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World Championships - CM

Verona, Italy, September 27-October 3, 2004

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Race 9 - Saturday October 2: Road Race - Elite Women, 132.75km

Pucinskaite looks for Verona double

By the Cyclingnews Team

Lining up at the World Championships road race in Verona next week will be many of the same women who raced the almost identical course at the 1999 World Championships five years ago, including the winner of the event, Edita Pucinskaite. The course has changed slightly with extra laps added and a section of the course taken out but retains the same four-kilometer climb up la Torricelle. After the course climbs the four kilometers and descends another four down a narrow windy road it is flat for the rest of the 14km lap. The women will race nine laps for a total of 132.76km.

The extra laps will make the race more difficult," said Pucinskaite in an interview with Cyclingnews recently, as will the fact that "there are more and more strong riders who are on a high level."

With a strong performance at Giro della Toscana last week, Pucinskaite will still be a favourite for the race despite that fact that the pressure will be high for her. "They will be watching me," she said.

In 1999, the pace up the hill caused the peloton to split into pieces on the first lap with many never rejoining the bunch. Eventually it came down to the attacks on the climb up the last few laps that really split things up, primarily by the Lithuanian Polikeviciute twins, Rasa and Jolanta, and the final attack by Pucinskaite that was never reeled in.

The twins will be back again this year on the course that suits them perfectly. Jolanta is in particularly in very good form, demonstrated by her win in the challenging fourth stage of Toscana last week. It was her sister Rasa who took the win on an equally challenging World Championships course in Lisbon in 2001 when Pucinskaite came in just behind her for second.

Based on her overall win of the Giro della Toscana last week and a season full of good results including Tour de l'Aude, Trixi Worrack puts herself into the book of favourites for Verona, along with her teammate Judith Arndt. The Germans have a strong team behind them and both Worrack and Arndt will be very good on this course. Arndt has been on fire all year and continued her strong form that earned her the silver medal at the Olympics, to recently help her teammate Petra Rossner to two world cup wins and Worrack to the win in Tuscany. The theory, proven true in all but one year of the last five, is that the winner of Toscana will also be the winner of the World Championships road race, so Worrack has history on her side, although there are many other ready to prove it wrong. Worrack has had success on this course before however, placing second here as a junior in 1999. She will have extra motivation to go one better.

Among her challengers are Oenone Wood and her partner in crime, Olivia Gollan. Wood and her Australian team come off a win of the overall World Cup Series this year and are hoping to do well just one more time next week to back up a very solid season. All year Gollan has played the role of domestique for Wood, but also has the ability to do well at this race and had a very strong race in Tuscany to prove it.

Another who can topple the theory is Welshwoman Nicole Cooke, who recently won the T-Mobile International for the second year running and placed second overall in the Giro della Toscana after having worn the leaders jersey with a win in hill top finish in stage one. Cooke was slightly disappointed with second place at the tour but still pleased with her form saying as much on her website, Nicolecooke.com and still took home with her the points jersey and the U23 jersey "Naturally it's disappointing to lose when you come so close," she said, "but I picked up a stage win and am pleased with my form with less than two weeks to go until the World Championships."

The Americans are bringing a strong climbing team, with silver medallist in the Olympic time trial, Dede Barry as well as Christine Thorburn, Kristin Armstrong Kimberly Bruckner, Tina Pic and Amber Neben whose late season form is very good. Neben was in the break with Jolanta Polikeviciute last week and placed seventh overall in GC.

Finally, one should not forget Joane Somarriba Arola (Spain), current UCI points leaders Mirjam Melchers (Netherlands) and of course the reigning world champion Susanne Ljunskog (Sweden) who won both last year in Hamilton, Canada and the year before in Belgium however her form has not been the same this year.

Course description

Similar to the Verona World's of five years past, the 2004 road circuit is one and a half kilometres shorter at 14.75 kilometres, tougher with more ascensions of the Torricelle climb, and in all cases bar the Under 23 men, a longer race overall.

With the start/finish at the Piazza Brā, the pletone head in a northerly direction for three kilometres of flat before the start of the 3.1 kilometre-long Torricelle climb that begins from the Viale dei Colli. The final part of the Torricelle is the hardest, where the Viale dei Colli turns to the Via Santa Giuliana 700 metres from the top, marking the 'Cima Coppi' (highest point of the race).

Cresting the Torricelle with mouths wide open and gasping for air (km 6.1), riders then swoop down the twisty street bearing the same name at breakneck speed for just over four and a half kilometres before two 90-degree right-handers in close succession, the first coming at km 10.7 at the intersection of Vie Caroto and Cipolla. (Definitely a place to grab something to eat, with streets named after carrots and onions... )

Hopefully something a little more digestible awaits with the rifornimento (feed station) at km 12.3, before riders cross the Ponte Aleardi bridge and execute a large 'U' that brings them back along the finishing straight of the Corso Porta Nuova.

Road map

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