Iris Slappendel wins Open de Suède Vårgårda in breakaway sprint
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Iris Slappendel wins Open de Suède Vårgårda in breakaway sprint

by Ben Atkins at 10:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
Rabobank rider beats Hanka Kupfernagel as the chasers watch Marianne Vos

iris slappendel Iris Slappendel (Rabobank) took the biggest victory of her career as she outsprinted former World time trial and cyclocross champion Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo) to win the Open de Suède Vårgårda road race. The Dutch rider was by far the most aggressive rider in a twelve-woman break that escaped the peloton midway through the third of the race’s twelve 11km circuits, first forcing a slimming of the group, and then making the successful move with Kupfernagel on the final lap.

Slappendel’s Rabobank team captain, World Cup leader Marianne Vos, was comfortably in the group behind the two leaders, despite trying to bridge across the them on the mid-lap climb. The Olympic champion won the sprint for third, 1’10” later, in a close contest with American Shelley Olds (AA in a battle that might have decided the London 2012 road race three weeks before, had Evans not suffered a puncture.

“This is absolutely my best win ever,” said Slappendel afterwards. “I don’t win very often and when you then write a World cup race to your name, it is indeed very special. Marianne and I both felt really good today. There were only toppers in the leading group, but we did manage to control the race.

"We took turns in the break but I didn't take the lead for the last two kilometres, because I knew Marianne was following,' she explained. "I was quite nervous in the finale, because I didn't want to mess it up, but in the end I won the sprint quite easily.

"I had enough time to put my hands in the air," she added, "so that was beautiful."

With Slappendel, Kupfernagel, Vos and Olds in the break were Evans’ AA teammate Isabelle Söderberg, Evie Stevens and Trixi Worrack (both Specialized-lululemon), Tiffany Cromwell and Linda Villumsen (both Orica-GreenEdge), Nina Kessler (Dolmans-Boels), Amy Pieters (Skil-Argos), Swedish champion Emma Johansson (Hitec Products-Mistral Home) and Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo).

Attacks from Slappendel - who was part of the victorious Cervélo TestTeam that won the 2010 Vårgårda team time trial, but had never won an individual World Cup race - thinned the group down as they entered the closing stages of the race, then a final lap attack saw her and Kupfernagel get away.

Johansson, with Vos, and then Vos alone tried to bridge across, but were unsuccessful and the two riders entered the finish together, with Slappendel proving the fastest.

The tough hilly circuit sees the favourites escape early

The course of the 132km race was made up of twelve laps of an 11km circuit, starting and finishing in the town of Vårgårda. Although the finish was suited to sprinters, the steady climb of Hagrunga hill at the mid-point of the lap would offer plenty of opportunities to attackers.

Johansson escaped with a group of six part way through lap three; seeing the danger Vos attacked across to it, followed by others, until the twelve rider group was formed. Faren-Honda was the big teams to have missed the move, and it was leading the chase, but with only four riders in the race it was impossible for them to stop the gap from growing and it was 1’45” at the end of lap three.

The lead was out to 3’35” at the end of lap four, as one single Faren-Honda rider vainly tried to close the gap, with the teammates of the riders up ahead lined up on her wheel. Elena Utrobina crashed out on the next lap, reducing the Faren-Honda team to just three, and effectively ending any chance it had of pulling the break back.

With the twelve leaders cooperating well together, their lead continued to grow; with four laps to go it was up to 7’10” meaning that the race was effectively over for the riders that missed the break.

Slappendel attacked through the finish with three laps to go and, with Vos watching any chasers, managed to open up a lead of 28 seconds over the others. On the climb in mid-lap Johansson jumped away in pursuit, with Vos following as the rest began to split up behind them.

Johansson and Vos caught Slappendel, and were joined by Cromwell, Worrack, Olds and Kupfernagel before the end of the lap. Across the line the new group of seven was 28 seconds clear of the other five and, with Stevens, Söderberg and Villumsen having a teammate up front, there seemed little chance of them closing that gap.

Stevens dropped her four companions on the climb, in an effort to close the gap alone; the American was joined by Villumsen and Söderberg but, at the bell, the two former teammates were 55 seconds back, with Pieters and Kessler at 1’25”.

Slappendel attacked twice more, but was quickly chased down each time; the Rabobank rider went a third time though, and was joined by Kupfernagel. The two of them were quickly able to open up a 15 second gap, but Johansson attacked on the climb again, and tried to get across to them with Vos on her wheel.

The two chasers were picked up by the rest of the group however; Vos went again to try to get across to her teammate alone, but she was pulled back again. As the group appeared to give up the chase, the two leaders’ advantage grew to 42km with four kilometres to go.

Into the final kilometre the two leaders still had 20 seconds over the chase group, and Kupfernagel tried to break away on the small bump across the railway on the way into the town. Slappendel chased her down however, and they approached the line together; Kupfernagel launched her sprint first, with less that 200 metres to go, but Slappendel was too strong for her and crossed the line with both arms raised, more than a length clear of the German.

Vos and Olds sprinted side by side at the head of the chase group, with the Olympic champion just getting her wheel ahead to take third.

Vos came into the race with a 56 point lead over Judith Arndt (Orica-GreenEdge) in the overall World Cup standings. Stevens was in third place, some 115 points back but, with 35 points for third place - and Arndt picking up just seven for 14th place - the World number one increased her lead to an unassailable 84 over the German with just one round of the competition remaining.

“I am very happy, it is not only Marianne who is winning in our team, but also the other riders,” said Rabobank directeur sportif Jeroen Blijlevens. “If you play the game well, you can win with the other riders. It is a double victory, because Marianne won the World Cup for sure today.”

Result Open de Suède Vårgårda
1. Iris Slappendel (Ned) Stichting Rabobank
2. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) RusVelo
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Stichting Rabobank @ 1’10”
4. Shelley Olds (USA) AA
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge @ 1’14”
8. Isabelle Söderberg (Swe) AA @ 2’08”
9. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon
10. Linda Villumsen (NZl) Orica-GreenEdge

World Cup standings after seven rounds
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Stichting Rabobank 260pts
2. Judith Arndt (Ger) Orica-GreenEdge 176
3. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon 125
4. Shelley Olds (USA) AA 125
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon 124
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home 110
7. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA 108
8. Iris Slappendel (Ned) Stichting Rabobank 100
9. Linda Villumsen (NZl) Orica-GreenEdge 76
10. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) RusVelo 75


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