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The Elite Women will fight it out on the road today to see who is the best in the world. After 139.65 kilometers we will know who will wear the rainbow stripes next year!
Welcome back to our live coverage of the 2013 UCI road world championships. The elite women's road race will be starting in about 15 minutes.
The course today is the same one for all the road races, just the total distance changes. The women will start out with 57.2km from Montecatine Termi, and then enter Florence. They will then face five laps of a 16.6km circuit course in and around the city.
The opening part of the race is pretty flat, with one little bump very early on. Expect to see a group get away fairly early.
The race is scheduled to start in five minutes.
That circuit course is not the easiest one, either. Each lap includes the 4.37km climb up to Fiesole, a twisting descent and then the Via Salviati climb, just five kilometres from the finish. It is only 600 metres long but is on a straight road and has an average gradient of 10.6% with one section kicking up at 16%.
And they are off -- we think.....
Who is the favourite today? Reigning champion Marianne Vos, of course. The young Dutch woman is really an all-around talent, who can attack on the climb, go in a group, or even sprint to the win.
No attacks yet, but we doubt it will be long before they start.
Also keep an eye out for Emma Johansson (Sweden), Evelyn Stephens (USA) and Emma Pooley (Britian). And don't count out the Italian women, either.
It is just a bit difficult to get info from the course. We think there is sitll no break group but we do hear that one rider has already slipped off the back of the field.
The pace is high here in the early part of the race, with everyone eying one another and being cautious rather than daring.
Patricia Schwager of Switzerland had an early mechancial and is now working hard to get back to the pack.
The group is still all together. Frankly, we had expected a breakaway group by this time.
The next mechanical ,this time for Christine Majerus of Luxembourg -- a one-woman team, b the way.
There are 141 women in the race today, from the Netherlands (#1, Vos) to Jordan (#141, Samah Khaled (Jordan).
Italy's Noemi Cantele drops back to the team car for a quick chat.
She won't be all bundled up like that today, though, it is nice and warm, shirt-sleeve weather.
Just a reminder of last year's top ten:
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 3:14:29
2 Rachel Neylan (Australia) 0:00:10
3 Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) 0:00:18
4 Amber Neben (United States of America) 0:00:33
5 Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) 0:00:55
6 Rossella Ratto (Italy) 0:03:40
7 Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) 0:04:37
8 Judith Arndt (Germany)
9 Emma Johansson (Sweden)
10 Paulina Brzezna-Bentkowska (Poland)
Mechanical for Dragana Kovacevic of Serbia.
The field negociates a roundabout.
A rider tried to jump, but she was soon reeled back in.
It was Schwager, the Swiss rider who had an early mechanical.
The Germans have moved into the lead here, with Denmark and Netherlands up near the front as well.
A Czech rider attacks, but it is immediately countered by a French rider.
Another rider has attacked, a Lithuanian, Katazine Sosna.
THe field is now strung out in single file, with Sweden leading the way, and Sosna is caught.
Immediately a Belgian attacks along with a German. No one is getting away though.
It lookslike things are finally happening! A Russin is the next to go -- but doesn't get away.
About 100 km left to go.
No one particular team leading the peloton now, we see US, Netherlands, Australia, Germany......
And yet another roundabout. We should have counted how many there are.
Audrey Cordon of France takes off next. The Netherlands leads the chase.
The gap is closed.
The peloton is rather spread out by this point.
Things don't look too optimistic for the German women this year. The two top names are not here: Judith Arndt has retired and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg is still recovering from a severe concussion suffered this spring. Claudia Häusler is the team captain, and told Radsport-News.com that while the team still hopes for a medal, “we won't be absolutely disappointed not to be on the podium.”
Italy starting to take an interest, as they move up to the front, joining Sweden and the US.
Belgium is featuring youngster Celine Van Severen. Only 20 years old, and will ride for the Lotto Belisol Ladies next season. She said,"This selection is a reward for my good season. I've just become 20 and it's nice to already take part at the Worlds at the elite. It really does me good that I'm regarded to be one of the six best in Belgium for this course, it's one of the toughest editions ever. It also gives confidence to get into the winter period."
Australia's Lauren Kitchen leads the way, as the field approaches the city of Florence.
The peloton has stayed together on this first part of the course. They have held a high pace,which is part of the reason no one has been able to get away.
In the city now, with the field strung out and the pace being kicked a notch higher.
The US team moves to the front as the finish line nears, which will send the riders off on the first of their five laps of the circuit course.
