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Sweden, July 28, 2006

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Ljungskog is Sweden's first

By Gabriella Ekström in Vårgårda


Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

"Team work above all," was Susanne Ljungskog's successful recipe in Vårgårda outside of Gothenburg, when she took the victory in Sweden's first ever World Cup cycling race. Swedish sprinter Monica Holler (Bigla Cycling team) followed up with a third placing behind World Cup leader Nicole Cooke (Univega), and gave Sweden it's first ever double podium placing in a World Cup race.

"I'm thrilled beyond belief," Susanne said after the finish. "The team worked perfectly for me. Since this course wasn't very hard, we had to make it very hard, and I believe we did." The double world champion further told Cyclingnews that she had dreamed of riding a really big race in Sweden since she first started riding a bike, and that she hoped the race would open up more eyes for the sport.

Vårgårda is a small community with a big cycling history, going back to when the "Fåglum" Pettersson brothers ruled the roads. Vårgårda is also very familiar with big cycling arrangements, and that is one of the reasons why the city was selected to host one of the world cup races. The most obvious reason being, as Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI explained, was Susanne Ljungskog.

"Why I selected Sweden to host the race is a really simple question to answer," McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "You have the double world champion here, and alongside her a lot of promising riders. I'm looking forward to a great race, and I expect an outstanding arrangement."

Nicole Cooke (Univega)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

How it unfolded

The women would tackle 11 laps of 11,6 kilometres, with a kilometre long climb on each lap. A climb that might have appeared easy at first sight, but that promised to be tougher and tougher as the race went on. 112 riders from 20 teams took the start at 16:30. The weather was very warm and humid with an overcast sky. The race was fast from the gun, but it would take a while for a group to get established. The peloton got stretched out until the first climb over Hägrungabacken, where the pace slowed a bit. Despite this, some riders were already dropped from the main field.

After the first passage over the finish line, small groups were starting to jump away from the field, after attempts by Swiss champion Annette Beutler (Buitenpoort) and Laure Werner (Vlaanderen) among others, a serious looking group with Danish champion Linda Villumsen (Buitenpoort), Italian champion Fabiana Luperini (Top girls Fassa Bortolo) and Oenone Wood (Equipe Nürnberger) was formed. As they passed over the line for the second time, they had 30 seconds gap to Catrine Josefsson (Swedish Nat. team) and Natalie Bates (AA drink), who were chasing ahead of the peloton. In the front group, Villumsen looked happy to do 90% of the work, and they were a well functioning group until Wood surprisingly took a wrong turn and unwillingly took a shortcut. Eager to solve the problem, she sat up and waited for the peloton, not knowing if she would be allowed to continue racing.


Helen Kelly (Elk Haus)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Without that third party, the break was caught shortly after. The pace over Hägrungabacken was very high as the riders passed for the first time. World cup leader Nicole Cooke moved close to the front, and the visual heart monitor on Regina Schleicher revealed a tough 97% of her capacity.

Katherine Bates (Equipe Nürnberger) and Kimberly Anderson (T-mobile) then attacked and were joined by Bettina Kuhn (Bigla Cycling), Marie Lindberg (Swedish national team) and Dorte Rasmussen (Bianchi Aliverti). The weather was now very hot, and the feeding had opened already on the second lap. The front group was not co-operating too well, and Bates would pass most of her turns.

More riders caught up with the break away group, among names Amber Neben (Buitenpoort), Joanne Kiesanowski (Univega) Jennifer Hohl (Bigla Cycling), tiny Miho Oki (Nobili Rubinetterie) and Catherine Hare (Team FBUK) and these riders gained 1'40 to the Buitenpoort-led peloton with 7 laps to go.

38 year-old Kimberley Anderson then decided to attack from the group and easily rode away from the group that seemed to lose motivation after the attack. Coming onto the 6th lap, Anderson had 20 seconds to the peloton that had caught the riders in between, but coming closer to Hägrungabacken, Kimberly added another 25 seconds to her lead. The weather had now changed a bit, and got colder while big drops of rain started to fall over the riders.

Ljungskog showed a bit of what was to come and put in a strong attack in the climb. She caught Anderson in just a few seconds, but was closely monitored by the other top riders who wouldn't let her get too far. Luperini, Cooke and Zoulfia Zabirova (Bigla Cycling) were all keeping a watchful eye on the Swedish champion.


Amber Neben (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Lise Christensen (Bianchi Aliverti), Helen Wyman (Team FBUK), Dorte Rasmussen, Magali Le Floch (T-mobile), Loes Markerink (@work) Nicole Cooke, Zoulfia Zabirova, Karin Thürig (Univega), Monica Holler (Bigla Cycling), Annette Beutler (Buitenpoort), Trixi Worrack (Equipe Nürnberger) were all riding close to the front and sometimes ahead of it, but they all had to chase Ljungskog as she attacked again as they approached the climb yet another time. Cooke and Holler were eager to chase her, and after them followed the peloton.

The next riders to get away on the wet roads were Karen Thürig, Magali Le Floch and Annette Beutler, all of them having been very active in the race. After two hours of racing, they rode well together, and built a gap of 20 seconds to closest chasing Trixi Worrack, in her turn ten seconds ahead of the peloton.

The peloton consisted of a mere 20 riders by now, and the pace set up by Ljungskog's Buitenpoort team forced more and more riders to let go. The front group couldn't resist the pace either, and Ljungskog attacked on the climb for the third time as the trio ahead were caught. Nicole Cooke smelled the danger and could follow together with Le Floch, who found the strength to follow yet another break. With 3 laps to go, the Ljungskog trio started to lap other riders on the 11,6 kilometre course.

