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3rd Geelong World Cup - CDM
Australia, February 27, 2005
Gilmore claims redemption
By Mikkeli Godfree in Geelong
23 year-old Rochelle Gilmore (NSWIS) has taken her biggest win to date by winning the 119.2km opening round of the Women's UCI World Cup. Signalling both her return to form and her hunger to win after not being selected for the Australian World's team for the L.A. Track World Championships next month, Gilmore tore up the finish straight in sunny Geelong to win by a clean set of wheels over defending World Cup champion Oenone Wood and Australian track national's champion of champions, Kate Bates.
While she didn't quite have the army of riders at her disposal as Oenone Wood did, Gilmore struggled over the climbs and put herself in the box seat for the final straight. "I though with two laps to go, when they hammered over the hill, that it was all over. I got dropped... but I got back on. I knew I had to push as hard as I could the last time over the hill. When I made it to the top with the front group on the last lap, I breathed really deep and then looked for Oenone's wheel in the finish."
"The last kilometre is the easiest bit - all you have to be is in the top three. Everyone came up underneath in the last corner but I ended up on Oenone's wheel. It was just a matter of leaving the sprint late enough so I didn't die. I was fighting Susanne [Ljungskog] for a little while but I got the wheel I wanted and I had the confidence to take it. I think Oenone just wanted to get out in front and stay out in front and that worked to my advantage."
Gilmore, who after the finish confessed to contemplating giving up over the last few years is back on top, after executing a textbook sprint. "After today, I've got one person to thank and that's Warren McDonald," said Gilmore of the national women's road coach. "Warren picked me up when I was at rock bottom and I'm so grateful for that."
Defending World Cup champion and winner of this leg of the Cup last year, Wood, may have felt the pressure of being marked as she raced the sprint from the front and couldn't quite hold off Gilmore from 500m out. However, as consistency wins the World Cup, second place on the day is no disaster for Wood. "I was sitting second wheel in the last corner, I hoped the girl in front of me [Ljungskog] would stay out there a bit longer but I was in a position where I had to go early because riders started to come around... at 200 to go I was thinking "I hope I can hang on to this... I knew there were about five girls sitting behind me... so... next week [World Cup #2 - Wellington]."
In third place was the in-form trackie Kate Bates, who leaves this race to prepare for the Track World Championships in L.A. in a month. "It was pretty crazy in the last few kilometres and a lot of girls went from about 500m out. Rochelle was smart and looked after herself to pop around Oenone and I. If I had better bike skills I would sneak through at the end too... when you are so close to the win you really want it, but I'm going away satisfied."
Resplendent in her new jersey as World Cup leader, Gilmore responded to a question about whether she would head to Wellington, New Zealand for the second round of the World Cup, "I couldn't not now, could I!... with the leader's jersey. I guess things worked out well with not getting selected for the Track World's because I can just concentrate on the road. I'm heading overseas straight after NZ with Safi, the team I rode with in 2003. I'm looking forward to teaming up with Nicole Cooke and taking on the world again."
How it unfolded
With the highest quality field yet with the defending and past World Cup champion (Oenone Wood and Anna Millward - one on the bike, one on the mic), current world champion Judith Arndt and past dual world champion Susanne Ljungskog, the current Olympic champion (including the silver and bronze winners Arndt and Slyusareva), the four-time world point score champions Olga Slyusareva, the top four ranked riders in the world, three-time American criterium champion Tina Mayola-Pic and about 86 other hungry riders, the field was jam-packed with talent.
A light southerly breeze and a gradual climb up the back side of the course would do little to break up the race but as the laps wore on, the sprinters would most likely feel the pinch. It was a leisurely start to the day though as the women headed out on their first of eight laps. It wasn't until lap two, when New Zealander Suzie Wood skipped up the road into the morning sun that the race really begun.
Wood's attack was the first of many from the New Zealand camp as the Kiwis popped off the front like pop-corn whenever the pace lulled. With attack after attack being neutralised, the New Zealanders were unrelenting. In quick succession, Kiwis Wood, Buick, Kiesanowski and Boyle each attempted to breathe life into the race to get something started. Combining the efforts of both Bike NZ and New Zealand National Team the riders from the other side of the Tasman were all over the race in its first half.
While a group would charge up the road and look strong for a while, in truth, the first World Cup of the season was not going to be one where riders would trickle off to a 5min lead. The course, the weather and the desire of the women to all stay at the head of affairs all combined to keep the group as one for the first half of the race.
While assorted riders were being trailed off the back there was no selection happening to speak of. Neither the climb nor the increasing crosswinds were taking their toll. A few crashed were responsible for reducing the field however. Notably, the Equipe Nurnberger team lost a valuable member in Anke Wichmann.
Just when it looked like it would be procession until the last 1.5km, on lap five, ex-rowers Amy Gillet (AIS - 2002 Aussie pursuit champion) and Jenny Macpherson (VIS) teamed up with Buitenpoort-Flexpoint rider Tanja Hennes-Smidt (seemingly a policewoman for her team leaders Melchers-Van Poppel and Ljungskog) to sneak away to a one minute lead.
As if caught napping, the bunch reorganised themselves and the Equipe Nurnberger team took control as Kathy Watt pounded up the road in an attempt to reach the leaders. Having proven herself in the prologue of the Geelong Tour during the week, Watt quickly gained time on the leaders and by the time they came around for two to go, the leaders were 30secs up on Watt with the bunch a further 25secs further back, being driven by Nurnberger work-horses Lindberg and Gollan.
