions."

Armstrong and Thorburn will get a second chance on Wednesday when they contest the time trial. Great Britain announced that Cooke and Pooley will represent that country in the race against the clock, and Vos will step in for the Netherlands after weeks of uncertainty.

Cancellara surprised with bronze

Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) put on a great last minute charge
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was a surprise name on the Olympic men's road race podium – it was much more expected to see the tall CSC-Saxo Bank rider atop the time trial podium on Wednesday. But while that scenario may still come true, Cancellara himself is pleased to have taken a medal for his country, even if it did come as a surprise.

"Bronze is definitely a nice and unexpected surprise. It really takes a lot of pressure of me before the time trial since now I already have a medal to take home from here," said Cancellara.

"At first I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to win, but I quickly realized that I did very well – better than I could have expected in advance," Cancellara added.

Cancellara rode across the gap on the final circuit to his trade team-mate Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), and Michael Rogers (Australia) like he had a motorcycle underneath him. He then helped drive the pace to bring this second group up to the leading trio of Andy Schleck, another CSC-Saxo Bank rider, Davide Rebellin (Italy), Samuel Sánchez (Spain).

Yet the affiliation of the riders outside of the Olympic Games had no bearing on Cancellara's decision to race the way he did. "I managed to ride exactly the right race. I believe I did everything right which was actually quite simple most of the time, since all I could do was follow the favourites' moves bearing in mind I had no team-mates.

"I saw I had to do something, otherwise I would not get up there. I knew that I had team-mates from Team CSC Saxo Bank up there, but you don't ride with your team-mates at the Olympics. I had to do it alone, which shows that I did very well today," he said.

Geslin to Française des Jeux

Anthony Geslin will leave the Bouygues Telecom squad where he launched his professional career to head to the rival French team la Française des Jeux for two years, AFP reported Sunday.

The 28-year-old sprinter took the bronze medal in the 2005 world championship road race, and more recently took sixth in this year's Milan-Sanremo in addition to his win in the Tour de Doubs.

He was not selected to race this year's Tour de France after contesting the previous three editions for Bouygues Telecom.

Rollin sneaks up on a victory

By Kirsten Robbins in Rochester, New York

Stage winner Dominique Rollin (Toyota United) with Alessandro Bazzana (Successful Living) and Charles Dionne (Successful Living) (l&r)
Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins
(Click for larger image)

Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United) timed his jump to perfection in the finale of the second stage of the UCI 2.2 Rochester Omnium Saturday, catching the lone breakaway rider Alessandro Bazzana (Successful Living) and then sneaking past the Italian in the final 400-metres to take the victory in the fourth annual Rochester criterium.

"I knew I could catch Bazzana," said French-Canadian Rollin. "But I didn't want to catch him right away just in case he sat on me and had time to recover for the sprint. I gauged my effort and tried to surprise him at the end – I had enough left over to sprint passed him."

Rollin moved into the lead of the race which is being scored as an omnium – with points for stage placings rather than cumulative time. He has 60 points ahead of second placed Ryan Roth (Team Race Pro) with 35 points. Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home) moved into third place with 29 points.

"It's a great day for Toyota-United," said Rollin regarding the team's stage victory and overall lead. "All the guys worked really hard to take over this jersey. With three guys well placed on GC, our jobs were to cover moves tonight. As soon as my break got away, our guys protected my lead and made sure we stayed away."

A winning break of eight riders escaped the field in the early laps of the criterium and gained a maximum of thirty seconds. The riders included Dionne and Mark Walters (Team Race Pro) along with Rollin, Bazzana, Tony Cruz and Martin Kohler (BMC), Luis Amaran (Colavita-Sutter Home) and Shawn Milne (Team Type 1).

Bazzana seized an opportunity to win the race when the break lulled with one lap to go. He gained an instant advantage on the group as he flew through the final corners toward what he thought was a win. Rollin sensed the threatening move and went after him.

"I really wanted to win today," said Bazzana who dedicated his podium to his grandmother, who recently passed away. "I wanted to sprint tonight, but when I saw the group slowed I decided to jump early – I really thought I had it."

Rollin controlled his effort to catch Bazzana on the last lap and surprise him on the last straightaway. "I knew I could get away from the others or win a sprint," said Rollin. "I accelerated and tried to bridge to Bazzana. I paced myself well and started my sprint with 400 metres to go."

Read the full report.

