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5th Geelong World Cup - CDM
Australia, March 3, 2007
T-Mobile's Teutenberg a favourite at Geelong World Cup
By John Michael Flynn at Geelong, Australia
Supported by one of the most impressive team rosters ever to be assembled in the sport of professional women's cycling, Germany's Ina Teutenberg will enter tomorrow's opening race of the 2007 Women's World Cup series at Geelong as odds-on favourite to claim back to back victories.
It was here at Geelong where the thirty-two year old German champion began her stellar 2006 season – punctuated with a string of stage victories in th professional circuit's biggest races.
The antecedents are no different in 2007. Just as she managed to do last year, Teutenberg has featured in the sprint finishes at the Geelong Women's Tour – the World Cup's traditional lead-up event.
The world's leading sprinter won Tuesday's criterium at the Geelong Tour, then backed up to win the 115 kilometre road stage at Lara – again with a trademark burst of speed in the finish straight.
Teutenberg has spent the northern winter in her adopted home away from home of Sydney, Australia – training in the warmth of the southern hemisphere summer. The defending champion is feeling confident, but wary of a field containing seven of the world's top ten women, including World Cup Champion Nicole Cooke, who yesterday became the first non-Australian to win the Geelong Women's Tour.
"I think there are a lot of people way fitter than they were last year, for example Nicole Cooke," Teutenberg said, assessing her chances. "I mean looking at her this year and looking at her last year, I think there is a difference."
T-mobile has no shortage of options for the World Cup race – with 2004 World Road Champion Judith Arndt, current Danish road and time trial champion Linda Villumsen, 2007 Australian criterium champion Alexis Rhodes, 2006 Australian road champion Kate Bates, and 2005 World Cup Champion Oenone Wood all capable of winning on the day.
In recent years the race has ended in a sprint finish, but the course has been altered slightly for 2007 and will take the opposite direction from previous years as the riders contest eight laps of a 15 kilometre circuit.
"I think it's a pretty open race, nobody knows if it's going to be harder doing it the other way around," Teutenberg said. "So we're going to see how it will be ridden. We have Oenone, we have Judith, we have Kate we have so many different possibilities to win the race that I won't be too worried if I defend the title or not."
The new Australian flavour of the T-Mobile squad will ensure the magenta girls plenty of crowd support in the Victorian coastal city of Geelong. The ever confident Oenone Wood, talking up her team's chances. "I think we're a great chance to win, 100 per cent," Wood said. "There are six options in our team and six very realistic options.
"That's all I can say I suppose. Any one of the six girls can win and I'm very confident of that."
Cooke also confident
After winning the Geelong Tour – a victory largely crafted by gathering bonus sprint points and consistently making the podium – Nicole Cooke is the first to agree that her form is better than the same time last year. Like Teutenberg, the Welsh World Cup Champion has spent much of the northern winter in Australia (Cooke has been in Melbourne for eight weeks) and it appears to have paid dividends. "I'm very happy with my form and we hope to have a good race season," Cooke said.
Off the bike, Cooke's team (formerly Univega) has undergone major structural changes in the off-season, but the riding roster for the new Raleigh Lifeforce Creation team is largely the same. "I think we knew from the end of 2006 that we (the riders) didn't want to go, we had a good chemistry in the team, we had very strong team-work," Cooke said. "We decided to keep our existing riders and this week the same five are here from last year.
Nürnberger banking on form reversal for series opener
T-Mobile's off-season gains have come at the expense of fellow German team Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, which both Oenone Wood and Kate Bates raced for in 2006. The new-look Nürnberger features only two girls from last year's team, but has a look of quality in the shape of former World Champions Regina Schleicher and Edita Pucinskaite, along with 2006 World Championship medalist Trixi Worrack.
Team director Jens Zemke, on his ninth trip to Australia, is well experienced with the conditions in Geelong, and his hoping his riders can improve on their form from the Geelong Tour. "It's a new team, only two girls from last year's team, we have a group of really good girls," Zemke said. "And we are very focused on Saturday and we hope that we can do something better than in the (Geelong) tour."
Competition between the German teams is strong – even more so due to the nature of the 2007 World Cup schedule – where results in the early rounds in Australia and New Zealand are now crucial. "It's getting more important because there are only nine World Cup races left from twelve last year," Zemke said. "So every single race is much important. It's a showdown here in Australia."
Will the surfing lessons help?
On the lighter side here at the Geelong World Cup, one of the unanswered questions here is .. will the surfing lessons help the Nürnberger girls?
Geelong is the ‘dropping-in' point for the world famous Bells Beach – which offers some of the most perfectly formed waves on the planet. In between training rides, Zemke and his team have been hanging ten, enjoying the best the Geelong region has to offer.
"It's my ninth time in Australia and I enjoy it every year," Zemke said. "We arrived a week before and we rented a house in Torquay (coastal holiday village) and that was pretty nice. "We did some lessons of surfing, but we shall not forget the race, that is the reason we are here."