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LIVE REPORT BY SUSAN WESTEMEYER - Good morning and welcome back to the 2009 World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland. We are up and working early this morning, to bring you the Women's Road Race.
The ladies will be taking to a 13.8km circuit course, with which we will all be familiar by the time this weekend is over. This morning the peloton will make nine laps of the circuit, for a total of 124.2 km with a total of 2,205 metres elevation gain. It features two climbs along the way.
The race has just started, and we already have our first crash. Most affected were two Australians. One needs a new wheel.
The peloton is still pretty much all together, although a few are straggling off the back. They may have been affected by that early crash.
Meredith Miller of the USA is leading the pack at the moment.
And Thatsani Wichani of Thailand is at the other end of the bunch.
Thailand actually has a rather large team in the race: four riders.
The first climb today is the Castel San Pietro. It comes only 4km into the lap, and has a stretches of eight, nine and 15 percent gradient over he 110 metre climb.
There are lots of curves and turns on this interesting course. And one rider goes down at the back of the peloton, trying to negotiate one of those curves. We think it was Russian Tatiana Antoshina, but she is back up and going again.
The field is strung out single file now, as the pace has picked up.
Defending champion Nicole Cooke has dropped off the back of the peloton.
Our Gregor Brown is on the scene, and tells us it is cooler and wet today. The wet roads explain the crashes we have seen so far.
Antoshina and Cooke are riding together and have nearly caught up again with the field. We don't know whether Cooke went down or what.
Cooke makes here way past the race jury car and two Spanish riders falling off the back of the peloton to catch the field again.
Swiss rider Jessica Schneeberger has difficulty staying with the field.
The second climb is the Novazzano. This climb is just over two km long, and opens with a 9.7% gradient section, with the following sections of 7.6, 71, and 5.9 before trailing off at the top. The kicker on this climb is that it comes near the end of the lap, at km 12.
We don't know if it is raining now or not, but the road is very wet and we can see water standing in low spots on the road. Not ideal circumstances for a world championship race.
We have our first attack, and it looks to be a German rider. She doesn't really get away, though.
She has six seconds over the field as she is first over the finish line to complete the first lap.
It is Ina Teutenberg of Germany, and she continues on, building up a nice lead.
Ina Teutenberg, 34, is just getting back to top speed after an incredible first half of the season in which she took victories in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Liberty Classic, the German Road Race title as well as numerous stage wins and smaller one-day races.
The field works it way up the first climb again.
We think that Teuteberg has been caught again, but are not sure.
Austrian Christiane Soeder is near the end of the field. She was not at all happy with her performance in Wednesday's time trial.
Here are the top six from last year's Worlds road race:
1.Nicole Cooke (GBR)
2.Marianne Vos (NED)
3.Judith Arndt (GER)
4.Emma Johansson (SWE)
5.Trixi Worrack (GER)
6.Diana Zilute (LTU)
All of them are in the race today.
We now hear that both Cooke and Soeder have crashed in the race, and Cooke is supposed to have gone down particularly hard.
The course is hard enough, and the rain will make it even harder. Especially the descent from the first climb is said to be very tricky and difficult in the rain.
The peloton is still together. Some may have fallen off the back, but we have no further attacks -- so far.
Cooke is at the end of the bunch. Was she more seriously injured in her crash than we thought? Will she make it to the end of the race?
Teutenberg attacks again, but this time the peloton reacts immediately.
They cross the finish line for the second time and set off for lap number three.
They have ridden 28 km and seven laps to go.
Who will win today? Marianne Vos of the Netherlands is almost as much of a favourite to win today as Fabian Cancellara was Thursday in the men's time trial. But there are a lot of other strong women out there, including last year's winner Nicole Cook of Great Britain.
They head up the first climb again. all together.
Here's a nice little stretch of 12% gradient... or not so nice?
Evelyn Stevens of the US leads the way up the climb.
Two Swiss riders are falling off the back of the group.
The first four riders on the way up are two Americans and two Germans.
It looks like the pseed has picked up and there are small gaps developing.
There are still very small gaps which developed on the descent, but it is too early to tell what will become of them, or whether everyone will come back together.
Germany has sent its usual strong team. Ina Teutenberg, Judith Arndt, Trixi Worrack and Claudia Häusler have four of the top 10 spots in the world rankings.
There was a last minute change in the German team, due to an administrative mistake. Sarah Düster was supposed to ride today, but apparently the German federation never actually registered her for the race. Her place will be taken by substitute rider Charlotte Becker, who was registered. The Bund Deutscher Radfahrer apologised to Düster, who left in tears last night, and said it would investigate the mix-up.
Three cows look on curiously, as we see the familiar picture of USA and Germany leading the race.
Stevens and World time trial champion Kristen Armstrong are pulling the pack along, hoping to keep the speed high enough to start dropping riders.
Cooke is still at the back of the field, and doesn't look particularly good. She is alone, without teammates to support her.
