October 13/01 1:01 am - Women's Road Race Story
Posted by Editor on 10/13/01
2001 Road World Cycling Championships Lisbon, Portugal
This report made possible through the sponsorship of CompuTrainer and Peak Centre
Lithuanians Rasa Polikeviciute and Edita Pucinskaite finished first and second in the women's road race at the world championships, beating out Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli in a three-way sprint. Canadian Sue Palmer-Komar, of Hamilton, Ontario, finished 10th, bettering by one place her result of last year.
The 121 kilometre, 10 lap race through the Florestal de Monsanto park on the outskirts of Lisbon began slowly, with the field of 104 riders staying together for the first half. Only then did the pace begin to pick up on the two climbs the riders faced each lap, and only then did the lead group begin to shrink.
Everyone was waiting for Longo-Ciprelli to launch an attack on the climbs. "It was just a matter of time before she went", said Anne Samplonius, and finally the French cycling legend did go, at the base of the second, longer climb on the penultimate lap, taking first Polikeviciute and Nicole Brandli (Sui) with her. Everyone knew that this was the move, and Mirjam Melchers (Ned), Pucinskaite, Judith Arndt (Ger) and Susanne Ljungskog (Swe) bridged up.
"Longo kept the pressure on from the bottom", explained Palmer. "They slowed two-thirds of the way up (the climb), and I thought that I could get up to them, but then Brandli attacked. I was at my limit when Longo attacked, so I couldn't stay with them."
Palmer was joined by 3 Italians (Fabiana Luperini, Marianna Lorenzoni and Alessandra Cappellotto) and 2 Lithuanians (Diana Ziliute and Jolanta Polikeviciute). The Lithuanians were along for the ride, and it was up to the Italians to do the work. For a while looked like the chasers might make it to the front, when the gap dropped to 28 seconds on the final lap - "Luperini was really putting the pressure on", said Palmer - but then Longo attacked again and only Polikeviciute and Pucinskaite could respond.
Longo knew she could not get away from the other two on the downhill and flat run-in to the finish line, and made a last ditch effort to lead out the sprint for the win. The Lithuanians shadowed her until the final 50 metres then came around on either side to lock up the gold and silver. Palmer finished third in her sprint, behind Ziliute and Cappellotto.
Anne Samplonius was also having a good ride, and did not fall off the front group until 2 laps to go, on the second climb. She was chasing back with Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) on the downhill, when they entered an S-bend to find a motorcyle stopped in front of them.
"One of the big pads along the fence had fallen into the road", explained Samplonius. "Hanka managed to get through and I had to go for either the motorcycle or a soft landing, and I made the right choice."
She still got tangled up with the motorcycle, and lost any hope of rejoining, finishing 33rd.
Cybil DiGuistini dropped off the pace on the eighth lap, and finished with the second chase group in 44th, just ahead of Leah Goldstein.
Sandy Espeseth, normally a strong rider on the climbs, was gone at the halfway point, suffering from "probably the worst ride of my life. I don't know what happen - my form was good, and I was ready."
- Palmer was particularly happy because her results means she qualifies for carding assistance. Prior to the race she had been talking about the possibility of retirement if she did not get financial assistance. Also, she has been worried about the lack of racing she has had.
"I was a little worried because I haven't raced a serious race since the GP Feminin (August). After the World Trade Centre and everything, there was not much going on, and no one wants to travel. But Mirek (Mazur, her coach) knows how to prep me - 100 kilometres behind that stupid scooter with him looking in the mirror, watching my face..."