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Open de Suède Vargarda - CDM

Sweden, July 30, 2008

Final showdown for Beijing-bound women

By Ben Atkins

Judith Arndt (Team Columbia) will be strong in Sweden
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The Women's World Cup returns this week after the early summer stage races and offers a final chance for the favourites to hone their form for the Olympic Games in just over one weeks time. Last year's winner Chantal Beltman will not return to defend her title, but the Columbia team - that has been almost unstoppable this summer - will be led by World Cup leader Judith Arndt.

Arndt, who as well as holding a commanding lead in the season-long competition, recently took the overall in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, showing that her season is peaking at just the right time. This race also marks a 2008 World Cup debut for Columbia's 19 year-old Swedish champion Emilia Fahlin.

The course will consist of 12 laps of an 11 km circuit based on the town of Vårgårda, to the northeast of Gothenburg, adding up to a total of 132km. The major obstacle each lap will be the short climb of the Hägrungabacken, which provided Beltman (when the team was still T-Mobile) with the springboard for her attack last year. The majority of the rest of the course is generally flat but rolling, giving a breakaway rider a chance to stay away but also providing an opportunity for a well-organised chase to pull it back. If a sprinter's team does manage to keep things together, the final stretch is almost perfectly straight apart from two corners inside the final kilometre.

Last year's second place Karin Thürig (Cervelo-Lifeforce) also comes off the back of a successful Thüringen Rundfahrt, having won the time trial and finishing fourth overall. She leads a strong team - which also won the team competition at Thüringen - which includes Chrstiane Soeder and Priska Doppmann. Those four are Beijing bound and so they should be on top form, and will be supported by riders like Sarah Düster and Australian Carla Ryan.

Completing last year's podium was Noemi Cantele (Bigla), and she also approaches the race after a successful Thüringen; the Italian won solo on Stage 3 and took the leader's jersey for a day. As usual Cantele will be joined by Nicole Brändli, but the Swiss will be testing the recovery of the thigh injury that forced her Thüringen withdrawal. The Bigla team will be competitive as usual but Swedish pair Veronica Andréasson and Monica Holler will be extra motivated.

Trixi Worrack (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) won the stagein Germany
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Another local rider hoping to impress will be Emma Johansson at the head of her AA-Drink squad. The Swedish time trial champion is another due to represent her country in next month's games and will hope that her Beijing form will be enough to give her a result in her home World Cup race. The Dutch team has sent a strong roster of riders to support Johansson and also includes Kirsten Wild in case it finishes in a sprint.

Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung will, as usual, be led by former German champion Trixi Worrack, also on the back of a successful Thüringen Rundfahrt. She will be hoping to build on her final stage victory over Arndt as she approaches the Olympic Games where the pair of them will be team-mates. Suzanne De Goede is currently third in the World Cup rankings and may hope to take advantage of any hesitation on the part of those riders whose eyes are focused on Beijing. Local hopes will also be carried in the form of 20 year-old Marie Lindberg.

Fabiana Luperini (Menikini-Selle Italia Master Colors) travels north on the back of her fifth victory in the Giro d'Italia. The Italian champion will be hoping to go one better than her second place to Arndt in Montreal, and possibly stake her claim to a place in her national team in Beijing now that World Champion Marta Bastianelli's participation looks unlikely.

Angela Hennig (DSB Bank) gives an impromptu
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Current second place in the World Cup Marianne Vos has elected to head to China early and so her DSB Bank team will take the start without her. The team is nevertheless well equipped to perform including, as it does, breakaway specialists like Adrie Visser, Andrea Bosman and Sharon Van Essen. If things come together at the end Angela Henning (née Brodtka) will be competitive - as her recent victory at Thüringen showed.

The Webcor Builders team will once again be led by time trial specialist Christine Thorburn. The former US TT champion will by no means be the team's only outlet though, as it fields a strong roster including Canadian champion Alex Wrubleski and Geelong winner Katheryn Curi-Mattis. The latter rider will be hoping for better luck than she suffered at la Flêche Wallonne where she crashed and re-broke the collarbone that she sustained in the Tour of New Zealand.

Probably the biggest local name missing is that of Susanne Ljungskog (Flexpoint) as the two-time World Champion is heading for China to get ready for the Olympic race. The Dutch team will also be without Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel and Amercian Amber Neben who are also Beijing bound. Nevertheless, the team will still be well represented by Loes' Gunnewijk and Markerink, with Trine Schmidt and Iris Slappendal.