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Open de Suède Vargarda - CDM
Sweden, July 28, 2006
Ljungskog is Sweden's first
By Gabriella Ekström in Vårgårda
"Team work above all," was Susanne Ljungskog's successful recipe in Vårgårda outside of Gothenburg, when she took the victory in Sweden's first ever World Cup cycling race. Swedish sprinter Monica Holler (Bigla Cycling team) followed up with a third placing behind World Cup leader Nicole Cooke (Univega), and gave Sweden it's first ever double podium placing in a World Cup race.
"I'm thrilled beyond belief," Susanne said after the finish. "The team worked perfectly for me. Since this course wasn't very hard, we had to make it very hard, and I believe we did." The double world champion further told Cyclingnews that she had dreamed of riding a really big race in Sweden since she first started riding a bike, and that she hoped the race would open up more eyes for the sport.
Vårgårda is a small community with a big cycling history, going back to when the "Fåglum" Pettersson brothers ruled the roads. Vårgårda is also very familiar with big cycling arrangements, and that is one of the reasons why the city was selected to host one of the world cup races. The most obvious reason being, as Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI explained, was Susanne Ljungskog.
"Why I selected Sweden to host the race is a really simple question to answer," McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "You have the double world champion here, and alongside her a lot of promising riders. I'm looking forward to a great race, and I expect an outstanding arrangement."
How it unfolded
The women would tackle 11 laps of 11,6 kilometres, with a kilometre long climb on each lap. A climb that might have appeared easy at first sight, but that promised to be tougher and tougher as the race went on. 112 riders from 20 teams took the start at 16:30. The weather was very warm and humid with an overcast sky. The race was fast from the gun, but it would take a while for a group to get established. The peloton got stretched out until the first climb over Hägrungabacken, where the pace slowed a bit. Despite this, some riders were already dropped from the main field.
After the first passage over the finish line, small groups were starting to jump away from the field, after attempts by Swiss champion Annette Beutler (Buitenpoort) and Laure Werner (Vlaanderen) among others, a serious looking group with Danish champion Linda Villumsen (Buitenpoort), Italian champion Fabiana Luperini (Top girls Fassa Bortolo) and Oenone Wood (Equipe Nürnberger) was formed. As they passed over the line for the second time, they had 30 seconds gap to Catrine Josefsson (Swedish Nat. team) and Natalie Bates (AA drink), who were chasing ahead of the peloton. In the front group, Villumsen looked happy to do 90% of the work, and they were a well functioning group until Wood surprisingly took a wrong turn and unwillingly took a shortcut. Eager to solve the problem, she sat up and waited for the peloton, not knowing if she would be allowed to continue racing.
Without that third party, the break was caught shortly after. The pace over Hägrungabacken was very high as the riders passed for the first time. World cup leader Nicole Cooke moved close to the front, and the visual heart monitor on Regina Schleicher revealed a tough 97% of her capacity.
Katherine Bates (Equipe Nürnberger) and Kimberly Anderson (T-mobile) then attacked and were joined by Bettina Kuhn (Bigla Cycling), Marie Lindberg (Swedish national team) and Dorte Rasmussen (Bianchi Aliverti). The weather was now very hot, and the feeding had opened already on the second lap. The front group was not co-operating too well, and Bates would pass most of her turns.
More riders caught up with the break away group, among names Amber Neben (Buitenpoort), Joanne Kiesanowski (Univega) Jennifer Hohl (Bigla Cycling), tiny Miho Oki (Nobili Rubinetterie) and Catherine Hare (Team FBUK) and these riders gained 1'40 to the Buitenpoort-led peloton with 7 laps to go.
38 year-old Kimberley Anderson then decided to attack from the group and easily rode away from the group that seemed to lose motivation after the attack. Coming onto the 6th lap, Anderson had 20 seconds to the peloton that had caught the riders in between, but coming closer to Hägrungabacken, Kimberly added another 25 seconds to her lead. The weather had now changed a bit, and got colder while big drops of rain started to fall over the riders.
Ljungskog showed a bit of what was to come and put in a strong attack in the climb. She caught Anderson in just a few seconds, but was closely monitored by the other top riders who wouldn't let her get too far. Luperini, Cooke and Zoulfia Zabirova (Bigla Cycling) were all keeping a watchful eye on the Swedish champion.
Lise Christensen (Bianchi Aliverti), Helen Wyman (Team FBUK), Dorte Rasmussen, Magali Le Floch (T-mobile), Loes Markerink (@work) Nicole Cooke, Zoulfia Zabirova, Karin Thürig (Univega), Monica Holler (Bigla Cycling), Annette Beutler (Buitenpoort), Trixi Worrack (Equipe Nürnberger) were all riding close to the front and sometimes ahead of it, but they all had to chase Ljungskog as she attacked again as they approached the climb yet another time. Cooke and Holler were eager to chase her, and after them followed the peloton.