Monica Holler, Trixi Worrack, Annette Beutler, Karen Thürig and Kim Anderson chased the trio, 33 seconds behind as the leaders entered the tenth lap. Behind them the peloton was lost at 1'20.

Le Floch could sit nicely behind Cooke and Ljungskog, who were both very eager, and despite the two big hitters doing all the work, Le Floch looked like the weaker rider and had to let go over the climb on the penultimate lap. Susanne and Nicole worked well together until the last passage where Susanne suddenly sat up behind Cooke and refused to pull a meter. Cooke looked behind and then quickly resigned and started to work.

The race podium
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Ljungskog seemed to have made the smartest exchange in the race: World Cup points in return for a wheel to sit on for the last lap. Instead of attacking the Brit in the last climb, Ljungskog sat behind until a few hundred metres before the line where she exploded and won a close but yet calculated sprint.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net

Images by Robin Hedström


1 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team       3.11.56
2 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team                       
3 Monica Holler (Swe) Bigla Cycling Team                        0.24
4 Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung           0.26
5 Annette Beutler (Swi) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team            0.32
6 Angela Brodtka (Ger) Aa-Drink Cycling Team                    0.58
7 Magali LeFloch (Fra) T-Mobile Professional Cycling                
8 Karin Thürig (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team                       
9 Kirsten Wild (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team                      3.13
10 Suzanne de Goede (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team                     
11 Oenone Wood (Aus) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung                
12 Katia Longhin (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line            
13 Debby Mansveld (Ned) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim         
14 Adrie Visser (Ned) Aa-Drink Cycling Team                         
15 Tania Belvederesi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line        
16 Lang Meng (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling                                
17 Miho Oki (Jpn) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas               
18 Evy Van Damme (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim          
19 Jenny MacPherson (Aut) Elk Haus Nö                               
20 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team                
21 Jennifer Hohl (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team                           
22 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl) Univega Pro Cycling Team                
23 Elodie Touffet (Fra) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas         
24 Nikki Egyed (Aus) Vienne Futuroscope                             
25 Marina Jaunatre (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope                         
26 Bettina Kuhn (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team                            
27 Linn Torp (Nor) National Team Norway                             
28 Linda Villumsen (Den) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team               
29 Sharon van Dromme (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim      
30 Zulfiya Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla Cycling Team                        
31 Laure Werner (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim           
32 Emma Johansson (Swe) Bizkaia-Panda Software                      
33 Yong Li Liu (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling                              
34 Marie Lindberg (Swe) Sweden                                      
35 Dorte Lohse Rasmussen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai              
36 Veronica Andréasson (Swe) Sweden                                 
37 Trine Hansen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai                       
38 Patricia Schwager (Swi) Elk Haus Nö                              
39 Catherine Hare (GBr) Team Fbuk                                   
40 Emanuela Azzini (Ita) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas        
41 Amber Neben (USA) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team                   
42 Helen Kelly (Aus) Elk Haus Nö                                    
43 Jolanda Cools-Van Dongen (Ned) @Work Cycling Team                
44 Mei Fang Li (Chn) Giant Pro Cycling                              
45 Kimberly Baldwin (USA) T-Mobile Professional Cycling             
46 Hege Linn Eie Vatland (Nor) National Team Norway                 
47 Sofie Goor (Bel) Vlaanderen - Caprisonne - T Interim             
48 Sabina Bernardi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line          
49 Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu) Nobili Rubinetterie Menikini Cogeas      
50 Debby Van de Berg (Ned) @Work Cycling Team                       
51 Priska Doppmann (Swi) Univega Pro Cycling Team                   
52 Lise Christensen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai                   
53 Sandra Rombouts (Ned) Buitenpoort - Flexpoint Team               
54 Lidia Arcangeli (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team                         
55 Helen Wyman (GBr) Team Fbuk                                      
56 Christiane Soeder (Aut) Univega Pro Cycling Team                 
57 Mette Fischer Andersen (Den) Bianchi Aliverti Kookai             
58 Kimberly Anderson (USA) T-Mobile Professional Cycling            
59 Anke Wichmann (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung              
60 Sarah Düster (Ger) Univega Pro Cycling Team                      
61 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line     3.31
62 Regina Schleicher (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung      3.34
63 Theresa Senff (Ger) Aa-Drink Cycling Team                        
64 Eva Lutz (Ger) Equipe Nuernberger Versicherung                   
65 Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line          
66 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling          
67 Judith Arndt (Ger) T-Mobile Professional Cycling                 
68 Loes Markerink (Ned) @Work Cycling Team                      4.35
69 Jaccolien Wallaard (Ned) @Work Cycling Team                      
70 Naiara Telletxea Lopez (Spa) Bizkaia-Panda Software              
71 Judith Helmink (Ned) @Work Cycling Team                      5.55
72 Karin Aune (Swe) Sweden                                      9.39
73 Mélanie Bravard (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope                    11.19
74 Sara Mustonen (Swe) Team Västergötland                      19.14
75 Jennie Stenerhag (Swe) Team Västergötland                        
76 Sonia Bazire (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope                            
77 Froydis Meen Warsted (Nor) National Team Norway             21.49

World Cup standings

1 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Univega Pro Cycling Team