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First Union Liberty Classic - CDM

Philadelphia, USA, June 4, 2000


1999 results     Results    Preview    Past Winners
Marion Clignet's report    Anna Wilson's report    Karen Kurreck's report 

Rossner too good for three in a row

By John Alsedek, cyclingnews.com correspondent

If there's one word that summarizes the First Union Liberty Classic, it's 'tactical'. In contrast to other World Cup events, such as the previous weekend's Montreal race, the course isn't quite difficult enough to provide a natural selection. Even the famed Manayunk Wall, at one kilometer in length, isn't quite long enough to shake loose a determined sprinter with a strong team, such as three-time winner Petra Rossner of Germany. Therefore, virtually all the top squads had a game plan that included numerous attacks and either a solo win or one taken in a small group - ANYTHING but a field sprint. Unfortunately for the likes of pre-race favorites Mari Holden (Timex), Diana Ziliute (Acca Due O), Pia Sundstedt (GAS Sport Team), and Mirjam Melchers (Dutch National), Saturn had their own game plan.

The seventh edition of the Liberty Classic started off fairly calmly, but didn't stay that way for long. On the second of five ascents of the Manayunk Wall, Melchers launched a fierce attack, and was quickly joined by Sundstedt and Ziliute. However, they were soon reeled in by Rossner's Saturn teammates - a scene that would be repeated throughout the race. Every time a breakaway formed, it was either covered or chased down by a Saturn rider, and with 'domestiques' like '99 World Cup champion Anna Wilson and former Liberty Classic winner Clara Hughes to handle the workload, Rossner had little to worry about but staying upright and near the front.

Still, nobody was giving this race up without a fight: on the third and fourth laps, the Acca Due O squad continued the attacks on the Manayunk Wall, joined by the aggressive Sundstedt and Melchers...and several Saturn watchdogs (Wilson and Dede Demet-Barry the first time, Wilson and Rossner herself the second) that neutralized them in short order. Compounding the situation was some bad luck for one of Saturn's strongest domestic rivals, the Timex squad. Not only was Tracey Gaudry still suffering the effects of an intestinal virus, but national time trial champion Holden was involved in a feed zone crash during the fourth lap, and another during the final circuit.

Still, as the women entered the final dozen miles of the race, there was time for one more stab at breaking things up, and the Acca Due O squad took it. Rasa Polikeviciute set the pace to the Wall, where Ziliute, Sundstedt, and Elsbeth Vink (Dutch National) went clear. However, all their work came to naught, as Wilson, Demet, and Hughes brought it all back together on the descent. Then came a flurry of abortive attacks by the British National Team and, with just two kilometers to go, GAS Sports' Gabriella Pregnolato. But as the women entered the final thousand meters, it became clear that it would come down to a field sprint, which #4, Petra Rossner won by nearly two bike lengths over former world champion Ziliute, with Ziliute's teammate Vera Hohlfeld finishing in third, while Sundstedt received some compensation for her aggressiveness by winning the Saturn Teamwork Challenge.

Marion Clignet's report

Howdy....our plane has been delayed for who knows how long. Coffee is horrible, we had to pay,once again, umpteen dollars for the bikes, were refused at security because of a hammer in our tool box, and I must say I am a bit sore. Started off as a fine day in Philly yesterday morning. First time I've ever shared a course with a men´s field (I've been trying to get the Tour organizers to do the same thing for some time now.) And it seems to please all!

Off we went at about 9:30 for 5 laps of the 23km circuit. I had done the wall once yesterday and wasnt really sure what gears to use. I had the 23 for bail out but power is a better tool for my lungs who cant seem to get it together with the heart and all when I spin too much up a steep climb. Right I was, first time up the 21 with a bit of pushing pulling and grunting on the bike. Had my eyes firmly on Pia Sundstedt as I was quasi sure she´d attack first time round. There were at the start of this race only 11 points between Pia and my team mate Diana Ziliute so our job was to keep things together as much as possible and be there to set up the train for a lead out.

