Worlds Teams augur excitement in Mendrisio
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Worlds Teams augur excitement in Mendrisio

by Ben Atkins at 10:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Last year’s women’s road race was one of the most exciting races in many years and if this season’s formbook is any guide, this year’s could follow a similar pattern. The top five from last year – who broke away at the beginning of the final lap – have been consistently at the head of affairs at most of the major races this season. Only Germany’s Judith Arndt – last year’s bronze medallist – has had a season below expectation and this has been more due to a succession of injuries than a downturn in form.

Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Emma Johansson (Sweden) – silver medallist and fourth placed last year, respectively – battled mano a mano for the season-long World Cup competition from the fist race (the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio, Italy) in March where the Dutchwoman beat the Swede in a two-up sprint. They exchanged the jersey all summer until Vos took it once and for all at the Grand Prix Plouay, France, finally confirming the title at the Rund um die Nürnberger Aldstadt earlier this month. Vos comes with a more powerful team that Johansson, but as the Swede has shown persistently this season, she is more than capable of looking after herself.

Reigning champion Nicole Cooke of Great Britain has had a relatively quiet season by her own previously dominant standards. Like last year though, her season has been meticulously built around hitting one race in the best possible condition; last year it was the Olympics, this year it is defence of the World Championships. The Welshwoman will not have things all her own way in the Great Britain team though, as double World Cup race winner Emma Pooley and emerging star Lizzie Armitstead will both have their own ambitions.

Arndt of Germany – as mentioned above – has missed most of the season through three separate bone-breaking crashes. Each time she has returned to action strongly though and will go in to Saturday’s race fresher than most of her rivals. The Germans will be as strong and organised as ever with last year’s fifth-placed Trixi Worrack – who rode her soul out for Arndt in Varese and can be counted on to do so again. With them will be über-sprinter Ina Teutenberg, who has been the most successful rider of 2009 with 24 wins – not all bunch sprints by any means.

With Mendrisio little more than inches from the Italian border – and just 20km or so from last year’s venue in Varese – it should play out like a home race for the Azzuri, and they will hope for better luck this time around. Team captain Noemi Cantele missed the decisive break by a whisker last year and won’t want to let that happen again. Being born and raised in Varese – where she still lives – still makes her a local girl this time. Elsewhere the Italian team is bristling with talent, including Olympic bronze medallist Tatiana Guderzo, five-time Giro d’Italia winner Fabiana Luperini, Italian champion Monia Baccaille and 2007 bronze medallist Giorgia Bronzini – one of the few riders to have outsprinted Teutenberg this season. If anything the Italian team may suffer from the same problem as the men’s team historically did with too many captains and not enough footsoldiers.

Team USA is stocked with powerful riders, including two World time trial champions in Kristin Armstrong (2006) and Amber Neben (current). Armstrong was one of the most active in the day’s main breakaway last year, but both may find themselves a little tired and jaded after Thursday’s time trial. Kim Anderson, US champion Meredith Miller and Evelyn Stevens are proven breakaway specialists and very few can climb better than Mara Abbott, who has a prestigious victory in the Monte Serra stage of the Giro d’Italia to her name this season.

The Swiss team will be out to please its home crowd with team captain Nicole Brändli looking particularly likely after her podium finish at the Giro d’Italia. The rest of the team is young, but the team Bigla contingent, including Swiss champion Jennifer Hohl, has been based in Mendriso for a few years and so will know the course better than most.

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