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Russian National Championships - CN

June 27-30, 2002

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Day 2 - June 29: Elite Women's Road Race, 108 km

A successful plot in gusty wind

By Sergey Kurdukov, Russian Eurosport commentator
The wind
Photo: © Sergey Kurdukov
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There were more than a few girls who were simply afraid of the race. And let us not be critical of them. It is not every day that they have to cover eight extremely technical laps along the Krylatskoye course which was devised to make as many male Olympians as possible in 1980 suffer and drop out. Horrible banked turns at the bottom of a couple of long, U-shaped uphill-downhill bends. Throw in hot and windy conditions - one of the powerful squalls tore the metal rope that was holding in the position the cloth above the start/finish line.

But also the line up was very strong, just as in the ITT two days earlier. A couple of minutes before the gun went off I saw two podium place winners of that race talking to each other in half voice. Something was definitely cooking up there between Zoulfia Zabirova and Svetlana Boubnenkova. And it was almost clear what. "Bouba" is one of world's top climbers also possessing wonderful skills for riding against the clock. An ideal combination for a breakaway. As long as Zabirova, who lacked enough racing kilometres and didn't feel anything like in the necessary form (at least she told me so), she was most likely supposed to help Boubnenkova.

The girls who have been on very friendly terms for years ride for different team, but this time they had a very powerful opponent in the whole Itera squad. The women's version of the team put their money on world points race champion Olga Slioussareva. If the race had come down to a sprint finish, the outcome was predictable - former track sprinter Slioussareva still possesses incredible turn of speed.
Photo: © Sergey Kurdukov
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The first two or three laps were covered in an old-fashioned pro tour stage style, that is steady slowly increasing tempo. The pack of the masters race , which started with some 15 minutes interval, was getting closer and closer. A couple of words should certainly be said about his race - although it didn't have the official status of Russian masters championship, it brought together a lot of strong veterans, one of whom, Igor Moskaljov, former teammate of the Olympic conqueror of Krylatskoye Serguey Sukhorutchenkov, eventually won a 4 lap long battle.


The real battle of the elite women started almost exactly as the masters' one finished. Boubnenkova and Zabirova exploded in a series of breathtaking uphill attacks. Breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word - as Olga Slioussareva admitted later, she was on the point of being dropped, or at least letting Zabirova go, "but I tried hard not to let her notice that. Whenever she turned around to see whether I was OK after her spurt (CN: let's call it The Look as this kind of stuff is almost officially called after the Alpe d'Huez stage of 2001 Tour de France), I put on a very calm face. If only she knew what was going on inside me..."
Zabirova chases
Photo: © Sergey Kurdukov
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Boubnenkova didn't know for sure either, but one fine moment Svetlana got clear and was never brought back. The only rider who got glued to her wheel was Valentina Polkhanova - multiple podium place winner of the World's as a part of the Russian TTT team, but also a good climber who had finished just a couple of points short of Queen of the Mountains jersey in Le Grand Boucle of 1999. Although Polkhanova hardly showed how good she is at riding in front, as she almost never took turns.

The speed picked up for a couple of laps that broke the pack to pieces of no more than five riders in each. Only the second one was likely to bring the duo back, but after yet another squally straight they lost all interest in chasing. Finally everything came down to two duels - for the 1st spot between Boubnenkova and Polkhanova and for the bronze between Zabirova and Slioussareva. In the first fight justice was on "Bouba's" side - the one who worked most gained the victory. In the second one the former sprinter Slioussareva did her job the way she had been supposed to.

No doubt, as the tradition goes, Boubnenkova and Slioussareva climbed the podium with their children.

Post-race comments:

The podium
Photo: © Sergey Kurdukov
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Svetlana Boubnenkova: "In fact I had to make one more individual time trial out of the second half of the race. Luckily I had enough power this time. Well I like this course. Wind? No problem, strong but not murderously. Heat? Still less problems, especially after Italian races."

Olga Slioussareva: "Yes, this course suits my abilities. The climbs are not so long, those laps like explosive riders. But I have to tell you I'm not at my peak after the period of training at home. And I don't know what Bouba thinks, but I believe the weather was very hard on us. Yet the race was interesting, I hope."

Zoulfia Zabirova: "When I got up this morning I felt a bit sluggish. Perhaps that held me back after all. But our plot with Bouba worked well, so I'm rather satisfied. Now the champs for me is over, but I'm going to stay a couple of days in my new Moscow flat. One of these days I'm inviting my cycling friends. I hope to have a good time, for there is a lot of work ahead after that."


Images by Sergey Kurdukov, Russian Eurosport commentator

Results - 108 km

1 Svetlana Boubnenkova (Izhevsk)          3.13.43 (33.7 km/h)
2 Valentina Polkhanova (Samara)        
3 Olga Slioussareva (Itera)                  4.09
4 Zoulfia Zabirova (Rostov-Moscow)  
5 Julia Martysova (Itera)
6 Julia Razenkova (St Petersburg)
7 Svetlana Samokhvalova (Itera)              9.35            
8 Olga Khortova (Petrogrdets)              
9 Natalia Boyarskaya ( Chita)                9.47
10 Olga Zabelinskaya (Itera)                10.49
12 Valentina Gerasimova (Moscow)    
15 Gulnara Ivanova (Udmurtia)               13.17
19 Natalia Karimova (Rostov)     

Starters: 52
Finishers: 32