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Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale - 2.9.1

France, August 4-18, 2002

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Stage 3 - August 6: Charleville-Mezieres - Val de Fensch, 154.8km

Russian Rocket Lands in Florange

By Chris Henry, Cyclingnews correspondent

The riders of the Grande Boucle Féminine tackled another 154km on the roads of northern France today, between Charleville-Mezières and Florange. The roads may have been smoother than yesterday's pounding on the pavé, but the stage's final two categorized climbs still caused considerable ripples in the peloton. At the finish Russian time trial champion Zoulfia Zabirova (USC Chirio) used a late burst of speed to take the stage ahead of a selective peloton containing 31 riders.

"My dream this year was to win a stage at the Grande Boucle," commented Zabirova. "My focus is more on stage wins than the overall victory."

The major moves of the day, came on the second and third climbs, the côtes de Briey and Neufchef, both of which came in the final 22km of racing. On the Côte de Briey, at 21km to the finish, the peloton exploded into five different groups, although most of the big favourites made the initial selection of 41 riders.

On the final climb up the Côte du Neufchef in the Département de la Moselle, a more significant split occurred, with a group of just 15 women going clear. This time some big names were once again left behind, facing a tough chase to the finish to minimize further deficits on the general classification. Among them, American Mari Holden, British hope Nicole Cooke (Deia-Pragma-Colnago), Debby Mansveld (Vlaanderen-T Interim), and the blue jersey of best young rider, Arenda Grimberg (Farm Frites).

The American Saturn team spent much of the race riding tempo at the front of the peloton, in defense of Maillot Or Judith Arndt's overall lead. Petra Rossner, wearer of the points jersey, was dropped on the penultimate climb, but rejoined the lead group to continue working for Arndt. Eventually Rossner was dropped on the final climb of the Neufchef, but her efforts paid off with Arndt still in yellow by day's end.

With 10km to go, a potentially dangerous attack was launched by Zinaida Stahurskaia (USC Chirio), who was quickly followed chased by Swiss national champion Nicole Brändli (Acca Due O) and Saturn's Kimberly Bruckner. Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites) opened a 20 meter gap in a short-lived counter, but she too was quickly brought back by the hard charging group.

Next it was Bruckner's turn, and the American gained a gap of her own on the run in to Florange. Though Saturn's defense of the overall lead was by this point assured, it would not be their day for the stage win, as Zoulfia Zabirova (USC Chirio) rocketed by Bruckner in the closing kilometres. Unable to catch the Russian's wheel, Bruckner slipped back in the fold of the lead group while Zabirova cruised to her first stage win of this year's tour.

With the second peloton over a minute and a half behind the lead group at the finish, today's 'transitional' stage proved yet again that any day is an opportunity day in this year's Grande Boucle. Saturn maintained its lead in both the overall (Arndt) and points (Rossner) classifications, while Leontien Van Moorsel regained six seconds thanks to intermediate sprints early in the stage.

Wednesday's flat stage between Bar le Duc and Nogent-sur-Seine may provide some respite for the riders who have suffered in the past two days, though most of the peloton will likely be thinking ahead to the next real test, Thursday's 31.2 km individual time trial.


Images by AFP


1 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) USC Chirio                  3.43.58
2 Olga Slioussareva (Rus) Itera Team
3 Zinaida Stahurskaia (Blr) USC Chirio
4 Alessandra Cappellotto (Ita) Mixte Power Plate
5 Leontien Van Moorsel (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol    0.05
6 Regina Schleicher (Ger) Michela Fanini
7 Simona Parente (Ita) Edilsavino
8 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Vlaanderen-T Interim
9 Bogumila Matusiak (Pol) Mixte Power Plate
10 Miho Oki (Jpn) CA Mantes-la-Ville

11 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol
32 Madeleine Lindberg (Swe) Team Farm Frites-Hartol     0.31
41 Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol        1.41
71 Elsbeth Vink (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol   
88 Anouska van der Zee (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol    4.57
91 Sissy van Alebeek (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol

General classification after stage 3

1 Judith Arndt (Ger) Saturn Cycling                 10.03.00
2 Valentina Polkhanova (Rus) Itera Team                 0.23
3 Leontien Van Moorsel (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol    1.12
4 Mirjam Melchers (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol         1.30
5 Kimberly Bruckner (USA) Saturn Cycling                1.42
6 Youlia Martissova (Rus) Itera Team                    1.58
7 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus) USC Chirio                     2.11
8 Joane Somarriba (Spa) Deia-Pragma-Colnago             2.19
9 Zinaida Stahurskaia (Blr) USC Chirio                  2.25
10 Jolanta Polikeviciute (Ltu) Acca Due O               2.26
18 Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol        3.18
29 Elsbeth Vink (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol           5.04
43 Madeleine Lindberg (Swe) Team Farm Frites-Hartol     7.17
57 Sissy van Alebeek (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol      8.49
74 Anouska van der Zee (Ned) Team Farm Frites-Hartol   11.03