The field looks smaller now, as if we no longer have all 127 riders together.
We again approach the finish line and again Teutenberg attacks.
Four or five ridesr go with her, but not the Americans.
The small group around Tuetenberg has a small elad over the field. It looks like a group of eight.
And they are caught again.
Up they go again, with Stevens leading the way.
Evelyn Stevens of the US might be a dark-horse to win today. Her palmares for the season include the Cascade Classic.
There are once again small gaps on the descent here. Two more riders have gone done, including Evseea of Russia.
Lots and lots of vinyards along the course -- we'll drink to that!
And another crash, with a Polish rider getting the worst of it.
The peloton has split and we have a group of about 20-30 in the lead.
They are closely followed by a simlilary sized field.
OK, it looks like we have a group of 12 in the lead, including Germany's Worrack and three French riders.
Germany's Tina Liebig tries to break out of the chase group and join the leaders, who have 19 seconds.
They have been underway for an hour and a half now.
A mechanical for Judith Arndt. Charlotte Becker helps her and gives her a shove to get going again.
Cantele has taken off ouf of the group. She is now joined by three others.
One of them is Jeanne Longo, but the group has only a miimal lead. Oops, already caught, by the whole chase group.
We have a group of about 30 in the lead now, with two British riders leading the way.
The group of 35 goes over the finish line, and has another five laps to go. Almost half done, now. They have a 25 second lead over a group including Arndt.
The two large groups have come together
Emma Pooley of GB takes off, but the others come with her.
Arndt is at the front of the group, while Becker drops off the back.
Judith Arndt of Germany should certainly never be counted out, but she has had a hard time of it this year. She seems to have spent as much time on the injured list as on the road, but despite all the broken bones has still managed to bring in 5 victories. She was fourth in the time trial on Wednesday.
We now have a group of 13 in the lead, including three Germans.
The wind has picked up and is blowing leaves onto the street. Not good.
The situation is rather confusing here. We are not sure whether the lead group has been caught or not.
We are now pretty sure that the groups have come together and that we have 60-70 riders together.
Wrong! We have a lead group with 20 to 25 riders, including Longo.
But the field is only a few seconds behind them.
The field catches the group as they start up the second climb.
An Italian atttacks on the climb -- Cantele?
And the good news is that the sun is now out!
She is caught and leads the large group up the climb.
We are over half done now!
Germany's Liebig now leads the way.
A relatively large group nears the finish line again. Four more laps to go.
Emma Johansson of Sweden hurries to catch up with the leading group.
Swede Emma Johansson, currently ranked second in the world, has had enormous success this year, having led the World Cup series for the better part of the season. Unfortunately for her, she has had a lot more second place finishes than first place finishes this year.
Cooke now crosses the finish line, over two minutes down. We won't have a repeat champion this year. And in fact she leaves the race.
Up they go again, and a Briton leads the way. Behind them, Armstrong has had a mechanical and tries to work her way back up through the team cars.
It is Pooley leading the way, and her tempo is high enough that the field is falling apart on this climb.
She doesn't get away as they fly along. There are now about seven riders in front, with two catching up with them. Arndt still leads the way.
Arndt's tempo has split her group. She still has two rider with her, and the others try to catch up.
The field has now totally fallen apart. Arndt has a group of three, followed by a group of three, with two riders behind them. Further back is the chasing field, but not yet out of the game.
Armstrong is still chasing and has now caught one of the chase groups.
The Arndt group is now eight riders strong, and includes Arndt, Pooley and Vos.
But as we write that, the chase group catches them.
Armstrong attacks out of her group in an effort to catch the lead group.
Armstrong has nearly caught a group which has fallen back from the lead group.
Armstrong has now caught the lead group. But has she used up too much of herself?
Two Germans lead the group, while Vos is at the end.
he lead group has 20 to 25 riders in it. They are now nearly at the top of the lap's second climb. Stevens leads the way over the climb.
Will we see further attacks, or will this group try to hold together for a mass sprint?
The lead group slows down a bit, and immediately a handful of riders catches up with them as they approach the finish line again.
Three laps to go!
And it was 50-year-old Jeanne Longo who lead the way across the finish line!
An Italian attacks out of the 30 rider strong lead group. But she is caught.
The Dutch, Germans and Britons all have three riders in this group. There are at least two Americans, possibly also three.
Up the first climb of the lap once more.
Keep your eye on Emma Pooley of Great Britain. She won silver last year in Beijing, and has another good year in 2009. More here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/pooley-important-part-of-british-talent-pool
The group is getting smaller on the climb.
Another Italian has attacked and built up a lead of 15 seconds of so. It is Cantele, who on Wednesday won a silver medal in the time trial.
Noemi Cantele of Italy has five wins this season, including the national time trial title and stages in the women's Giro d'Italia and the the Giro della Toscana Int. Femminale. Most recently, she brought in a silver-medal winning performance in the Worlds time trial.
