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Commerce Bank Triple Crown
USA, June 4-11, 2006
Race 3 - June 11: Commerce Bank Liberty Classic, 57.6 miles
Who can knock Teutenberg off her throne?
By Kristy Scrymgeour
Back on the streets of Philadelphia this Sunday is the 11th annual women's Liberty Classic. Won seven times by German sprinter Petra Rossner, the race was taken over last year by Rossner's former teammate and fellow German, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who is back this year with her T-Mobile teammates to defend the title. This year for the first time the Liberty Classic is part of a three race series called the Triple Crown Series, which started with two criteriums earlier in the week in Lancaster and Reading. Teutenberg is off to a good start in the series, winning the first two rounds and leading the Triple Crown by 56 points. Sunday however, is the race of prestige and the one everybody wants to win.
The women's race consists of four laps of the course which is 14.4 miles/23 km long for a total of 57.6 miles/91 km, which means four times up the famous Manayunk Wall. Traditionally the race has ended in a bunch sprint but there has been the odd occasion where a breakaway did succeed. In 1997 Clara Hughes broke away to take the win and in 2002, the Saturn team forced the pace the last time over the wall taking only seven riders to the line, with Rossner winning the sprint out of the break. In 2003 a group also went away on the wall, with Lyne Bessette attacking out of the group on Lemon hill to solo to the finish. Last year again, there was a break of 14 riders, but all the top sprinters were up there, with Teutenberg taking the win from current World Champion Regina Schleicher.
This year another top field will line up to contest one of the most prestigious races on the calendar. 24 teams will start including some of the best sprinters in the world. The Nürnberger team brings the rainbow jersey on the back of Schleicher and will be hoping to go one better than last year. From New Zealand the National team includes Joanne Kiesanowski, who has shown some excellent form this with a stage win in the Tour de l'Aude and the Jazz Apple Team, also out of New Zealand, has Sarah Ulmer, who took out the second round of the Women's World Cup series in March this year with a spectacular performance in downtown Wellington.
Back to try for another year is local girl Laura Van Gilder. Van Gilder has made the podium three times in the last four years and TEAm Lipton will be aiming to get her to the top spot this year. She has shown good form recently and is always determined to do well at this race in her home area.
The Colavita Cooking Light team has Tina Pic, who has been dominating the US scene this year, but the team has a few cards to play and might well use their other sprinter Gina Grain who has placed in Philly before. The Webcor team has the likes of Erinne Willock and Christine Thorburn, who raced well in the Montreal World Cup recently and Aaron's USA has Annette Beutler as a guest rider to give the wall a try.
T-Mobile brings a strong team to the start to defend the title and go for the third point of the crown. Teutenberg is on good form this year, with the win in Reading being her 9th victory of the season. Her teammate and former World Champion Judith Arndt is also in excellent form, her most recent victories, the final stage of the Montreal Tour and the
Montreal World Cup two weeks ago. Cyclingnews caught up with Teutenberg to see how she's feeling going into Sunday's race. "I don't feel as much pressure as last year," said Teutenberg. "I really wanted to win this race once and I've done that now so I just want to go out there on Sunday and have fun and help the team win the race.
"We have a strong team and a few cards to play, so we don't necessarily have to wait for the sprint," added Teutenberg. We'll just see how the race develops."
In the press conference at the Commerce Bank this morning Teutenberg, who has raced in Philadelphia seven times and has been on the winning team six out of those seven, explained the feeling of climbing the wall in front of the huge crowds. "It gives you goose bumps going up that wall," she said. "The energy is amazing. In women's cycling you don't get that very often so I always love coming back here."