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By Ben Atkins in Bram Team High Road powerhouse Ina Teutenberg showed that anything Zulfia Zabirova...
By Ben Atkins in Bram
Team High Road powerhouse Ina Teutenberg showed that anything Zulfia Zabirova (Bigla) can do, she can do better with victory in the 2008 Tour de l'Aude's first bunch sprint in stage eight in the small town of Bram. The German sprinter powered up the centre of the road in pursuit of Olympic champion Sara Carrigan (Lotto Belisol) who had started her sprint with 200m to go. Teutenberg managed to beat Carrigan by around half a wheel with Angela Brodtka taking a close third.
Teutenberg led home a group of 37 riders, which included all of the overall contenders, but the sprint finish was by no means a certainty as strong attacks from the DSB Bank and Bigla teams in the final 10km forced the High Road team to work hard for the victory.
The stage was dominated by a solo attack from Adrie Visser (DSB Bank) who was smarting at having missed out on victory in yesterday's stage at Castelnaudary, where she had only just been able to follow the wheel of Zulfia Zabirova (Bigla) as she rode away to victory. Visser managed to build a maximum lead of more than two and a half minutes before accelerations within the group of overall contenders and an untimely puncture saw her caught with 20km to the finish.
"I was a bit lucky," said Teutenberg to Cyclingnews after the finish, "Carrigan closed the right side so the sprint on that side was blocked and I had a free run to the line. It was a bit tricky, it didn't look like it before the race, but the little chicane made it a bit tricky."
The pace of the stage itself, especially on the day's major obstacle the first category Col de la Malapère was such that it put paid to the chances of a lot of the peloton's fast finishers. Teutenberg though managed to stay in: "I was pretty tired," she admitted. "I pretty much kicked my butt up that last hill trying to stay in front group, which was good that I did because that other group didn't make it back. We were very quick, but I didn't do anything else all day.
"It was a pretty power climb, so they go fast but it's probably easier for the sprinters to get up a hill like this than if it's longer, and 5km long."
In the flat run in to the finish, things were far form simple and a sprint finish far from inevitable as a series of attacks had to be chased down. Teutenberg though had the services of one of the strongest riders in the race for this. "Judith [Arndt] pretty much closed everything single-handedly in the last 5km. Linda [Villumsen] helped at the start a little bit, but then she faded a bit, and then Judith covered Bigla who were probably the most active there at the end. Then I just had to make my position and find my way in the sprint."
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour de L'Aude stage 8.