Armstrong, Neben lead U.S. efforts in elite women's road race
The U.S. Womenís National Team closed out its 2007 road season on Saturday as Kristin Armstrong
was the top American with a 13th-place finish in the 134-kilometer elite womenís road race at
the UCI Road World Championships.
Armstrong and teammate Amber Neben finished in a 16-rider chase group just six seconds behind
winner Marta Bastianelli of Italy.
After spending 18 kilometers in a two-woman breakaway with Italian Noemi Cantele
on the penultimate lap of the seven-lap race, Neben placed 16th.
The United States put forth a strong team effort, but missed adding a second medal to Armstrongís silver
from Wednesdayís individual time trial.
"I would have liked to have gotten top five for the team,"
Armstrong said afterwards.
"They worked really hard for me today, but sometimes at the finish you need a little bit of luck on your side."
Assigned to support roles, Katheryn Curi and Lauren Franges spent much of the day at the front of the
peloton setting the pace before Curi escaped in a four-woman breakaway with Italian Tatiana Guderzo, German
Hanka Kupfernagel and Russian Oxana Kozonchuck.
The foursome was eventually caught before separate solo breakaway attempts by Spain's Mazaga Iturriagaechevarriea
and Guderzo tried and failed.
On the sixth lap, Neben and Cantele distanced themselves from the rest of the pack on the circuitís first of two
climbs in a move that many thought would be the decisive break of the day.
"I know that Amber has to go when it gets really hard for everybody else, and so when she came up my wheel
I told her to go,"Armstrong later explained.
"I think getting away in a small group like that is Amberís strength. She did a great job and
took a risk and thatís the only way youíre going to win in road racing. She could have been
just like Bastianelli today, but it just didnít work out. If there was a little bit of luck on
her side, the move could have stuck."
"It was a fantastic job," Neben later commented of her teammatesí efforts.
"Curi and Franges were all over the front in the beginning and Christine (Thorburn) was up there.
Kristin was awesome as far as helping set up that move."
Once the breakaway containing Neben and Cantele was established, it gained a maximum of
25 seconds but only lasted 18 kilometers before Germany led the chase to shut it down.
"It was just one lap too early," Neben explained. "We still had 30 or 40 kilometers to go. If we could have set
it up like that on the last lap it could have been awesome, but at the same time, when the moment is there,
you have to take your chance. Weíre going to win when we take risks. It was pretty windy though and I
think that helped kill our momentum."
The final lap began with most of the pre-race contenders in the lead group before Bastianelli made her winning move on
the first ascent of the circuit. Her lead only grew to 20 seconds but the peloton was unable to close the gap before
"Bastianelli was too good today," Neben said. "It was just a weird finish. I think maybe everyone was just
looking at each other to chase. I was pretty cooked at that point and I was just hoping to get up to
Kristinís wheel and sit up to create a gap,"
"By the end, it was just Amber and me," Armstrong said, "and Amber had put so much effort into that move with
Cantele that she didnít have any energy at the end to make some attacks."
In the following group, 1:09 off the pace of the leaders, Thorburn, who suffered a mechanical mishap
and had to change bikes twice during the race, and Mara Abbott
who was competing in her first world championships after a breakthough season that saw her win a
national title and place second in a World Cup, placed 44th and 45th respectively.
After riding aggressively throughout the early part of the contest, Curi, Franges and Tina Pic did not finish but
played roles in the teamís overall efforts.
"I was excited to come here and I knew we had a strong group of climbers and that this course was really good for our team,"
Franges said after racing in her first world championships.
"I was really excited to come and do whatever I could to make it easier for the team on the last couple of laps."
"Going into the start of the sixth lap, Lauren and I worked hard to make sure the girls were in position
going into the downhill," Curi explained.
"I think as a team we raced really well together and I think thatís indicative of how cohesive weíve been all year."
Alex Wrubleski overcomes fall for ninth place
Despite a fall in the last lap, Alex Wrubleski finished ninth Saturday in the 113.7
kilometre womenís elite road race at the world championships in road cycling.
Wrubleski and Erinne Willock, who was 17th, were in the same pack within six seconds of the winner,
Marta Bastianelli of Italy
"With a bit more experience, Alex could have done even better because she was in good position for the sprint.
Despite that unlucky fall itís still a superb result," said Kris Westwood, the Canadian team manager.
In her fall, Wrubleski also brought down former world champion Judith Arndt of Germany as both were among a 15-rider pack.
"When we got to the last knarly decent I somehow ended up right on the front and took one of the turns a
little too fast and BAM," wrote Wrubleski in her blog, "I went down hard and skidded for a ways and took out Judith Arnt."
At that time, Willock made an attempt to catch Bastianelli. The Italian was alone at the front at that
point before being caught with a kilometre to go.
Leigh Hobson of Toronto was 32nd (1:09 behind) while Anne Samplonius of Montreal did not finish.
"I was in the mix but it was basically position before the last corner 300m from the finish and I went into it
in about 11th place...", Wrubelski wrote, "So with 9th, 17th & 31st in the RR and Anneís 15th in the TT.
We are super happy with it!"