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2011 Road Worlds Elite Women’s RR Report, More Photos – Italy Triumphs as Canada Comes Close

by Laura Robinson

September 24, 2011 (Copenhagen, Denmark) – The Norse weather gods sent perfect cycling weather, and Canada nearly had a perfect race. The circuit in Rudersdal, approximately 28km north of Copenhagen, is a tough course to get away on. Early breaks in the U23 men’s and Junior races were reeled in and so was the case for the 10-lap, 140km women’s race as many riders tried.

The Road Worlds road race is a sprinter’s course. For the first 100 kilometres the pack remain tight and fast, with a pace between 35-40km/hr. Then the attacks started but nothing held until Canada’s Clara Hughes counter jumped with approximately 28km to go, after Norway, the U.S.A, Netherlands and Italy had all tried to establish breaks.

She flew up the side of the field, steadily riding away with the sort of pace she used to place 5th just days before in the time trial. She looked behind a few times and saw no one reacting so she continued with her attack. With ten kilometers to go she had racked up a 43-second lead. Her smooth pedal strokes, seemingly endless energy, huge support from the crowd and a chasing pack that appeared to be waiting for the sprint for the silver made it seem as if Hughes was about to be crowned world champion.

But with 8km to go the Dutch express got moving, forming an orange train, along with the Italians and Brits who saw the imminent danger of letting the renowned Hughes escape. As cyclists were dropped off the back and the orange train kept the pace up Hughes’ lead dwindled.

With 3km to go she looked back and there they were – sprinters at the ready to devour their prey as she was caught. At 2.5km to go Germany charged to the front with the Dutch and Belgians on their wheels as Britain tried to squeeze in as well.

As the riders rounded the last corner before the long straight-away and climb to the finish, the Italian, Dutch and German teams controlled everything. Each team was able to lead out their designated sprinter and while it appeared at first as if Holland had the edge in terms of control, it was the Italians who were most successful with their plan.

With half a wheel of advantage, the reigning world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) successfully defended her title taking the gold in 3:21:18 with five-time silver medalist at the road world championships, Marianne Vos, edged out once again having to settle for the silver.

One of the clear favourites, veteran German rider and team captain, Ina Teutenberg, took home the bronze. The Brits managed to send one rider into the mix as Olympic champion Nicole Cooke placed fourth. Julia Martisova of Russia was 5th and Chloe Hosking of Australia was 6th.

The first Canadian was a top-fifteen place by former national road champ, Joelle Numainville, in 12th while Leah Kirchmann was 17th. Erinne Willock was 33rd and Rhae-Christie Shaw, at her first road world championships, was 36th in the 146-rider field. All finished with the same time as Bronzini.

Denise Ramsden was 55th, 11 seconds back, while world omnium track champion, Tara Whitten, was 87th at 41 seconds back. Hughes, who was beyond exhausted from her solo effort placed 103rd at 1:38 behind the winner. With just one kilometre to go a crash occurred right in front of her. It was an all or nothing gamble for the courageous rider. Hughes’ last world cycling championships were in 1999.

“It was an instinctual move… I just felt the moment to attack and did not hesitate,” Hughes told Pedal after the race. “It was a gamble and it almost paid off. The team was good today – everyone did what was planned and we were engaged in the race. A good day for Canada and a really solid step back into racing internationally for me. The crowds were amazing and I had a lot of speed skating fans from Holland cheering loud for me. It was a blast.”

“The moment was there, and I put on a good gap, put my head down and tried to do what I could,” the multi-decorated Olympian added.

Numainville was somewhat reflective about not quite being there for the sprint. “I am a bit disappointed with the sprint. I was in the wrong corridor, and had to fight the traffic a little bit by myself. Combining all the elements, it wasn’t a real success and I wasn’t well positioned. I did everything I could. I gave everything I had in me. I can’t ask myself for more than that,” she said.

Hughes’ solo attempt, which was a highlight for many journalists who said she “made” the race, impacted on Numainville as well. “I was really happy to see Clara at the front on the attack. I even believed at some point that the break may stick and that she would win the gold, that nobody would catch her. But the other nations were well prepared and planned their sprint – they caught her late in the race. What Clara did was the right move to do, at that point in the race.”

Meanwhile, once Hughes was caught, she tried to help position Numainville for the sprint. “I wanted to help Joelle, but I got caught behind a crash. One minute I was leading by 45 seconds, the next I was on the ground. That’s bike racing,” added Hughes after the race.

Meanwhile Bronzini, her Italian team and their coach were jubilant, hoisting the two-time world champion on their shoulders. “I’m surprised. I didn’t believe to have a sprint as similar as last year,” she said. “For Germany it was an easy race, but for us not so easy,” she said about the tight course that favoured a big powerful team.

“With three to go my teammate [Monia] Baccaille tried to go.” After Hughes was caught that attempt was not successful in making a new break. “I asked [my team] to start the sprint early with me on their wheel. It is a dream – yes. I believe in this race; I believe in the podium, but the jersey I believed was impossible – my season was slow,” she explained about her results up to the championships.

“I can’t believe it was possible to get five silver medals in a row,” said a smiling Vos. “It was a perfect race for us. We knew it would be fast and hard to get away in small groups. We tried to stay in the front. My team placed me in a perfect position with 150 metres, but I made a mistake and waited. When I went it was not enough.”

Teutenberg, the veteran rider of the three, was smiling too. “I have to be happy – I came here to win, so I’m disappointed I couldn’t get the jersey, but I am very happy with the bronze. The girls looked after me all day. Other teams did the same – taking care of their captains.

“We tried to trick the orange train – but maybe we went out a bit early,” said Teutenberg of the German team tactics. “I went out a bit early – but they did a good job.” Teutenberg started a lone sprint to the left of Bronzini and Vos, but she couldn’t hold the speed on the climb to the finish as the Italian pipped them both at the line for the gold.

Full results, race updates and more photos HERE.

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