The Anna Millward Diary 2001

La Fleche Wallonne

Belgium, April 18, 2001

We've been in Belgium for 5 days now and today we raced World Cup #4 - La Fleche Wallone. The race was 94 km long and it is notorious for the final kilometre, which has a gradient of 20%.

Saturn had 5 riders in the race - Petra Rossner, Ina Teutenberg, Kim Bruckner, Anke Erlank and me. I went into the race on equal points in the overall World Cup standings with Mirjam Melchers of the Acca Due team. So if possible I wanted to beat her across the line so I would hold on to the overall lead. The whole team was prepared to ride for me all race, hoping that I could suffer up the last kilometre and place ahead of Mirjam.

There were about 100 starters in the race and they started fast with the Edil Savino team immediately putting the pressure on for their star, Fabiana Luperini. Ina and Petra planned to do all the early work for our team, setting a high tempo and covering any attempted breakaways so that I could sit back in the pack and relax. They did a fantastic job for the first 60kms of the race and no riders managed to breakaway.

At that point we hit the hardest climb of the race - other than the final one - and Ina and Petra's job was over. They handed the work over to Kim and Anke. A few teams really tried to split things up over this climb. Gas, Edil Savino, Alfa Lum and the German team all rode hard and continued to attack the climb, trying to reduce the number of contenders left at the top.

However, there was still a group of around 30 riders left in the group at the top. I was happy to have both Kim and Anke still there with me. Over the next 30 kms they had to work incredibly hard as the tempo began to pick up for the finish. Pia Sundstedt from the GAS team was particularly aggressive, trying to soften everyone up for her team mate, Zinaida Stahurskaia. I just sat in and looked after myself, saving everything for the final climb.

It was the Edil Savino team who really set things up for the finish. Right at the bottom of the final km, Boubnekova launched an amazing attack with her team-mate Luperini right on her wheel. No one could follow the duo and they instantly got a gap of around 100 metres. I was in the next little group, containing my closest rivals in the World Cup, Mirjam Melchers, and Zinaida Stahurskaia.

As we hit the steepest part of the climb I saw both of them begin to struggle and I knew it was time to go. I put in my best effort over the steep pinches and was rewarded to see Boubnekova blow up out in front and come back past me pretty quickly. Luperini was still 50 metres ahead and wasn't fading at all. I had a battle over the final 300 metres with Trixi Worrack of the German team. She had it over me until the last 70 metres when I kicked it up a gear in the last dash for home. I couldn't catch Luperini but I was overjoyed to be in second place, and well ahead of Mirjam Melchers.

So I still have the World Cup leader's jersey and the next World Cup isn't until June 2nd. Tomorrow we fly back to America and my next race is in Athens, Georgia, on April 28th.