Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Geelong Women's Tour - 2.2

Australia, February 21-22, 2008


Anyone's race as the season gets underway

By Paul Verkuylen 10,000 feet above Geelong

Teutenberg salutes the judges
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

The Geelong women's Tour is fast becoming the race to begin the season for those aspiring to do well in the first round of the Women's World cup, held just a few days later. For most the race brings a few days of tough racing to start the season, with many of the international teams coming to Australia early to use the warm Southern Hemisphere sun to put the finishing touches on their pre-season training before embarking on the World Cup which will see them race on almost every continent.

For such an early season race, picking a possible winner is almost impossible. For most of the women this will be the first time since the world championships last year that they will see each other. Last years world cup champion, Marianne Vos has opted not to take part in the Tour that she won last year, chosing to start her season later than normaldue to a hectic track world cup and the Olympics later in the season. Also absent this year is last years winner, Nicole Cooke who, like Vos, has chosen to forego both the Geelong tour and the first round of the World Cup. In thier absence, expect to see the High Road squad, who are fielding a strong team including recent Australian road champion Oenone Wood, and Kate Bates attempt to repeat Ina Teutenberg's 2006 victory, the German once again taking part in the race that brought her, her first two victories last year.

Menikini Selle Italia, also feature three Australians on their squad and may prove to be a force in the Tour. Olivia Gollan won the inaugural tour back in 2003 and will no doubt try to repeat that feat this year, rumoured to be her last in the professional peloton. The Powerhouse from Maitland, NSW is joined by Susanne Ljungskog, Nathalie Bates and Rochelle Gilmore, who will be looking to dominate the sprints as she attempts to qualify herself for the Australian squad for the Beijing Olympics. With former world champions Susan Ljungskog as a lead out, she is certainly one of the favourites for a stage win along with American, Tina Mayolo Pic (Vrienden Van Het Platteland) who won the final stage last year.

Storm brewing over
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Much like last year when Dotsie Bausch was the surprise winner of the first stage, this year's prologue may provide a surprise winner as well. But in order to do so, anyone harbouring ambitions to take the first stage will need to beat seasoned time trial specialists like Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo-Lifeforce), Oneone Wood (High Road), Sarah Carrigan (Lotto-Belisol) and current Australian time trial champion, Bridie O'Donnell (Australia) who has been steadily improving form and may well be the surprise of the Tour.

Following the prologue, two more stages follow, the first coming just hours after they finish the morning prologue. With a few tired legs after what will be for many, their first major hit out of the season, gaps may form in the afternoon's circuit race.

The last stage may provide a glimpse of who may be in form for Sunday's world cup as the rider's size each other up for the last time before a days rest. Watch out for defending Olympic champion, Carrigan who is making a comeback this year and will be keen to make a good impression on the selectors as she hopes to be part of the Australian squad to defend her Olympic crown.