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4th Vuelta Castilla y Leon Preview
By Staff
Date: 3/22/2004
4th Vuelta Castilla y Leon Preview

By Marianne Werz O'Brien

The Contenders

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 France).

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 starting line!

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 here.

The Stages

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.

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