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Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale - 2.2
France, June 17-22, 2008
By Bjorn Haake in Gent
The Grande Boucle Féminine will offer a variety of terrain as it makes its way from Belgium to Italy via France, over 556.9 kilometres. From the rough cobbles in Belgium and northern France, the peloton will encounter mostly flat roads. However, once the race progresses towards southeastern France, the gradients will change, while the tarmac will be smoother.
The stage finish into Villard de Lans, which has seen the men's Tour de France in the past, is only the precursor to the showdown on the final stage. Then, the racers will head into Italy, not before passing the col D'Izoard. It is the high point of the Tour, at 2360 metres, but for some it may become the low point as they are desperately trying to make the time cut.
If the weather at the team presentation in Gent, Belgium, a day before the race's start, was a sign to go by then there should be good weather the next few days. Eleven teams gathered at the Vrijdagmarkt ('Friday's market'), with a couple of teams not there due to being delayed in their travels.
One who is neither afraid of cobbles nor of mountains is two-time defending champion Nicole Cooke of Great Britain. She said, "I like the mountains," and added to the chuckle of her team-mates "Cobblestones? It's all good!" The leader of the Swift Racing team looked ready to defend the title once more.
Even though Cooke sees the race wide open, the main rival to make Cooke's life hard is Priska Doppman from Switzerland. She was the winner before Cooke, in 2005, and finished second last year.
Another former winner is Diana Ziliute from Lithuania, but she admitted a win would be tough to repeat, stating, "It's true; I have won this race in the past," adding with a smile, "even though it has been a long time ago." The leader of the Italian Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan outfit took the honours in 1999.
However, for many, the race is a new experience and getting to the finish is all that matters. South African Yolandi du Toit said, "It's my first time at the Grande Boucle. I just hope to make it to the finish."
Others were still musing if their team-mates would even arrive in time. The three riders of the Chirio Forno d'Asolo team were still expecting a few members, stuck on a plane somewhere. The team features a rider from El Salvador, Evelyn Garcia, who confirmed that "Yes, there aren't many cyclists in our country, but the ones that are there are good!" With Lithuanian Edita Unguryte, they also have a strong time trialer in the mix.
However, it will be hard for anybody to get past Cervélo Lifeforce in the 40-kilometre race against the clock, scheduled for Friday. With Karin Thührig having won the time trial World Championships twice (2004 and 2005) she will be looking to gain some ground on the climbers. In addition, her Austrian team-mate Christiane Soeder not only won several national titles in the discipline, but also scored a third place in the World Championships last year in Germany.
This apparently wasn't enough gun power yet for the team's time trialling abilities, so a good week ago they hired former Australian Time Trial Champion Carla Ryan, who beat Kathryn Watt for the title in 2007.
Multijaca arrived with its Spanish road champion, Maribel Moreno. Moreno confirmed, "For the team, it is great to be here."
The Swiss National Team is lining up with a team that will feel at home later in the race, when the Alps feature on the menu.
One team that certainly will be looking forward to the cobbles in the first few days is Topsport Vlaanderen. They are much more at home on the rough Flemish roads than any other team. Another Belgian team, Lotto Belisol, features young rider Lieselot Delcroix, who is on the Belgian Olympics team. Flexpoint of The Netherlands should also feel more at home in the first part of the race.
