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A quick chat with Susanne Ljungskog

Grand Boucle final stage winner

Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog came within 33 seconds of winning this year's Grand Boucle Féminine, which concluded with a 7.4 km time trial in Paris on Sunday. Ljungskog, riding for the Vlaanderen-T Interim team, won the stage but only made up two seconds on eventual GC winner Zinaida Stahurskaia. She spoke with Cyclingnews correspondent Gabriella Ekström about the win, what it means for Swedish cycling, and also about Ljungskog's short term future.

Blissfully happy
Photo: © AFP
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Susanne Ljungskog is blissfully happy when I reach her on the phone. "Tunnel," she comments when the line nearly disconnects. Ironically, a cyclists life is all about transport, and not always on a bike.

Female cyclists and their whereabouts doesn't always stop the presses in Sweden, but during this year's Tour de France, both Madeleine Lindberg and Susanne Ljungskog earned their ten seconds in the daily sports programmes. Susanne climbed up to second overall last Tuesday, on the second of the two stages ridden that day.

"My goal was top three, but when I got second I started to think about the premier position," Ljungskog figured. "Of course I was really content with second, but it was only 30 seconds between me and Zinaida. I had a good chance of taking over the lead, but Zinaida is a really good and strong cyclist. I can honestly say that I've done everything I could to close that final gap, but she was too good."

When the final, short time trial in Boulogne, Paris started this morning, Ljungskog was 35 seconds after Stahurskaia, and it was her final attempt to reach the jersey.

"It was a short and flat course with very few corners, typically done in 9,5 minutes. I went out for a ride before the stage and I felt good. I knew before the start that I had a chance. There was still a possibility for me to reach her."

Finishing fast
Photo: © CN
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Ljungskog did beat Stahurskaia in the final stage, but only by a mere two seconds meaning that the Bielorussian won the two week tour by 33 seconds.

"I hope this is what it takes to get more Swedish girls into this sport. It's a hard sport, and maybe it is not interesting enough. Hopefully something like this can change that a bit," Ljungskog commented about the vague interest her sport gets in her home country, despite the facts that Swedish female riders have won stages in Tour de France as well as World Cup races and medals in World Championships in the last couple of years.

When mentioning the World's, the great fight of the 2000 World's comes to mind. Ljungskog was accused of riding against her own team, and despite the fact that Lindberg managed to win the bronze medal in a sprint, Ljungskog got suspended from the national team, that normally only gathers for the World's. Part of the guilt was blamed on the manager for the national team, and just recently, former pro rider Glenn Magnusson took over the position as manager.

"He came down to France to meet up with us, and we appreciate that a lot. It feels good that he takes the time to come and see us and check out how things are. He is pretty fresh in this role, I only learned about it in June, but it feels good. It is just what our little team needs!"

Susanne will leave France for Sweden on Monday, but there will be no great amount of time for celebration and relaxation, since two World Cup races and an Italian stage race are on her schedule before the World's in Zolder.

"The Tour was no biggest goal this season, but the World's is a big and important race as well. I feel really strong and my confidence has really been boosted by this."

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