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4th Primavera Rosa - CDM
Italy, March 23, 2002
Crashes can't stop Mirjam's progress
By Gerard Knapp
No longer the bridesmaid is Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol), the classy Dutch rider who took out the 2002 Primavera Rosa in a frantic sprint to the line from a group of 20 finishers, including former world champion Diana Ziliute (Ltu).
As the tired field came into the final stretch in San Remo, it was - ironically - a Dutch rider from the Italian Acca Due O-Lorena Camice team, Chantal Beltman, who was looking to set up the sprint for her Lithuanian team-mate Ziliute. But Melchers came around both of them and stepped on the gas 200 metres from the line and never looked back, finishing about five bike lengths clear of Ziliute, who took second with Beltman third.
"Finally I've got one!" Melchers exclaimed to Cyclingnews shortly after her dramatic win. The Primavera rosa is the first World Cup victory for the Dutch rider, who so often graces the podium of World Cup races, but never before from the top step. Indeed, last year, Melchers came second in the first three World Cup races of the year. This year, it was third in round one, a top ten in round two, second overall in the Tour de Snowy - it looked like a pattern was forming.
Even in today's race, it hardly went her way. "It was a really nervous race with the wind from the back and there were a lot of crashes. I also crashed just 30kms into the race," she said.
Melchers hit the deck after a rider in front of her ran wide on a tight corner and clipped her front wheel. The fall injured her leg, knee
and hip, while the damage to her bike required a bike change. Then came the hard work to fight her way back through the cars to rejoin the peloton, but today her team-mates were there for her, including Leontien van Moorsel, who Melchers said offered "fantastic" support.
"Today I had a really great team. She (van Moorsel) was on the front and got me into a really good position before the start of the Poggio", the final short sharp climb which invariably creates a selection due to its narrow corners and then the following descent before the run into San Remo.
Melchers is probably the best climber among the fast finishers of the elite women's peloton, as she demonstrated once again this year by single-handedly leading the mountainous Tour De Snowy for much of that race, until being isolated and gapped in the final criterium by a by a dominant Saturn squad.
But the Primavera Rosa is no criterium and Melchers used her climbing skills to maintain good position in the bunch, descended well to stay at the front of the field, and avoided yet another crash only one kilometre from the finish. This crash involving a French rider took out the current leader of the Women's World Cup, Petra Rossner (Saturn-Timex), who certainly would have been hard to beat had she made it to the line unscathed. Although Rossner wasn't injured in the crash, her front wheel was so badly damaged she could not continue and finish the race.
"I heard the crash behind me and I don't know who was involved, but I could really smell the finish and just kept going." As the field approached the line, the speed of the race had taken its toll - "I think everyone was feeling it a bit, including me" - but Melchers could still pull out and come around Ziliute and co to take a highly-deserved win.
Melchers also praised her team-mates for their work in helping her rejoin the peloton after her crash and then helping her maintain good bunch position as the field hit the climbs. As for her illustrious team-mate, triple Olympic gold medallist Leontien van Moorsel, Melchers said "she was fantastic today, riding at the head of the group and helping me into a good position". Van Moorsel herself apparently preferred to leave the dangerous descents to the favourites and dropped back after doing her work for Melchers, an effort which many would claim is well overdue for Melchers' selflessness during the Sydney Olympics road race, where she did more than her share of the lead-up work for van Moorsel.
Today, however, Melchers was finally able to show what many have known she is capable of, particularly when she doesn't have to win the race on her own. A crash couldn't stop justice finally coming her way.
As for the injuries, "I think my hip has already started to turn blue, and my knee and leg are also hurting, but that doesn't matter now. This makes up for it," she said of her inaugural World Cup victory.