As expected Pia went up the hill pretty stongly...I managed to hang on up front right along side Anna Wilson. Five of us crested together with Pia about five meters ahead when we took the turn at the top. We took the descent pretty hard, back on to the flat stretch and the ususal regrouping took place. There was a small bump before we hit the longer climb...I jostled to the front to tempo up the longer climb at a reasonable pace to keep anyone from attacking if possible. A nice descent was a good compensation, back to the flat stretch to jostle again for position up front for another short switchback climb. From there on to the finish.

Lap 2 and 3 were pretty furious. Pia´s Gas team from Italy attacked one after the other. Acca Due O´s Lithuanian Polikeviciute twins were hard at work at the front reeling everything in. I followed a few strong attacks by Gabby Pregnolato also of team Gas and one furious effort by Tracey Gaudry. As the Philly law would have it nothing would stick. Lap 4 things were a little...hectic.

I was on lap 4...The Gas team was attacking pretty strongly with all the while O Due and Saturn keeping things in tow for their respective leaders. What I couldn´t really figure out was why Sundstedt, in the running for the overall, was going for QOM sprints and not just putting all to the test on the longer of the hills. I was expecting her to go off like a bomb at any time.

Crossed the line as speaker Jeff Roarke rang the bell and announced (my legs were happy to hear) last lap. The pace was picking up a tad and the attacks seemed to have halted. The jostling for posititon to enter the series of turns that preceed the wall was as usual. I noticed Pia getting pushed to the front by teammate Pregnolato. As I tried to follow through the same hole it closed on me and I suddenly found myself rubber side up, my head thudded again, (crashed on Tuesday morning as well) and I thanked my helmet and covered myself for fear of upcoming bikes and bodies. From there still attached to a pedal I managed to pull out, make a quick body assessement: nothing broken. I wanted to hop up and take back to the peloton to lead out Diana for the sprint. We´d had an awesome train Tuesday night in Montreal and I really enjoy giving leadouts.

I Got up feeling like one of those cartoon characters who has a bunch of little birds flying in circles above their heads. My bars were rotated, shiftlever as well, and chain off. By the time it took to get it all together again the pack was long gone and my race was over. I climbed up the wall with crooked bars, blood dripping from my knee,shoulder, probably butt and back as well, deafened by the roar of partying spectators...and kinda thinking I should just stop and invite myself in for a beer.

I drudged on to the finish line quite a bit later to find that diana had kept her jersey and had taken second to 4 time winner Petra Rossner of Saturn. Must admit I felt a pang of sadness cause, well....Our leadouts are pretty good when were all there.

Anna Wilson's report

Yesterday we raced in Philadelphia - World Cup Round 4. For Saturn, this is about the highlight of the season - in the United States, fully televised and with crowds usually around the 700,000 mark. It is an awesome race to be a part of. We completed 5 laps of a 19km circuit with "The Wall" at one end - a steep one km climb. Apart from that, the course is a very fast one and it is always difficult to split things up much. Since we have Petra Rossner on our team, we were perfectly happy for the race to finish in a big bunch sprint and let Petra do her stuff. It is pretty well undisputed that she is the fastest woman in the world on two wheels!

We had a couple of nervous moments where we had to work very hard to keep things together. The second time over the climb, Miriam Melchers attacked and took off like a rocket. Pia Sundstedt and Diana Ziliute were with her and we were on the defensive. I started the chase over the climb but then Dede took over and singlehandedly pulled them back. The last time over the climb the same three got away, this time with a more decisive gap. This time it was Clara and myself that had to work to pull them back. Then it was full speed for the finish with some great attacks coming from the British squads and the trademark Pregnolato attack with 2 km to go. Dede and Clara controlled all those moves and so Petra and I went into the final kilometre with great position. With 500metres to go it opened up and Petra yelled "GO!!!" I gave it my all to the 200 metre to go sign and then it was all Petra as she blitzed the field to win by two bike lengths.

We were all totally ecstatic at the end - we had all worked so hard for the win and it was so satisfying to all be a part of it. Now it's off to Boise for the 11 day Hewlett Packard tour.

