Yesterday was round 8 of the World Cup - the second last World Cup of the year and a very scary one for me. We raced 130km, six laps of 21.5km with two climbs each lap. I had a 51 point lead over Miriam Melchers in the World Cup series going into the race yesterday. The danger for me would be if Miriam managed to win the race and I finished outside the top six - that would give her the lead of the World Cup series.
I was very worried since Miriam usually climbs better than I do and the course was a hilly one. However, I had a great team behind me - Petra Rossner, Judith Arndt, Lyne Bessette, Kristy Scrymgeour and Kim Bruckner.
135 riders started the race - the biggest field I've seen in a while! From the very first lap it was clear that things were going to be tough for me on the climb with riders from the three main Italian teams setting a pace too fast for me to follow. However, with Judith Arndt and Lyne Bessette remaining with me on the climbs and then bringing me back to the bunch over the other side, I had every advantage I could possibly ask for.
We completed three laps in this way, with the bunch coming back together after the climbs each time. However, on the fourth lap, things split for good. With attacks from Nicole Brandli and Luperini (both Edil Savino) a select group of seven riders split from the main pack in two little groups. In the first group was Susanne Ljungskog (Vlaanderen), Edita Pucinskaite (Alfa Lum) and Luperini (Edil Savino). They were followed by Alessandra Capellotto (Gas), Nicole Brandli (Edil Savino), Rasa Polikevicuite (Acca Due) and Marianna Lorenzoni. The two groups never got together and were never caught.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realised that Miriam Melchers, like me, was unable to go with these riders up the climb. We decided not to chase these front riders but to take the safe option of remaining with Miriam for the rest of the race.
In the front of the race, Susanne Ljungskog (Vlaanderen) ended up winning solo - I am not sure how or when she got away from the other two riders with her. Luperini outsprinted Edita Pucinskaite for second place. Nicole Brandli, Alessandra Cappellotto and Marianna Lorenzoni all arrived at the finish line by themselves for fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively.
Meanwhile, in the bunch, things settled down over the last two laps. A group of 21 riders survived together to contest the finish. Rasa Polikevicuite was dropped from the front group of riders and we caught her with about 5km to go, increasing our group to 22 riders. I received the most amazing lead-out from Lyne Bessette, Judith Arndt and Petra Rossner to win the sprint for seventh place. Miriam Melchers finished ninth and so I gained another six points in the overall World Cup standings.
So I now have a lead of 57 points with one race remaining in the series. The only way I can lose the series now is if Miriam wins the final race and I finish worse than 8th. I hope that won't happen!
This week we are racing the Tour of Switzerland - a four-day race. Then it's back to Holland for the final World Cup race next Sunday.