All in all, there is a good mix of teams on a good mix of terrain and even though the race is now only a 2.2 event, there should be some great racing ahead in the next week.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Bjorn Haake/Cyclingnews.com
Swift Racing Cervelo Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team 1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) 7 Priska Doppmann (Swi) 2 Ine Beyen (Bel) 8 Sarah Düster (Ger) 3 Toni Bradshaw (NZl) 9 Carla Ryan (Aus) 4 Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Den) 10 Pascale Schnider (Swi) 5 Debby Van De Berg (Ned) 11 Christiane Soeder (Aut) 6 Helen Wyman (GBr) 12 Karin Thürig (Swi) Fenixs Topsport Vlaanderen Thompson Ladies Team 13 Natalia Boyarskaya (Rus) 19 Loes Sels (Bel) 14 Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) 20 Kelly Druyts (Bel) 15 Jessica Cocchi (Ita) 21 Karen Steurs (Bel) 16 Siobhan Dervan (Irl) 22 Katrien Van Looy (Bel) 17 Suzie Godart (Lux) 18 Nade˛da Vlasova (Rus) USC Chirio Forno d'Asolo Bourgogne Selection 25 Tatiana Stiajkina (Ukr) 31 Sylvie Gaillon (Fra) 26 Alessia Quarta (Ita) 32 Katy Bruchon (Fra) 27 Evelyn Garcia (ESa) 33 Elise Bazourdy (Fra) 28 Rasa Polikeviciute (Ltu) 34 Line Foss (Nor) 29 Jolanta Polikeviciute (Ltu) 35 Adeline Gourgin (Fra) 30 Edita Unguryte (Ltu) 36 Claire Maugras (Fra) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam Swiss National Team 37 Kim Schoonbaert (Bel) 43 Sereina Trachsel (Swi) 39 Lieselot Decroix (Bel) 44 Monika Furrer (Swi) 40 Yolandi Du Toit (RSA) 45 Bettina Kuhn (Swi) 41 Emma Silversides (GBr) 46 Emilie Aubry (Swi) 42 Grace Verbeke (Bel) 47 Fabienne Sommer (Swi) 48 Jessica Schneeberger (Swi) Pratomagno Colombia Multijaca 49 Evgenia Vysotskai (Ukr) 55 Maribel Moreno Allue (Spa) 50 Elizabeth Agudelo (Col) 56 Laeticia Gil Parra (Spa) 51 Karen Alice Doljak Hentscholek (Par) 57 Patricia Perez Gimenez (Spa) 52 Consuelo Gwynne (Chi) 58 Ana Ramirez (Spa) 53 Paola Munoz (Chi) 59 Rosario Rodriguez Gomez (Spa) 54 Marcela Rubiano (CRc) 60 Silvia Tirado Marquez (Spa) Team Flexpoint Debabarrena - Kirolgi 61 Loes Markerink (Ned) 67 Isabelle Moulis (Fra) 62 Elisabeth Braam (Ned) 68 Maitane Telletxea Lopez (Spa) 63 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) 69 Naiara Telletxea Lopez (Spa) 64 Bianca Knöpfle (Ger) 70 Saioa Olitc Caluo (Spa) 65 Adriene Snijder (Ned) 71 Inma Rafael Salas (Spa) 66 Suzanne Van Veen (Ned) 72 Itsaso Leunda Coni (Spa) Safi - Pasta Zara Manhattan 73 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) 74 Elena Berlato (Ita) 75 Odette Bertolin (Ita) 76 Alessandra Borchi (Ita) 78 Eneritz Iturriagaechevarria Mazaga (Spa)
2007 1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Raleigh Lifeforce Creation 2 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Raleigh Lifeforce Creation 3 Emma Pooley (GBr) Team Specialized Dfw 2006 1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling 2 Maryline Salvetat (Fra) Interregions Grand S 3 Tatsiana Sharakova (Rus) USC Chirio Forno d'Asolo 2005 1 Priska Doppman (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 2 Edwige Pitel (Fra) Univega Pro Cycling Team 3 Christiane Soeder (Aut) Univega Pro Cycling Team 2004 Not held 2003 1 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Bizkaia Panda Spiuk Sabeco 2 Nicole Brändli (Swi) Prato Marathon Bike 3 Judith Arndt (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung 2002 1 Zinaida Stahurskaia (Blr) USC Chirio 2 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen-T Interim 3 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Deia Pragma Colnago 2001 1 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Alfa Lum R.S.M. 2 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Edilsavino 3 Judith Arndt (Ger) Junkers-Noja 2000 1 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Team Alfa Lum 2 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Team Alfa Lum 3 Geraldine Loewenguth (Fra) French National Team 1999 1 Diana Ziliute (Lit) Acca Due O Lorena 2 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) Russian Team 3 Edita Pucinskaite (Lit) Acca Due O Lorena 1998 1 Edita Pucinskaite (Lit) 2 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) 3 Alessandra Cappellotto (Ita) 1997 1 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) 2 Barbara Heeb (Swi) 3 Linda Jackson (Can) 1996 1 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) 2 Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit) 3 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 1995 1 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) 2 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 3 L Zberg (Swi) 1994 1 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) 2 Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit) 3 C. Odin (Fra) 1993 1 Leontien Van Moorsel (Ned) 2 Marion Clignet (Fra) 3 H. Van De Vijver (Bel) 1992 1 Leontien Van Moorsel (Ned) 2 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 3 H. Van De Vijver (Bel) 1989 1 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 2 Maria Canins (Ita) 3 I. Thompson (USA) 1988 1 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 2 Maria Canins (Ita) 3 Elizabeth Hepple (Aus) 1987 1 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 2 Maria Canins (Ita) 3 U. Enzenauer (FRG) 1986 1 Maria Canins (Ita) 2 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 3 I. Thompson (USA) 1985 1 Maria Canins (Ita) 2 Jeannie Ciprelli-Longo (Fra) 3 C. Odin (Fra) 1984 1 Mary-Ann Martin (USA) 2 H. Hage (Ned) 3 D. Schumway (USA) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com