Karen Kurreck's report

The Liberty Classic is the biggest one-day race in the US and round 5 of the Women's World Cup. It is pretty much owned by Germany's Petra Rossner who has won it every time she contested it which is 4 out of the last 5 years. This year was no exception. This was the first year she raced for Saturn and she actually bettered her chances even more by having a strong team to support her.

The course is the same as always: 5x14.5 mile laps including the Manayunk wall which is a short (about 800m) but steep climb where some 50,000 spectators gather to party and cheer the racers on. They yell so loud you can't hear yourself breathe which is a good thing! All the top US teams were there as well as a number of European ones.

The race actually seemed slightly slower than in previous years. It was hard at the front and there was a constant swarming and fighting for position but it seemed a lot of people were resigned to a field sprint. Saturn was clearly riding for Petra and a sprint but I would have thought the rest of the big teams would have been more eager to get something away. Timex and GAS made some attacks on the flat sections, but it seemed the attacks were never sustained enough and nobody ever got more than a few meters off the front. Dream team (Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie) was riding for Diana Ziliute who is the current overall World Cup leader and I guess they figured even if she didn't beat Petra, she could place well enough in a sprint to keep her overall lead. They weren't letting anyone get away unless Diana was there.

The first lap was fairly tense as usual. The road leading into the climb narrows consideraly and there are 3 tight corners on cobbles and rough pavement leading into the climb so there is always a big fight for position the last few km before the climb. On the first lap, I made it to the top 10 going into the climb and I took the last turn at the same speed as everyone around me and thought I had a good line, but the instant I leaned into the turn, I hit the ground. I saw some other riders also go down in that turn and I think I must have hit a patch of oil. Lucky for me, a field of 120 riders makes a very long line when strung out on a climb!

I was able to get up and slot right in at the back part of the field. On the first lap, I knew the string would be unlikely to snap and I could still see some strong riders around me so I didn't panic. It did, however make me a bit more tentative in those turns in the next laps which is not such a good thing on a short climb like that where positioning is critical.

The only breaks that ever got any time at all went on the climb. Pia Sundstedt (GAS), Diana Ziliute (Dream Team) and Mirjam Melchers (Holland) went for the QOM and opened a gap on the field every time. On the 2nd lap, it was actually a good sized gap and they weren't caught until the bottom of the descent. The field was more attentive after that. On the 3rd lap, a group got away with the front 3, 2 or 3 other Dream team riders (Zita Urbonita and Rasa Polikevichuite), another Dutch rider, myself and Anna Wilson and Dede Demet-Barry from Saturn. Rasa nearly took Dede into the barricades on the climb just to keep her from closing the gap on Ziliute, Sundstedt and Melchers. It was pretty pointless since Anna and I just rode easily by Rasa on her other side. The Dream team with their numbers tried to drive the break for awhile, but Saturn was sitting on so I knew it would be short-lived and it was.

The 4th time up the climb, we had more or less the same combination except that this time Saturn was represented by Anna and Petra which completely nullified the break. I actually passed Petra in the last 3rd of the climb that lap and when I saw how comfortable she looked just spinning up the hill, I pretty much knew then that she would win the race.

On the last lap, there was a crash mid-pack a couple of km before the road narrowed before the climb but I don't think any of the real contenders went down. Rasa was driving the pace up leading into the climb, so I figured Ziliute would attack on the climb which she did, bringing Pia and Mirjam with her again. They got a decent gap but the field was all together behind them and as soon as we finished the descent, Clara Hughes (Saturn) went to the front and brought the break back with a bit of help from Anna.

The last 2km were just 1 big high speed swarm. There is the curve abound Ben Franklin Pkwy at about 800m to go, but other than that it is a straight shot down one side of the parkway and up the other. The peleton was probably 70-80 riders strong and it seemed that no team could really sustain a leadout train. You could be in good position one instant and then have 15 riders swarm around you on the side. The hard part about World Cup field sprints is that not only do you have the riders up front going for the win, you have everyone else fighting tooth and nail for 20th place and World Cup points. That is why riders like Rossner and Zuluite are so impressive - they are so consistent about getting where they need to be race after race, with or without a leadout train.