The next riders to get away on the wet roads were Karen Thürig, Magali Le Floch and Annette Beutler, all of them having been very active in the race. After two hours of racing, they rode well together, and built a gap of 20 seconds to closest chasing Trixi Worrack, in her turn ten seconds ahead of the peloton.
The peloton consisted of a mere 20 riders by now, and the pace set up by Ljungskog's Buitenpoort team forced more and more riders to let go. The front group couldn't resist the pace either, and Ljungskog attacked on the climb for the third time as the trio ahead were caught. Nicole Cooke smelled the danger and could follow together with Le Floch, who found the strength to follow yet another break. With 3 laps to go, the Ljungskog trio started to lap other riders on the 11,6 kilometre course.
Monica Holler, Trixi Worrack, Annette Beutler, Karen Thürig and Kim Anderson chased the trio, 33 seconds behind as the leaders entered the tenth lap. Behind them the peloton was lost at 1'20.
Le Floch could sit nicely behind Cooke and Ljungskog, who were both very eager, and despite the two big hitters doing all the work, Le Floch looked like the weaker rider and had to let go over the climb on the penultimate lap. Susanne and Nicole worked well together until the last passage where Susanne suddenly sat up behind Cooke and refused to pull a meter. Cooke looked behind and then quickly resigned and started to work.
Ljungskog seemed to have made the smartest exchange in the race: World Cup points in return for a wheel to sit on for the last lap. Instead of attacking the Brit in the last climb, Ljungskog sat behind until a few hundred metres before the line where she exploded and won a close but yet calculated sprint.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net
Images by Robin Hedström
1 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 3.11.56 2 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team 3 Monica Holler (Swe) Bigla Cycling Team 0.24 4 Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung 0.26 5 Annette Beutler (Swi) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 0.32 6 Angela Brodtka (Ger) Aa-Drink Cycling Team 0.58 7 Magali LeFloch (Fra) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 8 Karin Thürig (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 9 Kirsten Wild (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team 3.13 10 Suzanne de Goede (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team 11 Oenone Wood (Aus) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung 12 Katia Longhin (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 13 Debby Mansveld (Ned) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim 14 Adrie Visser (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team 15 Tania Belvederesi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 16 Lang Meng (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling 17 Miho Oki (Jpn) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 18 Evy Van Damme (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim 19 Jenny MacPherson (Aut) Elk Haus Nö 20 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 21 Jennifer Hohl (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 22 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) Univega Pro Cycling Team 23 Elodie Touffet (Fra) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 24 Nikki Egyed (Aus) Vienne Futuroscope 25 Marina Jaunatre (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 26 Bettina Kuhn (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team 27 Linn Torp (Nor) National Team Norway 28 Linda Villumsen (Den) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 29 Sharon van Dromme (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim 30 Zulfiya Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla Cycling Team 31 Laure Werner (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim 32 Emma Johansson (Swe) Bizkaia-Panda Software 33 Yong Li Liu (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling 34 Marie Lindberg (Swe) Sweden 35 Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 36 Veronica Andréasson (Swe) Sweden 37 Trine Hansen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 38 Patricia Schwager (Swi) Elk Haus Nö 39 Catherine Hare (GBr) Team Fbuk 40 Emanuela Azzini (Ita) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 41 Amber Neben (USA) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 42 Helen Kelly (Aus) Elk Haus Nö 43 Jolanda Cools-Van Dongen (Ned) @Work Cycling Team 44 Mei Fang Li (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling 45 Kimberly Baldwin (USA) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 46 Hege Linn Eie Vatland (Nor) National Team Norway 47 Sofie Goor (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim 48 Sabina Bernardi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 49 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas 50 Debby Van de Berg (Ned) @Work Cycling Team 51 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team 52 Lise Christensen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 53 Sandra Rombouts (Ned) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team 54 Lidia Arcangeli (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team 55 Helen Wyman (GBr) Team Fbuk 56 Christiane Soeder (Aut) Univega Pro Cycling Team 57 Mette Fischer Andersen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai 58 Kimberly Anderson (USA) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 59 Anke Wichmann (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung 60 Sarah Düster (Ger) Univega Pro Cycling Team 61 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 3.31 62 Regina Schleicher (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung 3.34 63 Theresa Senff (Ger) Aa-Drink Cycling Team 64 Eva Lutz (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung 65 Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line 66 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 67 Judith Arndt (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling 68 Loes Markerink (Ned) @Work Cycling Team 4.35 69 Jaccolien Wallaard (Ned) @Work Cycling Team 70 Naiara Telletxea Lopez (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda Software 71 Judith Helmink (Ned) @Work Cycling Team 5.55 72 Karin Aune (Swe) Sweden 9.39 73 Mélanie Bravard (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 11.19 74 Sara Mustonen (Swe) Team Västergötland 19.14 75 Jennie Stenerhag (Swe) Team Västergötland 76 Sonia Bazire (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope 77 Froydis Meen Warsted (Nor) National Team Norway 21.49
1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team