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2003 Road World Championships - CM
Hamilton, Canada, October 7-12, 2003
Day 5 - October 11: Elite Women Road Race, 124 km
How Swede it is!
Susanne Lungskog takes second rainbow in a row
By Mark Zalewski in Hamilton
Three hours of racing for thirty minutes of drama. So went the Elite Women's Road Race of the 2003 World Championships, which ended with Susanne Ljungskog powering to a sprint victory, narrowly defeating Mirjam Melchers of the Netherlands and Great Britain's Nicole Cooke. But not all the drama came at the end of the race -- or even during it. Before the race began, it was announced that Canadian medal hopeful, Genevieve Jeanson was not permitted to start the race due to an elevated haematocrit level. Suspicion of the cause of this level soon began to circulate as the shocked Jeanson left the race in street clothes, visibly upset.
But the show must go on, and it did, eventually. Very few women wanted to test their will early on the challenging course, and those that did were not let out of sight for long. In fact, the breaks went off the back more than the front, as the hills took their toll on the riders. Barely half of the riders that started the race even finished, and in the end, only 16 were together. Out of that 16, one emerged in a sprint finish that made watching the race of attrition worth it all -- as Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden snagged her second rainbow jersey in as many years. "Winning the World Championships has been my goal since the Tour [de France]," she said.
How it Unfolded
All the usual suspects were present at the front of the peloton through out the day, but no one wanted to be the first to show their cards. Maybe it was the fact that the race was in North America with many U.S. fans cheering them on, but the American team was the first to make a significant attack. Christine Thoburn was the first to go, followed by a few other riders. However, the break was not long lasting as the peloton neutralized the effort.
Then it was Spain's Eneritz Iturriaga taking a chance, with her teammate Somarriba on her wheel heading into the first climb. This caused a lot of the race favorites to perk up as Somarriba is noted to be a dangerous rider. American Mari Holden explained to Cyclingnews that Somarriba was one of the main riders she was watching.
Again, the American team worked to explode the race as Kristin Armstrong launched an attack, with Germany's Tina Liebig and Italy's Tatiana Guderzo attempting to bridge. But as in the other races, the descents served as the breakaway killer, and the fast-moving peloton reeled in the break going nearly 80 km/hr.
And so it went. A few efforts came and went, the contenders all rode pace at the front waiting for the real action to begin, and the pretenders continued to fall off the back.
Among the contenders setting the pace at the front was France's Jeannie Longo. And as the kilometers went by, she steadily increased the pace. With that the peloton became increasingly stretched out, especially on the course's two climbs.
More attacking that would not succeed followed, including one by Great Britain's race favorite Nicole Cooke, until less than 20 kilometers remained in the race. That is when Jeannie Longo decided to stop setting the group pace and set a pace on her own. Off the front she flew, with the other riders giving each other looks of, "I'm not gonna chase, you chase."
Longo's gap grew rapidly as her teammate Magali Le Floc'h sat on the front disuading any chase efforts. With no one cooperating, Longo's margin of twelve seconds only increased, even on the climbs. By the time she reached the second climb she had almost 25 seconds on the Russian led chase group, which is what the peloton had been renamed by the commentators due to the lack of numbers present.
Finally, a few attacks begin to organize, led by Russia's Zoulfia Zabirova with Dutch rider Mirjam Melchers on her wheel. This was followed by the defending champion Ljungskog and American Dede Demet-Barry. "The last two laps I was cramping, which never really happens to me," said Demet-Barry. "I wasn't able to react at the moment [Longo] went. So I tried to conserve and follow. I had to ride in the front and be selective."
Nicole Cooke then countered the attack with a big effort, pulling Longo within 13 seconds by the time the group rolled through the start/finish with one lap remaining. She gestured to her chasing companions to roll through, but ended up working more. "I think that I probably did too much work," said Cooke. "I was working and trying to get the others to follow through -- then at least we could all work evenly. And maybe the teams with more than one rider should have worked more as well, so yes I did try to initiate the others to work."
But Longo continued to maintain her lead of around 15 seconds on the last time up climb number one, with Cooke and Melchers doing much of the work. Finally, in the last five kilometers, Longo showed signs of tiring and the gap began to fall to just 10 seconds. Not wanting to give in, Longo was out of her saddle digging deep, with the chasers closing the gap to under 50 meters.
Coming down the final descent Longo had only a few second lead, and the crowd wondered if it would be enough. With just two corners remaining, Longo was caught by the hard-charging chase group led by Cooke.
