Emma Pooley (Cervélo TestTeam) won her second World Cup round of 2009 in her trademark solo style after escaping the clutches of the other favourites just after halfway through the 114.6-kilometre race. The Olympic time trial silver medallist once again displayed the climbing prowess and strength that earned her that second place in Beijing last summer - as well as the Montreal World Cup in May this year - to finish two and a half minutes clear of a chasing group that contained most of the day's favourites.
Pooley and teammate Claudia Hausler took turns attacking in response to the first serious escape from Karine Gautard (Vienne Futuroscope) on the hilly section on the fourth of six laps of the 19.1-kilometre circuit, leading to a group of 14 riders pulling clear. This group included most of the big favourites for victory, but notably not World Champion Nicole Cooke (Great Britain). Pooley looked to have successfully escaped with 2005 and 2007 winner Noemi Cantele (Bigla Cycling Team), but Marianne Vos (DSB Bank-Nederland Bloeit) bridged across, bringing the rest of the break with her.
As the peloton reeled in the 14-rider break, Pooley put in her most devastating attack and the rest of the riders failed to respond.
"It was just to make an attack stick," she told Cyclingnews. "Actually the others [in my team] are really strong, too. I was a bit surprised because I've only done little races since the Giro and I didn't think I was very fit, but sometimes a bit of freshness is good - so I guess I ate enough pasta last night!"
Behind Pooley, the Cervélo team made a good job of marking and neutralising any attempted chase, most notably Hausler and Regina Bruins - who'd crashed on lap one - and the Englishwoman was able to build up a lead that reached 54 seconds as she crossed the line with two laps to go.
Wind tests Pooley on final lap
Despite work from the Australian and Great Britain teams, Pooley managed to extend her lead to more than a minute and a half by mid lap, which was still over a minute as she took the bell. It was only when Cooke attacked on the early hills of the final lap that her lead look to be threatened.
"I didn't have the [blackboard man] very often but I had it in my radio that she was down to 45 seconds," said Pooley, "and that was a bit nerve-wracking because there was still a long way, and it's not easy, that main road with the wind."
As Cooke piled on the pressure, the gap came down to below 40 seconds, but with the World Champion measuring her efforts this was to be as close as anyone was to get. Cooke was joined by Vos, World Cup leader Emma Johansson (Red Sun), Grace Verbeke (Lotto-Belisol) and Ruth Corset (Australia). The five riders worked well together but Pooley looked to be threatened more by the Breton conditions than the riders behind her as successive exposed parts of the course threatened to slow her down.
"That hill - on the main road - it's not very steep," she said, "but boy does it drag! It was so windy; it adds an extra 5 percent to the gradient, that wind!"
Coming into the final few kilometres Pooley kept the pressure on but the group behind her had begun to watch each other and her lead began to extend to over 2 minutes. Nevertheless, she refused to believe that she would win until she actually crossed the line.
"It was really hard," she said, "and I honestly didn't think I'd make it to the finish, I thought they'd catch me with about 300 [metres to go] and be just utterly gutted...but I'm quite pleased obviously!"
Behind Pooley, Vos was riding a very strong race but was unable to overcome the powerful Cervélo team. "I think it's always hard here," she told Cyclingnews, "and Cervélo attacked, and it was a good attack. It was hard today, but it was a nice race.
"[It was] not only Cervélo, but from the start it was hard and Emma [Pooley] was really good today. I think on the third time she went, she got away..."
"It was hard today," said Johansson, "and - I don't know - it was quite weird racing: there were a lot of attacks, and it was hard the whole race. On the second to last lap I had a flat and I had to change my wheel - Paulina [Brzezna], my teammate, gave me her front wheel - and I was back quite fast, but you always use a little bit too much energy on stuff like that."
Vos and Johansson duel for World Cup lead
Approaching the finish, the Swede was under no illusions as to her chances against the fast sprinting Dutchwoman and decided that smart tactics would be the best course; it was to no avail though as Vos proved the stronger.
"I worked until we had a gap and then I just sat on the wheels," she explained, "that's my only chance to beat her [Vos] but she was just too fast in the sprint, I couldn't do anything."
