Posted by Editor on 05/28/00
Montreal Women's World Cup - The Story
Finland's Pia Sundstedt (GAS) won the first World Cup of her career Sunday at the Coupe Feminine de MontrÃƒÂ©al, at the front of what is arguably the strongest women's field ever assembled in Canada. She and her team mate, Italian Fabiana Luperini, took the top two positions in convincing style, after an expected challenge from local favourite Geneviève Jeanson (Medico Sportif) did not materialize.
MontrÃƒÂ©al's Mont Royal circuit is no stranger to exciting racing, having hosted world championships, Olympics and World Cups over the years. The fourth stop on this year's World Cup circuit was no exception. The start list was a veritable who's who of women's cycling, with the top 5 ranked World Cup riders on the line. World Cup leader Diana Zilute (LTU, Acca Due), Sundstedt, Mirjam Melchers (NED, Dutch Team), Anna Wilson (AUS, Saturn), last year's winner Tracey Gaudry (AUS, Timex) and, of course, local favourites Jeanson and Lyne Bessette (CAN, Saturn) were just some of the 79 riders who lined up to climb Mont Royal 12 times.
It was quite of obvious, prior to the start, that Jeanson was the rider on everyone's mind. The double Junior World Champion, and the convincing winner of the third stop on this year's World Cup circuit was to be riding in front of a partisan crowd, on a course that seemed to be tailor-made for her. She did not disappoint, taking charge the first time up the 1.7 kilometre climb. Attached to her like magnets were Luperini, Bessette and Zilute.
Jeanson wanted to keep the tempo high for the first few laps, to 'weed out' the field. Her tactic cut the field in half after only 3 laps. At this point, the 18 year old rider appeared to be in complete control, with other riders who had years of experience over her seemingly content to let her set the pace to her own liking.
However, all was not as it appeared. "We were worried (about Jeanson)" said Luperini, "but we wanted the pace high also, and we had our riders to keep attacking the field." This is where Jeanson's lack of experience, and team support, told. The GAS team kept the pressure on as the laps mounted, with Roberta Bonanomi spending a lot of time at the front. Jeanson tried to cover everything, even when she might have sat back a bit and tried to get other teams such as Saturn or the Dutch to do the work.
Finally, with three quarters of the 100 kilometre race completed, Sundstedt and Luperini launched a devastating attack on the remaining 25 riders. "We had planned it before the race, and then discussed it more while the race was on. Both of us felt this was the time to go." The attack was decisive, with Zilute and Melchers scrambling to catch on as the two GAS riders crested the climb and began to descend.
Bessette was at the front of the chasing group of 10-12 riders, and pulled to within 15 seconds before the riders began to climb again, but could not make contact. "I could see we were so close, but no one else but Tracey (Gaudry) would do any work." However, the real question was: Where was Jeanson? "She cracked under the pressure", said coach Andre Aubut, after the race. "The pace was not a problem, and she has beaten all of these riders before." Jeanson would finish a disappointing 24th, having learned a valuable lesson.
Meanwhile, Sundstedt and Luperini were about to drop Zilute and Melchers for good, and speed away to an impressive 1-2 victory, with Sundstedt getting the nod for the win due to her higher standing in the World Cup competition. Zilute would turn in an extremely gutsy performance that netted her third, and allow her to hang onto her World Cup leader's jersey, ahead of new second place Sundstedt. Dutch team mate Elsbeth Vink would overtake a fading Melchers for fourth.
- Official police estimates would put the crowd at between 25,000 and 30,000 people, with most people concentrated on the climb, creating a tunnel through which the riders passed.
- Fabiana Luperini was in Canada for the first time, and called the course "the perfect one day race course."
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