With about 300m to go, Petra took off into the wind and nobody else could even hold her wheel! She won by 2 bike lengths over Ziliute. Her fellow German, Vera Hohlfeld (Dream team) took 3rd. I was 26th which seems to be around where I usually end up in this race. I just don't have the skill (or maybe guts) to hold my position in those kind of sprints.

Probably the biggest team loss was GAS who was counting on their sprinter Greta Zocca who didn't crack the top 15. There were some long faces in the GAS tent after the race. Last year Greta was on my team and we were told to hold the field together for her the entire race which we did and she ended up 11th. It just doesn't seem to be her kind of sprint and although she has won field sprints in Italy this year, as well as stages in the Giro and the Tour but it has only been with a full team leadout train.

Karen's report courtesy of racereport@vcnet.com

Results

1 Petra Rossner (Ger) Saturn Cycling Team                   3.00.02 (38.68 km/h)
2 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie
3 Vera Hohlfeld (Ger) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie
4 Katia Longhin (Ita) Master Team-Carpe Diem
5 Megan Hughes (GBr) British National Team
6 Sarah Symington (GBr) British National Team
7 Tina Mayolo (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team
8 Elisabeth Vink (Ned) Dutch National Team
9 Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Dutch National Team
10 Karen Dunne (USA) Team Elita
11 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Master Team-Carpe Diem
12 Ina Teutenberg (Ger) German National Team
13 Vanja Vonckx (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team
14 Heidi Van De Vijver (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team
15 Yvonne Brunen (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol
16 Chantal Beltman (Ned) Dutch National Team
17 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Dutch National Team
18 Greta Zocca (Ita) Gas Sport Team
19 Marcia Eicher-Vouets (Swi) Master Team-Carpe Diem
20 Mariëlle Van Scheppingen (Ned) Dutch National Team
21 Veronique Belleter (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team
22 Melanie Sears (GBr) British National Team
23 Mari Holden (USA) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team
24 Trixi Worrack (Ger) German National Team
25 Carmen Richardson (USA) Sobe Headshok
26 Karen Kurreck (USA) Edilsavino
27 Anne Samplonius (Can) Canadian National Team
28 Jen Dial (USA) Proteus.com
29 Jennifer Eyerman (USA) Team Jane Cosmetics
30 Nicole Reinhart (USA) Saturn Cycling Team
31 Rosalind Reekie-May (NZl) New Zealand National Team
32 Cindy Pieters (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team
33 Vanessa Rochelle Cheatley (NZl) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team
34 Pia Sundstedt (Fin) Gas Sport Team
35 Cindy Bauwens (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002 Ladies Team
36 Chery Binney (USA) Proctor & Gamble
37 Pamela Schuster (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team
38 Marie Höljer (Swe) Swedish National Team
39 Ceris Gilfillan (GBr) British National Team
40 Mina Pizzini (USA) Proctor & Gamble
41 Rasa Polikeviciute (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie
42 Cassandra Ramirez (USA) Tri-State Velo-Amoroso
43 Nicole Freedman (USA) Charles Schwab
44 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Master Team-Carpe Diem
45 Sanna Lehtimaki (Fin) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team
46 Susan Carter (GBr) British National Team
47 Simona Parente (Ita) Gas Sport Team
48 Yvonne Mcgregor (GBr) British National Team
49 Anna Wilson (Aus) Saturn Cycling Team
50 Madeleine Lindberg (Swe) Team Farm Frites-Hartol
51 Erin Carter (Can) Team Elita
52 Odessa Gunn (Can) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team
53 Susy Pryde (NZl) Saturn Cycling Team
54 Emily Thorrne (USA) Proteus.com
55 Sarah Ulmer (NZl) Team Elita
56 Leigh Hobson (Can) Canadian National Team
57 Deirdre Demet-Barry (USA) Saturn Cycling Team
58 Julie Young (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team
59 Kimberly Smith (USA) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team
60 Nicole Gingles (Can) 800.com
61 Tracey Gaudry (Aus) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team
62 Kimberly Bruckner (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team
63 Annabelle Vowels (Aus) Velobelles
64 Andrea Rotkovic (USA) Autotrader.com
65 Zita Urbonaite (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie
66 Gabriella Pregnolato (Ita) Gas Sport Team
67 Roberta Bonanomi (Ita) Gas Sport Team
68 Tina Liebig (Ger) German National Team                    0.10
69 Kimberly Langton-David (Can) Team Elita
70 Judith Arndt (Ger) German National Team
71 Aileen Loe (USA) Jane Cosmetics                           0.18
72 Clara Hughes (Can) Saturn Cycling Team
73 Valeria Cappellotto (Ita) Gas Sport Team                  0.23
74 Annelie Chapman (USA) Jane Cosmetics
75 Lysle Wilhelmi (USA) 800.com
76 Annie Gariepy (Can) Team Elita
77 Susan Palmer (Can) Canadian National Team
78 Simone Klewitz (Ger) German National Team
79 Mirella Van Melis (Ned) Dutch National Team               0.58
80 Laura Shuford (USA) Autotrader.com
81 Janine Verstraeten (USA) Trek
82 Debby Mansveld (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol
83 Amy Jarvis (Can) Canadian National Team                   1.15
84 Kori Kelly (USA) Proctor & Gamble
85 Elizabeth Emery (USA) Charles Schwab
86 Darnelle Moore (Can) Canadian National Team
87 Bianca Jane Netzler (Sam) Samoa                           1.15
88 Chloe Black (Can) Canadian National Team
89 Gail Longenecker (USA)                                    1.22
90 Marion Clignet (Fra) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie            1.26
91 Katrina Berger (USA) USA                                  1.41
92 Laura Vangilder (USA) USA
93 Samanta Loschi (Ita) Master Team Carpe Diem               4.58
 