Good crowds on the sidewalks.
Huge crowds around the Duomo.
Still 3 US riders at the head of the field. The peloton is long and spread out now.
Argos-Shimano has four women in the race, and all of them will be supporting their national captains. As befits a Dutch team, two Dutch riders will ride for Vos – Amy Pieters and Kirsten Wild. On the team website, they said, “Our role (Amy and Kirsten) is simple and clear, we will support the team in countering attacks and making sure Marianne is well positioned. We only have one goal with the team and that is to bring the rainbow jersey to the Netherlands. We have a very strong team with several riders who can play an important role in the finale. Both of us are feeling good, especially after the successful Holland Ladies Tour. We have fine-tuned our shape over the last few weeks and are ready to rumble.”
Our first crash of the day. The Hungarian rider has hit the ground.
Armitstead (GB) has now moved up near the front of things.
Carman Small and Evelyn STevens, both of the US, lead the way over the finish line for the first time, followed by Kristin Wild of the Netherlands. They now all set out on the circuit course for the first of 5 laps.
It looks now like the whole US squad is at the head of the field.
Immediatly after the finish line, they go through the feed zone. And right after that, the climbing will start.
It loolks like the US is driving things hard to try and drop as many riders as they can -- specifically, the helpers of their main rivals. They would like to isolate people like Vos or Armitstead.
The peloton has broken up on the lower slopes of this first climb. A large lead group, with many smaller groups behind them.
Lucy Garner of GB has dropped back.
Lucy Garner (Great Britain) admits, “The course is hard and it doesn’t suit me perfectly, to be honest it is a bit too hilly for me. Tomorrow I will be riding for Lizzie Armitstead as she is our strongest rider for this kind of course. I will play an important role in the first part of the race chasing early breaks and trying to help position everybody well for the climbs, after that it will just be about ‘surviving’ and gaining more experience so I can develop further as a rider.”
The US continues to set a murderous tempo, with more and more riders falling back.
Only 30-40 riders in the first group now! Several of the Dutch women have fallen back, which will hurt Vos.
US, Italy, Australia all near the front of the field on this climb.
This is truly a race of attrition. But if this pace keeps up, we may have a very very small group at the end! How much longer can the US team keep this up?
Stevens leads the way across the top of the climb, with Häusler right behind her.
A twisting turning descent, being taken at full speed.
Argos' Elke Gebhardt is on the German team and said, “It will be a very hard race for certain. When we did a recognisance I knew instantly that it’s set to be a very tough day and it will be an elimination race right from the start. I like the course; it is pure and honest and will show us who the best rider will be. The lack of recovery time will make the course so hard; as soon as you finished the first climb you quickly start the second one.”
Doris Schwiezer of Switzerland jumps fromt he peloton. She keeps looking back as if she can't believe they are letting her go. She is being joined by a Belgian.
It is Liesbet de Vocht of Belgium.
And they head up another climb, as the peloton looks happy to let this duo get a bit of a lead.
They have a 12 second climb as they hit the 16% gradient section of the second climb on the circuit course.
The US has disappeared from the front of the peloton, as Italy takes over.
We ae down to about 44 riders -- and the race is now only half over!
The break has been caught.
Did we say it was warm today? We were wrong. It is hot -- 27°Celsius.
Another Belgian rider sticks her toe in the water and takes a small lead.
It is Maaike Polspoel of Belgium who crosses the finish line 14 seconds ahead of the field. Megan Guarnier leads the field.
There are only two teams here with eight riders each: Netherlands and Italy. Sweden, USA and Australia have seven riders each. With six riders are: Germany, Russia, Belgium, Canada, France, and Poland.
There are 46 women in the lead group -- well, including Polspoels. The next were about a minute back, so we are guessing our winner will come from this group.
Valentina Scandalara of Italy has taken over the lead work, and has been doing so for a while.
The gap is down to 7 seconds now. And falling.
The break is over, and the US is back at the head of things again.
Two nations have sent five women, and there are two four-women teams. Nine nations have three women here, and four have sent two women.
The American women seem to love this climb. They jump to the front and put on a killing pace. Once again we are losings riders along the way.
Vos is still safely tucked in this leading field.
Bronzini (Italy), who has won the World title in 2010 and 2011, is hanging on the back of the group. She is more than just a sprinter!
The Italian Guderzo leads the group over the top of the climb.
Armitstead has now lost all her helpers. She is on her own.
With about 60 km to go, the next chasing field is about a minute and half back.
