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World Champs: Elite Women's Road Race Live Coverage
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 10/11/2003
World Champs: Elite Women's Road Race Live Coverage
 

Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of the World Championships in Hamilton, Canada. Earlier today was the Junior Men's Road Race and now the elite women are on the road.

We join the race in progress with commentary by Anita van Crey and podofdonny - use the F5 key to refresh this page and view the latest information.

Second lap, bunch complete. Indeed the bunch is all together at a fairly relaxed pace - and the big news of the day, as we have already reported, is that Genevieve Jeanson, 22, of Lachine, Que., will not start today's race. "The machine from Lachine" did not pass the UCI blood checks - however her teammates are undaunted; before the start we heard from two of them.

Lyne Bessette (Canada): "I feel good, I feel strong."

Amy Moore (Canada): "Watch the team - we are not going to disappoint you."

So a Canada undaunted by its setback and the race promises to be wide open with many potential winners:

Joane Somarriba - NEW WORLD CHAMP for TT!!! UCI ranked 5th, 28th in the World Cup, 3rd in 2002 World Champs RR; In 2003 won Grand Boucle Feminine for the third time - a feat only two other women have ever accomplished! (one of those is here today - the legendary French cyclist - Jeannie Longo).

The reigning World Champion is Swede Ljungskog, and she took 1st at Toscana this year. In the past seven years the women's world champ has either won or been on the podium in the Giro della Toscana.

Susanne Ljungskog is currently the top ranked rider in UCI points, and she ended the year 9th in World Cup. 2003 Swedish Natl RR & TT Champ. 2003 - 5th Amstel Gold; 5th Montreal WC.

Will the Dutch women be able to secure their sixth medal in seven races so far (after today's win in the junior men by Kai Reus)? The women in orange that defend their colors on the Hamilton roads are Mirjam Melchers, Chantal and Ghita Beltman, Vera Koedooder, Loes Gunnewijk and Arenda Grimberg.

Other favourites include Olivia Gollan, Australia, UCI 12 ranked, WC 11th, the former schoolteacher was 1st in the Tour of Berne and is reigning Aussie RR Champ.

Nicole Cooke, 20, British, UCI ranked 7th and WC winner! The 2003 winner women's world cup! First British woman to win the world cup and youngest winner ever, male or female! (Dutch and British pride are well evident today...)

But to continue, at the age of 12, Nicole declared on television that her ambition was to win Olympic gold - and her cycling did not stop her studies - she passed her A-levels (Maths, Biology and Geography) in 2001 with flying colours at Brynteg Comprehensive, whose past pupils include rugby star Rob Howley and legendary long jumper Lynn "The Leap" Davies.

Meanwhile it is the Spanish team of ladies who are setting the early pace.

Nicole Cooke of course has a long way to go to reach the awesome palmares of British legend Beryl Burton - however Former Wales national cycling coach Shane Sutton has described Nicole as potentially the greatest woman cyclist of all time. She has also been billed by the British Cycling Federation as a prodigy, destined to be "Britain's future Tour de France champion" - or more strictly, champion of the Tour Feminin, the women's version.

One hundred kilometres to go in this title battle for the women. Today's course is 10 laps of 12.4 km, for a total distance of 124.0 km.

The pace gradually beginning to pick up on this roller coaster course - and big, big crowds out to cheer the ladies on! The Russian women are the ones to set the pace when the ladies cruise into their third lap.

37.45 km/h the average speed for that last lap, and that speed will increase as the race progresses.

It looks again one sunny day in Hamilton after a foggy start this morning for the junior men.

Still Spain, Russia and USA riders pushing the peloton along - a lot of early race tactics and nerves out there this afternoon.

The bunch is passing by the spot taken over by some Dutch, having hung their one big Netherlandsflag with the name of the town of Rijssen painted on in capitals...this all looks bigger than the town itself is...

Now the peloton heads up the hill of Beckett Drive, the pace still not too high and the peloton together as Christine Thorburn of the USA attacks.

It is an early move that is pulled back, but causes the peloton to stretch.

32 nationalities took the start in this women's championship.

There has been a lot of criticism of the road surfaces throughout these championships - the major European Tours often resurface raods prior to the race coming through - something the Canadians might have done...but as they say, it is the same for every rider and is part of a racing cyclist's skills.

Christine Thorburn still looking lively at the front for USA - presumably part of a pre-arranged tactic.

Though these possibly bumpy roads seem to me rather similar to some road surfaces they had to conquer in the Tour of Belgium, for instance.

The peloton sweeps down Wellington Street, and the Dutch girls move towards the front of the peloton - but once again it is Spain who force the pace.