1 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol 2.55.31 (40.338 km/h) 2 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 3 Chantal Beltman (Ned) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 4 Virginie Moinard (Fra) Federazione Francese 0.02 5 Andrea Bosman (Ned) Power-Plate - Bik 6 Luisa Tamanini (Ita) Team 2002 7 Vera Carrara (Ita) Itera Team 8 Tanja Schmidt-Hennes (Ger) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 9 Nicole Brandli (Swi) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 10 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen - T - Interim 0.09 11 Sylvie Riedle (Fra) C.A. Mantes La Ville 78 12 Simona Parente (Ita) Edilsavino 13 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Rus) Edilsavino 14 Alessandra Cappellotto (Ita) Power-Plate - Bik 15 Theresa Senff (Ger) Federazione Tedesca 16 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spa) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 0.14 17 Rasa Polikeviciute (Ltu) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 18 Zinaida Stahurskaia (Blr) Usci Chirio 19 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) Federazione Russa 20 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 21 Cindy Pieters (Bel) Vlaanderen - T - Interim 22 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Figurella Dream Team 23 Daniela Veronesi (Smr) Edilsavino 24 Aline Camboulives (Fra) Federazione Francese 25 Margaret Hemsley (Aus) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 26 Marianna Lorenzoni (Ita) Team Aliverti 27 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Edilsavino 0.17 28 Tina Liebig (Ger) Federazione Tedesca 0.25 29 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) Usci Chirio 0.27 30 Simone Trafelet (Swi) Federazione Svizzera 31 Bridget Evans (Aus) C.A. Mantes La Ville 78 32 Sandra Wampfler (Swi) C.A. Mantes La Ville 78 0.29 33 Heidi Van De Vijver (Bel) Vlaanderen - T - Interim 34 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Federazione Svizzera 35 Leontien Van Moorsel (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol 36 Kym Shirley (Aus) Itera Team 0.33 37 Miho Oki (Jpn) C.A. Mantes La Ville 78 0.42 38 Hayley Rutherford (Aus) Federazione Australiana 0.51 39 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 40 Joulia Martissova (Rus) Federazione Russa 1.01 41 Giovanna Troldi (Ita) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 42 Serena Cavicchi (Ita) Team Aliverti 43 Katia Longhin (Ita) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 44 Olga Slyusareva (Rus) Federazione Russa 45 Melanie Sears (GBr) Federazione Inglese 46 Barbara Lancioni (Ita) Itera Team 47 Arenda Grimderg (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol 48 Susan Carter (GBr) Federazione Inglese 49 Elizabeth Tadich (Aus) Federazione Australiana 50 Marcia Eicher (Swi) C.A. Mantes La Ville 78 51 Rhonda Quick (USA) Figurella Dream Team 52 Olga Zabelinskaia (Rus) Federazione Russa 53 Roberta Bonanomi (Ita) Figurella Dream Team 54 Alison Wright (Aus) Federazione Australiana 55 Wenche Stensvold (Nor) Team Sponsor Service 56 Naomi Williams (Aus) Federazione Australiana 57 Lisbeth Simper (Den) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox 58 Letizia Giardinelli (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini Record R 1.05 59 Lucille Hunkeler (Ita) Usci Chirio 1.09 60 Sophie Creux (Fra) Federazione Francese 1.15 61 Jenny Algelid-Bengtsson (Swe) Equipe Nurnberger Versic 1.22 62 Noemi Cantele (Ita) Acca Due O Pasta Zara Lorena 1.24 63 Elisabeth Chevanne-Brunel (Fra) C.A. Mantes La Ville 7 1.31 64 Monica Valen (Nor) Team Sponsor Service 1.32 65 Rosa Maria Bravo Soba (Spa) Federazione Spagnola 66 Silvia Parietti (Ita) Figurella Dream Team 67 Catherine Marsal (Fra) Saturn Cycling Team 68 Svetlana Samokhalova (Rus) Federazione Russa 69 Sara Felloni (Ita) Edilsavino 1.36 70 Helga Faccin (Ita) Usci Chirio 1.42 71 Teodora Ruano Sanchon (Spa) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 72 Pia Sundstedt (Fin) Team Sponsor Service 73 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) Itera Team 74 Corine Hierckens (Bel) Power-Plate - Bik 1.50 75 Fany Lecourtois (Fra) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 2.21 76 Rosalisa Lapomarda (Ita) Team 2002 77 Marta Vilajosanna Andreu (Spa) Team Aliverti 2.22 78 Katherine Bates (Aus) Ondernemers Van Nature 2.50 79 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Ondernemers Van Nature 80 Sonja Traxel (Swi) Federazione Svizzera 3.18 81 Regina Schleicher (Ger) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox 4.32 82 Francesca Castrucci (Ita) Team Aliverti 83 Denise Baumann (Swi) Federazione Svizzera 84 Liane Bahler (Ger) Federazione Tedesca 85 Olivia Gollan (Aus) Federazione Australiana 86 Goulnara Ivanova (Rus) Usci Chirio 87 Sandra Rombouts (Ned) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 88 Sara Carrigan (Aus) Federazione Australiana 89 Debby Mansveld (Ned) Vlaanderen - T - Interim 90 Alexandra Le Henaff (Fra) Federazione Francese 91 Eneritz Iturriaga (Spa) Deia-Pragma-Colnago 92 Montserrat Alonso Bernal (Spa) Federazione Spagnola 93 Sara Symington (GBr) Federazione Inglese 94 Vera Hohlfeld (Ger) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 95 Tania Belvederisi (Ita) Power-Plate - Bik 96 Alexandra Mohles (Ned) Power-Plate - Bik 97 Monica Ceccon (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox 6.18 98 Elena Tchalykh (Rus) Federazione Russa 6.42 99 Luisa Palagi (Ita) Usci Chirio 100 Jorunn Kvalo (Nor) Team Sponsor Service 101 Asa Hagber (Swe) S.C. Michela Fanini Record Rox 102 Mercedes Cagigas Amedo (Spa) Federazione Spagnola 8.34 103 Kirsty Nicole Robb (NZl) Team Farm Frites-Hartol
1 Petra Rossner (Ger) Saturn 150 pts 2 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Farm Frites-Hartol 128 3 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Australian National Team 100 4 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Equipe Cycliste Nurnberger 62 5 Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Acce Due O 50 6 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen 2002 40 7 Priska Doppmann (Swi) 35 8 Chantal Beltman (Ned) Acce Due O 35 9 Hayley Rutherford (Aus) Australian National Team 34 10 Alison Wright (Aus) Australian National Team 30 11 Virginie Moinard (Fra) French National Team 30