Saturn Teamwork Challenge Winner:

Pia Sunstedt (Fin) Gas Sport Team

World Cup Standings after 6 rounds:

                                                               1     2    3    4    5  TOTAL

1 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie                -    75   30   35   50   190
2 Pia Sundstedt (Fin) Gas Sport Team                           -     4   50   75    0   129
3 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Dutch National Team                   35    24    -   27    4   90
4 Petra Rossner (Ger) Saturn Cycling Team                      -     -    -    -   75   75
5 Geneviève Jeanson (Can) Canadian National Team               0     -   75    0    -   75
6 Anna Wilson (Aus) Saturn Cycling Team                       75     -    -    0    0   75
7 Ina Teutenberg (Ger) German National Team                    -    50    0    -    9   59
8 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Master Team-Carpe Diem                 0    18   21    4   10   53
9 Heidi Van De Vijver (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team        -    21   10   15    7   53
10 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Gas Sport Team                       -     -    -   50    -   50
11 Mirella Van Melis (Ned) Dutch National Team                50     0    -    -    0   50
12 Elisabeth Vink (Ned) Dutch National Team                    -     -    -   30   18   48
13 Cindy Pieters (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team             -     7   27    7    0   41
14 Chantal Beltman (Ned) Dutch National Team                   0    27    -    6    5   38
15 Yvonne Brunen (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol                 -    30    1    -    6   37
16 Tatiana Stiajkina (Ukr) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie           -     6    9   21    -   36
17 Vera Hohlfeld (Ger) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie               -     -    -    -   35   35
18 Fany Lecourtois (Fra) Team Alfa Lum R.S.M.                  -     0   35    -    -   35
19 Giovanna Troldi (Ita) Edilsavino                            -    35    0    -    -   35
20 Jacinta Coleman (NZl) Team Nürnberger                      18     5   11    -    -   34
21 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Team Farm Frites-Hartol             -     8   24    -    -   32
22 Katia Longhin (Ita) Master Team-Carpe Diem                  -     -    -    -   30   30
23 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Master Team-Carpe Diem                 30     0    0    0    0   30
24 Megan Hughes (GBr) British National Team                    -     -    -    -   27   27
25 Hayley Rutherford (Aus) AIS Australia                      27     -    -    -    -   27
26 Tracey Gaudry (Aus) Timex Women's Professional Cycling Team 1     -    -   24    0   25
27 Sarah Symington (GBr) British National Team                 -     -    -    -   24   24
28 Anne Samplonius (Can) Canadian National Team               24     -    -    0    0   24
29 Tina Mayolo (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team               -     -    -    -   21   21
30 Bridget Evans (Aus) Master Team-Carpe Diem                 21     0    -    -    -   21
30 Pamela Schuster (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team           -     -    -   18    0   18
31 Alessandra Cappellotto (Ita) Gas Sport Team                 -     0   18    -    -   18
32 Karen Kurreck (USA) Edilsavino                             10     0    8    -    0   18
