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3rd Women's Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen - CDM

Belgium, April 2, 2006

World Cup leader Teutenberg versus the bergs of Flanders

By Jeff Jones

Last year's podium
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
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The third edition of the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen takes place on the same day as the men's, on Sunday, April 2. The women will race over 111 km between Oudenaarde and Ninove-Meerbeke, taking in 12 climbs and three of the difficult flat cobbled sections that the men face: Paddestraat, Mater-Kerkgate and Haaghoek. The course is the same as last year, with the women racing the final 65 km of the men's course.

Hopefully it will be a better finish than last year, when a major part of the peloton was sent the wrong way in the final kilometres as they were vying for third place. That didn't take away from the victory of Mirjam Melchers, who attacked before Geraardsbergen with 25 km to go, and was joined by her Buitenpoort-Flexpoint teammate Susanne Ljungskog on the Muur. The pair were able to hold off the bunch until the finish, with Melchers claiming victory.

All things going to plan, it promises to be a great race this year, with the world's top women aiming for a good showing in the first World Cup race on European soil. Ina Teutenberg (T-Mobile) currently leads the World Cup with 110 points, compared with Sara Ulmer's 75 points and Miho Oki's 65. The series is 12 rounds long - this being round 3 - and it's still early days to pick a likely winner, but Teutenberg clearly has her sights on it.

Melchers and Ljungskog haven't raced the World Cups down under so far, but the Buitenpoort-Flexpoint pair will front up to the Ronde with back numbers 1 and 3. They'll be up against strong squads from T-Mobile and also Nürnberger, with two-time defending World Cup champ Oenone Wood supported by Australian champion Kate Bates and German Trixi Worrack. Nicole Cooke, fresh off finishing third in the Commonwealth Games, will be heading the Univega team, which has the experience of Priska Doppmann and Jo Kiesanowski in its ranks.

The first women's Ronde winner, Zoulfia Zabirova, will form part of the Bigla team, which also contains Nicole Brändli. Miho Oki (Nobili) will have Olivia Gollan and Edita Pucinskaite by her side, while AA Drink features Comm Games road race winner Natalie Bates, as well as Suzanne de Goede. The Fenixs-Colnago team boasts the Russian connection, Svetlana Bubnenkova, Olga Zabelinskaia and Elena Stramoysova, while we can probably expect some fireworks from Fabiana Luperini and the Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line team. The Italian has been in winning form already this year, and is more experienced than most of the rest of the field.

With over 160 riders on the start list combined with a difficult parcours and windy conditions, the 3rd women's Ronde Van Vlaanderen will crown a worthy champion.