Three riders have now taken a small lead.
Oneo f them is Australia's Tiffany Cromwell, but the three are caught again.
Orange at the head of this field, as the Netherlands takes control of things.
The next attacks! An Italian rider goes, followed by Schwiezer of Switzerland. They are joined by Carly Taylor of Australia and a Belgian -- but of course are caught as they head up this short but steep climb.
Much suffering going on here, as the gradient takes its effect.
Scandalara leds the way over the top. And the field is reduced to 33 riders.
Looks like they are all taking a few moments to catch their breath and eat quickly.
Enough, says the US, and they move back to the front. As do Switzerland and Sweden and and and.....
53 km to go!
We are about to cross the finish line yet again.Three more laps to go.
Cantele again back at the Italian team car.
Bujak of Poland leads the way under the marker, as they set up for another round.
We will have 44 riders in this group.The next riders are at 1.41 back.
Most of the riders grab bottles at the feed zone as they once again head towards the climb.
Is Italy strong? They still have all eight riders in the lead group!
We see the usual picture of three US riders leading the way.
Still five Dutch women in this group, and four Americans.
Francesca Cauz of Italy jumps! But she soon has a handful of riders around her.
Attack follwoing attack now, with no one getting away. Vos goes with one group and is now on fifth wheel, although everyone is together again.
Italy has now lost at least two riders, but that doesn't stop Cauz from attacking agin. A Dutch rider goes with her.
Gaurnier (US) is having trouble holding on the field.
The group has been shakenup again. We have two rides in teh lead -- Cromwell and Lucina Brand of Netherlands,
Two riders crash on a sharp right hand turn.
Cromwell and Brand head up that steep climb.
Villumsen and Armitstead got held up by that crash.
The two leaders have been caught,but Cromwell leads them all over the top of the climb. Ther are about 15 riders in teh first group now.
Brand attacks again, followed by Ratto (Italy).
36km to go, and a nice little lead for Brand and Ratto.
There are also fifteen one-woman teams here. Will they join together to act as one big team? They are: South Africa, Luxembourg, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Denmark, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, Serbia, Mongolia, Lativa, Paraguay, St. Kitts and Nevis, Argentina and Jordan.
Russia moves to lead the chase.
The gap must be about 15 seconds, but we will get a time when they cross the line shortly.
The US and Russia working together - (no, no politics here!) - to chase the leaders.
Two laps to go! Brand leads the way, ahead of Ratto, but the chasing field is only 11 seconds back.
Only 28 riders in these first groups. How many more will disappear during these final two laps?
Time to pick up bottles again. It is very hot today,so it is important to have enough to drink.
Mara Abbott (USA) has moved to the front of the chasing group in person to help bring back the two leaders, who still have 8 seconds in hand. Her teammate Evelyn Stevens sits in third wheel.
With Italy and the Netherlands represented in the break, the onus was on the USA to peg them back, and they have succeeded. A group of 30 or so riders is at the head of the race.
As soon as Ratto and Brand are brought back, Trixi Worrack (Germany) puts in a testing attack. She's stretched out the group but the elastic hasn't quite snapped.
Worrack continues to force the pace at the front, but there 30 or so riders lined up behind her as they head towards the penultimate haul up to Fiesole.
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Elen van Dijk (Netherlands) and Claudia Hausler (Germany) are all still in this leading group, as - of course - is reigning champion Marianne Vos.
Stevens leads a break with 3 or 4 others, and Vos has to fight to join it.
Cromwell wants to join this group as well. Let us see if we can get the names.
The italians have a lot of riders in the group. Cromwell can't catch them.
Van der Bruggen, Vos, Stevens, Guderzo, Longo Borghini, Ratto, Johansson is our group.
Three italians and two Dutch in this group. Van der Bruggen is doing the lead work.
Ratto leads the way over the top. 12 seconds back to Cromwell.
The seven leaders are flying down this descent. But will anyone will be able to catch up with them on the way down?
The Italians are still allowing Van der Bruggen to lead the way, while they sit on second and third wheel.
Stevens and Johansson are happy, they can let the others do all the work -- and, they hope, knock each other out.
Cromwell has joined the lead group.
Guderzo taks off -- but van der Bruggen marks her.
Another Italian attacks, Ratto again. The Italians are desperate to dump Vos.
The 8 leaders now hit the second climb of the lap.
Antoshina of Russia is trying to cath the lead group, as are Villumsen and Häusler.
Ratto again at the lead. Cromwell drops four seconds.