34 Nicole Brändli (Swi) Swiss National Team                    -     1   15    -    -   16
35 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Team Alfa Lum R.S.M.           -     9    7    -    -   16
36 Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Dutch National Team                   -     -    -    -   15   15
37 Monica Valen (Nor) Norwegian National Team                  -    15    -    -    -   15
38 Susy Pryde (NZl) Saturn Cycling Team                       15     -    -    0    0   15
39 Simona Parente (Ita) Gas Sport Team                         -     3    0   11    0   14
40 Ceris Gilfillan (GBr) British National Team                 -     -    4    8    0   12
41 Karen Dunne (USA) Team Elita                                -     -    -    -   11   11
42 Marion Clignet (Fra) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie              -    11    0    0    0   11
43 Katie Mactier (Aus) AIS Australia                          11     -    -    -    -   11
44 Roberta Bonanomi (Ita) Gas Sport Team                       -     -    0   10    0   10
45 Sara Felloni (Ita) Team Alfa Lum R.S.M.                     -    10    -    -    -   10
46 Lyne Bessette (Can) Saturn Cycling Team                     -     -    -    9    -    9
47 Sandy Espeseth (Can) Canadian National Team                 9     -    -    0    -    9
48 Vanja Vonckx (Bel) Vlaanderen 2002-Ladies Team              -     -    -    -    8    8
49 Margaret Hemsley (Aus) AIS Australia                        8     -    -    -    -    8
50 Erin Carter (Can) Team Elita                                7     -    -    0    0    7
51 Elisabeth Chevanne-Brunel (Fra) French National Team        -     0    6    -    -    6
52 Miho Oki (Jpn) Japanese National Team                       6     -    -    -    -    6
53 Rasa Polikeviciute (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie          -     -    -    5    0    5
54 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Rus) Edilsavino                       -     -    5    -    -    5
55 Rosalind Reekie-May (NZl) New Zealand National Team         5     -    -    -    0    5
56 Mariëlle Van Scheppingen (Ned) Dutch National Team          4     0    -    -    1    5
57 Greta Zocca (Ita) Gas Sport Team                            -     -    -    -    3    3
58 Julie Young (USA) Autotrader.Com Cycling Team               -     -    -    3    0    3
59 Aline Camboulives (Fra) French National Team                -     0    3    -    -    3
60 Elisabeth Tadich (Aus) AIS Australia                        3     -    -    -    -    3
61 Marcia Eicher-Vouets (Swi) Master Team-Carpe Diem           -     -    -    -    2    2
62 Valeria Cappellotto (Ita) Gas Sport Team                    -     0    -    2    0    2
63 Daniela Veronesi (Smr) Team Alfa Lum R.S.M.                 -     0    2    -    -    2
64 Ragnhild Kostöl (Nor) Norwegian National Team               -     2    -    -    -    2
65 Kim Shirley (Aus) AIS Australia                             2     -    -    -    -    2
66 Zita Urbonaite (Ltu) Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie              -     0    0    1    0    1Preview

By John Alsedek, cyclingnews.com correspondent

Philadelphia is, at a total population of over 1.6 million, the largest city in Pennsylvania. It was the most celebrated venue of the Revolutionary War. Among other things, the Declaration of Independence was signed here, it was here that Betsy Ross created the first U.S. flag, and it was even briefly the nation's capital.

