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4th Primavera Rosa - CDM

Italy, March 23, 2002


New team, big race and some bad luck

Primavera Rosa #4, March 23, 2002

By Margaret Hemsley, Equipe Cycliste Nürnberger

I always knew it was going to be a big race but it was not until I saw the start list that I realised just how big...about 140 girls and an almost World Championships standard field.(A few notable absences being Anna Millward, Judith Arndt, Jeannie Longo, Lyne Bessette and Geneviève Jeanson). I was nervous and excited about my first race with my new team (Equipe Nürnberger), a rider in 3rd position in the World Cup series in Hanka Kupfernagel and 11 Aussies in the peloton - a European World Cup record!

The team drove to Italy on the Tuesday before the race to ride over the course and acclimatise to the warm Italian weather and for me it was a chance to get to know some of my teammates and our new director Jens Zemke a bit better.

Our race plan was to get Hanka up at the finish. It was not really known how the race would unfold but we were pretty sure that if Petra Rossner (Saturn, leader of the World Cup series) wanted to get over the Cipressa and the Poggio she was capable of doing it, and had a strong team to help her regain the field if she lost touch. But also the Italian Teams would be keen to win the race and put the pressure on up the climbs and Saturn.

For me, I was to get to the climbs keep an eye on Hanka and help at the finish if possible...though Hanka is a strong and skillful rider and I hoped to get to the finish with the front group and see if I could follow the plan. Our team was strong and I figured with Tanja Hennes (Ger), Jenny Algelid (Swe), Vera Hohlfeld (Ger) Sandra Rombouts (Ned), Hanka and I we had a good chance of getting three or more riders in the front group at the end...it was exciting.

The start of the race was chaotic with 140 girls jostling for position and the first of the many crashes occurring in the neutral first 2 km. Leontien Zijlaard-Van Morsel (Farm Frites) doing the job for Melchers set the pace from the start with the bunch unable to do more than follow as she began what was to be about a 100km time trial at well over 40km/hr with occasional help from her fellow Farm Frites riders.

The bunch was strung out after Melchers crashed as opposing teams put the pressure on her to chase. As Melchers rejoined the bunch helped by her team mates, the speed was again controlled by Van Moorsel. Heading into the hill the tempo was upped once again as 140 girls fought for position. I joined the jostling for front position helped by my teammates and found myself in reasonable position going over the Capo Berta and also the Cipressa.

The Cipressa wrought havoc on the field with Leontien beginning the tempo and several Italian teams taking over towards the top. I held onto about 20th wheel for grim death, as my eyes clouded over with lactic acid I saw Hanka second or third wheel and two other team mates just ahead. The descent off the Cipressa is steep and technical. Hanka attacked attempting to escape on the descent only to come off on one of the corners. She was up and going quickly but had lost a lot of skin. I rounded another corner to see Priska Doppmann (another World Cup contender) picking herself up off the road.

A front group of about 30 including 4 Nürnberger riders and Petra Rossner formed after the Cipressa. The pace slowed and it was a group of 60 that hit the Poggio with 8 km to race. Jenny Algelid set a fast tempo for Hanka on the climb while I, after being poorly positioned going into the climb, fought my way into about the top 20 by the descent, just behind a well positioned Rossner with Hanka well up in front.

The descent was fast with small splits in the bunch occurring, but a group of nearly 30 regrouping with 2 km to go. I was fighting my way towards the front when there was another crash where among others Petra Rossner, Aussie Hayley Rutherford who had been up front all day and Hanka (again) came down. A scramble to the finish saw Melchers take a deserved line honours from Diana Ziliute and Chantal Beltman, both from Acca Due. Tanja Hennes dashed to the line to salvage a great 8th place and I jogged over the line in 25th after just missing the crash.

I am glad the first big race is over, a little more luck and we would have had 2 or more riders in the first 10....The next World Cup takes us to Belgium for La Flèche Wallonne. We had better pack our winter clothes for this one it is notorious for it's terrible weather and nasty climb to finish the aptly named 'Muur de Huy' or Wall of Huy.


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