90 km to go - the speed is beginning to have its effect and the weaker riders are being shelled out from the back of the peloton. Charlotte Goldsmith seems to be having trouble holding on - oh la la!

Some women already have had difficulties with the higher pace and have to let the bunch go on the climb.

It is the Dutch front Chantal Beltman who rides smoothly with the comnpetition in the front rows.

The Daily Peloton extends its best wishes and a speedy recovery to Kevin Lacombe, who is in critical condition - following the crash this morning. The 18 year old from Amos, Quebec, has suffered head injuries and is in the trauma center. His family are with him in hospital and we wish them all "bon chance."

Speaking on her excellent website today - http://www.nicolecooke.com/ - the Welsh Wizard said:
"The World Championship was one of my main aims for the season at the start of the year.

"Of course I still want to win it, but after winning the World Cup series the pressure is off me.

"Obviously the Canadians will expect to do well on their home circuit, and other favourites to do well will include Susanne Ljungskog who won last year.

"The course should suit me, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm feeling fairly good, and I hope I can add another medal for Great Britain after David Millar won the Time Trial with a fantastic ride.

"We've been here for almost a week, and though our base 80 kilometres from Hamilton is good, it's fairly quiet. One of the challenges of a big event like this is what to do with all the spare time when you are away for so long waiting for race day.

"We're not far from Niagara Falls, so I've visited one of the World's most famous Landmarks three times!

"The important thing now though is to be totally focussed and give my very best for the final race of the season."

And it is none other than "the Legend" herself - Jeannie Longo Ciprelli - who moves to the front of the peloton while Nicole Cooke sits about 10 riders back.

Manon Jutras of Canada now picks up the pace at the front of the race - the peloton still together, the big names keeping to the front.

The pace must be high; the peloton is one long coloured ribbon, snaking its way around downtown Hamilton.

80km to go - as the Dutch girls move to the front.

Regarding tomorrow's men-battle, the latest one to complete the Dutch squad, Erik Dekker, appeared in a Dutch TV show where children can ask all kind of questions they wonder about. Quote from Dekker: "je kunt nooit eerder aan de finish zijn dan dat je moet starten" (You can never be earlier at the race than the time you have to start at...).

Vera Koedooder, a great talent on as well track as road, is the one setting the pace.

Li Meifang of the China team has a puncture - and may find it difficult to get back onto the peloton.

The Dutch are collecting medals at this championships the way some people collect Elvis records - and certainly Chantal Beltman will be hoping for a podium today.

Sinead Jennings abandons.

But the Dutch girls have bad luck - looks like a chain jumped off - and now the Canadians once again pick up the pace.

You are right, podofdonny, the chain jumped off, but the team keeps on showing their eagerness to fight for nothing less than gold, and keep showing all their best legs in the front lines.

Swooping down James Street - a very fast and wide descent. One aspect of this course is that there is no obvious place to make an attack - team tactics and strength will be a big factor this afternoon.

Six laps to go - when will the ride really start? The last two laps are expected to be the ones to make the real decision in who will be wearing the rainbow jersey next season.

Through the feed zone - Carrara (Italy) is doing a lot of the early work for the Italian squad, but once again it is Spain who move to the front for Becketts Drive, with Iturriaga setting the pace. A huge Russian flag hangs from the trees, but it is Spain forcing the pace...

Lada Kozlikova finds the going difficult on the climb - and she is not alone...

Ljungskog chooses to follow the wheel of newly crowned time trial champion Somarriba. Melchers is not far away, to make sure the competition does not go on without her in it. Melchers, in recent years exceling in the womens world-cup, is living together with former Dutch professional Jean Paul van Poppel.

Kristen Armstrong now attacks and gets a small gap.

Two riders try to bridge the gap Tina Liebig; the German is putting in a great effort to join Kristen.

Nicole 'Cookie Monster' Cooke shows her colors in the front lines as well. It will be a hard battle for gold with so many women in tiptop shape and aiming to do best.

But the race is back together after great work from Rachel Heal - working for the Cookie Monster.

Britain's Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist, Rachel was second in the national RR and has been racing on the continent a great deal this season.

Rasa Polikeviciute (one of the twins) once again tries to get away. One Italian rider follows her, as well as a Russian girl.

75 km to go - peloton still together, pace picking up, like a colourful roller coaster heading for Gold!

The climbs every lap seem to make a small difference so far, but at the back of the pack several 'not-so-good-legs' suffer and have to let go.

Lap 5 - a wedge of the "Squadra Azzurra" at the front of the peloton - as the riders again begin to position themselves for the next climb.