The pack together for a sprint finish, rounded the final turn at 300 meters. Melchers jumped first, and Ljungskog grabbed her wheel. Down the final 100 meters Ljungskog powered along side Melchers to the line. It was close, but the defending champion took the sprint, with Cooke barely clinching third after taking a slower line along the side of Lithuania's Edita Pucinskaite.
"I had to make a choice on the last lap because we were not closing the gap to Longo," said silver medalist Mirjam Melchers. "So if nobody would do anything she would win and be sitting here. I was feeling good, so I made a choice. I was chasing, which at the end it always costs more energy, but we had no choice."
"The last lap was really hard," said Ljungskog. "Mirjam and Nicole were doing a great job out there. I have my tactics and today was good for me."
Images by Jon Devich/www.www.epicimages.us
Images by Mark Zalewski/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by AFP
Images by Robert Naish/www.bikecrazie.com
1 Susanne Ljungskog (Sweden) 3.16.06 (37.94 km/h) 2 Mirjam Melchers (Netherlands) 3 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 4 Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania) 5 Olga Zabelinskaia (Russia) 6 Jeannie Longo Ciprelli (France) 0.04 7 Anita Valen (Norway) 0.12 8 Judith Arndt (Germany) 9 Bogumila Matusiak (Poland) 0.19 10 Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia) 11 Dede Demet-Barry (USA) 12 Vera Carrara (Italy) 13 Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada) 14 Le Floc'h Magali (France) 0.25 15 Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic) 16 Trixi Worrack (Germany) 17 Lyne Bessette (Canada) 0.51 18 Teodora Ruano Sanchon (Spain) 1.40 19 Jolanta Polikeviciute (Lithuania) 2.01 20 Natalia Boyarskaia (Russia) 2.30 21 Silvia Parietti (Italy) 2.32 22 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spain) 23 Christiane Soeder (Austria) 2.36 24 Rasa Polikeviciute (Lithuania) 4.45 25 Olivia Gollan (Australia) 5.24 26 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Russia) 27 Priska Doppmann (Switzerland) 6.54 28 Oenone Wood (Australia) 7.57 29 Kristin Armstrong (USA) 30 Eneritz Iturriaga (Spain) 31 Sara Carrigan (Australia) 9.27 32 Malgorzata Wysocka (Poland) 33 Iryna Chuzhynova (Ukraine) 34 Tina Mayolo (USA) 35 Joanne Kiesanowski (New Zealand) 36 Veerle Ingels (Belgium) 37 Zita Urbonaite (Lithuania) 38 Karine Dalmais (France) 39 Shani Bloch (Israel) 40 Heidi Van De Vijver (Belgium) 41 Margaret Hemsley (Australia) 42 Karen Bockel (Germany) 43 Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 44 Erinne Willock (Canada) 45 Arenda Grimberg (Netherlands) 46 Rachel Heal (Great Britain) 47 Nataliya Kachalka (Ukraine) 48 Miho Oki (Japan) 49 Corine Hierckens (Belgium) 50 Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Lithuania) 51 Anna Zugno (Italy) 52 Lisbeth Simper (Denmark) 53 Paulina Brzezna (Poland) 54 Manon Jutras (Canada) 55 Christine Thorburn (USA) 56 Theresa Senff (Germany) 57 Diana Rast (Switzerland) 58 Sonia Huguet (France) 59 Sandrine Marcuz (France) 60 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) 61 Leah Goldstein (Israel) 62 Kimberly Anderson (USA) 63 Regina Schleicher (Germany) 64 Madeleine Lindberg (Sweden) 65 Valentyna Karpenko (Ukraine) 13.08 66 Anna Skawinska (Poland) 67 Paola Madrinan (Colombia) 18.42 HD Alison Wright (Australia) HD Ekaterina Naumova (Russia) HD Loes Gunnewijk (Netherlands) HD Julie Pekarkova (Czech Republic) HD Isabelle Hoffman (Luxembourg) HD Yunjuan Qian (China) HD Amy Moore (Canada) HD Andrea Graus (Austria) DNF Annette Beutler (Switzerland) DNF Irene Hostettler (Switzerland) DNF Maria Isabel Moreno (Spain) DNF Katie Mactier (Australia) DNF Ioulia Martissova (Russia) DNF Virginie Moinard (France) DNF Vera Koedooder (Netherlands) DNF Tina Liebig (Germany) DNF Iona Wynter (Jamaica) DNF Weiping Wang (China) DNF Veronique Belleter (Belgium) DNF Sharon Van Dromme (Belgium) DNF Ghita Beltman (Netherlands) DNF Noemi Cantele (Italy) DNF Mari Holden (USA) DNS Melissa Holt (New Zealand) DNS Fatma Galiullina (Uzbekistan) Note: HD = Hors Delai/outside time limit