With Arndt joining Lindberg and Gollan in the engine room, the leaders were brought back in and with one lap to go, the group was one again. All eyes were cast back through the bunch though where Oenone Wood could be sighted, looking after herself for the last climb and the sprint finish.
Not so comfortable however were Wood's teammates, Gollan and Lindberg, who rolled into the pits, spent from the effort of controlling the bunch. With cracks starting to appear in the Nurnberger super-team, the question was whether other teams could take advantage of the situation.
One rider, Toni Bradshaw (NZ), was definitely taking advantage of the changed dynamic by taking off up the road with 15km to race. Showing the strain of the last 105km, Bradshaw battled away with a ten second lead while the bunch drew straws to decide who would take control with the finish line looming.
As Bradshaw drifted back into the fold, the race exploded momentarily as Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) hit the front on the final climb. Ljungskog's fierce attack, whilst blowing the race apart behind, didn't catch the favourites napping as Oenone Wood and Kate Bates sat in the wheel. In fourth wheel sat Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel, watching her teammate, Ljungskog, set the pace.
With no counter-attack eventuating, the bunch clambered back on despite the efforts of Tom van Bemmelen teammates Kate Bates and Suzanne De Goede who tried to get a group clear with Oenone Wood and Miho Oki. It wasn't to be however and the flurry of attacks only served to unsettle what had been a calming balance at the front of the race. All of a sudden, as the women hit the Corio Bay foreshore road for the last time, no one team had control of proceedings as they fanned out at the front.
Moments later, Nurnberger stepped up and showed their class by taking the race by the horns as Trixi Worrack and Judith Arndt hopped into the driver's seat with their team leader Wood, in tow. In classic sprint-finish style Arndt, grimacing piloted the peloton into the final two kilometres.
With 1500m to go, in an act of defiance, Lynn Gaggioli hit out and established a 50m gap but as is nearly always the case, she was brought back into the fold but the effort hurt the Nurnberger lead-out train, as the sprinters lined up - the bunch now being headed by the ever aggressive Swedish Champion Ljungskog. With two corners to go Ljungskog was burying herself, with Oenone Wood in second and a mass of riders all clambering to get in position for the final corner just over 500m from the finish.
Emerging first from the final corner was Ljungskog, with Wood looking itchy on her wheel. Gilmore had manoeuvred herself into third whilst a badly positioned Kate Bates was hitting up the outside in an attempt to catch the bunch napping as Ljungskog slowed.
With no teammates left to take the reigns, and seeing Bates' flash of fluoro yellow to her right, Wood hit out and it was a two-up drag-race at 400m. As Bates came up to Wood's shoulder, the World Cup Champ kicked again. However, as Bates dropped off, Wood became aware of a certain Rochelle Gilmore who hadn't even twisted the throttle yet. With 80m to go, Gilmore clinically grabbed a gear, got out of the saddle and sprinted clear of the fading drag racers Wood and Bates to take the win with relative ease. Gilmore read the sprint like a book throwing her arms ecstatically.
Gilmore's win was emphatic and proof that she has fully returned to top form after breaking her collarbone last year. She has proven that she can win a World Cup event on the track one week and a World Cup road race the next. In fine style, Gilmore took advantage of the other, stronger teams in the race and used her sprint experience. "I like to be by myself at the finish so I can do what I want."... and it worked.
In contrast, while Wood had the benefit of having her team around her the whole day, they were not by her side in the final 500m and Gilmore capitalised on that. Wood remarked that her team's role of controlling the bunch was "a calculated risk," but it was one that ultimately might have cost her the race win.
When quizzed about the increased pressure that comes with being the defending World Cup champion and leading what appears to be the strongest team in the world, Wood commented "yes and no, I'm in a really strong team this year so that adds pressure, but it also takes pressure away. Any one of us can win a World Cup this year so that puts pressure on the other teams."
As the women look to the next World Cup round in Wellington next weekend, Gilmore will surely be looking to hold onto her leader's jersey whilst Wood will be looking to claw her way to the top of the World Cup standings where she finished up last year.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Veage
Images by Mikkeli Godfree
Images by Mark Gunter/Cyclingnews.com
1 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) NSW Institute of Sport 75 pts 2 Oenone Wood (Aus) Equipe Nurnberger Versicherung 50 3 Katherine Bates (Aus) Ton van Bemmelen AA Drink 35 4 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) SC Nobili Rubinetterie - Menikini Cogeas 30 5 Miho Oki (Jpn) Japanese National 27 6 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Ned) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint 24 7 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint 21 8 Sara Carrigan (Aus) Ton van Bemmelen AA Drink 18 9 Tanja Hennes-Smidt (Ger) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint 15 10 Katie Brown (Aus) Australian Institute of Sport 11 11 Kate Nichols (Aus) NSW Institute of Sport 10 12 Verena Joos (Ger) German National 9 13 Lynn Gaggioli (USA) Lloyd Morgan Recruitment 8 14 Sarah Duster (Ger) German National 7 15 Tina Mayola Pic (USA) Lloyd Morgan Recruitment 6 16 Olga Slyusareva (Rus) SC Nobili Rubinetterie - Menikini Cogeas 5 17 Sigrid Corneo (Ita) SC Nobili Rubinetterie - Menikini Cogeas 4 18 Suzanne De Goede (Ned) Ton van Bemmelen AA Drink 3 19 Linda Melanie Serup (Den) Buitenpoort-Flexpoint 2 20 Emma Rickards (Aus) JAYCO/Victorian Institute of Sport 1