Scandinavia, August 1, 2006
This is the first year of the Swedish world cup and I think everyone is excited for the chance to go to Scandinavia. After Thuringen, we all went to Leipzig for a few days, home of the famous Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt. Amy, Magali, Kim and I really wanted to be tourists for a few days and we pulled that off in fine fashion. Then on Wednesday we flew from Leipzig to Goteberg, Sweden. Luckily I had a window seat so I could get a good view of the lay of the land. Were we landing in northern Wisconsin? It looked exactly like it thick green forests, tons of lakes and not many roads. This area of Sweden really is beautiful.
The World cup took place in the town of Vargarda, but the teams were all staying in Alingsas, 20km away. After arriving from the flight, some of us went for a short spin to help the blood flow in the legs. There were bike paths everywhere, lots of water to ride around and a really fun looking town to explore. Besides Swedish, almost everyone here speaks English as well, making it very easy for us to get around.
Surprisingly, the world cup race wasn't held until 4:30pm with an estimated finish time between 7:30 and 8pm. We knew we would be wired tonight! Most girls went for a short spin in the morning and we happened to get rained on. I've never enjoyed riding in the rain so much in my life. For the first time since arriving back in Europe, I actually felt cool and almost even cold. Everyone on the team is really dragging from not sleeping well for the past two weeks. It's been so hot that our hotel rooms never seem to cool off. Ina's been coming down to breakfast looking more and more tired and I'm sure I'm right there with her looking pretty haggard myself. I think I may even be looking forward to this winter already.
The race was a most interesting chess game. It was hard from the gun, strung out single file and it felt like it stayed that way most of the race. Even though the climb on the circuit was only one kilometre at five percent, it still made the race. Breaks usually went at some point on the climb. About three laps into the race, Kim got in a great break with about seven other riders and the field really sat up. We thought, mistakenly, for a bit that it might be the race. But that only lasted for about half a lap. I should have known Buitenpoort wouldn't be happy with the break when I saw the Swede Susanne Lungskold still in the field. I figured since this was the first world cup in her home country, with all her fans holding signs on the hill, she would really be gunning for the win.
As the break came closer and closer back towards the field, Kim attacked out of the break and went solo. It was a great move for her. The next bunch to break away up the hill in pursuit of Kim had Magali in it as well so we were happy with at least two riders up the road. Eventually, after some more reshuffling, Magali was away with Susanne and Nicole Cooke, the current world cup leader. Susanne and Nicole ended up getting away together, with Susanne taking the win and Nicole retaining the world cup jersey. Magali was able to stick in the break behind them, finishing seventh. Although it wasn't a podium finish for the team, we all rode strong and felt we rode well as a team. The best part was back at the hotel after the race. The chef, who some said was a world champion in barbecue, made a great dinner for all the riders. Even though we weren't eating until 10pm, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next morning all the teams left to head to the Swedish coast to catch the 11am ferry to Denmark. What a process! I couldn't believe how many cars were lined up to get on the boat. It had to be hundreds of cars. The ship was like the love boat. There was a movie theater, many restaurants, a library, a big shopping area and plenty of decks to hang out in the sun. It was a three hour journey to the Danish coast so we were able to sit out in the sun on deck 11, then move down to deck 9 for lunch, deck 8 for some shopping and then back to deck 11 to watch the approaching countryside. After that all the teams had another 200km to drive to the Danish hotel. We certainly couldn't complain that we were at a disadvantage with travel since all the teams did the same thing. If we had bad legs for the TTT world cup, most likely other teams would too.
This was the first team time trial held as a world cup and it was a pretty cool experience. Seventeen teams competed and the final three came down to just seconds apart.
In honour of our downed soigneur, Jeremiah, who is still in the German hospital with his broken leg, I listened to some of his redneck music while I warmed up on the trainer. Jeremiah just went through his third or fourth surgery and is really hoping that he'll be able to go home to the States soon.
The team time trial is so beautiful. Even in the midst of it, with my heart rate at its limit, I could still appreciate the beauty of it. All six of us were riding so smoothly and comfortably (well, it looked like that anyway!), in such a rhythm. I envied our mechanic Bernard in the team car behind us being able to watch the whole race. It was a great course too, 42km, that started and finished in the town of Arthus. We realized afterwards that we had started out a little too slow in our first seven km, losing most of our time in just that first part of the race. Because after that we held our time pretty well. We finished fifth overall, 14 seconds out of third place, losing only Magali in the process. I think this was a great accomplishment for our team considering we only finished with three at the team time trial stage in Tour de L'aude.
Univega won the race just two seconds over Buitenpoort and AA Drink took third just two seconds over Nurnberger. Directly after the race, all the teams packed up and headed on out of town. Now we're already in the car on our way back 'home' to Langerwehe. As we got south of Hamburg, many of the men's pro teams passed us on the highway, having just finished the German World Cup. We've got just four days to recover at home and then we leave for France to start the 10-day Route de France. Magali is really excited about this one since it's her home race.
Open de Suède Vargarda, Sweden, July 28, 2006
The Ladies Golden Hour, Denmark, July 30, 2006