Vera Carrara of Italy has been doing awesome work in this race to keep things together; also looking good are Olivia Gollan and Silvia Parietti - keeping well to the front and allowing nothing to go unnoticed. Meanwhile Rachel Heal is riding shotgun for Nicole Cooke.

Once again up Becketts Drive - no one really attacks and the peloton keeps together.

Down Fennell Avenue, no one attacks again, and there is a lot of head shaking and looking back from the girls at the front...

Sergey Lagutin of Uzbekistan, the U23 race winner from yesterday, has learnt that his ride will lead him to a pro contract with Belgian outfit LBK - so more congratulations to him!

The peloton starts to string out as Olga Zabelinskaia puts the pressure on at the front of the race.

Olivia Gollan and her Ozzie teammates are also keeping well up the peloton, as the girls again swoop towards downtown Hamilton.

Frances Newstead towards the back of the peloton with Jeannie Longo - a rider who does not like to mix it in the middle of the bunch.

Italy once again controlling things at the front - as Longo moves right up the left hand side of the peloton to the front of the race - she has a style which is totally unique.

50 km to go - peloton thinning slightly - but still together.

Italian Zugno is to be seen in the front lines as well.

Bad luck for Silvia Parietti, who has punctured.

Now Zugno from Italy puts on the pressure at the front of the race - Charlotte Goldsmith has abandoned the race but she was feeling poorly before the race started, so no real surprise.

Up Becketts Drive again - Spain and Italy at the front - Somarriba and Cooke side by side...

Mirjam Melchers, Susanne Ljungkvist and Jeannie Longo do their part of the work in the earlier part of the bunch. Anna Zugno sure is interested in all sorts of cycling too; she did have a closer look at her male colleagues at the prologue of this year's Tour de France in Paris.

And it is "the Legend" Longo who picks up the pace - as they top the climb and head back towards Hamilton - Chantal Beltman retires!!!

Noemi Cantele of Italy forces the pace...

7 riders break clear! Doppmann, Armstrong, Gollan and 4 others have a five second gap!

Cantele of Italy is there too, as is Moreno and Polikeviciyte - the alarm bells will be ringing in the peloton as these 7 girls start to work together - it is a good mix and match of top riders from different teams.

40 km to go - the peloton regroups yet again - Armstrong looks annoyed that her first effort did not work, as the attacks come thick and fast.

Somarriba tests the competition. She received after her world title TT 60.000 euro (almost the equivalent in dollars) from a sponsor.

Somarriba puts the pressure on, but Demet Barry closes her down. The field has split again. Melchers, looking around to check out who is joining them, follows the pace.

Once again though, the descent down James Mtn allows a general regroupment.

It sure look like the best wheel to follow (and leave behind in the final metres, that is....) is the rear wheel of Nicole Cooke's bike. She seems to be the one to beat. As Jeannie Longo leads the peloton into lap 7...

Li Meifang, the girl who punctured earlier, now abandons - and well done to her for a valiant effort! More and more women quit what appears to be this very hard ride.

So apart from the flurry by Australia's Olivia Gollan, Rasa Polikeviciute (Lithuania), Kristen Armstrong (USA), Svetlana Boubnenkova (Russia), Noemi Cantele (Italy), Maria Isabel Moreno (Spain), and Priska Doppmann (Switzerland), it has been very much a wearing down process so far - but who will have the legs to win Gold?

Up Becketts Drive climb again - Italy, and Spain again contolling the front of the race - this will be repeated tomorrow, for sure.

The field again splitting on the climb - and France's Newstead has had problems hanging on this time round - Cooke and Armstrong still up near the front of the peloton.

Once again though, the peloton regroups on Upper James Street, and once again Longo takes charge at the front of the race. Ghita Beltman follows her sis, and quits the race too. Melchers does have to do the best job all on her own now, but Mirjam is keeping well at the front of the peloton - so the orange hopes are not over yet. When the ladies cross the finish line, there are two more laps to do for them.

So the rapidly diminishing peloton still all back together - but a lot of those girls have tired legs and are hanging on out of pride, as Urbonaite of Lithuania leads the peloton up the dual carriageway, Armstrong on her wheel.

The race splits again - Rachel Heal loses contact - so Cooke is on her own too!

It is time for a cool head and strong legs, though not necessarily in that order - as the pace picks up.

Nicole Cooke attacks on the descent - 79 km/h!

Cooke though, does not go fully to the bottom; she knows it is still a (too) long way to go.

Cooke is joined by Zabelinskaia of Russia - the two girls have got a gap and are working well together! The Australians in the peloton respond, but Nicole and Olga are putting in a mighty effort!

Up Becketts Drive and Cooke attacks again!

