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Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de Berne - CDM

Switzerland, May 10, 2009

Swiss round to separate close contest

Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini) celebrates
Photo ©: WomensCycling.net
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The Women's World Cup standings are a two-woman battle after four rounds, and it's Swede Emma Johannson who holds the coveted leader's jersey over Dutchwoman Marianne Vos. Johannson has been on the podium of every World Cup round this season, but while the Red Sun team rider has won one round (the Ronde van Drenthe), Vos has two World Cup victories to her name: the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and La Flèche Wallonne rounds.

The two women are separated by a mere 18 points, and with 75 awarded to the winner, there is no chance that we will see anyone except one of these two in the jersey on Sunday afternoon. Third placed Loes Gunnewijk (Flexpoint) lags behind Vos by 88 points.

The 2009 Tour de Berne course will be unchanged from last year, when a more challenging parcours was introduced. The riders will take in four laps of a 33.95-kilometre circuit, totaling 135.8 kilometres, and climb a total of 1680 metres.

Once considered the realm of the sprinters, the hillier parcours saw a solo victor in 2008. Another Swede, Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini Selle Italia), took home the title with a valiant attack mid-way through the final lap.

Still, a large group came to the line in the fight for second place, and it was Judith Arndt who took the runner-up slot. But Arndt has had bad luck this year, and after breaking her collarbone earlier in the season she crashed in La Flèche Wallonne and broke a bone in her hand.

Arndt's teammate Ina Teutenberg could well be the main contender for the Berne round if her Columbia-Highroad team can control the breakaways. Teutenberg has won 7 times already this season, the last of which came in the Gracia-Orlova Tour last week. She showed in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen round that she is climbing better than ever, and few doubt that she is the fastest sprinter in the women's peloton.

Of course, former World Champion Vos is no slouch when it comes to a late turn of speed. Nor is Nicole Cooke, but she has yet to regain her fire after taking home the Olympic gold and the World Championships last year. Could the Tour de Berne be the return of the Cookie monster? Or is she suffering from the curse of the rainbow bands?