Teutenberg powers to prologue win

Columbia's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won the opening prologue of La Route de France Feminine Sunday, clocking the fastest time in the 3.2km prologue in the town of Dijon. Teutenberg's time of 4'33" put her in the lead by one second over Belgian Grace Verbeke (Lotto Belisol) and three seconds to Edwige Pitel (Team Pro Féminin Les Carroz).

"I've been trying to win a prologue all year," said Teutenberg. "I'm pretty happy because this was not actually the one I expected to win." The German sprinter has had plenty of success in road stages this season, taking triple victories in the women's Giro d'Italia alone.

"The course was really nice," she added."Fast roads with not too many corners and some little hills where you really needed to keep the pressure on." "Winning the prologue takes the pressure off a bit. We can relax now going into the first stage." Monday's first stage is a short and flat stage starting in Dijon.

Armstrong shows fitness in Leadville

By Gary Boulanger, BikeRadar.com

Former mountain bike cross country pro Dave Wiens won his sixth consecutive Leadville 100 off road race in Colorado Saturday, setting a new course record of 6:45.47, with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finishing second in 6:47.41.

With more than 1,000 racers participating in the annual event, the pressure was on from the beginning. Wiens, 43, took his place in the first row of the start line minutes before the race began. Wiens and Armstrong broke away from a lead group of 10 at the halfway point, and worked like roadie team-mates to increase their lead.

Armstrong, who splits his saddle time 50/50 with road and dirt, was yo-yoing with Wiens on the climbs and descents before acquiescing victory with 10 miles remaining. Wiens is married to Susan DeMattei, bronze medalist in the women's cross country at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Floyd Landis pushed Wiens to set a course record in 2007, finishing second.

Olympians return to Olympic course in Sydney

Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion Ben Kersten, missing out on competing in Beijing Games following the elimination of the kilometre time trial from the Olympic Games program, will now compete in the Ride for Life at Centennial Park as his comeback race on Sunday 17 August.

Kersten, after missing the final selection to China in a race off against Shane Kelly, has been recuperating from a back ailment and will be using the race around Centennial Park to focus more attention on his road cycling career.

The Wollongong flyer and triple world junior champion will be a little short on race condition, but the new 1.9 kilometre circuit in the centre of Centennial Parklands should be well suited to the track star that has claimed numerous titles throughout the world.

Kersten, who represented at Athens and then defeated two Olympic champions to claim the Commonwealth Games kilometre title in Melbourne in 2006, is undecided as to which race to contest – the featured Aces event over 36 kilometres or the corporate race over 24 kilometres.

Ben said "I would obviously have preferred competing in Beijing but I am a founding ambassador of the Ride for Life along with Athens Olympic Games gold medallist Steve Wooldridge and it will be good to compete on part of the 2000 Olympic course."

Kersten will receive plenty of encouragement from Wooldridge, who has retired from international racing after winning four world titles and Olympic title, who will officially start the race, four years after having won his Olympic gold. The Corporate race is taking on a Tour de France look with teams from CSC, Halifax/Saxo Bank, Shimano amongst some of the starters.

The event is pretty much the biggest promotion for cycling in NSW with not just professional races, Olympic champions involved in a variance of races, the corporate event as well as a family fun ride at 2pm on the closed course completing the day.

A big feature on the day will be the Bicycle Trade show featuring 20 of Australia's leading suppliers displaying the latest equipment in a free show to the cycling enthusiasts. The entertainment is also of great quality with the Navy Jazz band and John Morrison Swing City the featured bands on the day and with jumping castles, face painters and magicians – it will be a great day for the family. Food and refreshments will also be available.

The Ride for Life, sponsored by Trust Company, has been staged for the past four years, is an event that plays host to leading cyclists of NSW and Australian road cyclists, corporate cyclists and this year a Tafe relay challenge event and has raised in excess of $200,000 for the Prince of Wales Oncology.

The Cancer centre has been dedicating the funds to a survivorship program for cancer survivors, a way of improving quality of life after treatment. Professor Michael Friedlander, the head of Prince of Wales Cancer Centre, will be donning the lycra to take part in the ride and has been full of praise for the funds raised.

The Ride for Life was initiated by Rick Christie, a lawyer that is a cancer survivor and he has been joined by others keen to enhance recovery for those that have suffered from this disease. The race launch at Parliament House attracted 290 people, raised a further $45,000 for the Prince of Wales Oncology and was attended by Hon Reba Meagher, Minister for Health and Hon Kevin Greene, Minister for Community Services.

For further info contact Phill Bates AM, 0419127189 or email pbates@cycleclassic.com.au

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