World Cycling Championships, Switzerland

Women's Road Race

Women's road race (100.8 kms):

 1. Barbara Heeb (Switzerland)       2.53.05 
 2. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lithuania)   	0.17 
 3. Linda Jackson (Canada)              0.37
 4. Laura Charameda (U.S.)              1:51
 5. Jolanda Polikeviciute (Lithuania) 
 6. Alessandra Cappellotto (Italy) 
 7. Jeannie Longo (France) 
 8. Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania) 
 9. Alexandra Koliasseva (Russia) 
10. Catherine Marsal (France)          all s.t.
11. Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia)          	1:56
12. Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany)       	3:10
13. Sigrid Corneo (Italy)              	5:18
14. Yvone Schnorf (Switzerland)        	5:30
15. Heidi van de Vijver (Belgium)      	6:29
16. Valeria Cappellotto (Italy)        	6:36
17. Diana Rast (Switzerland)           	6:49
18. Lenka Ilavska (Slovakia)           	9:00
19. Kerstin Scheitle (Germany)         	9:01
20. Marcia Vouets (Switzerland)        	s.t.

Race Report

Despite intense fog and constant drizzle, throngs of fans are lining the roads of Lugano, Switzerland as the women contest the World Championship road race. The 6 lap, 100.8 km race began right on time at 9 AM, and from the very first hill, Jeannie Longo of France started the attacks. After being brought back into the fold, Longo hesitated when Lithuanian Rasa Polkeviciute and Swiss rider Barbara Heeb inched off the front. Now, with approximately three laps remaining, Polkeviciute, Heeb and Canadian racer Linda Jackson are maintaining a 34 sec lead on a chase group captained by the powerful Longo.

Fabiana Luperini, the Italian racer who dominated the 1996 women's Tour of Italy and Tour de France, is suffering at the back of the race. Luperini, who dropped out of last year's World Championships in Duitma, Colombia, was hoping for a strong showing in Lugano. "I'm definitely tired after the Tours of Italy and France," said Luperini before today's start. "I'm looking to be in contention, however, and all the favorites have contested the same race calendar this year, so we should all be in about the same shape." While Luperini is strugging, a total of 41 cyclists have abandoned the race all together. The pace set by the leaders and the damp conditions are completely decimating the field.

On every uphill section Linda Jackson of Canada is falling off the pace set by her two breakaway companions Rasa Polikeviciute of Lithuania and Swiss rider Barbara Heeb. A tenacious competitor, Jackson has thus far managed to fight her way back to the front on the descents. Now, with just over one lap remaining, Heeb and Polikeviciute are accelerating at the head of the race and Jackson may have been dropped for good.

About to start the sixth, and final, 16.8 km lap, Linda Jackson of Canada is once again closing in on today's two leaders Lithuanian Rasa Polikeviciute and Swiss racer Barbara Heeb. Jackson continues to suffer on the climbs, but if she can stay within striking distance and then attack on the descent before the flat finish, Jackson could be a factor at race end. The chase group that contains Jeannie Longo of France is out of contention with a decifit of 1 min 43 sec

Approaching the half-way point on the final lap of today's 100.8 km women's road race, Barbara Heeb of Switzerland and Rasa Polikeviciute of Lithuania are charging toward the line with a 20 sec advantage over Canadian Linda Jackson and a 1 min 20 sec lead on the chase group. The 37-year-old Jackson is fading on the climbs but she is clearly the dominate rider on the descents and flats. The gold medal will most likely be played out between Heeb and Polikeviciute, but if Jackson keeps the gap down, she could cause a sensation at the finish.

With 5 km to go, Barbara Heeb of Switzerland is flying away from Rasa Polikeviciute of Lithuania on the course's steep grades. In just a few meters, Heeb gained 11 sec on Polikeviciute and 28 sec on Canadian Linda Jackson

Barbara Heeb of Switzerland annihilated Rasa Polikeviciute of Lithuania in the final kilometers of the women's road race and rocketed to the line after 2 h 53 min of racing to claim the gold medal. Polikeviciute rolled through the finish approximately 12 sec back to claim second and Canadian Linda Jackson held on to take the bronze.


Barbara Heeb gave Switzerland their first victory in the women's world road race championship on Saturday, and their first world road race title for 45 years.

She shook off her Lithuanian rival Rasa Polikeviciute on the final climb of the Crespera mountain after dominating the 100.8-km race.

Her solo ride over the final five kms put her 16 seconds clear of Polikeviciute at the finish with Canadian Linda Jackson taking the bronze, 36 seconds later.

Switzerland's last world road title came in 1951 when Ferdi Kuebler won the professional event at Varese, Italy.

Heeb's powerful riding ended the hopes of Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo, the Olympic road race champion, who was seeking her 12th world crown.

The Swiss woman escaped at the foot of the Canobbio climb on the third of the six laps. One lap further on she had a lead of 53 seconds and only Jackson and Polikeviciute for company.

More Reports

Barbara Heeb used to get into trouble for racing her bike.

But Heeb was receiving only praise on Saturday after she became the first Swiss woman to win a gold medal in the women's road race at the world cycling championships.

Once scolded by her parents for riding bikes, Heeb was urged on by thousands of her flag-waving compatriots as she outsprinted Lithuania's Rasa Polikeviciute over the final five kilometres to give Switzerland their first world road race title for 45 years.

Born and raised in the village of Herisau in the conservative half-canton Appenzell-Rhodes, where women only recently received the right to vote, Heeb's parents discouraged their daughter's interest in sports.

``My parents didn't approve of my interest in sports,'' said Heeb. ``But I've always wanted to be a sportswoman.''

When she was six, Heeb would steal her father's military bike and go for rides.

As a teenager she took a job at a local butchers, where she continued to work until just four months ago, to earn money to buy a bicycle because her parents refused.

In order to avoid her parents' disapproval and desperate to compete, Heeb borrowed her sister's bike and entered a boy's race under an assumed name.

It wasn't until Heeb met former Swiss cycling champion Edith Schonenberger in 1988 that she began to cycling seriously.

Two years later she was Swiss champion.

Until her win on Saturday, Heeb's career had been marked by only modest successes, finishing fifth in this year's women's Giro, seventh in the Tour de France, and eighth in Atlanta.

While bicycles have provided the 27-year-old Swiss with much of the pleasure in her life they have also been a source of tragedy, Heeb's mother having died in a cycling accident while running errands.

Heeb's victory allows the Swiss women to share in the unprecedented success of the Alpine nation's cyclists this season.

Pascal Richard led the parade to the podium winning gold in the Olympic road race.

Heeb's vctory was only the second for the Swiss in these championships which end on Sunday with the 252 km men's race.

Among the 177 starters will be Switzerland's Alex Zuelle, who led a Swiss sweep of the top three places at the Tour of Spain and won the world time trial on Thursday.