Cantele builds up her lead significantly.
Cantele has gotten herself something to eat -- got to keep up her strength to hold the lead for two more rounds.
She has a 10 to 11 second lead.
Pooley attacks out of the group, folllowed by Armstrong. But they are caught.
They are all on the steepest part of this climb now.
Longo drops off the back and fights her way on.
The two Americans lead the chase, followed by Pooley and Arndt.
Cantele goes over the top of the climb with a lead of 20 seconds.
There are 16 riders in the chase group, with Vos at the end of the group.
Marianne Vos is only 22 years old, but has been on the Worlds road race podium since here first appearance as a 19-year-old in 2006. She won the race that year, and got silver the last two years. No doubt she feels it is time again for gold.
The roads are dry now, fortunately, and the sun is shining in full force.
Cantele is over the finish line. The group is 21 seconds back, with two laps to go.
The group doesn't look to be very seriously chasing, but then again, Cantele doesn't seem to be going all out either.
A German attacks out of the chase group - Arndt, of course.
The others don't -- or can't -- give chase.
Arndt doesn't really get away.
Cantele is on the 12 percent gradient section.
It looks like Cantele's lead is shrinking, but we should know more at the top of the climb.
Arndt is caught.
Abbot of the US is the next to go, but she is soon followed by Vos. And all are together.
Cantele's lead has gone down to five seconds.
Another attack out of the chase group -- VIllumsen of Denmark.
Villumsen has a slight lead, followed by two riders, wit the rest of the group not far back. They have now almost caught Cantele.
A group of four has now caught Cantele.
Villumsen attacks again out of the leading group. This is a very fluid situation, with small groups formng and re-forming.
Roughly nine riders near the front, perhaps a few more.
Villlumsen, Vos and Brändle are the first three.
19 riders now in the first group.
Our winner will come out of this group. There are no other riders to be seen. We are sorry not to have their names, but there is a very definite lack of information coming over.
Pooley moves into the leadwork.
They are strugglng their way up a steep section again.
An American tries to attack.
An Italian attacks -- Cantele again? Vos gives chase.
It is Guderzo, who crosses the mountain top with Vos.
A group of 13 is now together in the lead. Attack!
All go with her. Armstrong leads the group.
Guderzo, Vos Cantele and Corset with a four second lead over Brändli, with the rest only a few seconds back.
Villumesen jumps out as the others are caught.
Villumsen is the first over the finish line for the next-to-last time, with a four second lead over the 14 chasers.
We are in the last lap now, by the way.
Villumsen maintains her narrow lead.
But now she is caught.
We have a group of about 15 riders now.
Abbot attacks, but the others go with her.
If this comes to a sprint, it will be hard to argue against Vos.
19 riders in this group: Villumsen, Stevens, Cantele, Pooley, Corset, Armstrong, Willock, Zilute, Verbeke, Brandli, Johansson, Guderzo, Arndt, Cheatley, Pucinskaite, Vos, Abbott, Brzezna, Hausler
Abbot falls back on the climb.
Guderzo attacks again and gets a slight lead on the climb.
Vos, Armstrong, and Cantele catch her. The yhave a 12 second lead now.
Cantele takes off again. Clever tactics by the Itlaians.
Cantele goes for it!
There is now a significant gap back to the group around Arndt, and Cantele is building up a nice lead over the Vos group.
Vos isn't willing to give up and picks up the speed.
Cantele is really going all out, as are her chasers.
It is not Cantele in the lead but Guderzo -- sorry for the confusion.
The three chasers of Armstrong, Vos and Cantele have a six second gap and may well catch Guderzo soon. Pooley has jumped out of the third group and is making her way up.
They will catch Guderzo soon.
The trio is not getting any closer to Guderzo, but there is still time...
Guderzo's lead on this final climb has increased to 10 seconds.
Vos gives furious chase, followed by her two companions.
Armstrong attacks, bu the other two come with her.
Guderzo goes over the top with an 18 second lead.
Cheatley jumps out of the third group.
Only a few km for Guderzo now.
The biggest question now is who will finish second.
The last km for Guderzo.
Tatiana Guderzo is the new World Champion!
The three chasers sprint furiously, and second place goes to Vos, third Cantele and fourth Armstrong.
That is two medals in this race for Italy, and two for Cantele in this Worlds.
A very clever race by the Italians -- but what else would we expect from them?
Here are the top eight finishers:
1 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)
2 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)
3 Noami Cantele (Italy)
4 Kristin Armstrong (United States of America)
5 Diana Ziliute (Lithuania)
6 Judith Arndt (Germany)
7 Erinne Willock (Canada)
8 Nicole Brändli (Switzerland)
Only two more races to go for this year's World Championships. Join us an hour from now for the Under 23 men's race. Thanks for reading along with us.
Once more, congratulations to Guderzo and all the women today!