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Marianne Vos races to win the last World Cup, Flèche Wallonne
2007 Winner Edita Pucinskaite (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) heads the field as it moves on to...
2007 Winner Edita Pucinskaite (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) heads the field as it moves on to Switzerland and the next round of the World Cup. The 1999 World Champion surprised the sprinters last year – and spoiled the 20th birthday of the then holder of the rainbow jersey Marianne Vos – on a predominantly flat course seemingly designed for them. This year, the far hillier profile ironically suits the characteristics of the Lithuanian far better; the riders will complete four laps of a 33.95-kilometre circuit, totalling 135.8 kilometres, and climb a total of 1680 metres.
The new parcours heads south instead of east – as it did previously – into the much hillier countryside and almost immediately begins the ascent of the big climb of the day. Despite being only 730 metres at its summit, the climb is almost five kilometres in length and will be enough to trouble the legs of the sprinters. The top of the climb does come with almost 25 kilometres still to go, including 10 kilometres that is predominantly downhill, but the fact that they will have to climb it four times may prove too much for some.
If any sprinters do manage to get to the final stages with the front group they will be rewarded with some long straight roads and an almost entirely flat roads – or even slightly downhill. The sharp final corner with less than 500 metres to go may be enough to disrupt a lead-out train – if one has made it that far – but if one of the fast women is there at the end they will be the favourite for victory. Nevertheless, the new course is definitely suited to the climbers and breakaway specialists than previously.
Pucinskaite leads a Nürnberger Versicherung team with any number of potential winners. If she herself misses out, the course is well suited to a rider like Trixi Worrack, and Suzanne De Goede will be well motivated to do well after losing the World Cup jersey in last week's Flèche Wallonne. For the sprint – if it comes down to that – the team is well accounted for in the form of 2005 World Champion Regina Schleicher.
World Cup leader and Flèche winner Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) will not be present at the start line, she is aiming for Olympic glory and this race does not fit into her preparation plans. The team will nevertheless be well equipped for this race with riders like Andrea Bosman and Adrie Visser, both of whom can perform well on a course like this.
Also missing is the Halfords Bikehut team of Nicole Cooke – twice winner of the World Cup and fourth here last year behind Pucinskaite. Like Vos, Cooke is preparing for Beijing and so the World Cup is taking a back seat for this year. Someone who definitely will be present though, is Cooke's Great Britain team-mate from la Flèche Emma Pooley. Back with her Specialized Designs for Women team, Pooley is well suited for a course like this, and her Swiss team will be extra motivated in what is their home World Cup race. The course profile is not dissimilar to that of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda – the second round of the World Cup, which Pooley won – but surely the field will not allow her to get away in such circumstances again.
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