Sunday morning’s Stage 2a consisted of four laps around a 15.7km parcours at Sarnonico, without the big climbs that have formed part of this race in years gone by but with a few hills. A small rise of only around 35m began right at the start line and continued for the first 0.8km, followed by a mostly flat section leading to just past 5km and a 135m descent to 7.5km; from that point back to the start line it was mostly uphill through the forested hills just north of Romeno.
There were the three intermediate sprints – the first at 16.5km, the second at 31.4km and the third at 47.1km; each of them beginning at the top of the low hill 0.8km after the finish line. The first two fell to Fabiana Luperini (Faren-Honda) with Sharon Laws (AA Drink Leontien.nl) second, Grete Treier (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox) third and Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) fouth, the four of them having led for most of the race despite the consistent effort of a strong chase group that included Emma Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Judith Arndt (GreenEDGE) and several others. Luperini and Laws switched places on the third.
|Sharon Laws laid down some serious
power to get within 10″ of Luperini
within a very short time
The hills weren’t big, but 242m of vertical gain per lap has a cumulative effect: not far off 1000m for the entire stage – that’s a respectable climb by anybody’s standards and was expected to bring the climbers, many of whom were left looking a little out of place on yesterday’s flat and sprinty 98km parcours, right back into the game.
There might not be any of the knee-busting high mountains where the likes of Pooley could leave the rest of the field standing, but since the climbers will have suffered much less than the sprinters by the last part of the race they were expected to do well today. That turned out to be very much the case when five-time winner Luperini launched a solo attack leading into the final kilometres, breaking away from the other three leaders to gain a lead that grew to 28″ for a short while.
Only Laws could put up any sort of meaningful resistance, using a burst of sheer power to get within 12″ as the finish line approached. She chased the Italian all the way, but her efforts came too late and Luperini won by 10″ in what must have been one of the most hard-fought and exciting stage finishes so far this season.
What made the situation even more interesting, however, is that the race was now in the unusual position of having the lead time shared by five riders, more than half of whom with an apparently very real chance of doing sufficiently well in the time trial to win overall…
2. Laws +10″;
3. Treier +35″,
4. Guderzo +40″,
5. Ratto +51″
6. Cantele ST
7. Vullumsen ST
(Top ten and links to full results to come…)
Top Eight GC after Stage 2a
1. Noemi Cantele Be Pink 2h32’33″
2. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE ST
3. Malgorzata Jasinska MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss ST
4. Charlotte Becker Specialized-Lululemon ST
5. Alexandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
6. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo ST
7. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl ST
8. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani ST
|Linda Villumsen, seen here competing for
her native Denmark in 2009, won both
the stage and overall
This afternoon the riders were back in action on what seemed a rather flat and straight-forward 5km time trial on paper; exploring the route with Google Earth revealed a number of tricky corners and tight Z-bends, especially on the cycle path leading back to the start, and several of the riders said afterwards that the initial 0.8km were far harder work than they’d expected. It looked like a good one for Judith Arndt, race organisers fancied Emma Pooley’s chances and fans had made various choices of their own.
Marta Bastianelli was the eleventh rider to go and set an early benchmark at 8’48.33″, but it wasn’t very long before Elke Gebhardt (Be Pink) cracked it with 8’40.45″. Shelley Olds (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) then toppled her when she completed the course in 8’26.83″, which stood as best time for a while until Katarzyna Sosna (Vaiana-Tepso) shaved off more than eight seconds to record 8’18.91″. Inga Cilvinaite (Diadora-Pasta Zara) came close with 8’20.98″ before Jessie Daams managed 8’17.58″ (AA Drink-Leontien.nl).
By this time, the real big-hitters were getting ready to head out. Judith Arndt showed them all how it’s done with a blistering 7’57.69″ – the first sub-8′ and enough, many will have thought, to win her the stage; but then Linda Villumsen (GreenEDGE) smashed it with 7’53.14″, winning herself the General Classification and the stage. Noemi Cantele, who performed so well to win Stage 1, was still to go but at this point her ride was really just a formality: only her most die-hard fans would have given her much chance of beating those superb times dset by Arndt and Villumsen, and her eventual 8’08.06″ is proof that she was outclassed.
1. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE 7’53″
2. Judith Arndt GreenEDGE +04″
3. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo +07″
4. Claudia Haüsler GreenEDGE +14″
5. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl ST
6. Noemi Cantele Be Pink ST
7. Tatiana Guderzo MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss +16″
8. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani +22″
9. Jessie Daams AA Drink-Leontien.nl +24″
10. Katarzyna Sosna Vaiana – Tepso +25″
(Full stage result)
Final General Classification
1. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE 4h26’05″
2. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo +07″ 40
3. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl +14″
4. Noemi Cantele Be Pink +15″
5. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani +22″
6. Charlotte Becker Specialized-Lululemon +38″
7. Alexandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini Rox +40″
8. Malgorzata Jasinska MCipollin-Giambenini-Gauss +1’41″
9. Sharon Laws AA Drink-Leontien.nl +3’19″
10. Grete Treier S.C. Michela Fanini Rox +3’45″
By John Orbea – Cambridge, UK
John Orbea is the man behind Les Déesses de la Route, a cycling blog dedicated to women’s bike racing. We are so thrilled by his efforts to report on women’s cycling combined with an extensive knowledge of the history of bike racing. John is a 30 year cyclist with experience in road, bmx, mtb, and is a Cycling National Standards Instructor, he has four pet ferrets, and recently started riding a fixie. John prefers women’s cycling because it’s friendlier, personalities shape races as much as parcours, and it’s more competitive. He also believes “Marianne Vos is such an important phenomenon in cycling history that any historian needs to pay attention.”