Waiting for the sprint seemed to be her only option though, as she was put off by the blustery conditions. "It was very windy," she said, "and I thought in the end 'should I attack?' and I didn't feel that I had really, really strong legs either. Because of the wind in the end - it was coming from the side, a little bit form the front - it wasn't really optimal. You've really got to be strong to go it alone and I didn't feel that was possible. The finish was really windy."
The five riders arrived at the finish with Johansson sitting on Vos' wheel, but the Swede was not strong enough to come around and that's the way they stayed across the line. Cooke found herself unable to sprint due to a rear puncture, and Martine Bras (Selle Italia Ghezzi) led the peloton home just behind her.
Vos and Johansson seemed to be shadowing each other today in their two-way battle for the overall World Cup jersey. Despite this, both riders denied that they had been doing so deliberately.
"I think it just comes because you...okay, the jersey is not that important, but then it's important in the end," said Johansson. "When it comes to when I see Marianne go, of course to let her go is not on my list, and I think she feels the same. That's the way it is, it comes naturally because we're the only ones fighting for the jersey."
"No, it was not [deliberate]," said Vos. "I just tried to focus on her wheel. When she's in front I want to be in front too."
With her second place, though, Vos takes over the World Cup lead from Johansson with just next month's Nürnberg round remaining.
"Maybe I'll have to try to defend it!" Vos said.
|1||Emma Pooley (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam||3:18:39|
|2||Marianne Vos (Ned) DSB Bank - LTO||0:02:30|
|3||Emma Johansson (Swe) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|4||Grace Verbeke (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|5||Ruth Corset (Aus) Australia National Team|
|6||Nicole Cooke (GBr) Great Britain National Team||0:02:33|
|7||Martine Bras (Ned) Selle Italia Ghezzi|
|8||Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|9||Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|10||Irene Van Den Broek (Ned) Netherlands National Team|
|11||Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Ned) Team Flexpoint|
|12||Ludivine Henrion (Bel) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|13||Andrea Bosman (Ned) Netherlands National Team|
|14||Iris Slappendel (Ned) Team Flexpoint|
|15||Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) Team Flexpoint|
|16||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Australia National Team|
|17||Paulina Brzezna (Pol) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|18||Catherine Hare Willianson (GBr) Fenixs|
|19||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|20||Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|21||Vicki Whitelaw (Aus) Australia National Team|
|22||Giuseppina Grassi Herrera (Mex) Selle Italia Ghezzi|
|23||Katie Colclough (GBr) Great Britain National Team|
|24||Siobhan Dervan (Irl) Fenixs|
|25||Karine Gautard (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|26||Chantal Blaak (Ned) Netherlands National Team|
|27||Regina Bruins (Ned) Cervélo TestTeam|
|28||Luisa Tamanini (Ita) Selle Italia Ghezzi|
|29||Kimberly Anderson (USA) Team Columbia-HTC Women|
|30||Tina Liebig (Ger) DSB Bank - LTO|
|31||Ana Garcia Antequera (Spa) Bizkaia - Durango|
|32||Inga Cilvinaite (Ltu) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|33||Nicole Brändli (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team|
|34||Noemi Cantele (Ita) Bigla Cycling Team|
|35||Sharon Laws (GBr) Great Britain National Team|
|36||Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Selle Italia Ghezzi|
|37||Eva Lutz (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|38||Karin Aune (Swe) Fenixs||0:04:05|
|39||Adrie Visser (Ned) DSB Bank - LTO||0:06:38|
|40||Shara Gillow (Aus) Australia National Team|
|41||Claudia Hausler (Ger) Cervélo TestTeam|
|HD||Lucinda Brand (Ned) Netherlands National Team||0:11:21|
|HD||Luise Keller (Ger) Team Columbia-HTC Women||0:13:35|
|HD||Chantal Beltman (Ned) Team Columbia-HTC Women|
|HD||Eleonora Van Dijk (Ned) Team Columbia-HTC Women|