Antoshina is at 29 seocnds, with the next group at over a minute.
The three Italisna have a little conversation at the head of this small field. Cromwell is back in the group.
Cromwell takes her turn at the head.
Vos is tracking everyone, not letting things get out of her control.
We hear there is a group at 27 seconds. Wil tehy have a chance, or will they have exhausted themselves by playing catch-up?
Cromwell has long since been caught, by the way.
Van der Breggen and Vos have a talk at the head of the group.
And the italians are talking as well. Too much talking and not enough racing going on here!
It is the bell lap! Only one lap left. 9 seconds for Villumsen, Höusler and Antoshina.
The Dutch and the Italians seem fixated on one another. Which opens up a very good possibliity for the other riders.
Villumsen, Häusler and Antoshina have caught he leaders, so we now have a group of 11.
Our winner will be one of these 11. The next riders are 1:22 back.
Many of the riders in the lead group are not sprinters, so we can really expect to see massive attacks coming.
The two Dutch riders lead the way up. Guderzo drops back to the team car for a quick discussion.
They go up this climb in a compact group and the pace has dropped.
No moves yet.....
guderzo drops back to the car again.
Who will be the first to attack?
From a fast-moving lead group of eight, we now have a slower-moving group of 11, with two more threatening to catch up.
Kuchinskaya (Russia) has caught the group. Guderzo, Vos and Ratto tried to move but Häusler leads the chase to catch them. Longo Borghini si the next to go, but she too is caught.
Cromwell is he next to ttack near the top of the climb, with van er Breggen on her wheel. They have a gap and keep on going.
The Italians lead the chase and hunt the two down.
Häusler struggling to hang on.
They hit the top of this first climb, and Guderzo takes off, Vos counters.
The rest work their way back to Guderzo and Vos.
Häusler and Kuchinskaya can't hold on.
Anotehr Italian moves to the lead, forcing Vos to go with her.. Stevens goes!
Van der Breggen and Voss right on her wheel, along with an Italian and another.
Van der Breggen jumps and picks up the speed again. Ratto, Vos, Johansson and Stevens go with her.
Sgevens agtacks aggin at the top fo the climb.
A group of five in teh lead, 15 seconds ahead of the others.
12 seconds for the leaders as they hit 57km/h on teh descent.
The Dutch have the advantage at last, two of them against one Italian.
These five are sticking together -- for the moment.
Stevens forcing herself to hang on to the others.
Remember, they still have that short but very steep climb to go -- pefect for Vos.
The other two Italians, plus Villumsen, are trying desperately to catch the lead group.
The three are getting closer and closer.
They are on. ONe of the chasing Italians has shot to the head of the group.
Now it they are on the steep climb! Stevens goes, with Vos and JOhanssen. Vos takes off!
Vos literally sprints away on this steep climb!
She tops out with five seconds over the two chasers.
Vos continues to go all out on the way down. Now she only needs to time trial her way to the finish line.
Ratto and Johansson are not giving up. They are working togethter to track down Vos.
Vos keepos powering along, and has a good lead over the otehr two.
Vos really going all out, taking every risk.
One final little rise, with the other two also going more than 100 percent.
Vos takes the final left hand turn. The two chasers can see her,with 2 km to go, but the gap is large.
This is a wild chase!
Vos time-trailing her way to the finish line, with the other two springing away. Last km -- will they catch Vos?
No. We thing that Vos has it. It looks like Ratto has given up the idea of winning.
Vos knows now tht she has won. She sits up with 100 m to go.
Vos straightens her jersey and raises her arms as she takes her second consecutive title.
A despreate sprint for second and third. Johanssen wins silver and Ratto bronze, both 15 seconds back.
Vos is exhausted but overjoyed.
Her teammate Van der Breggen takes fourth place.
Our top ten:
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 3:44:00
2 Emma Johansson (Sweden) 0:00:15
3 Rossella Ratto (Italy) 0:00:15
4 Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) 0:00:33
5 Evelyn Stevens (United States of America) 0:00:46
6 Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) 0:00:50
7 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) 0:00:52
8 Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) 0:00:52
9 Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) 0:01:40
10 Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation) 0:01:40
This was truly a race of attrition, and at one point we wondered if anyone would make it to the end!
Congratulations to Vos on her second consecutive World Championship title, as well as to Johanssen and Ratto.
And congratulations to not only all who finished but also to all who started.
Thanks for reading along and join us again tomorrow when the Elite Men take to the road!