By Marianne Werz O'Brien
This is the fourth edition of the Vuelta Ciclista Castilla y Leon Feminas
stage race. Last year Russian Zoulfia Zabirova rode away with two stages and top
honors overall. This year’s edition will feature more difficult stages than last
with slightly longer routes each day, and the first two days contain five Cat 3
climbs versus the three of last year’s edition.
Obviously Zabirova has started her season in fine form, already winning World
Cup #2 - la Primavera Rosa for the second year running. Her confidence is as
solid as her form right now, which will make her a fierce competitor.
Reigning World Time Trial Champion Joanne Somarriba will be making her season
debut at this race along with her BizKaia-Panda team. Last year Somarriba joined
the very select club of three-time winners of la Grande Boucle (women’s Tour de
Also making her season debut will be the 2003 World Cup series winner Nicole
Cooke. She took the Mountains competition here last year. Cooke has stated that
her main objective this year is not defending her World Cup series win, but
competing in the Olympics. One must take that with a grain of salt when speaking
of a cyclist who is as competitive as the Welsh wonder however!
That amazing Aussie Oenone Wood, with 13 wins so far this year including the
first World Cup race in Geelong cannot be counted out. She won Citta de
Rosignano earlier this month and came in 3rd at Primavera Rosa.
Regina Schleicher, second at Citta de Rosignano and Mirjam Melchers, second
at la Primavera Rosa are also two women to watch. Though recently more
frequently the bridesmaids than the bride, these women each have strong palmares
and are quite capable of pulling off a win.
T-Mobile will be bringing a strong team including Dede Barry, Amber Neben,
and Kim Anderson to the race. Dede Barry is the only American woman to have ever
won a World Cup race, and she has won two! In 2003 Barry was second in the
overall in the Giro della Toscana, where she won stage 4. She also finished 2nd
in the USCF National Time Trial Championship.
We can look forward to some fireworks as Zoulfia Zabirova, Mirjam Melchers,
Nicole Cooke, Joane Somarriba, Regina Schleicher and Oenone Woods take to the
The Redlands Bicycle Classic in California will run concurrently (March 24th
– 28th) with the Vuelta Castilla y Leon Feminas.
Please visit the official Castilla y Leon Feminas website
Stage 1: 24 March 2004. Valladolid to Valladolid, 105.5 kilometers
This circuit will carry the ladies across three challenging Cat 3 climbs. In
2003 Regina Schleicher was the winner of stage 1, which was then a 99 km circuit
from Palencia to Palencia, and Mirjam Melchers placed second.
Stage 2: 25 March 2004. Zamora to Zamora, 103.8 km
The second stage features two Cat 3 climbs, each one following immediately
upon a steep descent. Last year this stage was run from Cantalejo to Cantalejo,
96 kilometers. The winner was Zoulfia Zabirova who just this past weekend
claimed victory at la Primavera Rosa!
Stage 3: 26 March 2004. Zamora to Salamanca, 104.3 km
This is a much more rolling stage, probably well suited to the sprinters.
In 2003 stage 3 was the 93 km Aranda de Duero circuit where Zoulfia Zabirova
claimed not only the stage, but the top spot in the GC as well, winning the 3rd
annual Castilla y Leon.