|HD||Suzanne De Goede (Ned) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|HD||Lieselot Decroix (Bel) Cervélo TestTeam|
|HD||Patricia Schwager (Swi) Cervélo TestTeam|
|HD||Liesbet De Vocht (Bel) DSB Bank - LTO|
|HD||Noortje Tabak (Ned) DSB Bank - LTO|
|HD||Marieke Van Wanroij (Ned) DSB Bank - LTO|
|HD||Jennifer Hohl (Swi) Bigla Cycling Team|
|HD||Ene Iturriaga Echevarria Mazaga (Spa) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|HD||Catherine Delfosse (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|HD||Emma Silversides (GBr) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|HD||Amélie Rivat (Fra) France National Team|
|HD||Fanny Riberot (Fra) France National Team|
|HD||Christelle Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) France National Team|
|HD||Lucy Martin (GBr) Great Britain National Team|
|HD||Béatrice Thomas (Fra) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|HD||Eugénie Mermillod (Fra) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|HD||Christine Majerus (Lux) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|HD||Emilie Aubry (Swi) Cervélo TestTeam||0:18:41|
|HD||Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Ltu) Bigla Cycling Team|
|HD||Monica Holler (Swe) Bigla Cycling Team|
|HD||Veronica Andreasson (Swe) Bigla Cycling Team|
|HD||Trine Schmidt (Den) Team Flexpoint|
|HD||Latoya Brulee (Bel) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|HD||Laure Werner (Bel) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|HD||Pascale Jeuland (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|HD||Mélani Bravard (Fra) France National Team|
|HD||Hannah Mayho (GBr) Great Britain National Team|
|HD||Sophie Creux (Fra) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|HD||Melodie Lesueur (Fra) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|HD||Moriah Macgregor (Can) Canada National Team|
|HD||Ariadna Tudel Cuberes (And) Bizkaia - Durango|
|HD||Cristina Alcalde Huertanos (Spa) Bizkaia - Durango|
|HD||Mireia Epelde Bikendi (Spa) Bizkaia - Durango|
|HD||Catrine Josefsson (Swe) Bizkaia - Durango|
|HD||Leticia Gil Parra (Spa) Spain National Team|
|HD||Rosario Rodriguez Gomez (Spa) Spain National Team|
|DNF||Silvia Valsecchi (Ita) Selle Italia Ghezzi|
|DNF||Katherine Bates (Aus) Team Columbia-HTC Women|
|DNF||Emilia Fahlin (Swe) Team Columbia-HTC Women|
|DNF||Marlen Johrend (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|DNF||Romy Kasper (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|DNF||Madeleine Sandig (Ger) Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung|
|DNF||Mascha Pijnenborg (Ned) Red Sun Cycling Team|
|DNF||Sveltana Pauliukaite (Ltu) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|DNF||Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|DNF||Emma Mackie (Aus) Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam|
|DNF||Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Fenixs|
|DNF||Suzie Godart (Lux) Fenixs|
|DNF||Urte Juodvalkyte (Ltu) Fenixs|
|DNF||Audrey Cordon (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|DNF||Nathalie Jeuland (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|DNF||Emmanuelle Merlot (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|DNF||Magali Mocquery (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|DNF||Emilie Blanquefort (Fra) France National Team|
|DNF||Alexandra Rannou (Fra) France National Team|
|DNF||Alexis Rhodes (Aus) Australia National Team|
|DNF||Kirsty Broun (Aus) Australia National Team|
|DNF||Audrey Lemieux (Can) ESGL 93 - GSD Gestion|
|DNF||Julie Beveridge (Can) Canada National Team|
|DNF||Alison Testroete (Can) Canada National Team|
|DNF||Joelle Numainville (Can) Canada National Team|
|DNF||Lea Guloien (Can) Canada National Team|
|DNF||Gema Pascual Torrecilla (Spa) Bizkaia - Durango|
|DNF||Irène San Sebastian Lasa (Spa) Spain National Team|
|DNF||Debora Galvez Lopez (Spa) Spain National Team|
|DNF||Belen Lopez Morales (Spa) Spain National Team|
|DNF||Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa) Spain National Team|
|DNS||Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Safi -Pasta Zara Titanedi|
|DNS||Nikki Harris (GBr) Great Britain National Team|