Somariba suffers technical problems, Cooke breaks away. Melchers testing the rest while setting the pace of the leading group a bit higher. 15 riders now regroup at the front - Cooke is forcing the pace - Armstrong is there, as an attack comes from LONGO!!!!

The grand old dame of cycling is giving the youngsters a demonstration in control and power...

The 45 year old is 25 years older than Nicole Cooke and she is burning down the tarmac.

She looks determined and focused - she does not look back - she is trying to time trial her way into the record books yet again!

The gap is 7 seconds to the main group of around 15 riders - she is a lonely figure at the front and she is powering away up the dual carriageway.

12 seconds the gap.

She has more records than Elvis Presley collectors - she is burying herself - it is an AWESOME performance!

Longo still leads - she has been called the female Eddy Merckx, and with good reason! Jeannie has well over 800 career victories, including 12 world cycling championships, and Olympic Gold to her name. She won road race World Championships from 1985 through 1989, and again in 1995. She won the time trial World Championships from 1995 through 1997, and again in 2001. In just 2003 her website lists 24 victories, so obviously she is a force to be reckoned with as the other girls are finding out!!

Cooke attempts, Melchers follows with Ljungskog in her shadow. The Empress is being chased by the Princess!!!! Current gap is 27 seconds (to the chasers).

Longo - cool, composed - takes a drink. She sweeps into Hamilton while behind, Cooke leads the chasers. Huge cheers from the crowd for Longo - 13 k., one lap to go! Gap diminishes to 15 seconds.

14 seconds the gap - can Longo win the most extraordinary race of her extraordinary career?

Somariba at 1.20", Ruana doing the job for Spain. We started with 115 riders - but now one rider leads - and it is "the Legend" Longo. The gap to the chasers is 25 seconds again.

She starts the climb of Beckett Drive - the gap drops to 15 seconds. Melchers has found some powers left, to still be able to make the final jump to the older Francaise.

Longo is powering on up the climb; there are just 8 km to go!!!!!! Judith Arndt from Germany had hidden well in the following group.

The reigning champion is also there. Susanne Ljungskog is currently the top ranked rider in UCI points, but they have to catch "the Legend" first. Jolanta Pucinskaite has to let the group go.

Armstrong puts in a mighty effort to close the gap - Longo coolly looks back; the gap still 15 seconds.

6 km to go - Cooke leads what is left of the peloton, Longo pedals onwards. Gap down to 12".

Down the descent - Longo does not miss a pedal stroke - she drives on - an amazing performance.

The group still has Longo in sight. The chasers seem to have lost their pace - 4 km to go - will Longo continue the winning streak she started in 1981?????

Longo "the Legend" keeps going - 10 seconds the gap - it will be very close.

Melchers, cool, sets the pace a bit higher, will she be able to come closer to the legend in the lead. Longo - her face a mask - it has got to be hurting big time - yet this incredible woman powers on. Melchers leads the chase. Cooke digs very deep to hang on.

Here is Lungsjkog as her true compatriot Melchers closes in on Longo. Ljungskog, Melchers, and Cooke are closing inch by inch. Cooke is having a harder time. It looks like the group heads for a sprint.

Less than 2 k. to go. Ljungskog takes over the chase. And "the Legend" refuses to be caught - she attacks just before the others reach her!

Longo on the descent, 4 seconds the gap! Her legs are humming bird wings on the descent...The women are zooming into downtown Hamilton.

Longo powers on - but she is finally caught! Now the sprint. Which lady will be the happiest tonite? Melcher second behind Ljungskog...The Swede prolongs her title!

The reigning World Champion Ljungskog has won for the second year running - it was very close for third spot.

Cooke gets the bronze and the second medal for Great Britain.

So an unbelievable race - Ljungskog rode a tactical race to take Gold - Melchers looked strong, Cooke was a dynamo - but really the race will be remembered for the fantastic ride by the "Legend" Longo!

Ljungskog is crying.

So congratulations to the World Champion for the second year running, Susanne Ljungskog - yet another medal for our friends in Holland for Melchers, and Cooke, just twenty years old, adds another medal to her collection! For Jeannie Longo - no medal but yet, more fantastic memories for her legion of fans...

Melchers smiles from ear to ear, content with her silver medal.

Ljungskog: "Yeah, the sprint was tough. I think the sprint was okay. At the finish line I did not realise I won. I still sort of am in a shock."

"When Longo was away, I thought she had a good chance in winning. But Melchers chased her down well. My main opponents in sprint were Cooke and Melchers. I had a hard job in beating them."

Thank you for joining us for this great race today. Be sure to be here tomorrow for live coverage of the final World Championship event, the Elite Mens Road Race.


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