This will be the sixteenth year that Philadelphia has hosted the U.S. PRO Championship, one of the city's most beloved sporting events, and one that annually attracts crowds in excess of a quarter-million.

What's the word from the riders?

Kimberly Bruckner, AutoTrader.com

"The Liberty Classic, even though I've only done it once, seems like one of those totally classic races that you want to do every year. The entire city is behind it, and the crowds are amazing. It gives you a feeling of what it must be like to race in Europe. For the women, it's also a great preview of what is to come at HP (the Hewlett Packard Laserjet Womens Challenge), since the talent pool flies straight from Philadelphia to Idaho."

Mari Holden, Timex

"I always look forward to racing in Philadelphia because there is such an air of excitement around the race. It is one of the biggest races of the year as far as spectators, prize money, and competition. The crowds on the Manayunk Wall are basically having a huge party, and they cheer us on as we climb and suffer. It's hard not to get swept up in all the excitement!"

"This year, as every year, is going to have fierce competition. I think that everyone's eyes will be focused on Petra Rossner, since she has won this race three times. I don't think that there is anyone who would be happy about the race coming down to a sprint if Petra is still in the field- that is, except Saturn! I would look for the Dutch rider Mirjam Melchers to try a break, and also Pregnolato from the GAS team. Ziliute is still a strong sprinter and climber, so she could be happy with either a sprint or a break."

Peter Kukula, 800.COM

"The Liberty Classic is obviously the race to attend. With top European riders attending before heading to HP, the field is very strong. We are bringing a squad that is primarily a climbing group; the hope is that we can survive the Manayunk Wall and Lemon Hill climbs. If the race breaks up, we would look to have one or two riders in the lead group. Without a doubt, the danger riders are the Europeans, as well as Saturn's Lyne Bessette and Petra Rossner. Saturn really has a strong one-two punch in that Rossner can finish the race if she is in the final sprint. Bessette, on the other hand, will probably try to get a small group away on the climbs. Andrea Ratkovic could be a surprise as well."

Laura Van Gilder, Charles Schwab

"This will be my sixth Liberty Classic, and I must say it is one of the most prestigious and awesome races to ride for a woman. 800,000 spectators fill the course, cheering every lap. It is so inspirational as a rider to struggle up Manayunk each lap to the roar - you cannot hear yourself think! Smells of barbeques fill the air, and the crowd couldn't be more supportive. It makes you feel as if you could do anything, because of the rush of adrenaline from such an audience.

"The race has grown each year, and now that it's a World Cup race, it attracts many great international riders. Petra Rossner is always a threat and has proven beyond a doubt that she knows how to win this race. Karen Dunne from the U.S. was a close second last year and is eager to win. I believe Anna Wilson, Hanka Kupfernagel, Mirjam Melchers, Tracey Gaudry, and Mari Holden are also contenders. The racing this year has been aggressive and difficult, so there will be opportunities for many riders if they take the initiative...more often than not, this race has ended in a field sprint, which suits a rider like myself, but look out for a breakaway, since no one wants to give Petra another go at victory in Philadelphia."

Anna Wilson, Saturn

"Well, I think that, the last few years, most teams have treated the course as a sprinter's course and have worked for the team sprinter. However, since Petra keeps on proving she is near unbeatable in a bunch sprint in Philadelphia, I expect this year to be approached pretty differently. I have also heard that Philadelphia is part of the selection procedure for a lot of the Europeans for the Olympics, so I think you could see some pretty desperate riding as people try to secure Olympic berths. I am always wary of Ziliute for the Acca Due O team, and I am sure that the Dutch team will be well into the action. As for Saturn, I think we all gained a lot out of the Tour de l'Aude, and we are motivated for a win in Philadelphia. We have a lot of options for how to win - with Petra always being our trump card if no one succeeds in breaking up the bunch."

Past Winners

1999 Petra Rossner (Ger) German National Team 116.9 kms in 3.01.23

 

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