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A quick chat with Susanne Ljungskog

Bloodied but unbowed

The world champion isn't having the best possible time at the Grande Boucle Féminine, with her plans scuppered by a stomach bug. Still, as she tells Gabriella Ekström, she's not giving up, and there's still the Hamilton world's to look forward to.

A brave face at LGBF
Photo: © Russell Standring
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Reigning World Champion Susanne Ljungskog announced her big goal for the season early this year, after having finished second in the Grande Boucle Feminine last year, she now wanted to win it. A nasty stomach bug early in the race ended her plans before she got a chance to try and fulfill them.

"The Tour was my thing this year," Susanne told Cyclingnews on the rest day. "After I was second last year, I really wanted to win this year, and I had a clear chance to do it. I had a great season leading up to it, I wasn't sick and I got to ride all the races I wanted to. I came to the Tour with a great team, and they have been really strong during the race, but I felt that something was wrong already during the first stage. I spent most of the time off the bike in the bathroom, and the scorching heat made it even worse. There was a climb 20 kilometres from the finish of the second stage and when I was dropped, I realised that the Tour was very quickly slipping through my fingers. When you get a stomach bug where you'll lose a lot of fluid and when the temperature is mad like it has been here in France, it is really hard to recover, and on top of that all the mountains came in the first week."

Currently at eighth place in the G.C, 10.52 down on Joane Somarriba, Susanne could be disillusioned, but says she is even more inspired to ride well now.

"I spoke to the team before the Tour, and they were of course aware of my ambition to win the race, and they were devoted to help me achieve that. Now that didn't happen because of my illness and the extreme heat. It is of course very disappointing for everyone, and mostly for me, but now when I'm here, I won't just ride to get to Paris. I will remain focused during the Tour, and I'm aiming for a stage win. Anita Valen has already been third, and Sara Carrigan and I have been second, but I still want the win. The three stages that are coming up now should be the most suitable ones. They are 80, 131 and 126 kilometres, and they are all pretty flat, or maybe a bit undulating, but there are no more big mountains.

Ljungskog's prediction of the stages proved right when she earned the team another high placing after finishing third behind Judith Arndt (Equipe Nürnberger) and Edita Pucinskaite (S.C Michaela Fanini) on the tenth stage that followed the rest day. Having won the final time trial to Paris last year, Susanne will also look forward to the penultimate stage on Saturday, a 37 kilometre time trial around Flers, but reckons that the last stage is a bit too short to suit her pursuit for a win.

"Sunday's stage to Paris is only 50 kilometres, and a lot of people will be very interested in winning that day of course, so we will focus more on the stages before the weekend. It's just about staying alert and trying to go along whenever a break goes, and I know they frequently do," she adds with a smile.

It's also true that life doesn't end with the Tour, and later this fall, the World Championships in Hamilton will see Susanne try to defend her Champion colours.

"The worlds is a big goal for me too. Klas [boyfriend and coach - Ed] and I went to look at the course in May, after the world cup race in Montréal. I think it is a course that will suit me, and the two hard climbs in it will be very decisive. I guess it will come down to a group of no more than five riders that will battle it out for the title."

La Grande Boucle Féminine
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