Neben hangs on to Route de France lead

Amber Neben at Redlands

Amber Neben at Redlands (Image credit: Mitch Clinton)

American Amber Neben held onto her lead over Russian Sveltala Bubnenkova in the overall classification of the Route de France Féminine on the challenging penultimate stage to La Bresse on Friday. Bubnenkova won the stage in a difficult uphill finish that was preceded by a leg-sapping climb of the Col du Brabant in the final five kilometres. Neben had her team-mate Mara Abbott nearby on the final climb to help her stay in contact with Bubnenkova, whom Neben leads by 1'04" in the general classification going into the final stage.

Neben opened up her lead in the overall with a stellar stage 4b time trial where she put 1'07" into Bubnenkova. Until that stage, the leaders had been separated by just seconds. The performance is one of the best for the US National Team in international competition, and aside from Neben's time trial victory and lead in the overall, the team netted a a prologue victory by Kori Seehafer and Mara Abbott's current second place in the young rider's classification.

Neben was runner-up in the final classification in last year's inaugural Route de France Féminine to her Flexpoint team-mate Linda Villumsen, but this year it looks likely that she will be the one to stand on the top step of the podium when the race reaches its conclusion in Vittel. Neben's performance follows a strong year in which she won the Redlands Classic stage race in March, and was just fractions of a second behind German Judith Arndt in last month's International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen 2007.

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